Lockdown has been tough for us all. With it we have faced many personal challenges, which have pushed many of us out of our comfort zones. Things we previously took for granted: family, friends, going to the shops…have been taken away from us and with it we have lost our freedom. But what are the things that have kept us going? Or more importantly, who?
Firstly, I’ve thought about this loss of freedom a great deal. It made me think about prisoners and how their physical worlds can shrink, but with it they seem to experience new worlds – ones which open new doors and possibilities. And when I say prisoners, I’m not just talking about people incarcerated in HMP, who are encouraged to learn new things and to broaden their horizons (because it helps with rehabilitation) I am referring to anyone who is confined in a space and has been stripped of their liberty.
Recently, I remembered a story about a POW in Burma, in WWII. He secretly sketched his ‘love’ on scraps of wood and paper. He said that he did it as he needed hope and to remember another life. Thankfully, he survived and was able to bring them home to her. This story of hope and love made me think about the link between doing something physical, as a reactive emotive response, to a situation. There is lots of evidence of ways they managed to stay sane and alive in such POW camps. Some created art work and carvings depicting their incarceration, whilst battling the relentless and inhumane treatment from their captors. Although this might be an extreme example, you have to ask why they did it? Where did they get the strength and determination to do something which would have only been able to be done under subterfuge? Well, obviously it was to help them, and others, to survive.
The human mind needs occupying. We are genetically programmed to gather knowledge. The term ‘you learn something new every day’ has never been more evident during recent times. Stories of people learning new things or taking up ‘old fashioned’ hobbies seem to have become the norm. And although we have relied heavily on technology to communicate, we have also looked elsewhere to find an inner peace and calm.
However, something else we need when our freedom is taken from us is ‘togetherness’. And this is my story….
On the surface, I’ve done the same as everyone else. I’ve kept busy and achieved many things during lockdown (art, writing, my garden, etc) I’ve learnt new skills and found a peacefulness from just taking a breath and stepping away from the craziness that we call life. But I am not going to go into all that. Instead, I need to tell you about how looked after I am. After all, being imprisoned means you need a certain camaraderie and understanding to survive.
My world has shrunk more than others. Living with sightloss has meant I’ve been really restricted over the past twelve weeks. And this has meant two things: I have had to be innovative and patient, and I’ve had to rely on Him.
Him: my carer. Obviously, he is my husband and I didn’t marry him so he could look after me. In fact, bizarrely, when we first married, I was his carer. He was recovering from stage four testicular cancer and was half-way through treatments. Luckily, he got through it and we have led a good life ever since and he has been clear for fifteen years. But unfortunately, since my eyes have recently begun to deteriorate, I’ve had to lean on him more and more. I feel a massive pain in the neck for this and find myself (annoyingly for him) apologising constantly.
To say I’m high maintenance is an understatement. Any of you who know me and been on the end of guiding, note taking, putting up with the ‘panic’ that can descend…can vouch for this! But you should try living with me. On an ordinary day he helps me in the mornings and evenings. Stuff like cups of tea, ironing, driving me to where I need to be, and generally just bring amazing! However, during lockdown I feel I have started to lean on him more and more. And that is quite scary. After all, who wants to be a burden? And when you’re as independent as me, it can make you feel frustrated and guilty too.
So what does he do?
One problem has been that I can’t social distance. Not because I don’t want to, but I can’t! I could easily walk into someone and jeopardise either of our health. I also can’t always read labels in shops. Therefore, picking up things and reading them isn’t an option either. Going out: it’s not worth the danger or the death stares! So, as far as essential shopping has been, he’s done it all.
Also, he makes all my drinks and food. Whilst I sit at the table working away, he’s there with food and drink 24/7. Now this is something new: I don’t get this level of attention at work (I wonder how I’m going to cope). And, I write lists of things I want doing and he does them! (My house has never looked so good).
In amongst these tasks, he manages to also be in charge of entertainment. He mixes his music on the decks. He pulls me away from headache inducing screen time to watch a funny programme. And he also makes me further headache inducing G and Ts.
This new period in our relationship has been both surprising and lovely. This week, we’ve been together for twenty four years. In all that time, we’ve never spent more than a two week holiday together (the thought of a holiday…) We even lived apart for a while whilst he worked away. And for this period I loved it! We got weekends together and the house was tidy all week (he’s messy – everyone has their issues). And…I’m not going to lie, at the beginning I was thinking ‘this isn’t going to work’. After all, he’s worked all his life and there he was caring for me and our girls. He was so tightly coiled and wound that I thought we’d fall out if he didn’t learn to chill. He did though, and quite quickly we established a routine that suited us all. Twelve weeks later and it’s actually been quite nice. I’ve been looked after like a Queen, loved and spoilt at times. Who’d have thought it?
We never married to become each other’s carer. That’s not why you marry. However, you should marry your best friend. Someone you could be locked up with and not kill, who cares about you no matter how high maintenance you are, and has got your back. And whilst I’ve been creating and doing things to occupy a restless mind, he’s been my sidekick, DJ and barman. And, as always on our journey, he’s shared my hopes for a better, healthy and brighter future than ever before.
This week I’d carers week. I am dedicating this blog to Him: my https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s7FGbhpr2pg