Whilst we have all been fighting and battling with our demons over the last 12 months, I have found freedom, solace and comfort amidst the chaos.
I have been reflecting on how the world around us has changed over the last 12 months, and not in a million years could I have imagined or envisaged that the whole world would come to a standstill. To think that we would be told not to leave our houses or interact with others, not even family! We were told not to see our our friends or our colleagues. In fact the only people we have seen have been strangers, strangers in the park, strangers in the supermarkets. Never did I anticipate that we would be told not to travel, be it national or international. Who would have thought that all the restaurants would be shut around us, for weeks, for months, for almost a year. To be told that we can only leave the house for a maximum of one hour a day. To try and comprehend what has been happening around has truly been incomprehensible.
I have had tough times and this year, trust me. I have had my down days, day where I have spent most of the time crying. I spent five months caring for my now 22 month old toddler whilst working from home. Trying to juggle a toddler, house work and most importantly my sanity. Let’s not forget my marriage too. My husband and I were suddenly in each others pockets, contained within our walls with nowhere to go. Just as we overcame some of those difficulties, my auntie, one of the the closest family I have was taken into hospital. I watched health her deteriorate right in front of my eyes. Oh wait, because of lockdown I could only ‘watch her’ through a screen. I couldn’t visit her, I couldn’t hold her hand. And just like that her battles continued. The only time I got to hold her hand again was when she was taking her last breath. I watched her life slip through my fingers, I could feel her body getting colder within minutes of her soul departing. She fought hard, she fought through three major operations, 21 days of being on a ventilator, but in the end Covid took her life. Covid was the cause of death on her death certificate. And just like that, our beloved Sheena was one of the two million people who lost their lives to this horrific virus. I grieved alone, in a house where I saw my parents locked in their individual bedrooms. I cried alone, as my husband and son were 140 miles away. I wept because I could not hug my grandmother, I was hurt that in auntie Sheena’s last few months I couldn’t be there. To make matters worse, I watched my father go inside an ambulance and waited for days and weeks for him to be discharged. So yes, by all means I know it been difficult.
However, I am not writing this to discuss my sadness. I am sharing this because despite all of the above, the last 12 months were not the toughest months of my life. In fact they were probably one of my most memorable ones, believe it or not. The year after Nael was born was probably the shittiest year for me, yet I’m not allowed to talk about that. I feel nowadays society wants us to fit into boxes and you’re not allowed to share your true feelings or be honest. I had a child and it should have been an amazing time but you know what? It wasn’t. It wasn’t because I found it to be the most difficult time of my life.
I reflect and I realise that 12 months of postpartum prepared me for this pandemic. After giving birth to Nael, I lost myself. I lost who I was, I lost my confidence and felt isolated even when I was around people. My life changed in ways I wasn’t prepared for. (At some point, I will share my feelings and experiences of PND, but not just now. I am still healing and finding myself).
So the lockdowns and the pandemic has given me the opportunity to find myself again. A new me who has grown, developed and taken ownership of my space. I have learnt I enjoy my own company more than anyone else’s and that’s okay. I have learnt to take a step back and enjoy all the little things in life that I took for granted. It has allowed me to be more grateful than ever before. I take gratitude very seriously and make a point of it every single day. The sips of warm tea, my cosy home, the miss match pyjamas and my messy bun.
What I have loved the most has been spending time with Nael. We spent every minute of every day together from March 2020 until July 2020. It helped me overcome my fear that I can’t cope with Nael on my own for the full day. I realised that I don’t NEED to go out to maintain my sanity. It taught me that my sanity can remain intact even in my own home, especially in my own home… that I didn’t need to have several playdates to stimulate him. I finally had to face my fears. I faced them every single day, and slowly I began to realise just how much I enjoy his company and there is nothing to be afraid of anymore. In the end I thrived in spending quality time with him every day (most days). I learnt to be more relaxed. I ‘chilled’ my obsession that he can’t have screen time. I cut myself some slack and even started to give him chocolate without feeling guilty.
The opportunity, allowed me think of so many activities that I could do in the comfort of my own home. From painting to playdoh to puzzles. We played with whatever was around us and sometimes we didn’t even need anything to play with. Our company was enough. No pressure, just pure fun!
