Are you as astonished as I am at the inventiveness of people during this global lockdown? Choirs, impromptu concerts, book clubs, language lessons, interviews, church services, exercise videos, tutorials on absolutely anything you can imagine learning—from baking to drywalling to how to make a face mask. It’s all so tantalising. Perhaps many of those tutorials have always been there but now, with time on our hands, we are able to discover them.
For me, I’ve delved into a few recipes stashed into the When I Have Time pile. Ditto for all the papers, magazines, and clippings that I set aside on a regular basis. I am conducting a forensic cleaning of my house, one room at a time. And of course I am reading and writing and watching TV. I’ve also been clearing out cupboards, culling my wardrobe, filling yet another bag for when the charity shop reopens. Long before lockdown, I had booked an appointment to get my hair cut quite short, but by the time the appointment rolled around government restrictions forced its cancellation. I’m have subsequently renewed my acquaintance with my curling iron. And while we’re on the subject, how are all those stylish, uber-groomed women coping without their eyelash extension appointments, regular manicures and pedicures, waxing, eyebrow sculpting etc.? I hope they are feeling freed from the tyranny of intensive self-maintenance. It’s not like I’ve totally given up on slap: I have started to keep a small makeup bag next to my laptop because of people popping in on Zoom and FaceTime: I want to look as if I’ve at least brushed my hair and dabbed on lip gloss.
There is one thing has intruded into my locked-down life that I never expected. A friend in Toronto insisted that with the current dearth of promotional outlets for my book it is time I got onto social media. “Nope,” I said. “Don’t want it.” He ignored me and went ahead and set up a Zoom call with his assistant, and the two of them spent that next two Mondays on two-hour sessions getting me onto social media. Did they not understand “Nope”? But here I am, on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. They have professionalised my email. They have taught me how to post. My daughter-in-law has weighed in to teach me about hashtags. My daughter has pointed out the glaring absence of a link (since corrected) to my book on my website and Instagram accounts. It all feels like such shameless huckstering, and yet everyone’s doing it, so why not me?
Social media is a time thief, which is why I resisted joining it, but now that I’m in the pool it has taught me new things—technical stuff, yes, but also it has introduced me to new people, new writing, new publications, new ways of looking at issues. In a few short weeks I’ve become engaged with a wider community. It is a bit overwhelming, but also thrilling. I am learning to be more efficient and judicious with my time, to not try and read everything just because it’s sent my way. I don’t want to return to a FOMO frame of mind—if there is a blessing to the pandemic it is that it has unshackled many of us from FOMO thinking.
So, four weeks into lockdown that’s where I am. Once the seeds and plants arrive from the online orders I’ve placed I can get our small garden in shape. I also plan to do more drawing, something that was once a go-to comfort fix, and which I rediscovered while doing the drawings for Open House. Maybe I’ll even have another go at learning Italian. If the pandemic lasts long enough, imagine the creative pursuits and new skills we’ll master.