I’m lucky. I’m enormously lucky. I keep telling myself this, because it’s true. In many ways my life is very similar to my normal day-to-day world, but the pattern has changed completely. I have less time to write and be creative than I normally do, the helpful social media posts about how much we can all now get done, are grating and don’t fit my new world.
A lot of people are struggling with the loneliness of having to stay at home, but my problem is different; I’m really missing my alone time.
Most of my work is usually done from home, and my husband works from home a couple of days a week too. The children are all in school – one in secondary, three in primary – and my eldest works in an office mostly, his partner working in schools.
Even when my husband is working from home we are often in different rooms because he takes calls during the day. I can’t concentrate as well with noise going on. I like to know he’s there though. We meet for coffee and there is absolutely no small talk allowed.
My work is a big mix of mentoring, advocacy, writing, admin, finance, production and design for the theatre company, as well as the less worky things of gardening, parenting, that sort of thing. I’m always busy, but I’m often alone during the day.
I crave alone time. It keeps my brain settled, it helps me work more efficiently and it means on those days when I’m travelling to do public speaking, run a training event, perform poetry or put on my play The Duck, I have the energy to do so as well as the alone time to recover afterwards.
I’m never alone now. When the schools all closed that meant I needed to take over the schooling of four children at very different stages of their education. Each needs something different from me, each is at a different level, each has had their routine destroyed and needs me to be their reliable rock, unyielding and certain at a time of enormous uncertainty.
Usually I have time to myself in the mornings, that is gone. We now do constructive yoga together and sit and learn from books or go and learn from nature. Where I can I immerse them in my world – we craft, we experiment, we examine the patterns around us – but even then I am not alone, and I cannot throw myself into a creative task, letting my problem solving run wild. I must teach and show and demonstrate and keep things at appropriate levels. I cannot let my mind run free.
I am lucky, I am enormously lucky, that they are here and we are together and have a garden and live in the countryside. I am so lucky that they are all brilliant children and are pulling together so beautifully despite their own turmoils and trickinesses. I know without them here I would have different troubles and different worries, but with four adults in the house now all day every day, and four children who need love and care and compassion, my stores of alone-time are running dangerously low.
To do this for the long haul, to keep this all moving I need my creativity and space more than ever, but I have less time than before. Even with my work cancelled, my time is sucked into the vacuum of teaching others. I set myself the task of writing a poem a day, and have done since the 14th of March, to plot the rise and fall of the changes. It has definitely helped me to snatch moments to take in what is happening, to process it and express it.
It can feel small and insignificant to complain about things at the moment. So many people are working so hard to keep us safe and care for those in greatest need. I am so lucky, I am so grateful, but what I wouldn’t give for a day alone in my home right now. What I wouldn’t give to not to have to be the grown up for a while.
If you would like to support this particular self-employed person at a time when her work has been cancelled, then you can receive your own copy of her play The Duck, read by Rhi, available now here
With enormous thanks and absolutely no handshakes or hugs or obligations.