I cooked much more during the pandemic. When I missed a cheeky Nandos, or a creamy pasta from Zizzi’s or a spicy firecrackers from Wagamamas, I cooked it. It tasted darn good and it probably cost me half the price if not less. It got me into the habit of cooking fresh food every Sunday. I found it therapeutic, productive and organised. It made me experiment with different foods and took away the stress of ‘what should we eat tonight’ and ending up ordering a take away situations. I batch cooked and froze some food. Sometimes I even gave food to friends.
We managed to get so many things sorted for the house over the last 12 months. We moved to our home in December 2018 and up until March 2019, it pretty much remained a blank canvas. Between December 2018 and March 2019, I was always so occupied, sometimes with my own thoughts and other times feeling obliged in seeing people, entertaining people. But from March 2019 until now, we managed to put up things here and there. We slowly turned our house into a home, personalising it to our likes and taste. We tidied our garage, we got our loft boarded and we turned many flatpacks into shelves and storage. When I say we, I really mean Ahmed. I have never in my life put anything together other than a sentence. I thought about it, and he made it happen.
I enjoyed staying in my pyjamas and reading books. I hadn’t read books in years but it made me fall in love with reading. I looked forward to a new book arriving in the post and opening the packaging. I fell in love with the story of fictional characters that I could relate to. It also connected me to an online book club. Something I have avoided for months as I wasn’t confident that I could contribute anything to a book club.
I have always enjoyed being outdoors, surrounded by nature but during lockdown I realised just how lucky and blessed we were to have so many places near us. We explored so many new places that it didn’t make us feel left out. Our explorations meant lots of picnics, drive thru’s and connecting with strangers. The hellos and good mornings, the smiles from strangers and even conversations about the most random things. Things that make us human. Our love for walking enabled us to connect with a local Muslim walking group. We went to Dunham Massey and Tegg’s Nose. It helped us feel like a part of a wider community. This group also got Ahmed in touch with a cycling group. His love and passion for cycling returned and he now cycles at least once a week for up to 50 miles.
I didn’t see many of my friends. In fact it has probably been over a year since I have met some of my friends. But that’s okay, because we remained in contact. We text. We called. And yes, I even FaceTimed people. And anyone that I haven’t stayed in touch with, well what can I say about that. Everything happens for a reason and some people aren’t meant to stay in our lives forever.
All these things that I am sharing with you all are nothing out of the ordinary, right? They are things we do anyway, but the Lockdowns have made me appreciate these things so much more. I have not come out of the lockdown with a new skill, or some life changing cure to something. And you don’t have to pretend to have all your shit together, no one does. But I guess it has allowed me to be humble, to appreciate the little things in life and most importantly revitalised my spiritually.
I learnt a lot about myself over the last 12 months. The main thing being that I truly enjoy the slow pace of life and what people refer to as ‘slow living’. I enjoy being at home, watering my flowers, drinking tea, reading a book, kissing Nael all day long and making the most of the most simplest things in life. Including washing dishes!
Covid has made me realise how privileged we are in so many ways. I feel like we have become a society and live in a world where we have so many privileges that we take for granted. We take lots of things for granted, our health being the main one. We’re also so fortunate for all the little things, for instance having online delivery with a mere click of a button. Being able to order almost anything, from food to tools to clothes. We are fortunate enough to have these luxuries. Many in the world are not. We’re healthy, we’re warm and we have every thing we need.
We have found ways to adapt. We have used technology to our advantage. We have been kinder to one another. And we have appreciated all those hard working professionals who never got the recognition before.
I was scared to share this post as I didn’t want to rub my happiness in peoples faces. I did not want to come across as being insensitive and not realising just how difficult this time has been. Those parents juggling school work and working from home. Those people who have not seen their friends, their families. The ones who had to cancel their wedding, their parties. The list goes on and I truly empathise with you all. Like you, I have also had my own battles, including the loss of a loved one and parents poor health. So please, don’t think or feel that I am not acknowledging your battles. I am, but I would also love for you to find the positive for you too.
I look back at the 12 months and despite the difficulties, we have actually done so much more than I thought. We attended Zoom weddings, we celebrated Nael’s birthday, we enjoyed a staycation in Wales, we had a photo shoot (no occasion whatsoever, just something fun), plenty of playdates in the parks, a barbecue in the garden for Eid and we even attended an outdoor birthday party.
So, I wanted to share the many positives too. Maybe at least one person reading this will be able to relate. Maybe at least one of you will feel inspired and notice the little things we take for granted. Perhaps we will focus our energy on the more positive things, even if it is just watering the plants.