Managing the hell out of life in a pandemic

All of these random thoughts have been written in the second and third national lockdown, during the covid-19 pandemic of 2020. The naivety, purpose and fear associated with the first lockdown, has given way to a sense of weariness, constantly re-living groundhog day, frustration, division over our response to the pandemic and a deep seated rumble of hopelessness — perhaps the most dangerous of all of these feelings.

We dare not hope for an end date as they constantly shift, or are withdrawn, or have so many conditions attached to them, they are simply unbelievable. The threat of new variants of the virus looms like a dark cloud, as we keep our fingers crossed that the vaccines will still work against them, otherwise it all feels a bit f*cked. And we remain glued to the statistics that tell us whether the NHS will exceed the limit of its capacity and an ever rising death rate .

Our kids are shut in, learning in virtual classrooms which can in no way provide the social and mental interaction their growing brains need, whilst all the time people discuss the widening gap in equality and how disproportionately affected vulnerable kids and those from poor backgrounds are and they are right.

Parents struggle to balance working from home, whilst home schooling and trying to keep their families afloat both mentally, physically and financially. Teachers remain the unsung hero’s, teaching in the classroom to vulnerable children and those of key workers, whilst at the same time supporting children virtually and trying to make some kind of sense of their own lives and not get ill, as no one thought to vaccinate them as a priority.

An already worrying mental health epidemic has been fuelled beyond our imagination, as people are separated from their loved ones and dipped into a vortex of fear on a daily basis.

People volunteer in their millions to help the efforts to look after those in need, to support the roll out of the vaccine programme and to give them some purpose and hope in a pretty challenging world.

Travel comes to a standstill, the airports are empty, the planes grounded and borders closed. The excitement and anticipation of escapism to another country, more exotic and alluring than our own, leaves us all mourning our acute loss of freedom.

Our government looks more tired and stressed each day, having to make impossible decisions, in an impossible time. They stoop as they stand, with the weight of the decisions taken, the decisions they have yet to take, the death toll, poverty, inequality, fear and uncertainty, firmly on their shoulders.

And all of the time, the wars keep going, the human rights abuses remain unchecked, the refugees are still homeless, the starving are still dying and the corrupt, inhumane regimes still flourish. But they no longer take the headlines, as our own discomfort steals the day.

But much of this remains unsaid, too unpalatable, too depressing, too real for us to digest. So, we retreat into ourselves and carry the load of fear and anxiety in isolation. No one wants to be the voice of doom, full of the woes of the world. But there is a massive difference between seeking negativity, creating drama and wallowing in self-pity, to facing reality, having the courage to say it how it is and acknowledging our failings and our challenges. The former is simply an indulgence with no intention of ever taking action to change things, but the latter can be the first step in taking the very actions needed to change things.

We cannot change what we do not acknowledge to be broken or wrong. We cannot change what we allow ourselves to believe is unchangeable. And we cannot change that which we do not take responsibility for.

So, change starts with each of us, in small acts — of facing the truth, of recognising the part each of us can play in changing it, of focusing on what we can rather than not cannot do, of being open to solutions, different ways we may not have tried before, but most of all, of giving people the benefit of the doubt, of believing in ourselves and others and of getting up each and everyday and doing whatever it is, no matter how small to keep moving forward, to find that chink of light and to use what you have, right here, right now.

Life will always be challenging and death will always come — but we always have a choice about how we choose to live alongside all that life throws at us.

We are 2 weeks into lockdown although the reality is we are 10 months in — I haven’t felt free, either physically or mentally since last year.

And each day is a paradox — it’s Groundhog Day and it’s extremely unpredictable.

So, yes the boundaries say the same — being at home, going for a walk, washing and feeding ourselves, working, zoom calls, binge watching Designated Survivor on Netflix (which is brilliant by the way 😊), but my emotional, mental and physical state varies enormously, with no real rhyme or reason.

