Lists and Laughs

By Naomi Jackson

May 2020 – 15 minutes read

Making lists and having a laugh: getting through lockdown

I think it goes without saying that we are all dealing with changes during this period of lockdown. Changes to how we work, our home life, how we interact with people outside of our household, how we parent and school our children, how we run a household, how we run a business, how we exercise, what food and drink we consume, what news and media we watch or read. The list could go on!

As I was reflecting on my own journey to date, I became acutely aware of how the phases I seem to be traversing (often back and forth) reminded me of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle. This cycle postulates responses to loss or change that many people have.

Here is my light-hearted take on lockdown.

Stage 1 – Denial

It was just after lunchtime on 12 March 2020. I was having a lovely catch up with my friend, Jo at her farmhouse on the lake. The sun was shining and the sky was a cloudless blue. Her husband, Matt, was walking towards us through the grassy back garden. “They have just said on the radio that all the Irish schools are closing”, he announced. “Really?” I responded, not even having the slightest understanding of the weight of what he had just said, and certainly not making the connection that we in the UK would be next! He followed up with “I reckon it will be about another week or two and our schools will be next”. It all just seemed a bit outrageous to me. I wasn’t worried. It was all a bit of an overreaction and things would sort themselves out shortly.

Sure enough, on the 23 March 2020 our beloved Prime Minister announced the school closures, along with other lockdown measures. Well this should be interesting, I thought. It’s just not going to work so they’ll have to come up with something else. The reality of being at home with my 3 little darlings, 24/7, providing education, emotional support, healthcare, fun times, personalised attention, exercise and endless snacks and nutritious meals (basically a healthy, nurturing, calming, bond-building and enriching childhood experience) was still not sinking in.

I began to wonder if everyone was overreacting or if I was under-reacting!

“Denial began to ebb away and was swiftly replaced by an overwhelming feeling of dread and shock”

And so began the tsunami of “helpful” links to online learning tools, YouTube lessons, printable worksheets via Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp etc.

Denial began to ebb away and was swiftly replaced by an overwhelming feeling of shock, dread and panic, with extreme grouchiness to follow shortly thereafter!

Stage 2 – Anger

I have read somewhere that Anger is just a mask and manifests itself in the place of another emotion, usually Fear. In any case, in my experience, venting is a pretty effective way to feel better! In no particular order, here are just a few of the things I get angry about during lockdown:

  1. Joe Bloody Wicks. It was day 1 when I sustained a strained groin. After a day of limping, icing, resting, painkillers and heat pack application, I did a survey in my head. We voted never to do PE with Joe again.

  2. Donald Trump. Sorry for dropping a political view here, but if I held that one in, it would pop a vein in my eyeball. Anyone fancy a tipple of disinfectant? Why not throw in a shot of Round-up for good measure!?

  3. TVs left on in every room, with nobody watching them. For goodness sake! It is that bloody hard to hit a button on the remote control when you are done watching something??! Which brings me to my next point…

  4. Lost / hidden TV remote controls. Why do they ever need to leave the room that the TV is in? They haven’t grown legs and moved themselves, yet “nobody” has touched them at all! It must be those TV remote control fairies again!

  5. The fact that our glass recycling box is still collected fortnightly. It’s nothing short of insanity. We can’t be expected to be in quarantine and manage to fit all the wine, beer and gin bottles in one box per fortnight. They really need to sort that out. It is of the highest importance.

  6. Explaining to my 9-year-old over and over that he still needs to brush his teeth, despite us not going out anywhere. “Your mouth is covered in scunge and your breath stinks like a sewer! Brush your teeth, you filthy animal!” I barked at him. One of my greatest skills is motivational speaking. Just ask any of my neighbours.

  7. The way my washing machine walks forward on spin cycle and I have to push it back after each load. I’m really seeing red now! What’s that saying about not sweating the small stuff?

Don’t get me wrong, obviously I’m making light of a particularly dire situation, and my circumstances are infinitely a lot better than many people’s right now. I know I am lucky and am so grateful for that.

What makes you feel white hot fury? Write a list; it makes you feel so much better to get it out!

Stage 3 – Bargaining

Oh, the bargaining! The constant negotiating going on in my head are only ever muted by a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio and 4 gin and tonics strong cup of PG Tips.

