I think we have all discovered new things that annoy us this year. Change has been imposed on us and many of us do not feel the same control over our lives as we are used to. It’s no wonder that we are all feeling a bit more irritable.
Mostly I have stayed calm with all the changes. I started wearing a face covering before it became mandatory to get used to it, and I am now. I have followed the lockdown guidance and do my best to maintain social distancing. I leave my details when eating out for track and trace and I am fastidious about hand-washing/sanitising. I don’t like home working much but I have learned how to stay connected and motivated.
I see others around me struggling – either being uncomfortable or reluctant, or just being overwhelmed by the volume and speed of changes. Many are still too frightened or vulnerable to venture out. I can understand that, Coronavirus may have been suppressed, but it is still very much around. We can see that by all the restrictions still around us.
Today, for the first time in a while, I got very frustrated with ‘other people’s’ adherence to the restrictions. We had went into town for a little bit of shopping. We are trying to shop locally and support small businesses. The experience was disappointing because of a few factors – the Farmer’s Market had done a great early trade which was great for them but sad for my dinner plans, Leo’s patience wore out with the slower pace of things when eating out due to all the new processes and a general busyness the city centre didn’t seem prepared for. It was almost impossible to maintain even 1m distance between ourselves and others.
I began to feel anxious, not so much for my family, but for the potential of a second wave or local outbreak. A step back could be tragic and also disheartening after five months. I became impatient with other shoppers – they weren’t following the directions, using the correct entrances and exits or staying 1m away from me. They were stopping in the middle of a busy shopping centre to speak to their friends. No one could hear because of the masks muffling sound, so everyone was shouting. Then I was told that I couldn’t browse in the one store I wanted because Leo wasn’t wearing a face mask. I somewhat hysterically pointed out that he was three years old and won’t even countenance keeping a sock and shoe on his left foot, or wear his specs, let alone have a mask over his face. I felt that familiar feeling – that everyone was doing it all wrong, getting in my way and behaving oddly. Entitlement.
As I reflected on my anger and frustration, I was kind to myself. It has been a difficult year. We have had a particularly hard couple of weeks. Tension had built up and the environment had triggered my stress response. There was no harm done. It was just a bad day. But I had forgotten the hopes I had for life post-COVID – a kinder, more thoughtful and empathetic world. A world where everyone deserves to be seen, heard and take up space. Where we can all misunderstand the rules and make mistakes. That we can go out with good intentions, get distracted and then find our way again. That we can see someone ‘being stupid’ and instead of tutting consider how we could help, or simply ignore and be glad to know better.
If we can read guidance, understand it, act on it, obtain the resources we need and maintain our resolve each and every day then we can congratulate ourselves for doing so well, but also recognise how privileged we are. If we can maintain this level of vigilance for days, weeks and months; then we are in a very good routine and how fortunate we are not to have an off day, or a forgetful day or a distracted day while we worry about other things like health, finances, relationships, exclusion and so on. If we can be concerned with what everyone else is doing, then we have space to address some things we can control – starting with gratitude and empathy. Individually practicing gratitude, empathy and kindness won’t eradicate coronavirus, but together it will make our lives happier, fuller and fairer making it more likely that we do, and that we still like ourselves afterwards.