Taking Stock

I think that we should all take stock of our lives every once in a while. The last time I did that here was a year ago today: I posted Missing, Inaction, in which I reflected on the effects of an enforced 15 day absence from the internet, and how dependent we had all become on it. That was the main reason for what had been an 18 day gap between posts, but I also mentioned that I had been having a stressful time in my life, having had to move home – a natural hazard when you are a private renter and are at the mercy of the landlord’s wishes. Reading the post again I noticed I had said that I intended to write about the effects this had been having on my mental health but, in the usual fashion, best intentions went out of the window. Things began to settle down, I was getting used to my new home, and it didn’t feel right to be talking about my mental health when there were many people in far worse situations than mine, people who had real stories to tell. The anniversary of that post does, however, seem a good time to be ‘reviewing the situation,’ as Fagin put it.

Looking back to this time last year I now realise how much the whole episode had destabilised me. I didn’t notice at the time but there were impacts, in particular on my sleep patterns – which were shot to pieces. I’ve had sleep problems for years, and was tested (negatively, I’m happy to say) for sleep apnoea during my long spell off work in 2011-2 with depression. Retirement had helped enormously in stabilising that: no longer being required to get up and go to work meant that if I needed to sleep in I could, whatever day of the week it was. I occupied a lot of my time in the internet break by reading – 16 novels in 18 days – but even so, I found myself nodding off at odd times: I’ve never been one for afternoon siestas, but I had a few then. It didn’t register, but these were probably a sign that all wasn’t as it should be.

Over time, though, I began to settle into a new routine, and into a revised version of life. It’s funny how a move can change your outlook on life, and I don’t mean just the view from the window. But that wasn’t the only important factor for me: I had been able to get the medical treatment I needed for a long term condition, and the benefits of knowing that I was in good hands for that had a positive impact on my mental health.

I got to the end of 2019 thinking I’d done well: I was over the move, my health was improving, and I’d managed to get through some outrageous behaviour by my ex-landlord. 2020 was to be the year I really began ‘taking back control,’ to borrow a phrase, but then along came Covid-19 to show me that my use of those words was about as meaningless as they were in their more widely known context. My mobility is limited, so I don’t get out much anyway, but being told that I had to stay in and couldn’t see anyone – not even my daughters or granddaughter – wasn’t part of the plan. Much has been said and written about the impact of the pandemic on our lives, both in the obvious sense of our being required to stay at home whenever possible, with shops and public venues being closed, but also on the hidden factors, such as the effects on our mental health.

Using myself as a sample of one, I can see how my mental state has changed since lockdown began in March, and it hasn’t improved! I’m not saying that I have relapsed into depression – far from it, thankfully – but I can see that my outlook on life is different. I don’t have to go out much, but I know that at some point in the next few months I will need to go back to my doctor for the periodic testing that keeps me well, and I really will need a haircut! Normally, I’d think nothing of either of these but now, if I’m honest, both of these prospects scare me. Am I being stupid? I’d like to think not. Every day we hear new warnings of the potential for a second wave of the virus, and with the reopening of shops and public facilities there comes a relaxation in people’s minds of the need to be alert to the danger that may be lurking. I know I can do the right thing if I go out, but can I trust others to do the same?

I’m potentially vulnerable, and I don’t think I should have to take risks to go out and do simple things. That plays on my mind: I don’t want to become a hermit, but I can see how easy it would be. Looking at those words on screen they strike me as a little pathetic, but they are accurate. I think back to my dark days of 2011-2 and I know that is how I behaved then: I don’t want to go back there. This may all be in my head, but it’s hard to shift, and I doubt that I’m alone in feeling this way.

This time last year I was looking ahead to what I believed would be better times, now the outlook is very unclear to me. Anyone familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will know that the basic level is classed as Physiological needs, which include food, shelter, health, sleep and clothes. Here is the pyramid, in case you haven’t seen it:

Those Safety needs in the second level include factors like personal, emotional and financial security. Somehow, I think that many of us will be struggling with this tier of the pyramid at present, and for some time to come. That will impact on our move up the levels: relationships with those we love will be affected, and there will need to be a lot of rebuilding after enforced separations.

The future is uncertain for all of us. My outlook is very different from a year ago, and I’d imagine that everyone feels that too. I wonder where we’ll be a year from now? Maybe I’ll take stock again then – hopefully whatever passes for ‘normal’ will have returned, given time.

How do things look for you? How does that compare with a year ago? Are you having to readjust your hopes and plans? I expect we’ll all be doing a lot of that now and in the months to come. As I said at the outset, I believe that we should all occasionally take stock of our lives: I don’t think any of us has had to do so in circumstances like today’s.