  • If I make the kids do all their homework on time, we can all have fun times and enjoy each other’s company.

  • If I cook a nutritious meal from scratch, every member of the family will love it and ask for more!

  • If I go out for a 1 hour run every day, then I can eat 4 packets of crisps, 3 Mars bars and a can of coke guilt-free.

  • If I busy myself with vacuuming, then someone else will take care of the ever-growing laundry pile.

Lies! Lies! Lies! They are all lies, people!

Stage 4 – Depression

My lowest point was Sunday 22 March. It was Mother’s Day and the day before home-schooling started. I felt like a non-swimmer in a tiny boat without a paddle. The tidal wave of well-intended WhatsApp messages sending links to online learning resources, educational You Tube tutorials, “helpful” resources to keep children occupied, and advice to “make sure you take time for yourself” just had me drowning. The kids could sense something was not right, and being the beasts they are, played up on it accordingly. Thankfully my husband managed to throw me a metaphorical life-jacket by taking the kids for a play in the garden so I could sob for an hour or two. Which is only fair, quite frankly, because he is responsible for the monsters in the first place. All their lovely features come from me.

Thankfully, although some days have been tougher than others, I would say my time in this stage did not last long. Mainly because I am acutely aware of the awful circumstances many others are in, and because so many people began to check-in on me to make sure everyone was okay, and that we had access to basic necessities. It was truly heart-warming.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

It is widely recognised that laughing about our misfortunes can transform how we view our situations. Studies show when we hear or see a joke that tickles our fancy, our brain’s reward system lights up and the “feel good” neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and endorphins) are released.

I realised that wine humour was going to help get me through home-schooling, lockdown and toilet paper shortages! Coupled with the fact that so many other people were experiencing similar challenges (and were able to share the funny side) provided me with a huge boost!

There are a lot of very clever and witty people out there! Some with a whole lot of time on their hands.

Once I registered the bus was going, and if I wasn’t on it, everyone in our household would be left behind, preparations began! It felt good to be in control of something. Working out a plan for each day and prepping meals in advance became my lifeline. Incidentally, it is quite amazing what you can create with a tin of pineapple, some old bread sticks, some mini pavlova shells and a jar of expired crab paste that your mother purchased 6 years ago.

Yes, there are still some really tough days. A bit like the one where child number 3 (aged 2) was trampolining on the sofa in the lounge and managed to split half his earlobe off. Turns out he really just wanted an outing and he figured Accidents and Emergencies would be a lovely place to visit. Luckily, the severed ear could be reattached with a bit of tape and some superglue.

Or the day that I discovered the bathroom colourfully decorated in marker pen.

Or the days that it just feels like I am rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Or the days where, despite doing absolutely nothing, I feel completely and utterly exhausted.

And other days, I just feel so unbelievably grateful!

  • Frontline key workers are risking their lives for us

  • Communities are working together to support the less fortunate or vulnerable

  • I live in a semi-rural area with access to green space and a back garden

  • I have the means to call or message anyone I know at any time

  • I have coffee

  • Amazon.co.uk (shh!!)

  • The weather (in my part of England it has been bafflingly glorious for the past 4 weeks!)

  • I have a husband who is a brilliant dad and continues to head out to work to support us (champion!)

And other days, I just feel so unbelievably grateful!

  • Frontline key workers are risking their lives for us

  • Communities are working together to support the less fortunate or vulnerable

  • I live in a semi-rural area with access to green space and a back garden

  • I have the means to call or message anyone I know at any time

  • I have coffee

  • Amazon.co.uk (shh!!)

  • The weather(in my part of England it has been bafflingly glorious for the past 4 weeks!)

  • I have a husband who is a brilliant dad and continues to head out to work to support us (champion!)

It helps to revisit the list when I am feeling less than 100%. I fully recommend if you haven’t already, make your list as well! Pin it to the fridge, or even better, go one step further and share it with others. It might just help them find the silver linings.

It is quite cathartic to be able to identify and place my own behaviours and emotional responses to certain events somewhere within The Kubler-Ross Cycle, and that comforts me in my own journey with learning to live in this unchartered territory. It might help you too?

Naomi Jackson
Marketing Consultant, Xcession