Live the life you love

Jenny laughs, when I ask her how lockdown is going. ‘Well, I’m quite enjoying it, I have to say, although it’s been a real emotional journey, from absolute, acute, ridiculous, over the top oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die-tomorrow kind of anxiety at the start, with me making out my will and all sorts.’

That anxiety went away a bit for Jenny when the UK actually went into lockdown, because it felt a bit more known and safe. ‘So from an emotional point of view I’ve gone from ridiculous anxiety, to actually enjoying lockdown, but now I’m going back a little into a bit of anxiety.’

Her husband has gone back to work; as a heating engineer he has to spend time in people’s houses, therefore potentially at risk of catching the virus. Jenny’s also concerned about her own job situation; as a IT contractor, work opportunities have dropped away and she has no idea when the next one will come along. ‘Just knowing a date would make a massive difference, and I could make some specific plans. I find that a bit tricky.’

Jenny’s realised she doesn’t crave a lot of external stimulation, ‘at all, and therefore I’ve been quite happy during lockdown, especially when Mark was at home, both of us just pottering around the house, doing a lot of study. In many ways, lockdown isn’t very different from the way we usually live; it’s felt like a lot of our choices, both conscious and subconscious, have led us nicely into this point, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.’

They’re both really clear about the fact that the way they usually live life, such as domestic holidays, not going out for dinner, and finding pleasure in nature, is right for them, but Jenny’s aware that people wouldn’t always make the same choices. ‘People will ask me if I’ve been on holiday, and I’ll tell them we’ve been to Wales, and they’ll say, no, no, I mean have you been on holiday, because holidays in the UK are not necessarily the norm for them. But although I know that people don’t share our life choices, in terms of lockdown it has been quite difficult, in some ways, seeing people getting upset that they’re having to live the type of life that we enjoy. That’s quite weird.’

‘I’m very interested in how we have connection with people, and how what we do and say on a day-to-day basis can either connect or disconnect you with people. This is an area where I feel a bit of disconnection; I chat to people, and we get on well, but then when they come to live the kind of lifestyle I’ve been talking about with them, they’re like ‘oh my god, I can’t live like this’. It feels a bit strange.’

I ask if there’s anything they can’t do, that she’s missing. ‘I’ve come to the realisation we’re actually about ninety years old,’ laughs Jenny, ‘because we absolutely love going to get a coffee, or going out for breakfast or lunch. Because we’ve given up alcohol, evening meals just don’t feel the same, so we don’t tend to go out for dinner anymore, preferring instead to linger over a coffee in a good coffee shop,’ and Jenny tells me their nearby coffee shop had become like a ‘local’ pub alternative, a place of community for them in their hometown of Cheltenham.

She adds ‘I’m quite visual, I love seeing different places and taking photos, and I miss that. Hopefully it won’t be too long before that changes.’

One thing Jenny won’t forget about this time is the kindness of people; having been on the receiving ends of gifts and meals over the last couple of months. ‘I’ve been humbled by the kindness of people. People who, despite having their own worries, held space for others. We all seemed to reach a hand out for others, even if that’s just to check that they’re okay.’

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