Reflections On Lockdown

It feels like things are changing now, so it’s been making me reflect on how lockdown has been and lessons that I want to take from it. I feel almost embarrassed to be saying this, but I’ve actually enjoyed lockdown. I mean, clearly not the death, worry and not being able to see friends and family. That part has sucked, but there’s definitely been a lot of good things to come out of this awful situation.

Now that things are starting to open up and get back to some sort of normality, is it just me that has decidedly mixed feelings about this? Clearly there are some things that I am desperate to get back to. Seeing family, parkrun, races, not needing to be constantly looking when you’re about and about to make sure nobody is within 2 metres of you. There are also lots of things that I really want to keep. As we come out of this really weird situation I really hope that we take the opportunity for some self-reflection and work out what’s really important to us and what has just been a distraction all along.

For me I’ve realised that I have a lot of the basics covered already. I’m pretty clear on my values and know what adds value to my life and what is a waste of my time, effort and money. My family unit is pretty strong. Despite sharing lockdown with two teenage boys we are closer than ever. There’s been very little conflict and we still enjoy spending time together. We’ve given each other plenty of space. We’re really lucky in having a good sized house and a nice garden. I’ve got four bedrooms, so even with using one as an office there’s still lots of room for us all to spread out. I do appreciate how fortunate I am. My sister shares a two bedroom flat with her twelve year old son. They are very cramped in there and there has inevitably been a few fallings out between the two of them.

What I really hope is that as things start to ease up things don’t just go back to how they were. I really see this as a chance for the earth to heal itself from all the damage that we’ve inflicted on it. If you’d said to us last year that planes wouldn’t be flying, the roads would be empty, shops would be closed and we would mostly all be working from home then we’d have thought that you were crazy. There’s no way that would ever happen. But happen it has.

The Country’s Finances

I talk to lots of people every day with my job. It seems to me that the world has pretty much split into furloughed and still working people. I’ve had to come off Facebook as I think if I read one more post about how bored someone was then I was going to scream. I realise it must be incredibly difficult if you’ve got nothing to do and you’re worried about the money side of things. It is however incredibly frustrating to keep hearing about how bored people are when you’re rushed off your feet working harder than ever to try and keep up with customer demand.

The health aspect is obviously awful, but the economic fallout is almost as bad. This pandemic has starkly demonstrated the fragility of people’s finances. People were phoning us almost immediately the crisis hit to say that they were struggling to pay their bills. They literally were one pay away from financial disaster. These are not just people earning minimum wage. Some of these people earn really good money. It doesn’t matter how good your salary is though if you spend all of it and more. If you have a pile of credit card debts built up over the years on all the essential things that you absolutely had to have, then when you get furloughed you’re going to have a problem.

What’s Going To Change?

Working towards FIRE is a real benefit when something awful like this pandemic hits. We’re already used to living on less than we’re earning, so if needs be we can look for other ways to adapt our finances. Clearly the financial buffer is a real asset, but perhaps even more so is the adaptable attitude. I’m really not great with change, but striving to reach FIRE has made me examine my finances more closely and look at different ways of doing things. Although I haven’t made any big changes as a result of CV19, I do feel that my frame of mind is slightly different than it was. Something truly shocking has happened to our world, which has resulted in wholesale change in the way we live our lives. Hopefully lots of these things will only be temporary deprivations, and we’ll gradually get to reintroduce some of the fun things that we’ve all been missing.

I honestly believe that things can’t just go back to how they were. I hope not anyway. For me there’s been a fundamental change in how I think about the world. It’s almost as though one of the worst things I could possibly have imagined has happened, and yet the world continues. Coming out of the other side how could we possibly go back to the hum drum worrying about trivial things. We will, of course we will. It’s only natural. I really want to try not to though. I’m not sure if it’s as a result of working from home, but I’m finding it much easier to focus on what’s really important to me. I’m not saying I’m not getting caught up in the day to day stresses of work, because there have certainly been plenty of those. I am however finding it slightly easier to remind myself that as long as my boys and I are healthy, happy and flourishing then there’s not really too much else to worry about.

