The day everything shifted was 23rd March, when it was announced the UK would be going into lockdown. Until then, I’d been continuing as normal, although I was considering cancelling stuff, worrying, and washing my hands. A lot. Perhaps, like many of us, I was in denial.
The lockdown, although wanted by the majority of the country, was nevertheless a shock that sent waves rippling into every aspect of our lives. I went into a state of grief, despair, and intense fear. What would happen – to my loved ones, to the beloved career I’d worked so hard to build from nothing?
The weeks that followed were a blur of tears, wine and chocolate, combined with walks in the countryside and exercise videos on YouTube. It was emotionally painful to be separated from my adult daughters, and grandchildren – the youngest of whom was only three months old when lockdown began. I’d think of mothers throughout history who’d been separated from their children, tried to find consolation in the fact that due to technology I can not only talk to them but see their beautiful faces too.
Work was an unknown, fragmented into pieces. It was hard to focus. Events I’d been looking forward to were cancelled. Projects got put on hold. Where, I wondered, was the place for arts and culture now? With large numbers of people dying alone in hospitals, and everyone else trapped in their houses, it felt the work I did no longer mattered. And yet. I persevered, and it became clear that my work did matter, and life would go on, albeit in a different way. I began to feel my way through this new landscape.
It also became clear we still needed poetry, and stories, and equality. It emerged that BAME and working-class people were being disproportionately affected by the virus. We needed connection with other humans, to feel united in our grief. I began thinking about adapting not abandoning, continuing not giving up, exploring ways I could turn the resources I offer into digital ones.
I’ve written some poems about life during lockdown, and more may arrive. Or not. I’ve read beautiful poetry written by others, but don’t much feel like writing about it; I’m overwhelmed by coronavirus-related information, the death tolls ringing out each day. I’ve been plugging away at my coastal memoir, which, as a chunk of it will be written during isolation, will inevitably reflect the things I do and feel during this time.
Although this experience has been terrifying, there have been positives. I’ve slowed down. I’m more present each day: whilst pegging the washing out, or planting things in my garden. I’m more grateful for the little things: the smell of coffee in the mornings, sunshine, flowers, my family, humans. And my work. The world is so bloody beautiful – why didn’t I see it before? I don’t give myself a hard time for not managing a full day’s work – as long as I do what I’m paid for and hit deadlines, that’s good enough. My creative practice has changed, but not stopped; I hope to take new ways of working, and being, into a post-pandemic future, whatever that might look like.
Louisa’s latest poetry collection is available from here: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/louisa-adjoa-parker/4594728255