2 weeks ago

A Reader Writes: How A Midday Shower Saved Me in Lockdown

5 MIN READ SAVE

Without a calendar, I honestly don’t think I could say what week of lockdown we’re currently in. The movement of time has shifted, taking on a mysterious and undecided form. Days are slow and weeks are fast, or vice versa. Nothing feels certain, except the fact that, for me, the first few weeks were without a doubt the hardest.

Usually I pride myself on my adaptability, I normally thrive in new situations and circumstances. I can roll with the punches and quickly find my feet in challenging circumstances. I’m not sure if it was the amount of changes that suddenly took place in March or what those changes meant for me personally; regardless, the first few weeks of lockdown shook me like nothing before. I felt like the ground had been ripped from beneath me and I was suspended in an infinite fall. Everything that felt stable and reliable, within days was either gone or drastically different.

On Friday March 13, I left the office with a company laptop under my arm, excited to set up my home office. I even bought some new stationery for the desk in my bedroom. By Wednesday March 18, I was jobless. One of so many like me across the country, swept up in what we now know was just the first wave of layoffs. The fancy new ‘WFH’ notebook I bought has still not been touched.

A sense of helplessness and humiliation enveloped me almost immediately. As dear friends and kind colleagues reached out to offer their condolences and encouragement, the shame I felt was devastating. I felt like I had been forced back five steps in my life plan, through no fault of my own, or anyone else’s for that matter. Simultaneously, the self-inflicted pressure to be proactive and productive, ironically during a time when most of the channels to do so have been put on hold, was crushing. With job advertisements evaporating overnight, I couldn’t see a way to help myself, to get back on the saddle and move on.

Everything I read, heard, and thought was telling me to stick to my routines. That going through my usual daily practices would help me create or cling on to a sense of normality. But the thing is, this isn’t normal. And, even if the rumours are true, and this is our new normal, forcing ourselves to perform an outdated dance when both the steps and music have been changed, is not going to help. Nevertheless, I spent two weeks either attempting to carry on with my 9-5 schedule or spiralling down, disgusted that I had failed to keep up the pretences. My days felt empty and dark. By trying to make life seem normal, I was only heightening the very fact that it wasn’t. As the days slid by, so too did my efforts to keep up the old routine. I was dragging myself from bed at a time closer to afternoon than morning, to sit hunched over my laptop scrolling through lacklustre job options on LinkedIn. Not actually achieving anything, just feeling more and more useless and stuck.

Forcing ourselves to perform an outdated dance when both the steps and music have been changed, is not going to help.

Throughout all this time, I was plagued by the knowledge that I am lucky. That my suffering was and is laughable in comparison to others. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, I am healthy and my loved ones are safe. How could I spend my days feeling anything but gratitude? The guilt I felt for both my circumstances and the fact that I was struggling despite them only strengthened the cocktail of negative thoughts swirling around in my head. However, I was reminded that although it is important to acknowledge the pain of others, it would not assuage my own. Nothing positive would come from tormenting myself over the fact that someone else had it worse than me. I would only continue to feel worse and would be of no benefit to anyone in such a state.

One day, I found myself in the shower at 2pm. I’d had a particularly messy lunch and to be honest it was one of those days that felt more like a year. As the water began to wash away the badness of the morning, I experienced a moment I’ve witnessed in books and movies countless times. I had a real-life shower epiphany. I realised I had nowhere else to be in that very moment. Rather than that thought being depressing or demoralising, it was freeing. I wasn’t wasting company time or eating into minutes that could have been spent on something more productive. I was being productive; my time was completely my own. I could decide when and how to spend it. Rinsing the shampoo suds through my hair, I revelled in the realisation that never before had I had the opportunity to have a shower at 2pm. I was there because I decided to be, no other reason. It may seem trivial but, in that moment, it was empowering and liberating.

I began to shift my previous routine. Practices once squished in around work now have the freedom to happen at any time of the day. The uncompromising order of my days pre-lockdown no longer applied.

Since then, I have slowly found my stride again. I move at a different pace now; I think we all will for some time. By removing the strict linear routine I was previously ruled by, I have managed to recover a sense of structure and meaning in my days. I have found new work that feels fulfilling, through it I am able to help others while rediscovering my self-confidence and self-worth. I’ve started an online book club with some friends and have entered into a home fitness challenge with others. I no longer take my shower at 2pm every day. Some days it’s 5pm, or 12pm, sometimes I go completely mad and have a bath in the morning. Regardless of the hour in which I take it, I spend that time in gratitude. Grateful for all the big and small things that I have in this moment, but especially for the girl, who three months ago, had the grace to allow herself to take a midday shower.

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