With enforced lockdown, social distancing and self-isolation we’ve been spending a whole lot more time together at home, and doing less work. I’ve learned a lot through this period of five or six weeks. I’ve come to terms with enjoying the benefits of lockdown, and reconciled my feelings of guilt associated with being okay, so far. I have made some efforts to support those less fortunate nearby. I have truly appreciated the time to connect more regularly with friends and family, and with work colleagues to some extent; sharing our experiences of this extraordinary time. Time has also been sent being creative and prudent in the kitchen, tending the little garden we have, tidying and cleaning, and reaching the hidden depths of the freezer and the back of the larder cupboard. Working from home, has been an option I have been fortunate enough to use. That is not without its many challenges, but things could be an awful lot worse. This time has made me value and realise the value of living a little simpler, going back-to-basics, of daily and weekly structure, listening to and responding to emotions and feelings, and being prepared for such eventualities – however unexpected they are.
Inevitably, it seems, lockdown has made me think about retirement. Rather, how this experience compares and how my response to the current conditions informs me how I may approach my retirement when it happens. Well I don’t think or hope retirement is or should be anything like this. For one thing I am continuing to work, not a full week, but most of it. And I have the promise of returning to work in whatever way and whenever that approaches anything like what it used to be.
Being restricted to home through the pandemic is a basic stripping of control and power. And it occurs to me there are all sorts of circumstances that can achieve that, such as disability, physical or mental health, or unemployment. Retirement, hopefully, will not have such profound effects, although I acknowledge there are changes to physical health and finances.
But the lockdown is hugely limiting. In terms of basic needs, some foods are unavailable and shops are out of bounds. No longer can one linger through the stores and gain the emotional benefit of shopping. Instead, it is a lonely, logistical and almost surgical endeavour. An activity with a list, an agreed route through the store, one-way systems, staying two-metres apart, masks and gloves, interacting with staff through screens and limited social contact. Personal care has been taken away in the form of barbers, hairdressers or physical therapists. The world is reduced to four walls and hopefully a garden. Through social, or I prefer the term physical distance, lockdown has robbed us of bodily and visual connections like hugs and eye contact. The signs we are part of a bigger community and relevant to the people around us. Routines and structure are really important, but the minutes still tick by slowly. Days can feel like they are all the same. Whenever it feels like ground-hog day, it is a sign that things aren’t going well. Sleep can be interrupted and relaxation can be difficult to achieve. All of this is made worse by the miserable news announcements, thousands of deaths, and endless speculation around what may happen next, and no end in sight.
There will be an end to all this, and we will take the positives from it. As long as we all acknowledge how challenging things are, feel free to enjoy the better aspects, and help each other with our emotional responses. And hopefully we will use the opportunity to grow and develop and be ready for the next challenge, whether that is retirement or not.