Paying For Petrol For The First Time In Forever

I had to fill the car up the other day for the first time since lockdown. I’ve realised during this time how well set up I am to barely need a car at all. I’m definitely driving less than I was before. I’ve introduced a new personal rule that on any under 3 mile journeys I won’t use the car unless there’s some sort of a constraint such as taking the kids, heavy shopping or not having the time to go under my own steam. I walked to B&Q yesterday to pick up an order. It’s only a mile and a half from my house, and I definitely would have taken the car in the past. Instead I walked down, picked up my 5 litres of decking stain and set off with a fairly heavy rucksack for the walk home. Yes it was a bit uncomfortable walking home with that on my back, but I backpacked around Spain carrying all my camping equipment many years ago and survived that, so some decking stain definitely wasn’t going to break me. I still haven’t got into using the bike for errands, but I have bought a bike lock and started scoping out quiet routes into town. It might well be baby steps, but if it stops me having to replace my car for a while then that’ll all be to the good.

Holiday Time

I’m just coming towards the end of a week’s holiday. My teenagers are spending two weeks with their dad so I get to be just Sassenach Saving, and not Ms Mum as they call me. I had planned to spend this week studying Spanish, watching some more of the free Yale online lectures, running, walking, cycling, writing, reading etc etc. I would needed to have been off for about a month to get through everything I had planned. Instead things panned out quite differently. I was video chatting with my folks last Sunday and mentioned that I was off work for a week. They turned to each other and suggested that I create a bubble with them so I could come down to visit. They’d been reluctant to do this before as they were shielding due to their age. They were feeling a bit more confident as time passed and were now happy for me to visit.

I threw some things in the car, actually paid out for some petrol and had a beautiful sunny drive down the A68 to start my trip away. It was so lovely to catch up with them. I also managed to do some socially distanced socialising with my sister and nephew. I was only down there for a few days, but we managed to pack quite a few things in. Video chatting is great, but it’s no substitute for actually being able to see someone in person and make sure that they actually are doing ok. I felt much reassured after having spent some time with them.

My sister loves to walk so she found a lovely route for us to do on the beautifully named Red Kite Trail. Named as they released 94 red kites in the area. We didn’t manage to see any that day, but my sis repeating the route a few days later and was lucky enough to see one soaring above her. We did manage to see rabbits, deer and a particularly acrobatic squirrel leaping from a post to the branches of a tree, along with the usual farm animals. The whole thing was twelve and a half miles, including taking the scenic route along the river (it’s not getting lost if you get to enjoy beautiful scenery whilst enjoying a slight diversion).

Another day myself and the folks had a trip to the seaside. We drove the route of the Great North Run, as clearly that’s not going ahead this year and I’ve had to defer my place till next year. Right from the start on the central motorway, all the way along to the front at South Shields. I have to say it was much easier in the car, but even then it did seem quite a long way. I don’t very often get to drive the route of one of the half marathons that I’ve run, so it really brought home how it is a pretty big achievement to run one. I tend to think that a half is not that big a deal. You know what, it kind of is.

We spent a few hours in South Shields where the sun was very conveniently shining for us. Even so the place was reasonably quiet and it was easy enough to keep our distance from other people. We had fish and chips and I kept up my usual tradition of paddling in the sea, getting soaking and realising that I probably should have brought a towel with me. I really should learn the lesson that if I’m at the coast I’ll be going in the sea come what may. It was even pretty warm, which is not something you can usually say about the sea on that particular stretch of coastline.

So all in all it was a fantastic break away. I caught up with family, did some great walking and managed to get out and about whilst remaining safe. It did make me realise that although I’ve enjoyed staying home during lockdown I really need to make myself go out. I have hermit tendencies that can get out of hand if left unchecked. Sometimes you need to get out in the world and experience new things and places.

For me the biggest things to come out of lockdown are I want to keep working from home, driving less and focussing on reaching FIRE. I need to make sure that I also remember to make time for fun activities and catching up with family and friends. I love to learn and get exercise, but I also need to make sure that I actually see people. It’s absolutely fantastic that I can now run with my friends again. That is such a big part of my life, and things seemed slightly out of balance when I was having to run on my own. I think moving forward getting enough social interaction is going to be crucial to ensure that homeworking is sustainable for me, particularly as my boys grow up and fly the nest.

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