We are nearly a month into lockdown here on the Isle of Man, but life goes on for some of us pretty much as usual. For those who live on their own, many days can go by without seeing anyone under normal circumstances. The onus is very much on the individual to be proactive and to make acquaintances and contacts. It’s a lifstyle that we never expect to come to us. When we are younger we appear to be surrounded by people, at work, at home, in our leisure activities, and just the process of getting to work or doing the shopping makes us acutely aware of the hundreds of people we come across in daily life. It’s hard to get away from people. Once you hit retirement, semi- or full, life does change. There is no compulsion to get up in the morning or to hit a bonus target. Life becomes measured by the social activities we engage in and our pension being delivered regularly to our bank accounts. The paid work that some of us may continue with is not a necessity but a way of keeping in touch with our former work and interests, and for me it gives me contact with people of all ages, but particularly a lot of young people. It keeps me in a healthy state of mind.
So what difference has self-isolation made to me? Very little. By choice, I have rarely ventured out these last four weeks. I have a garden and the weather has been good. It have a small but perfectly-formed house where I feel very comfortable. I have had my brain taxed by my exam students who are anxious about being given / not given predicted grades and the effect this will have on their future careers. But work has largely dried up because no-one has any motivation to study, so it is looking as if it will be a quiet summer.
There is no need for a diary right now; my diary is now empty with the exception of a much prized Tesco slot this coming Friday, a video call with friends tomorrow afternoon, and on Saturday my friend and I will be having a ‘virtual afternoon tea’, provided by the Bowling Green Cafe at Castletown to join in with the Great Manx Tea Party being held that day.
With so much free time there are lots of opportunities for acquiring new skills, like drawing which I have been attempting. I am amazed that everything I have attempted so far is actually recognisable so there is a degree of motivation to continue. I have also signed on for an online End of Life Diploma course (yes, I know, I could have picked something a bit more cheery, but this ties in with my hospice work), so I need to plan this into my routine day as well. I am not really one for routines, but under these circumstances some routine is necessary, such as opening up the greenhouse in the morning and watering the garden in the evening. This is how days are measured right now, and better to have some routine then spend the middle of the day spending hours doing jigsaws on my computer!
I decided it was time for a brisk walk this evening. It had been a beautiful, sunny day, if cool. I took the top road and walked down Ballafurt Road to the beach, along to the pier, along the beach and back. I hardly saw a soul, which is not unusual on a Sunday evening. I did pass our MHK Lawrence Skelly as he and his wife were taking their dog for a walk. I refrained from engaging in conversation as they are working so hard on our behalf any leisure time must be just that! It is quiet mainly because of the lack of traffic. People don’t make noise. The quietness does allow colours and shapes to stand out more than usual.
Life in self isolation does not have to be boring. I am happy with my own company and I have four wonderful children who live across who keep in touch most days, and friends who send me amusing videos. We need to laugh, and that is something that is always difficult to have enough of when you live alone. As a psychologist I was taught (all those years ago) that the physical act of smiling helps you to feel happy. The theory has largely be de-bunked these days, but try it, you might be surprised.