Thinking about the implications of the pandemic and life after coronavirus
This is a summary of my solo podcast: Pandemic Pondering – the implications of the pandemic and possibilities for life after coronavirus
It’s a weird old world we’re living in, isn’t it? Utterly crazy. If you think back to the start of 2020, if anybody had described the situation we’re now living in to any of us and said, this is what life will be like, we’d have laughed wouldn’t we? We’d have thought it was utterly impossible and yet now life has changed beyond all recognition and we’re all adapting. And I’m already imagining a new kind of life after coronavirus.
I think one of the amazing things for me to see is that actually we can adapt to anything. We can modify the way we live in quite radical ways when we have to. I think there’s some quite good stuff to come out of that.
I’ve been really struggling to process what’s going on and I’m sure I’m not alone. I think I’ve probably been going through all those five stages of grief or six stages of behavioral change all at the same time. Give me the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the depression, not quite there with acceptance yet. It’d be really nice if I could get to acceptance and then I could start developing myself, making the most of this time under lockdown.
Because on the one hand, I think that sounds like a really great idea and it is for many of us a time when we can be taking some time to do other things and expand ourselves. But at the same time, it’s just really, really hard to accept and process everything. And I think we’re all going through grief for the loss of control we have over our lives and what is happening to all the people out there in the world.
Me and my husband probably know 11 people who’ve been sick now. And we know of two people who’ve died. One is a friend of my husband’s and the other the father of a friend of my son. One is in New York and one is here in London and both men. I keep seeing this statistic that men are more susceptible to this illness than women. I wonder why that is.
But I think this is a kind of grieving for the world and that’s certainly what I’m going through. I’m not scared of the virus for myself and I never have been, but I am worried about what it has done to the world and what it is doing to all the people who are suffering terribly. And the people who’ve died in a hospital with nobody there to hold their hand and smile at them.
That’s been really shocking, hasn’t it? It’s just been really difficult to cope with that idea. I’m often feeling rather numb. I think I’ve been trying to numb myself. I’ve certainly been overdoing it on the wine! That’s been a bit of a crutch for me. I’m going to have to rethink my relationship with alcohol!
It’s strange because as an introvert and working from home, my life hasn’t actually changed that much. I’m still doing what I do from home. I’m recording podcasts. I’m writing blogs. I’m managing my members’ club. I’m doing my writing project. Life hasn’t really changed that much and yet it’s changed completely and utterly and radically. I don’t think it’ll ever be the same. I actually hope it won’t go back to normal, when we get to life after coronavirus, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Picking up litter
But first of all, I wanted to touch on what my life is now. In the mornings I get up very early and with my husband we go on a walk. We often leave the house at just after six in the morning and we’re usually home by half seven/ eight o’clock. We go for a wonderful walk in North London. One of the best things in the last week that has really given us some focus both to the day and to just feeling that we’re doing something, is picking up litter.
Every morning we set out and walk along this waterway and we’d been getting really annoyed with all the litter everywhere. We decided that we were going to start picking it up. When this all kicked off, I bought a couple of packets of plastic gloves. Much as I hate anything plastic. But at the moment, needs must huh? We take it in turns to touch the rubbish. We take a big plastic bag with us and pick up rubbish.
Then we were also thinking there’s all this rubbish in the waterway and we can’t actually get to it. My husband bought a big long rubbish picker upper. It’s an extra-long one so we can lean across the water and pull out plastic bags and bottles and cans and coats and scarves and all sorts of interesting things.
We’ve been doing that and pulling the stuff out and then bagging it out and taking it away. We’ve made friends with the local park attendant who was kind enough to give us a whole load of bags the other day. I remember when I was a kid there was the “Keep Britain Tidy” campaign and it was drilled into me that you didn’t drop litter, that you picked it up and you took it with you and you put it in a bin.
Doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I think we need another “Keep Britain Tidy” campaign and certainly a “Keep The World Tidy” campaign. I’ve been inspired by @healthyhappy50 Jo Moseley, who I’ve interviewed twice on the podcast. First she used to do her two minute beach clean when she went paddle boarding or surfing in the sea. Then when she did her coast-to-coast paddle boarding last year she picked up litter as she went along that route.
