Like many people the world over, lockdown has been an incredibly trying time for most of us and we aren’t out of the woods yet. Only a few short months ago, we were told by many on social media that all we had to do was stay at home and save lives. We weren’t being asked to fight in a war or risk our lives and anyone who was hesitant about the lockdown were quickly told to pipe down in the name of the greater good.
Almost three months into lockdown, it would probably be easier to procure heroin than get an appointment with your local GP. The unemployment rate as of today has soared to 28%, the highest unemployment record to date since 1985. This lockdown may indeed be the most drastic mental health experiment our society has ever seen, we await its final result as it continues to be tried and tested on the mental capacity of our entire population and undoubtedly, there will be a significant rise in mental health issues when we return to normal life. As Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said just over ten days ago, the gloss is gone off the spin. Talk of everyday heroes and the like is causing the rest of us to eye roll, even for those vehemently in favour of the lockdown when such measures were being introduced, we’re not interested anymore.
In spite of living through such a bizarre time in history, there are many things that I have learned during my time under house arrest. For one, I have little self-control when it comes to the food cupboards and my new best friend, the fridge, which some days I have been opening more than my phone. I have absolutely no doubt that as soon as WW or Slimming World reopen for business, they will be bursting at the seams, at least that’s what the surge in home baking leads me to believe. There are life lessons for everyone to take away from the lockdown, below are a few of mine.
1. Technology is a feeble replacement for actual human contact
Only a few days ago, I was out for a walk and spotted a group of teenagers spending time together and chatting. I couldn’t help but notice that not one of them had a mobile phone in their hand.
Prior to this lockdown, you couldn’t pass a group of teens without noticing many heads buried in their phones while in ‘social’ groups. It was one of the nicest things I have seen in quite some time, teenagers being teenagers and enjoying each other’s company without an iPhone or a Samsung to hand. In many ways, I believe that we have been given a new appreciation for human contact and that while technology has its many benefits, it cannot replace human contact and the feelings that come from being close to your family and friends.
Since this lockdown began, we have been at the mercy of applications such as WhatsApp, Zoom, and Houseparty, to name but a few in order to have any kind of social life. At the beginning, it was a novelty to have drinks over video chat while incorporating different backgrounds into your chat screen with family and friends. Almost twelve weeks into a virtual social life, we miss our significant others, we miss our families, our friends. The virtual realities aren’t cutting it anymore and it begs the question of how lockdown could be presented ‘optimistically’ if it wasn’t for technology in the first place?
Would lockdown have lasted so long if people couldn’t have social drinks via WhatsApp, attend Mass from your living room, or attend work meetings via Zoom? Wouldn’t it be ironic if the one thing getting us through lockdown is the same thing that has been causing isolation in normal life? It’s just a thought.
2. Children are the unsung heroes of this pandemic
The more people I encounter that don’t have children, the more I realise how blissfully unaware many of them are to what this pandemic has done to the life of a child.
Some business’ have now adopted a ‘no child’ policy and for the ones that haven’t, we have been regularly advised to do our grocery shopping on our own. For those of us that are single parents and haven’t the luxury to do so, we all know the looks it has provoked from those who don’t agree with bringing your children outside the front door, let alone a trip to the supermarket where a child might touch a box of Uncle Ben’s rice in the shopping aisle and then proceed to put it back on the shelf. It seems that kind of behaviour is unacceptable from children, even though they sanitized before entering the shop like everyone else.
Try and imagine how difficult that must be for a child, because I can tell you from talking to other parents who have been in the same position as myself, those looks have not gone unnoticed by little children, they know where they aren’t wanted, my own child included.
Almost overnight, their little lives, like ours, changed drastically. No more school, no friends, no playgrounds, no after school activities, no human contact aside from those in the immediate vicinity of their home. Children crave human closeness, affection, and contact and the response to Covid-19 put a stop to all that.
However, despite their own mental health being thrown to the wolves, children have remained resilient and overwhelmingly positive throughout this pandemic and we should never talk down what’s been asked of them as a result of this.
I can tell you as a single mom to an only child, my daughter has gotten me through my bad days because children have an incredible and beautiful outlook on life. I anxiously await the day when I can take my daughter to the playground or to the beach and watch her hug her friends and be close with other children, maybe one of them will cough or sneeze or blow their nose and there won’t be a radio silence reaction, that will be the day!
3. Take nothing for granted
If nothing else, this pandemic and more precisely the reaction to the latter, should show us that freedom is not just another word.
Almost everyone I know takes their freedom for granted and see how quickly it was taken from us. We fell asleep in one world and woke up in another where a lockdown was given the go ahead and normal life was put on pause. We must never forget that soldiers fought and died for our freedom, it was not something that came easy. Put bluntly, the price for freedom was the blood of brave civilians that loved their people and their country more than the status quo. Our freedom is something that I believe many of us will never take for granted again when life returns to normal, at least I hope that is the case.
I look forward to finally being able to go to Mass when the coronavirus is behind us. I look forward to being able to get on a plane, to go for coffee at Gloria Jeans with my friends, to have lunch at Marco Polo, to drive outside my county, to go for pints because it has been cans for too long at this point.
In January, many of us took transatlantic flights, long weekend breaks, and trips to the pub for granted. We will never forget the months of 2020 where our lives were put on pause and maybe, just maybe, it has given us a new appreciation of what freedom and normality truly feel like and that ‘foreseen circumstances’ and ‘chartered territory’ were actually pretty awesome after all.
We anxiously await their return!