{the semi-after}

On my phone is a photo, snapped quickly during an excursion to the coast, in the before. It’s dated the 18th of March, the last photo before everything changed. Of course, a line in the sand is never a nice neat line, but like the rest of life, is messy and uncertain and trying to pick a point as the end of the before is never going to be precise. It was the before, but we were all glued to the news trying to work out where this thing was going. It was the before, but my text history with my husband from that trip was filled with lists of grocery items to grab, just in case. It was the before, but we parted knowing it would be the last time we would see each other for quite some time – though we didn’t realise exactly how long.

We came home, and the children and I chose to self-isolate for two weeks. It actually sounded quite pleasant, two weeks of quiet home time, after the busyness of the coast and excursions and classes. Of course, two weeks became three, then four, and longer, as restrictions tightened and everything was cancelled and shut down.

At first, my days were filled with doomscrolling and not a lot else, to be honest. And then, a few weeks in, I pulled myself out of that nasty habit, and also pulled out the list I’d made at the beginning of iso, when it felt novel and fun to have nothing to do with the outside world and a sudden decrease in the demands on my time. I picked a couple of priorities, and got busy making stuff and finishing stuff and engaging in some good old distraction therapy. The world might have been a hot mess, but my to-do list didn’t have to be. In the before, I was the master of starting something, and getting distracted by the next new shining craft project and switching to that, and then abandoning it, and moving on to something else. My WIP list was insanely long. All of a sudden, though, I had not only a heap of time on my hands, but I also lacked the freedom to nick to the shops every time I had a new idea. Slowly but surely, I started chipping away the unfinished projects. There were two crochet blankets, one started in 2014. There was a knitted jumper, started and finished within a two month timeframe, a revolutionary concept for me. A cross stitch from 2014. A quilt from last year. A heap of books read or listening to. Bags sewn. Journals started. Photos printed and scrapbooked. It is the running joke within my crafty group chat, that clearly covid has broken my brain. Maybe it did.

Now, seven months on, things in the outside world are slowly returning to normal. As everything opens back up and restarts, I’m trying hard to cling to the slowness I cherished during those months when there was nowhere to go and nothing to do, and to stick with the “finish-all-the-things” mindset change. At the same time, it is nice to be starting to get back into our old routines, or to hit up the shops and collect supplies for new projects. The iirst event to return to our schedule was Sunday school for the kids, accompanied by house church for us, hanging out at our friends’ place, drinking coffee and watching online church. Then bible study returned, and soup kitchen, and drama. This week feels like a big step towards back-to-before, with sport starting up. Soccer for me, touch for Miss10.

And that slowness I wanted to cling to? It’s a work in progress. I’m not sure how to hold on to that, and not be in town every single day, but still do the things we want to do. Soccer for me is as much about the social aspect as the exercise – adult conversation and meeting new people, somewhere I can go to be an actual person, not just “mum. MUM! Mumumumumumummmmmmm…..”. Touch and drama and youth group for the kids are likewise important for them to get out and hang with their friends as much as anything else they get out of it. And so here we are, in the almost-after, back to almost-normal, and in town five days a week. I am learning to be more discerning about what we add in on top of that though, to help maintain that balance of slowness while still getting out and doing the things we love and not turning into total hermits. There are days when I’ve been to town three times before 4pm, and I have caught myself thinking that I miss the early iso days when I couldn’t go anywhere, but that is too simplistic. It’s easy enough, 6 months on, to gloss over the days I would’ve given my right arm for some adult conversation, or the children were crying because they missed their grandparents, who they were used to seeing at least twice a week. And so I work harder at the balance. Not locked away, not out of the house constantly, but something in between. I’m still not sure what that in between will look like, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to not hold tight to expectations and plans, so we’ll see. Maybe flexibility is the other lesson I need to take away from this year, along with the slow down lesson…