I’ve been inspired by this and I’m really glad I’m able to do it now as well. And I think it will become a habit when I’m not needing to wear the plastic gloves to keep myself safe! I hope I’ll carry a little bag, a cloth bag possibly by that stage, to put rubbish in as I go about the world, because there is so much rubbish. Now when I go out, it’s all plastic gloves and face masks on the floor! I just think, come on guys, stop it.
My other rant: please, if you see anybody with a dog who picks up their dog’s poop in a plastic bag and then puts the plastic bag on the ground or even worse, ties it to a fence. Please tell them not to! If you see anybody, please challenge them on it because who do they think is going to pick up their dog’s poop in the bag? Especially when it’s on a bit of wild waterway where people just don’t go.
The litter collection there I guess is probably once a fortnight or something like that. Certainly from the amount of litter we’re picking up every day, it’s not particularly regular. Leaving the dog poo lying around is probably one of the most disgusting things you can possibly do. I mean, by all means, pick up your dog’s poop, but take it with you. Do not leave it for somebody else to pick it up. Do not tie it to a tree or a fence so that somebody has got to either untie or rip it off and therefore leave, you know, bits of plastic hanging on the fence. Anyway, that’s another rant!
Keeping in touch with family
One of the other things I’m doing every day is talking to my mum. I absolutely hate the fact that I can’t go and see my mum. She’s two hours away from me, up in Birmingham. She struggles with technology. She used to be quite good at it but she’s got worse and she doesn’t read my stuff or listen to my podcast.
But one thing I have done, I got her an iPad a few years ago. She struggled with that because first she had a PC, then a laptop and then an iPad. And I think each stage of changing the interface that she had to deal with has made it difficult. And she doesn’t have a smart phone.
But on the iPad, she can do FaceTime using her email address. Every day I make her do FaceTime and I think she’d agree that’s made an enormous difference to her. Something I hope to continue in life after coronavirus.
It’s certainly made an enormous difference to me because we can see each other. We can see each other smile. On Easter Sunday, we had a virtual Sunday lunch together – she had her lunch and we had our lunch and we’d propped up the iPads and were able to chat to each other over lunch.
If you have an older relative who’s got an iPad and you can possibly get them onto FaceTime or if they’re savvy enough and you’re on Android, do WhatsApp or Zoom or whatever it is. But try and see them on camera if you possibly can, because that is making a huge difference.
I have my husband here and I’m very, very grateful I have him at home and I have a garden as well and I’m just so utterly grateful for that. But the two other people that I love most in the world: my mum is a long way away and my son is even further away. He’s on the other side of the Atlantic. He’s in the other global epicenter. He’s in New York.
But fortunately he’s very savvy. He’s half Chinese and his dad has been under quarantine in China since this began. So we’ve been aware of what was happening and what was to come from the beginning and have been following the news very carefully. He’s not silly. He’s doing his social distancing. He’s staying home.
But it’s a horrible feeling to know that if he were to need me, I couldn’t even get to him. I know so many families are having to cope with this now because of the travel restrictions, even within the same country and not being able to go to hospital because of trying to stop the spread. It’s a hard feeling knowing that I can’t get to him.
Being grateful for those looking after us
Clapping every Thursday has been a lot of fun. I started doing it every night and I think people were just thinking I was a crazy lady banging her saucepan so it’s gone back to just every Thursday now! But it’s a nice thing to do.
I saw a video the other day that was talking about all the nurses and medical staff who come from abroad. If you’ve listened to my podcast for any length of time, you’ll know I’m not a fan of Brexit.
And I find it so sad that so many of these people, these people who have died on our behalf, and these people who are working so hard to save us, so many of them have come from abroad and the whole Brexit situation made them feel so unwelcome. We need them now! I am so grateful to them for sticking by us and still being here. I hope we will remember them in our life after coronavirus.
But when I hear of us flying in Romanians to pick the fruit and vegetables, my blood starts to boil. Not because I don’t welcome them. I absolutely do. But the fact that a) we don’t have enough people to do it ourselves and b) we’ve said in the past we don’t want these people taking our jobs or whatever it might be. Well, I’ve always asked since the Brexit debate started, who’s gonna pick the fucking strawberries!
