From Locked down to Unlocked – A Tricky Journey?
Like you, during lockdown I had hundreds of conversations starting with ‘What’s it been like for you?’
‘I loved it! I have done more in the last two months that I have done for years!’ said one,
‘I have not seen anyone or been out. It’s been weird and sometimes lonely’ said another.
We know as well that for many, it had a sense of imprisonment; no space, too many people, nothing to do, ‘it’s been both boring and scary’ they said. Unfairly, it is often those sections of the population who have not only felt bored and scared, they have felt desperate. Some have experienced Covid fear whilst ill and perhaps simultaneously grieved over the death of loved ones. The unpredictability of possible contamination and the unpredictability of the how the illness might take you, has been doubly anxiety provoking.
Interestingly, this government expressed surprise at the initial 95% compliance with the guidelines. For many, the hunkering down and the clarity of the rules provided a bubble in which to pause; it was free from lives that were too busy, free from time spent doing what we don’t want to do and free from choice. When working with a coachee doctor who had to choose one of 59 specialities, she felt dizzy even thinking about it, she just wanted freedom from the complexity of choice.
Looking back all of 10 weeks ago, I am reminded of that time when discussions on nature abounded, as did sharing of videos and articles, there were spontaneous acts of kindness and we witnessed unbelievable thoughtfulness wherever we went. On the daily walk there was the odd experience of stepping and looking away from the oncoming pedestrian while simultaneously sharing a smile and a ‘Thank you’.
There was the dark side too. Stories from all over the world of sadness, people dying alone, not enough beds, PPE or mortuary places, all happening as we watched the sinister cloud coming over the horizon and the death figures rising. The tension between focusing on health or the economy was there, yet, everyone knew that they did not want Covid so, heads were down, everyone did the same thing and followed ‘the guidelines’; there was little criticism in the air as we waited, waited to get to the other side.
Then the news came that the peak had been passed, the ‘R’ figure was going down and all would soon be well… although it was unclear when. Quietly a government health expert mentioned that social distancing could last a year. Gasp, another trough between the waves.
On Sunday 11th May, we were told people could go back to work. The lockdown ease was here. As long as we followed the instruction to ‘Stay Alert’, all would be well. Err, how can that be? Was the response and the atmosphere full of questions, our shared assumptive worlds were being challenged.
I remember the day when I walked into the supermarket and turned to the hand cleaning station, it was gone. My pulse raced, my internal voice said, ‘I knew it, now they have decided that we don’t need to use gloves or hand cleaner, because the virus has gone,’ yet I know it had not. Moments later I found the paired down version, smaller and perfectly adequate. Phew! I carried on. As I finished, I looked for the paper stand next to the till, it too, was gone. ‘And now they have stopped printing newspapers, yes – it was only a matter of time’ I thought. Eventually, I found them at their new location. My reaction to two small changes showed that my assumptive world has been knocked, my amygdalae had been subconsciously stimulated and feeling of fear effected my whole body. I realised that, all over the country people would be having similar reactions to changes seen or experienced subconsciously. Over the week the sense of friendliness from passers-by became less apparent, criticism of the government and its institutions were heard everywhere and the Thursday night clapping for carers ending; the increasing anger over double standards abounded. Community cohesion had gone, the social contract broken.
There is a sense that the environment has become unpredictable, the rules unclear; not surprisingly compliance has dropped, there is disbelief and anger, real anger and with these emotions forming the tip of the iceberg, underneath it, fear is proliferating. Yet, there are the voices of some saying, ‘Interesting things happened during lockdown, people showed innovation’, ‘we discovered how wonderful it was not to be overwhelmed by pollution’. ‘We cleared our homes of stuff we did not need, lightened our load and made sustainable life changes’. Stoebe and Shut (2010) help us here with their Dual Process Model of Grief which illustrates swings between Loss and Restoration; the question of how might we renegotiate our world, arises.
During the ‘Great Pause’ (a phrase used by Rhonda Magee) we took on new routines and created some healthy and some unhealthy habits. The only certainty about the next few years is that it will be different; most people will have less money, there will be fewer jobs and abject poverty and there will be new and exciting ways of doing what we do; as we read the memes ‘We can’t go back to before…’ and ‘Something good will have to come out of this’ we wonder what it is.
The ‘Great Unlocking’ is here, the doors are opening and a sense of freedom apparent. People are everywhere clustering in groups, using public transport ‘It’s as if there is no virus at all’ said a friend as she saw full busses and trains.
And now, many pupils are going back to school. Parents facing conflicting opinions on what is the right thing to do; in contrast to the lockdown there is a felt sense of everyone doing something different, people experience an inner sense of turbulence as they grapple to find their ‘new normal’. Transition again; pause, wait, remember, it was only 10 weeks ago as we transition very rapidly in to lock down, what did we do then?
Our routines are still here, our connections with those who matter to us still continue if a little frayed at times and, our anchor points remain; and there is still hope. So, as we travel through the unlocking journey, we do find ways to guide us during one of the most turbulent times in modern history.
Fenella Trevillion 4/6/2020
Photo Credit - Lazy Eye