Monday, 12 April 2021

One Foot Before the Other is All it Takes

Hello Friends!

I hadn't planned on publishing this, it started out life as one of those cathartic moments when you write it down and let it go to the Universe, so if you are reading this, obviously I decided to go ahead in the hopes that it might help someone else find their way through the darkness.  We're not alone.

I can't say I've hated lockdown the way many have because, on the whole, I don't mind being alone, in fact I prefer being alone anytime compared to being with the wrong people, but there's a difference between being alone and being lonely. While I haven't minded lockdown too much, it hasn't been a bed of roses either.  

For me, it's been a long eighteen months and then some.  If you'll listen, I'll tell you why. It began many months before the Pandemic.  I had barely begun to get my thoughts in order after losing my darling mother in October 2018, when in September 2019 I came down with a beast of an upper respiratory virus that knocked me sideways and laid me low for four months. Several times I would wake up unable to draw breath and several times I thought I was done for.  Terrifying doesn't even begin to cover it.  I ended up sleeping in an armchair for three months, too afraid to go to bed.  That didn't do my mental or physical health any good for the long term either. Then, in December I was hit with another respiratory tract virus, almost as bad, but not quite. In January 2020 both viral infections eased and, although weak, I began to feel a little better physically, my test results were all good, so I began, cautiously, to make some plans for the coming year.  Then, in February I unexpectedly lost my job, so I decided to take a senior gap year.  That was when the first whispers of a new, novel virus crept out of Wuhan, and my stomach lurched.  Somehow, I knew this was the Big One we had all hoped would never happen, yet knew and feared would come. I was already planning to make plans to put my plans on hold.  As we got further in, the fear grew inside me, like a cold, dark void, it engulfed my every waking thought, as it did for almost everyone else {other than the naysayers, of course}.  Overshadowed by what I had just gone through, and knowing I suffer from asthma, this new threat was overwhelming my reasoning and perception to a point of panic.  It didn't take much for me to withdraw, and I withdrew into my shell, slamming doors behind me as I went, cutting myself off from the world.  That was actually not that difficult for me for I have introvert tendencies to begin with.  Self isolation for a few weeks was going to be a doddle.  So I thought.  Who knew what was coming?  Oh, and did I mention I suffer annually from SAD?  My personal perfect storm was happening.

As I just mentioned, I had recently lost my job, so this was an ideal time to turn this around and take some healing "me time" and respite, doing things I enjoy, after being a long time care giver.  I hadn't had a holiday since 2006. Hopefully it would also give me to time to grieve properly for my recently deceased mother.   I call it a senior, or later life, gap year.  I wanted to find the person I used to be, before I had to give up twelve years to care for my parents. Don't get me wrong, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of me.  2019 was to be my year to find me again.  The pandemic that was about to hit the world had other ideas for us all.

I had just bought these two publications and was going to explore the area through the eyes of people from nearly one hundred years ago, but with the modern day convenience of my digital camera.  {note the lovely stamps!}  I thought you'd like to come along, and although it didn't happen in 2019, I hope it will happen soon.


I may seem outgoing and gregarious online, but the people who know me really well in person know differently.  They know, for better or worse, the real me.  I am a generally very positive and happy person, but painfully shy and introverted {until I get to know you} which in itself masks the real me, and my positivity as it gets mistaken for something else. Many have told me in the past that they are often astonished at how I can find something good in everything, even the really, really bad stuff, yet I will happily do all I can to avoid meeting people, especially groups where I don't know many, if any.  The flip side of this is bizarre.  I am quite happy striking up a conversation with a total stranger who sits by my side on a crowded bus.  What?  Anyway, I digress. Whatever plans I had made, the fear of Coronavirus drove me underground.  I've left my cottage only once a month to pick up my prescriptions, and I've left twice for my 'flu and first Covid vaccines at my local GP Practice.  That's all. And I've gardened a bit. Not anything like as much as I should, and I'm now paying for that mistake.  You see, as I got pulled down, it was easier to sit in my chair and procrastinate, and worse, let my thoughts wander into often dangerous lands of What Might Have Been.

Those of you who have followed this blog know well enough that I am, by nature, a walker.  Pack me a picnic, charge my camera, put my sketch book in my backpack, and point me into the wild and I am off.  A short walk is a couple of miles, more often I'll do three to five miles if time in my day permits. Those long walks became curtailed, and then had to stop all together as my caring duties escalated.  Missing this daily routine, my fitness has plummeted, although as a care giver you are on the go in different ways.  With arthritis, walking has become more a slow hobbling, although I am lucky in that I haven't gained any more weight in the last year or so.  {I do have plenty of weight to lose!}.