Thinking about the future – life after coronavirus
So what about the future? I know a lot of people are already thinking, where do we go from here? What is life going to look like after the pandemic? And when will that be? Goodness knows. I can’t see anything going back to even a vague normal before we have a vaccine because this virus is potentially going to carry on mutating. There’ve been reports in Korea of people being infected a second time round.
How do we continue to shield the ones that are vulnerable? It’s not always obvious who is vulnerable. There are so many who have invisible illnesses that you just don’t know about.
Some countries are talking about easing restrictions and trying to kick-start economies and by kick-starting economies, they’re going to try and push consumption. But perhaps consumption and over consumption is part of the reason why we are where we are. I think it’s interesting that a lot of people may have got used to not wanting so much anymore.
Last year I did a whole year where I didn’t buy any new clothing (See: My Year Not Buying New Clothes). I found it remarkably easy because I discovered that you could buy secondhand clothes on eBay. And I bought some really nice stuff including the red jacket below that I got for a fiver! And as the year went, I bought less and less stuff because that whole sort of buying muscle was much weakened.
I think that will be the case for all of us because we won’t have been able to buy anything and everything shifts doesn’t it? It’s like when somebody dies, your priorities shift. Well everything’s different, isn’t it? What you want in life becomes different when somebody close to you dies. And I think with this, it has made everybody shift and think again about what really is important.
It’s become community. It’s become family. It’s become the people who love us. It’s not stuff. I’ve long said that, the older I’ve got, the less important stuff has become to me, but I think the less important stuff is going to be to everybody. If kick-starting the economy is reliant on getting us to buy more stuff again, maybe the economy needs to change. Maybe our lives need to change.
Maybe we need to carry on living locally, buying locally, holidaying locally, we will have proved that so many of us can work from home. Those parents who’ve struggled with having to go into an office, and also do child care can now say, well hang on a minute, I was actually able to do that under lockdown and I performed perfectly adequately, so I want to carry on doing that. Whole things are going to change in life after coronavirus.
Getting excited about what’s possible
I’m actually excited about the possibilities for change because when people were having all the climate discussions before coronavirus kicked off, Greta Thunberg was asking us to act now as this was an emergency. We needed to take swift action right now. And the world’s leaders said, oh we can’t do that. Well guess what? We’ve done it now. We’ve done it in some places for over a month.
The planes have stopped, the cars have stopped and the air is clearer. The bird song in North London, has to be heard to be believed. We used to have airplanes flying over once a minute and you’d hear them.
But now, it’s like we go plane spotting. We see a plane and say, “Ooh look! There’s a plane! You’re looking for a plane in the sky rather than just assuming that they’re there. Things have really changed and we have proved that we can do different things, we can live differently. And I really hope that we carry on doing that. I think we owe it to the world to do that.
Because the other thing that’s preying on my mind is it’s all very well the way we Westerners are suffering, but how is it going to evolve in an Indian or African slum? Where they don’t have two meters to socially distance. They don’t have running water to wash their hands. They don’t have soap, they’ve never heard of hand sanitizer. There aren’t enough face masks to go around 20 people let alone 20 million. What’s going to happen then?
That’s what worries me. I can’t help thinking that it is our consumerism that has lead to this situation. I know it’s our global travel that led to this spreading around the world so quickly.
These are the things I’m pondering on. What will the world look like post pandemic. I don’t want to go back to normal. I want us to seize this opportunity that we’ve been given. I think Mother Earth has, as somebody put on Twitter, sent us all to our bedrooms to consider what we’re doing. It feels a bit like that.
It’s like she’s saying, I want to breathe, just leave me alone. Let it all go quiet and still. Let us all take some space to contemplate our role in the past, our role now and what we want the future to look like because we have an opportunity to create a new future. We can create a different kind of life after coronavirus. I’m quite excited by that.
That brings me to the end of my pandemic pondering. I’d love to know how you’re feeling. If you would like to share your writing or your creativity or you have a wonderful story to share with the magnificent midlife community. Please do get in touch. You can just email me at email@example.com and I will read every single email, I promise.
Stay calm, stay sane, stay magnificent and we will all be stronger at the end of this, in our life after coronavirus. Or our ongoing life with coronavirus? We just need to get through it, survive, but we will. We’ll get through it and we’ll be hopefully in a much better place by the end of it.