Some days I’m full of energy, purpose and hope, others I’m knackered, de-motivated and desperate to retreat and then there are the days where my chest physically hurts, with the weight of anxiety and fear I feel and they are the days when I have to be the kindest to myself, just as I would to a vulnerable and fragile friend, which is who I am too.

Because sometimes that’s how feel. And that’s ok. It will pass, as all things do.

But just like you would, when others turn to you for help, do not turn away and ignore your plight, listen to yourself, be kind to yourself and do not judge yourself.

It’s ok not to be ok and it’s ok to be ok.

Is anyone else simmering with frustration, resentment and rage?

Or it is just me?

Does anyone else get p*ssed off that no one seems to notice the bins are full except them?

That no one seems to notice the dirty sink, overflowing laundry baskets, or floors covered in dog hair?

That no one else is bothered enough to get up and let the chickens and ducks into their runs and carry fresh water out because the hosepipe is frozen?

That new bottles of apple juice are opened whilst others go off, because they have been left open and not finished and no one can be arsed to check.

And worst of all, that no one else seems able to work out when the loo roll has run out and replace it.

Ffs I am really the only one that sees these things?

God help everyone because I’m a menopausal volcano waiting to erupt, having run out of patience and completely p*ssed off with this domestic crap, that occupies far too much of my time.

So, is anyone else about to erupt or is it just me wanting to scream the f*cking house down?

It’s 4.30 am, I am fully awake, an anxious rumble in my stomach, a worry I cannot quite pinpoint.

So, I get up, make tea, let the dogs out, light the fire and write.

It’s the perfect time, everyone else is asleep, I finally have the silence I crave and the headspace to think.

Once the day starts, with 3 kids needing to be home schooled, fed, the house looked after and the animals cared for (including having to find a way to keep our ducks and chickens in now we also have bird flu to deal with, ffs), the day somewhat runs away with me — and yes I do get frustrated and resentful because I am left with little or no time to do the things that really make my heart sing, including trying to work out what the hell I am going to do, to enable me to work in a more sustainable way, to keep all of the balls in the air, use my intellect and make a difference, no matter how small, in this world. And no it’s not because my husband does not share the load with me — he absolutely does, at the same time as providing the bulk of our income. It’s simply because circumstances are far from ideal and we can each only do so much.

It really is that simple.

F*ck it’s back to home schooling tomorrow.

I’m a spectacularly crap teacher — I lack both the capability and motivation.

2 of my 3 children are in secondary school and their maths is beyond me already.

Added to that, trying to ensure we all have some structure, space and time, is stressful to say the least.

And yes I’m sure I could just leave them to it, but I’m cursed with a) giving a sh*t and b) being able to work flexibly therefore feeling like complete crap if I don’t help them.

Because they are my kids and I love them.

They are struggling with our semi lockdown life too.

And they don’t, as yet, have all of the skills, self awareness and self discipline to be able to operate in this surreal reality, that is changing by the day — and to be honest, neither do I.

So, no I’m not looking forward to the weeks ahead, but we will get through them, this will pass and I will be saying f*ck a lot.

And that’s ok.

Got up late.

Wrote a few blogs — not terribly good but therapeutic all the same.

Did not get dressed unless putting a jumper on top of your nightie counts 🤔.

Did not walk the dogs, they hate me today.

Did not empty the washing machine again, I’m simply going to switch it back on to buy more time.

Did not take out the empty bottles, empty the bins or tidy up, my pet hates so I’ll tackle them later when it’s wine time.

Did not take Christmas decorations down, wishing I hadn’t put so many up now 🙈.

Did eat crisps, chocolate and French baguette, will not be getting on the scales this week.

Did lay on the sofa for most of the day.

Did watch escape to the chateau, Sarah bennys move to the country and some film or other.

Did scroll through Instagram and look at celebrities posts.

Did buy clothes I didn’t need.

I wouldn’t call it a terribly purposeful day, just a day in semi lock down, where we are all doing our best to stay home, stay safe and stay sane and I guess that’s a kind off purpose in itself.

