Cultivating Something Alright Out of Another Bloody Confinement

All over the world, we are looking at another long slog of confinement. (Thanks a lot COVID!)

Here in France, we have been told to batten down the hatches for at least a month, but it will probably end up being rather a lot longer. It’s certainly not what I had planned for myself this winter, but I am trying to use this time with self-compassion, to cultivate something positive for my future.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am not going to tell you to stiffen up your upper lip or say something trite about becoming your your ‘best self’.

Our entire sense of reality is getting shaken around like a rag doll. Feeling scared, anxious or pissed off is totally OK. I’d be more worried for us if we didn’t feel those things to be honest!

Even when nothing else makes sense any more, the moutains will always be there for us. Photo: Florian Roquais

Florian and I spent the first confinement of the year in the car park of an abandoned ski resort. (That might sound especially weird if you don’t know that we live in an off-grid van conversion!)

We decided to sit this one out at my mother-in-laws place in the Charente. She has a big garden full of trees, and a lovely cat called Autumn who follows me around like a dog. But Bernadette isn’t really my mother-in-law, because Florian isn’t really my husband.

He should be my husband, but our wedding has been cancelled 3 times because of COVID. We don’t even want any guests, we just want to be husband and wife for fricks sake! All of our paperwork is lined up and decorated with official looking stamps, but we can’t get an appointment for the mayor to give it the final sign off.

So, I took the decision to start calling him my husband some months ago, and whenever we finally get to sign that piece of paper, it will just be a formality as far as we are concerned.

To top it off, our marriage has been cancelled so often, that I could miss the no-deal Brexit date and be separated from the man I love for 6 months a year. I haven’t seen my family for the longest period since I was born, and we have had 3 different jobs fall through because of COVID.

So there’s been various bummers, to say the least.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter whether I choose to go with the flow or refuse to accept the state of the world. My resistance to things I don’t like will not open any doors for me. 

And you know what? This year has honestly been been just as wonderful as it has been a steaming pile of poop.

Staying touch with nature helps me to keep my feet safely on the ground.
Photo: Florian Roquais

I’ve had plenty of mopey tearful days, but I have also laughed so hard that snot has flown out of my nose on more than one occassion. Because happiness is not about waiting for life to be exactly how you want it to be. It’s about what you make out of the difficult moments, and the long days of boredom too.

To be honest, the confinement gave me the time and space to work out what direction I really want to move my life in. I might never have that chance again, so I feel grateful for the opportunity.

Thanks to COVID, I have read all of the books that I’ve been meaning to get around to, and have made a new list of delicious novels and textbooks to root through in the coming weeks.

I have explored the gorgeous National Parks of France in my off-grid home. A year rolling through France might not seem as impressive as the drive to Slovakia I had planned for this year, but God, it’s been beautiful.

I have started practicing yoga every day, and I can feel my emotions becoming more resilient. I am also taking free online German classes, which I have wanted to do for years. I always feel excited when I’m learning something new!

But the biggest change can be seen in my writing. I didn’t even have a blog before COVID forced me to slow down. A few months later, we have a community of over 10,000 readers. I am humbled, thank you so much!

I have found some lovely new clients for my freelance writing and I have finished the Highly Sensitive Nomad book, which I have been working on for 2 years. I even found the perfect editor and sent it off for typesetting. It’s coming out next week!

That list does not make me more worthy than anyone else, and it is not another tool with which to beat our fragile mental health to a sticky pulp.

Because I have also slept until 10 or 11 am nearly every day, cried an awful lot about extremely small things, and eaten more cookies and hot chocolate that anyone really should consume in a lifetime. Sometimes I walk around the place with greasy hair and hairy armpits saying ‘what the f&ck?’ on repeat. 

When life seems unbearable, just go to the ocean and look far out onto the horizon. It is humbling to see how tiny we really are, and the smell of a salty sea breeze is powerful medicine for a broken heart.
Photo: Florian Roquais

There is no need to be perfect. In fact, there is no such thing. But as I enter another month of confinement, I’m so grateful to my past self for deciding to put in the effort to take care of me, and for helping me make this shitshow of a year a little bit useful.

But here’s the thing:

You can always feel as fed up as you need to feel. Crying about the world in your pyjamas is not called being stagnant, it is called processing emotion. 

If we don’t allow ourselves an adjustment period to our new sense of reality, we make it impossible to move out of the dark headspace and start putting our lives back together again on the other side.

So, feel as bad as you need to feel.

I recommend a lot of swearing and blowing your bogeys all over your sleeves. Then it’s time to get to cultivating the kind of future you want to see, whatever that means to you. It’s hard to measure the outcomes on a daily basis, but you will be so grateful to yourself 3 months down the line.

Have you been doing anything special to help yourself cultivate joy and excitement during this time of restricted movement? Please leave a comment and let me know,  I would love to hear from you.

If this article resonated, you might like to check out The Highly Sensitive Nomad book.

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