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Five Lockdown Lessons

Five Lockdown Lessons

1. I’m not a plant killer.

Well, okay, full disclosure, one of the plants met a rather swift end – a succulent left to sweat itself into early demise on the bathroom sink. But the rest of them (and there are an alarming amount of green residents), are thriving. Long gone is the woman who could kill off a healthy fern with a look (that’s certainly what it felt like), who randomly watered, despaired as the leaves browned and the stems rotted, and each well-intended purchase ended up on the compost heap.

What made the crucial difference? Time, effort, reading. Turns out that you need to pay attention to even the hardiest plant: its soil, light, water, food and what it’s trying to tell you by wrinkling, drooping, or (ideally) sprouting new life. Surrounding myself with colourful, healthy plants makes me happy. Keeping them alive and defying a weakness I saw in myself makes me proud. What else can I actually do, that I told myself I was rubbish at? Rubix Cubes? Ice skating? ANYWAY. Here’s my bathroom crew, all from The Green Rooms, chuffed at the humidity:

including a baby Maranta plant which I water propagated (a fancy pants way of saying took a cutting from the mother plant, boshed in water, waited for roots and then boshed it in soil.

My herb, succulent and propagation windowsill (who knew you could order cheap as chips cuttings from Etsy and grow your own plants?):

Tomatoes, peas and zucchinis that are probably going to die as it’s not a good time to grow them, but I got carried away and high on my own life-giving power:

My poisonous to pets study collection (all up high away from the wolf):

2. I’m okay with the grey.

I found my first grey hair at fourteen years old, and thus my life-long habit of a brunette dye every six weeks took hold. Mum was a hairdresser, so I hardly thought about it, she’d sit me in a chair at the first glimpse of silver and make it better. That’s how I continued to think about my natural hair colour – something unsightly to be quickly hidden – long into my twenties. I associated its reappearance with feeling and looking unattractive. When I left it a little too long in-between dyes, I was appalled by how much of my parting was white.

Early this year, I started to think about it differently, thanks, in part, to grombre – an army of silver-haired women, young and old, embracing their grey hair. I started to wonder if I could feel confident and good about myself without the cover-up. It’s not all plain sailing – there are plenty of articles out there, written by women who started the journey and couldn’t stay the course, and they repeat the same dreaded concerns: if you’re pale you’ll look washed out and ill without full make-up and of course, you just look so much older.

I wasn’t ready, but I was curious.

Then lockdown hit and I suddenly had a window. I could grow it out, park the dye, and see what I was dealing with. It wasn’t pretty at first reader. Any root growth looks crap-pants at the start, particularly such a drastic change.

I’m six months in now, with about a third of the length grey, and a strange thing has started to happen – I like it. I’m done feeling that my natural hair isn’t acceptable at thirty-three. I’m going to ride the silver wave and see where I end up.

3.Cleaning can make me happy.

I know, I know – what the hell am I talking about? Stick with me for a second. It’s not as simple as bleaching the toilet sparks joy or anything. I’m talking about ordering the space around me: decluttering, fresh scents, things where I can find them, house pride, working up a sweat then eating well-earned cake. Before lockdown I HATED cleaning. Honestly, I thought it was a complete waste of time and doing any (beyond the essential pot wash) made me utterly miserable. 

It’s a few things: suddenly we were stuck at home, forced to get up close and personal with our houses, so you started to notice the cobwebs and dust and it got messier quicker. Oh, and time, never-ending, biting-your-fingernails-down time. So I might have fallen in love with Mrs Hinch and started looking at life in two distinct phases, BZ and AZ (Before Zoflora and After Zoflora). WHAT, YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT ZOFLORA?

To prevent this feature being all about Zoflora, I’d like to direct you to further reading, here. Suffice to say you can use it to clean fifteen million things, your house smells amazing and my top tips are:

Soak a cotton pad with it, put it in your hoover filter

Chuck it in the washing machine

Capful down the kitchen plughole before you go to bed

SORRY, NOT SORRY.

4. I can’t do DIY and I don’t want to learn.

But I can project manage someone else to do it. After the first month of lockdown, I declared to my husband that the downstairs bathroom would be my DIY masterpiece. I had big plans. No, I did not want his assistance, advice or mansplaining. I would figure it all out myself, with the occasional YouTube tutorial and my natural instinct. 

It started off so well.

I made a pinterest board and bought lots of aesthetically pleasing things. Then I soaked and pulled all the wallpaper off.

Then, I was very disinterested and tired. Also, the main wall looked like this:

I had not anticipated bad walls. I watched videos on plastering, researched various sealants, consulted friends and eventually purchased stick-on wallpaper (I wasn’t going to buy actually wallpaper, I’m not a magician).

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Now, I was going to have to remove the radiator, and cut sheets of paper to very precise sizes.

HARD AND BORING.

So I just left it.

The best thing happened. Not overnight but within a few weeks. My husband said we could start it off together, and then when he started it off, I just snuck away and did something else (probably ate chocolate).

He kept going.

Now the bathroom’s finished and it looks great.

Sure, I didn’t learn any new skills, and my original goal was completely destroyed, but the tiling is top notch and it’s pretty where we pee.

5. A slower pace is better.

Before lockdown, I was firing on all cylinders. On top of a full-time job, I was also running amble with Elle, running a coworking business with a few friends, trying to get fit, trying to be a great friend, trying to write, trying to be a great wife, trying to tire out my dog, trying to say yes, trying to be everything. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, there just wasn’t any room to relax: always a deadline, always a mistake to fix and the strain of wanting to do better. My evenings and weekends looked just like my 9-5; to-do lists and emails to reply to.

I fought the isolation of lockdown for a long period of time – it was messing with my lovely, full life. But it’s taught me a ton of valuable lessons. Yes, I like having a lot on, no, I shouldn’t have been throwing back five coffees every morning to cope with it. Yes, I like variety and projects and having a lot to talk about, but no, I shouldn’t feel a constant stress buzz and that taking time for myself is selfish and comes last.

So, as lockdown eases bit by bit, I’m striving for a happy medium. I’m going to read a lot of books. I’m going to learn about things I’m curious about rather than parking them for later (Sapiens: A Brief History of humankind, blew my tiny mind).

I’m going to cook a lot from scratch, buy more plants, spend more time with people who make me feel good and less with those who don’t. I’m going to keep going on long walks with my husband and dog where we talk about random things for hours, not rushing somewhere, just breathing.

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