So that’s ok.

Huge steps today — I bathed, dressed and went out for a walk.

How my success criteria has changed during this year of covid.

It feels like I’ve just completed a marathon ☺️

Celebrate the small wins and I’m sure the bigger ones will come with time.

Just be kind to yourself and go with the flow.

Happy New Year to all.

Oh f*ck, it’s New Year’s Eve, which means New Year’s resolutions.

The time of the year where unrealistic expectations threaten to overwhelm us.

Bearing in mind my measure of success right now is whether I get dressed or not, I find additional expectations terrifying.

And it’s such an artificial and unhelpful way to look at life.

Big changes are hard, procrastinating and allowing things to build up becomes over-whelming, creating a massive anti-climax can be disappointing, so it’s completely illogical to create a day where we come up with sh*t loads of resolutions, that we have probably failed to achieve for the other 364 days of the year, yet somehow when Big Ben chimes midnight, we miraculously believe that we are going to achieve them.

As Einstein quite rightly pointed out:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

And yet New Year’s resolutions continue unabated.

So, can we please forget New Year’s resolutions and big, grand gestures.

Let’s just set ourselves small steps each and everyday — and if you don’t achieve that step on that day, just forget it, move on and try again the next day and the next.

Because that’s progress, at a pace each of us can deal with.

Everyday is a New Day not just New Year’s day.

Today I got dressed.

Yesterday I didn’t get dressed.

Today I went out.

Yesterday I didn’t go out.

Today I’ve done some small jobs.

Yesterday I slept all day.

Neither are wrong or right, better or worse.

They are merely a reflection of how I felt and what I was capable of at that point in time.

This is self acceptance and self care — listening to your needs, responding to them and not judging them.

Compassion starts with yourself.

It’s tough right now and everyone has their struggles.

They are not up for comparison, so please don’t.

Just give yourself a break and spread a little kindness, starting with you.

It’s the uncertainty and fear that is getting to me the most.

I find that my get up and go and got up and gone.

I cannot be arsed to do anything, even walking the dogs is beyond my ability.

I sleep for enormous periods of time, I scroll through meaningless sh*t on instagram, I watch brainless entertainment, I have to force myself to dress and I find myself with a knot in my stomach, far too frequently.

This is not a natural state for me, I’m a natural ‘do-er’, self motivated, curious and inspired by life.

But not right now.

My days consist of hauling myself out of bed — only because I need a wee and a cup of tea. Then there is the ‘naval gazing’ period, whilst I muster the effort to do something other than ‘naval gazing’, then when I do manage to do something, I have to revert to more ‘naval gazing’ for a rest.

And no, I do not want to reach out and talk about it, as god forbid, someone might suggest I need to do something, to snap out of this and honestly I don’t want to — because ironically, I feel safe in this extremely small and undemanding world I have created.

And I suspect that I am not alone in feeling like this.

But please remember that this will pass, our motivation will return and it’s ok to do what you need to do, to cope in the meantime.

I’m not comfortable being introduced by a status.

I do not understand the need to tell me, or others how senior you are.

It feels narcissistic and unnecessary.

If you should choose to respect me, see me as a role model and like me, please let it be because I add value to your life, not because you perceive me as senior in anyway — because I am not senior to you or anyone.

I have simply lived a certain life, with certain experiences and have certain values — which may or may not be helpful to you.

Equally should you not respect me, see me as a role model or even like me, that’s absolutely fine — it’s called freedom of choice.

I believe respect is earned by each of us through being decent human beings, not because of our status, grade, salary level or postcode.

My path is no more or less important than yours, it’s just different.

So, please do not allow yourself to feel intimidated or small in comparison to others perceived status — we are all of value and we all have a part to play.

And please remember:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Can we please stop apologising about taking a career break — particularly women.

It’s time to own our stories, share them with pride and focus on our diverse and rich experience.

In fact, I would strongly argue that more people, should take more time out, more frequently.