What light has been at the end of this darkness?  Well, until recently, very little.  Family, friends, and neighbours have caught Covid 19; one was very seriously ill but is thankfully miraculously recovering after months in hospital; three have died.   Every time someone has died, my thoughts turned to Mum and wondering how I would have coped had she lived.  What if I'd had to manage her deteriorating condition at home on my own?  What if she'd been in care {as she was} and I could not have seen her, hugged her, and held her hand?  

It's been a dark time in oh, so many ways, and I've had days, weeks even, where I have struggled, both with what is going on in the world and in my own universe.  I think the worst things were that I need repair work done to my cottage that had to be put on hold, and I began missing and grieving for my mother in a way that superseded anything that went before.  It's not easy to say this, but I had days when I didn't know how to go on.  I saw the darkness, then I somehow pushed myself on, hoping tomorrow would be better.  I never asked for help, I didn't want to burden anyone.  No one even noticed, at least I don't think they did, I hid my pain so well.  It's so easy to put up a positive vibe post on Twitter and Instagram which makes everyone think you are fine when you are anything but.  Then again, everyone is so collectively overwhelmed right now, who would even notice? Eventually, a glimmer of hope would light my darkness, but days later the darkness crept back, and so my year revolved in this spiralling pattern of alternating light and dark.

While the vaccine gives us hope, that is it, hope.  It is not a magic bullet we had all hoped for.  So, we must come to terms with some facts.  Unless we see a miracle, the virus is here for the duration.  We must learn to coexist with it, as we do with influenza and the common cold virus.  It means we must still be cautious and as our scientists remind us maintain the practice of Hands, Face, Space.  A fourth factor is now given: Fresh Air.  We are encouraged to get out in the fresh air to meet with friends and family, still keeping ourselves socially distanced and enjoy the great outdoors while remaining as safe as we can.

Getting out my front door to go shopping is not something I do easily.  The pandemic has exacerbated a pre existing condition, my fear of leaving home.  For years I have had to deal with this, but now,  just to go and fetch my monthly prescription takes days of mental planning and preparation.  I can't simply put on my coat and go.  If I can put it off until tomorrow, then I surely will. 

My days are getting good now, as the lighter days of Spring return, my arthritis pain is alleviated {which you can read about here} and I find it helps to give myself a good pep talk daily, and so, last Saturday, I DID IT.  I stepped off my drive and turned left.  Not into First Class, but something far better.  The wild and wonderful Welsh countryside.

I had tried going for a walk last summer, but saw so many people not socially distancing nor wearing masks I ran home.  So, I was terrified again that I would encounter more of the same, but I'm so thankful I didn't.  That step will come later, though, I am sure.  As the virus is here to stay, I must prepare to cross that bridge of meeting people again.















Everything was still there, just as I remember it, just as I left it the last time I walked this way over a year ago. Maybe the trees are a little taller.  I wept a few tears of joy at the sight of my old friends: the road beneath my feet, the trees, the fields, the sky, the ocean, the cliffs, and the distant hills and valleys, as they welcomed me back. Yet, it was so magical and special today, somehow bluer, greener, fresher than I ever remember it being. 

I give myself a daily happy talk, a little meditation, the effects of which I have found builds up over time, little by little. You don't notice it at first, but in a few weeks, if you keep on, you notice an improvement, that tiny spark of light grows and gets brighter.  It's easier to get out of bed; it's easier to get dressed and not put on clean pyjamas; it's easier to go out into the garden for a few minutes.  It's the first baby step, there's a long road ahead, but I pushed me out the door and I turned left.  Considering I haven't walked in over a year I was surprised and pleased with how I managed.  

One day at a time, one foot before the other, is all it takes.  

Thank you for reading.

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Well

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your inner most struggles. You have worded this all in such a way that I literally feel your pain. I'm so sorry. I wish I could be your neighbor. Love and hugs to you (with my mask on of course). Kim

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  2. Thank you so much for your honest and moving post. I think you have put into words how many people feel during this frightening pandemic and of course you have had to put up with so much more over a difficult and upsetting few years.

    I do hope there will come a time when you can use your books to explore your local area and blog about it all.

    I am so pleased that your arthritis has started to improve after all your hard work and going without so many of your favourite foods.

    Well done on going out for a walk. It can't have been easy as I know the more you stay at home the harder it is to make yourself go out. Your photos are beautiful and I hope you felt a lot better after getting out. It was lovely too for me to see the sea again after nearly two years even if a virtual view!

    Take care and stay safe and well and above all look after yourself. As you say one small step at a time. Sending love.

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  3. This is so deeply honest and poignant and I feel honored that you would share these words with us, your online friends. In many ways I think we are kindred spirits -- easy to small talk with a stranger but if there was a remote chance we might be colleagues or meet up together again, I would be far more reserved. This year has reinforced any introverted tendencies any of us might happen with so very much at stake for those of us with pre-existing conditions. I am grateful that you are taking a turn for the better and got out for what looks like a beautiful walk. I love seeing the countryside and the psots of your world and will look forward to more walks, which only you can share. It's good news that the arthritis is improving and that will make the walks easier.

