How Claire Walker and Hannah Essex joined forces to ensure they could have it all
It’s very easy to feel lost during a global pandemic. If anything, with the state of the world, it may be the most human thing to feel. And while you shouldn’t make yourself feel bad about feeling a certain way during the lockdown – because you are able to be safe in your own home – it’s integral we remember that hope is the utmost act of resistance.
Recently when out for a walk, I bumped into a family friend who mentioned (from two meters apart, of course), if we took away people losing their jobs and lives, and the uncertainty this time has brought, this has actually been a pleasant rhythm to life.
It’s made us realise how constant we all were before. How taking pauses had become something to be ashamed of, until we were forced to take a step back. There have also been joyful lessons in between moments that have felt unfair. They say gratitude is a lifestyle, and recently, it’s something that has had to become all of our 9-5s.
We spoke to our Restless readers on what joyful lessons they have learned during the lockdown and this is what they had to say…
“I’ve become willing to let things go”
For 23-year-old London-based journalist Inês Mendonça, lockdown has made her more forgiving. “You realise that everyone is panicking just as much as you are, if people are snippy or if your flatmates piss you off, it’s made me think twice before I respond with negativity.”
When asked what has caused a change in her instincts, Inês says, “Sometimes you just want to be petty but when people are dying you realise that people don’t deserve it. Responding with kindness or not responding at all ends up being more productive. I’ve been more willing to let things go because of that.”
It’s been weirdly liberating. It feels stupid to get pissed off that someone doesn’t do the dishes properly or that your friends are unusually needy when so many people are in pain and struggling and dying. It’s made me learn how to use my energy better and being more forgiving is definitely healthier and better.”
“Lockdown has allowed me to slow myself down when feeling overwhelmed and realise I need energy for me first”
An unprecedented lockdown during this period without any external help has meant, frankly, chaos for the many parents at home. Parents and guardians have now also had to become teachers meaning shifting their priorities, while many are also trying to work.
Yet in a crisis, the things that aren’t working in our lives have an opportunity to reveal themselves.
For 47-year-old mother-of-two and founder of Story of Mum – a platform that advocates for the wellbeing of mothers and supports mothers who are business owners – based in Penzance, Cornwall, Pippa Best has learned about the importance of filling your own cup first, before anyone else’s.
“As mums, we often put the needs of our kids ahead of ourselves. When I coach mums, we nearly always look at how to look after ourselves better, and how to carve more time out for ourselves, letting go of all the guilt that comes with having our own needs, too. Despite knowing all that, with the shock of lockdown, I went straight to putting my kids’ emotional health ahead of my own. My focus was very much on making sure their needs were met and on trying to keep home life as ‘normal’ as possible so that they didn’t feel overwhelmed. So much so that I realised that I hadn’t left enough energy for me. To survive lockdown, I needed to find a way to put my own needs first more often — to allow myself to slow down when I was feeling overwhelmed and to find the quiet space I was craving.”
Instead of always racing on to the next thing to be done, I let myself sit in our front garden and read a book, with a hot cup of tea in the sun, whenever I needed to. It was a routine that felt incredibly indulgent, and yet also completely necessary. Making that quiet time for myself tended to my needs and helped me to gather strength again.”
Pippa’s story is one that echoes the lives of many parents, especially mothers. When speaking about what joyful lesson has come to fruition due to lockdown, Pippa says, “It also reminded me to stop trying to step in and support everyone else and I learnt that doing so simply created more useful space for them to get bored — and then creative – as well as being able to practice looking after themselves and their own needs more often.”
By being present and in the moment, Pippa says she’s been able to “discover some beautiful fields, old lanes and bluebell woods within walking distance” and know “it’s such a gift to get to know our hometown so much better. Because of these lessons, as a family, we’ve come to appreciate our natural environment more than ever.”
“Learning there’s a joy in doing things by yourself and reevaluating what self-care means to you”
Unlike what we see on the beautifully curated homes of Instagram, many of our houses are just that. Homes to simply live in. There’s no space for a personal office, a pool to lay by when your Trello board is starting to pile up with tasks. For Mariam Khan, the 27-year-old editor of It’s Not About The Burqa and writer based in Birmingham, it’s about rewriting the script on what self-care means or looks like and making space for yourself in the smallest of ways. “I live in a crowded house and as much as it’s been fantastic to spend time with family during the lockdown, I’ve taken real pleasure in being by myself.”
Whether that’s to truly be by myself, to meditate, do a yoga session or pray and read the Quran. I’ve learnt there’s joy in enjoying those things all over again. Essentially, what I’ve re-learnt is that there’s joy in doing things by yourself, for yourself.”
And through these stories and joyful lessons, what’s truly transparent is that even when wading through the thick of it all, it’s in the small moments on our own that we learn about ourselves. Which parts of us we want to stay and what parts we want to let go of — all in order to keep moving.