So, how are you coping, then, in this strange new world of lockdown? There’s a lot of talk about coping strategies online and about protecting and strengthening our mental and emotional health, about how to build resilience at a time when nothing seems quite normal anymore. A quick trawl through Facebook quickly reveals people cope in different ways: knitting, crocheting, crafting, sewing, baking, gardening and so on. All perfectly normal hobbies that are useful at any time.
But I’ve become somewhat alarmingly aware that some of my coping strategies aren’t tenable in the long-term and have been digging a little deeper into why I do these things. My main coping strategy has been to take advantage of the opportunity to shop for food and then to spend the rest of the day cooking and eating. My food bill has doubled since lockdown, even though I am supposedly only feeding two people now instead of more! I have spent a lot of time preparing wonderful meals: pancakes with berries and yogurt for breakfast (pretending I’m in the Mediterranean, presumably), making batches of cheese scones for coffee breaks, baking cakes to give to other people, cooking beautifully prepared lunches and dinners… and judging by the photos on Facebook, I’m not the only one.
When I question ‘why’, however, I realise that the superficial answer that ‘I’m a feeder’ doesn’t really cut the mustard. I have bought so many chocolate treats for my grandchildren (delivered to their doorstep like an Easter bunny on steroids) that they probably could have a treat each day for the rest of the year. I’ve delivered enough food in a week to my elderly father to feed him for a month (and his freezer isn’t that big!) Why?
In part, it’s to alleviate boredom, to use up some of the additional time I now have. In part, it is a desire to help others. But mainly it’s an attempt to pretend things are normal when they’re not. Because cooking and feeding are part of my known, familiar world, and I prefer that world to the reality I am actually inhabiting.
This present situation leaves us feeling helpless. Our usual routines are left in shreds. And that leaves me with guilt (I’ve always struggled with irrational guilt) and inadequacy (another familiar burden.) I’m not out there like the key workers, working as usual in unusual circumstances. However much I clap them and no matter how many morsels I make to pass on to them (and I’ve done that too!), I feel guilty for not being on the frontline. No matter how much propaganda comes my way telling me I’m saving lives and saving the NHS by staying at home, I don’t feel good about it.
Added to that is inadequacy – the feeling that I’m not doing enough or that my attempts to work in new ways (livestreaming church services, for example) aren’t hugely successful. My husband reponds to change and challenges with the long-legged aplomb of a hurdler, but I’m here in my usual schoolday sports’ day misery: staring at the hurdles and thinking they look like high jumps. The familiar ghost of inadequacy – that voice that tells me nothing I do is good enough – is as present in lockdown as in everyday normality. I don’t really know why I expected otherwise!