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  • Damian Kerlin

A New Lockdown, A New Outlook

I, like many last year, was affected by the ongoing pandemic, but as we entered 2021 in lockdown, I couldn’t help but sit and dwell on how differently this time round feels. When we entered the first lockdown it was walking into oblivion. The country shut down and we pressed the pause button on life, oblivious to how long it would last and delusional to the shear scale of what was to come.

We welcomed Summer and the warmer weather as a breath of fresh air and we all got to appreciate the outdoors a little more, finding a safe haven in the most unusual spaces within the areas we live. September came and parents across the country breathed a resounding sigh of relief as schools re-opened for the new academic year, which, as we all know, was short lived.

Yet now, here we are, 2021. I’m not saying anything magical happens when we reach January 1st of course, but there is something comforting about the symbolic nature of a clean slate. As 2020 came to a close I discovered Emma Gannon, author and founder of podcast Ctrl Alt Delete, whose blog Self Help & Helping Yourself introduced me to Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Greatest Secret. As a glutton for 'self help' books, I was intrigued by Emma’s review and my god, I'm glad I was. In short, The Greatest Secret is about trusting your intuition and explores how to identify what triggers certain feelings and how you can manage these within your everyday.

So, unlike the first time, I won’t be pressing the pause button because as much as I hate to admit it, this ‘new normal’ is the only normal and it’s staying put the foreseeable future. We can’t continue to put our lives on hold, because even if tomorrow we were all to wake up to a cure; It still happened; It still affected our everyday lives and its devastating ripple will be felt for generations to come.

It is a weight we bare and although there is very little we can do to change this, there are other aspects of our lives we can take control of. I started by making these four changes, which I plan to build on to ensure whatever turn 2021 takes, I continue to move forward.

You don’t have to do it all

When it was announced that schools would not be re-opening after Christmas parents across the country renounced, aghast, ‘How will we cope?’. I know this because no-one screamed it louder than I did.

Parents What’s App groups lit up a flurry as teachers, only doing their jobs, uploaded work onto Seesaw and links to online lessons; Teams, Zoom, Google Video, flooded email boxes.

It is overwhelming. The pressure of work, alongside the duties of parenthood, and now home schooling is all encompassing. A challenge none of us signed up to; so give yourself a break!

Commit to as much or as little as you can and remind yourself it’s not forever. As my partner and I work full time we do the bare minimum of home schooling with our children; no more, no less. I’m not that parent who finds the ‘fun’ tasks fun (or cute!) and the most maths my child is doing is when we play monopoly. Can I upload that?

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, leave the parents What’s App group - ain’t nobody got time for that, which leads me swiftly on to my next point.

Have the rant and move on

I love nothing more than a good rant. I go off and as the words flow from my mouth the weight lifts from my shoulders. Andrew (my partner) usually bares the brunt of it but, like so many, I have been known to share my thoughts on social media.

The latter is complicated. I believe that everyone’s social media platform is theirs and they have the right to post and share what they wish. It can be of differing opinion, as long as it is not derogatory or offensive, but be careful; that two-minute rant, can (and often will) be challenged by outraged Janet, who instead of channelling their outrage into something more productive they’ll pick a fight over something trivial, which in this case, is how unappreciative you are to have a job, no matter how bad the day was.

It is also worth monitoring who you follow. In the past week alone I have muted at least 20 parent social media influencers. In an attempt to ‘keep it real’ and be ‘relatable’ they take to their stories, and before you know it, their rant has gone on, and on, and on. I know we are in lockdown and everyone wants to feel connected but 26 stories in, hun, give it a break!

Control is an illusion

Control really has been an illusion all this time. We certainly love to feel like we have control of everything, don’t we? There are many things I can control and it all starts with my mind. I can control my thoughts, my reactions, and where I choose to focus. This lesson has helped me to stop trying to control all the things, and to let things unfold, even myself.

You’ll only get out what you put in

Negativity is habitual. It’s a rut we dig for our brains through years of thoughtless comments. It’s the easy way, but it’s certainly not the way to happiness. We get to choose how we feel, but it has to start with a decision. We have to make the choice to take baby steps with our behaviour each day that will eventually add up to more joy in our lives.

First, make a decision to stop saying negative words. It’s like recovering from an addiction; you have to decide at some point that the way you’ve always done things in the past is not the way you want to do them in the future.

Negativity is everywhere at the moment but remember you are in control. You control what you put on the TV or whose social media accounts you follow. If they or them are not making you feel your best simply turn it off or unfollow. You may feel alone, but you can still be fussy with who you spend and invest your time with. Make it count!

I may make light of topics, but please know, I am well aware of my privilege and how incredibly fortunate I am for which I am grateful. If you are struggling there are some great resources out there, Emma Gannon being one, or if you are a parent struggling, Anna Whitehouse founder of Mother Pukka, has been campaigning for further (any!) support for parents and has some great resources online and on her Instagram.

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