It widens our perspective — we are all in danger of becoming part of the Truman show, if we do not experience new realities.

It provides time for self reflection and growth — a busy career is also a distracting one, from getting to know ourselves.

It adds to our wider knowledge — we are often too busy doing the day job, to prioritise learning or to develop relationships not directly linked to our careers.

It encourages us to find our creative streak — just having headspace and living your life differently, is enough to do this.

It exposes us to real life — and this is where we develop our empathy, wisdom and deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

So, next time you are trying to excuse a break, please don’t.

Breaks add to your value and we need to change both our perceptions and that of others, to help us all live richer, more diverse and more meaningful lives.

Take a break, get to know yourself and learn some life skills, no organisation in the world can train you in.

I am scared a lot right now — of breaking the rules, of passing the virus on, unknowingly, of bringing it home, unknowingly.

I am tired every day no matter how much I sleep — inhabiting a world where our basic need for physical human connection has to be forgone and where we view people with fear rather than joy, is exhausting and unnatural for me.

I struggle to motivate myself to do even the smallest of tasks — in a world full of wonder, it feels pretty hopeless to be disconnected from so much of it, with no real end in sight.

I worry about the slightest thing — my anxiety has taken on a life of it’s own as it has been provided with far too much negative energy to fuel it, ironically from the very people that can also soothe it, as we all struggle in isolation, with this inhumane way of living.

And I know everyone is doing their best and that we have achieved great things in such a short space of time and most importantly, that this will pass.

But that doesn’t mean we have to pretend to be ok, or pretend that it is easy.

Being honest doesn’t make it worse, it just means we can share the pain rather than carrying it alone.

I actually think I am having a perfectly reasonable response, to a perfectly unreasonable set of circumstances.

And that’s ok.

If I’m honest, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of advice and positivity that I see on social media.

However well meaning it is, it doesn’t do much other than to remind me of all that I am not doing, therefore adding to, not reducing my anxiety.

I’m not a one dimensional robot. I cannot switch myself on and off. My core needs and motivations are somewhat more complex than that.

And why is it, that we are not allowed to feel sad, anxious, de-motivated and lost? That seems perfectly reasonable given the circumstances we are presented with.

Perhaps if we were allowed to share how we really feel without being told to:

a) not give into ‘it’ (whatever the f*ck ‘it’ is)

b) to look at the bright side and be grateful for what we have (of course I’m grateful for what I have, including a full array of human emotions hence this post)

c) pull your big girls pants up, you can do this (yes I know as I am doing it, but action does not numb my senses)

Then we could all connect at a more honest and deeper level, stop feeling ashamed of the fact we feel a bit f*cking stressed right now and ironically feel less stressed, as we realise we are not alone and what we are feeling is perfectly normal.

It’s ok not to be ok.

Neither am I and you are definitely not alone.

We tell people to reach out, to ask for help.

It’s not so easy when your job and your reputation is on the line.

And yes we say ‘it’s ok not to be ok’.

But is it really?

Can we honestly say, ‘I’m not managing’, when we’ve spent our whole lives making ourselves manage and watching others do so too?

For those of us who do speak out, we are still in the minority and we do carry a stigma.

But perhaps it’s quite the opposite, perhaps we are so awake and so able to feel when our soul is at odds with our world, that we are actually fully and wholly alive.

And perhaps we need to stop expecting others to reach out for help in a world still driven by rhetoric, which has yet to truly understand what not being ok means.

Perhaps our leaders are not just here to lead, but to be the heartbeat in amongst us all, to spot where the help is needed, to enable people to take that help, to hold their hand whilst they find their way and to be the translator to enable genuine human connection, that moves beyond artificial boundaries of rank or organisation, to enable people to be all that they can.

I do not believe people are ‘not up to it’, I think we are failing to fundamentally connect with each another and understand one another’s needs.

And that is when we really need help.

It’s ok when you are part of the elite, when life has nothing but success and riches to offer you.

