Musings from Isolation

During this strange time where one’s weekly routine and rhythm have been displaced I find myself exploring surprising thoughts. I don’t usually have much time for reflection on a daily basis, as I balance work (from various locations) with a small child and my wider network. But as I am slowly adjusting to a different pace and rhythm of life, my mind wanders and occasionally arrives at a conclusion that takes me by surprise.

1) Clothes. I have several different wardrobes to suit my various working activities. I know that these are recognisable because my daughter always says confidently what the day holds according to the outfit I put on. Cycling clothes mean I’m ‘going to work’, these lead to teaching clothes. I have clothes suitable for rehearsing in warm rehearsal rooms or in cold churches. And I have literally a whole wardrobe devoted to concert clothes.

Faced with several months of no teaching, no rehearsing, no concerts means that about ¾ of my wardrobe won’t be used. Seeing it every morning reminds of straitened circumstances, which I find counter-productive. And so I think I might consign these clothes to unseen boxes in the garage.

2) Structure. Like most creative types, I usually hate repetition and like to think that I could be much more creative if only I didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. However, being suddenly faced with quite a lot of unstructured time is actually paralysing me somewhat. In some respects I’m not too surprised by this sense of paralysis. I have experienced a similar reaction before, always in response to boredom. Except that this time I shouldn’t be bored. Lectures still need to be prepared, and I really do want to get on with these research projects.

A firm pep talk usually gets me past this state of paralysis, whereupon I am able to move on. But this time I have found something that reinstates the paralysis on a daily basis, and this is the constant barrage on social media and by email, whereby friends and colleagues share their top tech tips and tell the world what they have achieved this week. This is done with the best will in the world, and I should be grateful. Instead, I feel as if I should be making much more digital effort. I am not tech-phobic, and I really admire what is possible. But my idle thoughts around this subject have revealed that I find the thought of doing absolutely everything online – from lectures to pilates classes – depressing and suffocating. Furthermore, the pace at which news feeds update and grow leaves me feeling testudinal and tired. Maybe I have spent too much time looking at 18th letters!

3) Isolation. I am asthmatic, with a rubbish immune system and therefore high risk, and so we as a family have been limiting contact with others for a couple of weeks already. I probably prefer limited company more than many anyway, and so this hasn’t been a particular hardship so far (although I’m sure there will come a time when that isn’t true). But it suddenly occurred to me yesterday that there was a certain familiarity to this sense of isolation. A moment of casual thought took me right back to the end of the summer term at school, when I knew that I wouldn’t see my friends for about 6 weeks. I tended not to see any of my friends from school or term-time activities during the holidays, which were spent mostly outside (with beaches, countryside and hills all nearby) or on a music course. Most significantly, though, we didn’t have social media (or indeed the internet). So did this mean that we were more able to self-isolate when required?

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