    One thing ran through my mind reading this post and I bring it up knowing there is no definitive answer. Has it ever occurred to you that what might have been diagnosed as a respiratory infection back in 2019 was in actuality Covid? I say this because there is evidence of it appearing far earlier than when we started hearing about it and in fact I know of two different people in wildly different locations who experienced much the same prior to the announcements of this and were later told by their docs that they highly suspected they were will with the disease (one was more definitive than that). I doubt you'd know now and it really doesn't matter -- except for one thing. You survived that. Twice. And whether it was or wasn't, you went through more than a bit of physical hell. And you are here. And that is good. I, for one, am thrilled because (selfishly) I get to enjoy your lovely posts. This one is a gem. Thank you for it. Onward.

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  4. Dearest Deb, thank you for sharing your innermost feelings. A lot of what you have written could have been written by me, but not so poignantly! I'm so glad you are stepping outside. There is something magical about being in the fresh air and of course doing it safely. I love seeing the beautiful photos of your area as always, my friend. Sending you love and hugs and peace. xoxo

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  5. Sending love and virtual hugs Deb.
    Thank you for sharing. So good to hear that you found the energy and courage to take those steps. I am sure the sunshine will help - if only it would warm up a bit.
    I am struggling a bit with coming out of lockdown - which I found a kind of haven. It suited me very well.
    As you say, one step at a time. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself some Artists Dates.
    Keep going my lovely! xx

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  6. Sending positive vibes. Loving the photos brings back many happy childhood memories.

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  7. Hello - I have arrived after blog-hopping from Ragged Robin's Nature Notes blog. Where you live reminds me of days out from our old home in Carmarthenshire. A lovely place to walk anyway and I hope you feel safe enough now to venture forth regularly.

    This past year has been a big ask for so many of us. Like you I am asthmatic and had my letter from the Govt. telling me to Shield as I was Clinically Very Vulnerable. You have my sympathies over the back to back infections which dragged you down, physically and mentally.

    To share all your worries and struggles with the outside world is a big ask. On my blog I bumble along and skirt around the worries of real life so I know how brave it is to unburden. I hope that from now onwards life starts to become less threatening (we have walked, mask free, throughout but hardly ever met a soul, fortunately, and then it would be other side of the road "good mornings".)

    However, I had my own fears as we were selling our house (been on the market for years as the housing market in Wales is a thing apart) - then the Pandemic hit and the world and his wife wanted to run away from their town houses and move to the country. In fact, move to Wales. We had to let complete strangers view our house when our visiting children had been relegated to SD visits in the garden. Complete idiots too - "Oh we thought we would go to the beach after seeing the house, can you tell us the best one?" We finally found a buyer, and then in the next Lockdown had again to let complete strangers into our house to test this and check that (buyer insistent) and we had 3 surveys (don't ask). Then we had removal bods at our house for best part of a week, loading interior and exterior belongings and the same again at the house we had bought. I disinfected everything they might have touched/breathed on and thought I would never feel safe again, but our new home is once again a haven from the outside world, and we are double vaccinated so feel safer and I have just started doing proper grocery shopping again instead of deliveries. We are fortunate to have moved to a very quiet country town, in an area of Wales where Covid infections have been low all along.

    I hope that the road forwards is downhill for you now and Covid levels stay low. Powys (where I now live) have now vaccinated over 100,000 people. Amazing. I hope you will get your 2nd jab soon and feel a bit safer when you begin to meet people again.

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  8. Like Bovey Belle, I blog-hopped here. You put into words what many have been feeling, to greater or lesser extent, this past year. I'm glad your dark days are now receding. One day at a time, one step at a time, you WILL get there. Thank you for being so honest. xx

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  9. I appreciate you posting. Helps me and i am sure many others. You certainly live in a beautiful place to walk.

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  10. Echoing the comments of several others, thank you for such an honest and very personal post. Of course, life has changed for everyone in so many different ways and some have had a more difficult path than others. I felt so sad reading about your mom's passing and although my own passed 6 years ago, I have found myself thinking about her more and more this past year. You have had a lot of dark times. The photos at the end of this post were signs that you are looking at brighter days ahead. So many of us are more introverted than shows in our blog posts, myself included.

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  11. Perhaps you might like to read about an author's wrestle with 'blackness' in the past month- susanbranch.com. Good Luck.

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    1. Thank you, yes I follow Susan's blog regularly, and we were publishing our feelings and thoughts at the same time.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this with us. I'm sorry it's been such a long and difficult road for you, and wish I had some words to help make your journey out of the darkness easier. But I don't. So, I'll just say I'm glad you've found the strength to keep going on, and hope you keep doing so.

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