But none of that man made bullsh*t will save you when the unexpected, comes to play.

Mental struggles, death, failure, rejection, seemingly hopeless situations, will weave their way into your life without rhyme or reason and you will be left bereft and feeling alone.

But you are not alone. Quite the opposite. The very things that we hide for fear of judgement, are the very things that connect us.

So, to all of those people hiding their struggles in isolation, please reach out because someone somewhere, will sure as hell be hiding their’s too.

And to all those people, who have yet to have life bring them to their knees, be kind because when you need help, it will not come from your world of superficial success, but from those people whom you may well have judged unfairly, because it looked like they were simply not as good as you, which is of course untrue, they are simply not the same as you.

But when it matters, it will be the people who have been on their knees, who know the pain of suffering, who will hold out their hand to help, because they know, the only thing that will help is deep and pure human connection.

It takes courage to admit you are not thriving or not coping.

It takes courage to recognise you are making sacrifices that are affecting your well-being.

It takes courage to share those feelings and truths with others.

But it takes real self-love and acceptance of all that you are and are not, to take the steps required to change your reality, in order to be all that you can.

It’s ok to face your truth, to ask for help, to walk away from something that’s not for you.

Everyone has their own journey, their own purpose, their own place to be.

Life is just too short to stay because you are afraid of your truth, what others may or may not think and to simply fight to survive each day.

Your time is precious, you are precious — be true to yourself and then you can be true to others too.

Just take the next best step.

Each and everyday.

It doesn’t matter what others think about that step.

It matters what you think.

And that step will look different each day for each person.

Some days it will be huge and others it will simply mean surviving.

Yes we are in the midst of a global pandemic.

Yes we are facing unknown and unprecedented times.

Yes we are distanced from our family and loved ones.

But please remember that none of that stops us from taking the next best step.

Keep it simple, stay in the here and now and do what you can.

That is more than enough.

You are more than enough.

The next best step is enough and always has been.

To make something impossible, you just need to believe it to be so.

It should have been impossible to go to university having all but failed my A levels, but it wasn’t.

It should have been impossible to get a job with a blue chip company given my career choices, but it wasn’t.

It should have been impossible to set up a business and give birth to my first child, but it wasn’t.

It should have been impossible to raise 3 children whilst experiencing PND, traumatic deaths and a shitty menopause, but it wasn’t.

It should have been impossible to resurrect a career after a 10 year absence, a complete loss of confidence and a public profile that shared my lowest points, but it wasn’t.

Your reality is yours and yours alone to define.

You decide what is the art of the possible and what is not.

No one else, not ever.

You may not get to choose the hand you are dealt, but you sure as hell get to choose how you play it.

So, please play it your way, at your pace, to your values.

As ever, please take what resonates with you and leave the rest. I don’t have all of the answers, I am but a mere student of this mad thing called life, but if some of what I share can spark a thought, provide some comfort and make you smile a little, I have achieved great success.

And for that I thank you, with love

Nik x

A bit about me: I aspire to inspire people to be themselves, to embrace all of themselves, warts and all. To re-define our reality, to be more honest and sustainable. To re-define success, to be more diverse and focus on the stuff that really matters, not the shiny sh•t, that you cannot take with you anyway.

No-one will remember what car you drove, but my goodness, they will remember if you made them smile, feel good about themselves and accepted them for who they are. It is the gifts of kindness and understanding that will last beyond your lifetime, not the gifts of gold.

I’m a mum, writer, transformation consultant and all round eccentric, doing my own thing, in my own way, in the hope I can make others smile and love themselves a little bit more.

My blog, library of curiosity, daily inspiration and lots of other things, can be found on my website www.nikdavis.com.

My alternative and eclectic approach to fashion and design can be found at www.lillyisabella.co.uk.

I love people, I love life and I love to talk, so please feel free to reach out and let’s have a conversation.

Nik has a mission - to be brave, challenge the norm and tell it how it is. To share her failings and challenges, to help manage this mad thing called life.

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