Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience first, of self-isolating, and now of being in lockdown with her children in Southsea. It’s day 25, Maddie has had some alone time over the Easter bank holiday and has managed to get some PhD work done while the boys spend the week at their dad’s house. How will Maddie and A cope with the unplanned development?
The kids were away at their dads’ and I did some work. Actual PhD research. For a few hours each day. I started small, with one chapter of a philosophy book on truth and one research paper on propaganda and democracy. Then I wrote one perfect paragraph, (and by perfect, I mean properly referenced; taking an idea and exploring it, and then spending a long time crafting it). It was like gentle brain yoga to ease me back in to researching.
I scheduled my working weekend around the sun, which is currently hitting my garden between 2pm and 4pm. It will get a little longer each day, but the weather was obviously glorious, so I pencilled in reading about truth in the garden when the sun was there, working on the laptop indoors when it wasn’t.
I also let the cat out. It was a relief for both of us, as his constant attempts to throw himself through the closed backdoor were liable to cause him injury. He lost his collar within an hour, but at least he’s microchipped now. He’s made friends with the cats from next door already and goes over the fence to lie in the sun with them on their AstroTurf. The dog is resigned to watching three cats sunning themselves through a small hole in the fence, where she stands for hours quivering and whimpering.
Using the ‘Suggestions For Things I Might Do List’ took the pressure off, so I ended up doing more than I’d proposed to myself. Such trickery, but it worked. I had an idea for an article which was the cerebral fusion of propaganda in democratic societies colliding with psychological research on the effects on human beings in siege or crisis situations. I’ve been looking into that over the last couple of weeks in an attempt to make sense of why I felt so lethargic, couldn’t motivate myself to do anything, and the basic things I did try, like cooking or laundry, left me feeling exhausted. The two ideas came together over a cup of tea in the garden when I’d stopped thinking about either and was sat watching the cat chasing flies. That’s sometimes when your brain is at its best; when you stop. I’ve written 2,500 words on that and am now into editing and linking sources.
It’s been four consecutive days of productivity and I have tentative hopes about turning corners, new starts and other clichés. Who knows what tomorrow will bring; I’m just happy the last four days saw the return of my brain activity, and a drive to do something other than sitting there staring at my phone and worrying about death and disease. There was a period of several hours on Friday when it didn’t even cross my mind, to the extent that when I went to video call one of my friends as an attempt at procrastination, I didn’t because I remembered she’d probably be out down the pub on a bank holiday Friday.
It took me until Sunday to realise that one.
A is back home, but S and Z decided to spend the week and next weekend at their dad’s. That sent my anxiety through the roof for a few hours, because I’d only psyched myself up for four days. So had A. When she came home and found out they’d be away for another week, she tried to divorce me. She’s now the mother of dragons, seven of them to be precise, so she doesn’t need me anymore. I told her that even at my age, as a grown up, I really need my mum and miss her not being able to pop over and see us. She softened a bit but maintained her ‘I don’t need a mummy’ approach until she got hungry and begged me to make her some spaghetti.
It’s going to be a quiet week, but a valuable opportunity for some one-to-one time with A. We decided we’ll try working together in the mornings, doing an hour of cleaning, an hour of yoga or Pilates, an hour of reading or painting, and then walking the dog before dinner. I have no idea if we can keep that up all week; it’s just suggestions after all. Not rules. I don’t want to scare myself when I’ve only just started on this productive streak.
Maddie is sharing her lockdown experiences every day on S&C – you can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here.