Week 1, Day 1: Will I Fail the Shutdown?

Sefi’s big paws (R E Wilson)


Showered, dressed, sitting on bed, mobile in hand, anticipating a call with Mexa, my counsellor. We were due to meet today but the Corona Shutdown (‘The Big Pause’) means we’ll be having our session by phone.

Feel weirdly positive this morning. Last week was all collective shock and existential angst as we counted down to school closure. I am a T.A. in a High School Autism Base, working with 6th formers. I will miss my students and the sense of purpose and joy that comes with being part of their lives. I work there Weds to Fri; Mondays are normally a Writing Day at home so, in theory, it’s business as usual. But of course, nothing about life is usual any more.

10.00 (notes from phonecall)

I told Mexa I’m worried I am going to fail the shutdown. That because there is now no tangible excuse for not doing all the things on my list – i.e write my blog, finish half-started writing projects, get back into yoga, Marie Kondo my workspace, read my emails, etc etc…I am afraid I will tell myself to do them, not do them and then by the time the world reopens, I will hate myself. She suggests that instead of exerting self-imposed pressure, I focus on taking small daily actions to keep grounded and let things happen from a place of flow. She used the metaphor of a river. Now more than ever, we have to accept living with profound uncertainty. Beyond what we must do to look after ourselves and each other, we have no control. We must flow with the river.


Up to my attic workspace to Do Some Work. Sefi bounds up the ladder to deposit herself in the chair beside me. She always does this when I come up to write and it’s bliss. If I’m having a bout of disassociation, (scrolling and spacing out) I can turn and squish her soft leopard torso and it brings me back. Or reminds me to stop and rest.

I open up my bright new turquoise daily planner (who says dystopia must be painted grey and black?); and my writing book and my laptop. Check my phone. There’s a lot of info coming my way. Family group chat messages, texts from work about google classroom (for keeping in touch with our students), emails from my union about volunteering to look after children of key workers; there’s BBC News and Twitter debate about whether we are actually allowed outside or not. I just want mental space to write. I have to do what I am wired to find particulary difficult: select and prioritise. When everything seems simultaneously important it causes a shutdown of my own. But I want to stay connected. I think of the river. And flow. And Sefi. Do what I can.


We’ve just watched Boris Johnson’s Big Speech to the nation. He replaces his usual vagueness with a clear statement. We can leave the house once a day to exercise. We cannot gather in groups of more than two. All but the most necessary shops are to close (along with the cafes and pubs that closed over the weekend). ML and I turn off the TV and pause in respectful silence before ML gets off the sofa and, letting it sink in further, goes “Aw, I won’t be able to go to B & Q now. Or Screwfix!” I burst out laughing. ML loves a toolshop.


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