28 thoughts on “Taking Stock

  1. I’m glad to read your update Clive and have been wondering how you were faring over there. I’m not usually an anxious person but these past few months haven’t been kind to many of us. We’ve finally been able to travel north to see our grandson but just days ago the border between NSW and Qld was shut again so I don’t know when we will be able to get back up there. These sorts of everyday things weigh heavily on us and on top of everything else, it can be detrimental to our mental health. I hope things are going well with you and I have to say I always enjoy reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ll probably have to make yourself go out, Clive, and once you do you’ll find it’s not so bad. Just wear a mask if you need to, and step outside. If you don’t, it’ll get harder and harder to go out. Yes, my life has changed too in that there’s no work for me at the hospital for the foreseeable future as I did not have a permanent contract. Sam still works though, but we’ve cut down a bit on our outgoings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think surreal sums a lot of the present for me Clive. Living in the moment is my new normal. One of the positives from my hospitalization in May is that my heart and lungs are now being investigated more thoroughly. I see light at the end of a long tunnel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good word for all of us, Brigid. The confidence that comes from knowing you’re in good hands for your healthcare is important for us, and I’m glad you have such a positive outlook. Take care and stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it speaks well that you have not slipped back into a depressed state. If ever there were a time to feel powerless and helpless, this year would be it. I know many others have been through rougher things than we have faced this year, but I was riding the joy of retirement wave for three years until 2020 came along. It’s not like I’m some kind of social butterfly, but I miss the simple things like getting together with a buddy to shoot the breeze and have a beer. In the last month, things are much better for me, but I do get frustrated with all of the goofballs in America who are not being careful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pete. I think we have all realised during lockdown how much the little things in life matter to us, and it’s good that we are beginning to get them back. I think ‘goofballs’ is being incredibly kind to the selfish morons who are putting the recovery at risk!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it’s helpful to reflect back on the past year just to see how you have changed over that time. However, the past several months don’t really allow for much of a comparison since it is such a strange time. And I agree with you, I can trust myself to behave properly when I go out, but I can’t say the same for other people. And I’m sure not being able to see you family is quite challenging.

    By the way, I’m impressed with the 16 books in 18 days!

    Also, I’ve been following the Senior Salon, and Iw as happy to see a couple of your posts in the most recent roundup!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Jim, it probably isn’t a fair comparison and, like everyone else, I’m sure I’d be thinking differently without the pandemic. At least I’ve managed to see my daughters and the little one, albeit in strange circumstances, and hopefully we can do it again soon.

      I don’t think I’ve read a whole book since last summer, after that binge, even in these days of lockdown. But I did treat myself to Harlan Coben’s latest this morning – the Kindle version was 99p for today only, so it would have been stupid not to!

      Thanks for the Senior Salon comment. I rarely get even one post in the weekly top ten so to have two last week was a real treat. Hopefully you’ll post in there too – it needs some gender rebalancing to counteract the food, clothes and helpful hints stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can honestly say that the pandemic has not had an enormous impact on me and the missus. One reason is the fact that we are a couple. Another is that neither of us is especially fond of going out in pursuit of liesure. Sure, a concert now and then, a theatre performance, a celebratory dinner. And we like to explore parts of our adopted country we have yet to discover. But, on the whole, we are happy with a relatively solitary and sedentiary lifestyle. The fact that we are both past 75 is also part of it – we no longer have the energy we used to have, physical or emotional. We have an income that’s adequate to meet our needs, a garden where we can take the fresh air and gentle exercise.
    We cocooned from mid-March till early May. My first venture beyond our property boundary was to received my quarterly Vitamin B booster. Since then we have been able to revert to shopping for basics locally as usual, wearing a mask when inside the shop. I even had a haircut when the local barber opened at the beginning of last week. Mrs.P visited her hairdresser on Monday last.
    We are resigned to not being able to visit our UK relatives this year. And we will almost certainly avoid Dublin for the foreseeable future. Although deaths here are much below those in the UK, there has been a recent increase in new confirmed cases (from single figures to the 20s), mostly in young people getting careless about gatherings. Our nearest large town will be visited less often than of old, although this county and its 3 neighbours have seen no new cases in a while and no deaths for 2-3 weeks.
    In summary, I think our age is at least as limiting as the pandemic! Not that we are especailly concerned about either.
    I hope the rest of 2020 shows an improvement in your circumstances and your health, Clive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to know that it hasn’t affected you too much, Frank. You seem to have it all well under control! The perception from here is that the Irish government has handled it far better than ours has. Then again, that wouldn’t be difficult! Even that recent increase is far below the figures we get here, but they do show that the virus is still there to be caught, so I think you’re right to be cautious in your approach. Thanks for reminding me of vitamin B boosters: I’d forgotten about mine!

      Thanks for your well wishes, I hope the rest of the year is good for you, too.


  7. This is interesting, Clive. I remember your sabbatical last year but didn’t know the reason for it. We are all uncertain at the moment. C-19 is getting worse where I am and people are worried. We are staying home mainly and the boys are currently writing their examinations at home. The biggest issue for me is the lack of change which sometimes feels a bit trying, but on the whole, I’m glad we are relatively safe at home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It seems to be getting a little better here, but I fear that the relaxations in lockdown, reopening of shops, pubs and leisure facilities will take us backwards. Good to know that you’re staying safe in these difficult times.

      PS thanks for the retweet 👍

      Liked by 1 person

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