Today is Friday, I think.

Woke up yesterday morning with a bright red toe.

If you draw a line at the base of your big toe, right where I imagine it would be amputated, everything above it was bright red.

My first thought was, ‘Well, what the fuck is this?’ Closely followed by, ‘I can’t see a doctor at the moment, for this, for anything really.’ And then the reality of it all smashed into me….again.

I spent an obscene amount of time checking on my toe throughout the morning, taking one of my last citirizine pills, and it finally faded back to something resembling my normal flesh colour. It’s now 12:15 pm today, and it’s itching. I keep looking at it.

And so these days go. A good day, followed by a bad moment. Weirdly mornings and evenings seem to be the worst.

My real comfort is that my kids seem relatively okay with all of this. I’ve barely even interacted with them today, so busy they are living their life and creating fun for themselves.

They’ve adjusted to video calls with friends, to living only in our house and garden, to not touching their Lego magazines when they come through the door.

I’m doing okay too. I don’t feel happy or relaxed much of the time, but honestly I don’t think we are supposed to. This morning I mindlessly shoved a second cinnamon raisin bagel in my mouth while almost-crying, sat on the floor in the kitchen.

Yesterday I shaved most of my hair off. It’s become a joke that we will all shave our heads or cut our own hair, and indeed I know quite a few people who have. I’ve wanted to shave my head a long time now, and my friend almost did it for me at two am a few months back. But if not during self isolation, when?

None of us know how to get through a global crisis. There’s hardly anyone alive who lived through the last pandemic, and those people were too young to have any memory of it. What will happen to the toddlers of today, who will possibly be spending a big chunk of their lives only with their immediate family? How will this impact them? How will this impact any of us?

My hopeful friends predict the end of capitalism, a kinder society, a return to a greener way of life.

Me? I don’t know.

I oscillate between reading everything I can get my hands on, trying to become better informed, and totally pulling back from it all. I’ve not found a happy medium yet.

Last night before bed, I watched videos of people in my country sobbing about their dead mums, friends, family. One of a grown man heaving with shuddering breaths, crying that he was unable to comfort his mum when she died, that he couldn’t cuddle his family together in their grief, broke me.

I didn’t sleep last night.

I have no plan for today, aside from what I keep saying to my children : We’re going to just do this, one day at a time. Today, we get through today.

Bare Legs, Brambles, and Broken Glass

This morning I woke up really late, after not be able (willing!) to fall asleep last night. There was sunshine for the first time in ages, I heard a basketball bouncing, I heard my children shouting and my wife laughing.

My FOMO kicked in, and I threw a fleece robe over my bare body, slipped on some Crocs, grabbed a coffee, and went outside. I’m nothing if not classy. I sat on some inherited-from-my-sister wicker furniture, which is in an awkward bit of my garden. As in, a foot away and facing our greenhouse, which got broken in the last major storm. So broken glass carefully picked up and on the wall behind me, the greenhouse’s snarl of brambles now exploding out of the broken pane, and my naked ass sat out in that sunshine.

It’s not a bad place to start over.

My wife was trying to do more clearing of our personal jungle – I started earlier in the week, arms shaking from the weight of whatever you call those giant clipper things, leaving brambles all over the ground and trampoline. The kids were cleaning off the trampoline. Here we all were, on the sixth morning of our self isolation due to the Coronavirus.

Last week we started social distancing. Thursday we went to a remote part of Wales and down a mine with friends. Friday we went to the park. We were skipping all classes at that point, but still around people. Saturday was the last really risky day – one child at her beloved drama school, the other at his newly found basketball classes. It was too much for me. I was done.

Sunday Suzy and I were meant to go to Story Slam, which is a really great monthly event here in Bristol. Each month has a theme – origins, pride, growth, fire – and anyone can put their name in the hat for a chance to tell a five minute true story about their life, or fill in an anonymous slip to be read out. I’ve done both several times, and while I love being on stage, I also always walk away feeling really privileged to have heard other people’s stories. So it was a wrench to cancel that event and stay home, though the kids went to their grandparents for a couple of hours. I don’t think I really understood that that would be the last time they saw these five-minute-away grandparents for many weeks, many months, perhaps a year and a half.

Monday Suzy went to work. Monday night I told her I couldn’t take it anymore. By then, scientific reports were making the situation pretty clear, as was the horror stories coming from Italy.

Tuesday she stopped going to work; she’s lucky to be able to work from home, for now. Wednesday, her company moved to having everyone work from home. She went out Tuesday morning to pick up some supplies, but myself and the kids have solidly been in since late Sunday afternoon.

With the many (too little, too late) government announcements this week, slowing society down step by step, it was made clear that anyone in a high risk group needs to self isolate for an initial period of twelve weeks. I *think* that starts Monday, but for us it’s happening already. Two of us have (mild) asthma, but one of us has strong enough anxiety that she (spoiler: me) is taking the self isolation thing seriously. I don’t want to take risks; I don’t want to expose other people to risk.

I didn’t know where to start this post. With my twenty four hour mini breakdown earlier this week, with that evening I couldn’t stop crying? With taking up cross stitching in an effort to stop picking up my phone and becoming overloaded? With the walk I took with my family one night, where we didn’t see another living soul?

Or maybe this:

We had a delivery dropped off a couple of days ago. I opened the door, explained we were self isolating, and just asked the man to please put the delivery on the floor. He asked if we were okay and wished us the best. He started back to his car, then turned and asked if we needed anything. We did. Milk. And a cucumber, the mainstay of one of my children’s diets.

He asked me to give him ten minutes. I ran around, digging for the change to pay him. Then I heard the knock at the door.

I opened it, and he was already driving away, no payment required. He rolled his window down and gave me a big thumbs up, as I shouted, ‘Thank you!’ He left a big four pit of milk and two cucumbers on our doorstep.

People are good. Small acts of kindness help our mental and physical health. Smiling at each other is not in quarantine.

Stay safe and well, all. I have a feeling I’m going to be back here a lot. Please do leave comments, message, whatever. We all need to keep in touch. I’m on facebook as Alison May – you can also find me there at Adventures in Unschooling, which links to my main profile in a few shared places. I’m making a lot of stuff visible publicly. I’m also sporadically on Instagram and Twitter as @alisonmariemay (I won’t be accepting facebook friend requests from people I don’t know or haven’t chatted with, but am always open to a chat in the comments section!) I’ve also caved and downloaded TikTok, which I shamefully love, but I’ve yet to post anything there. However, I have watched a lot of gay men lip synching and people dancing on rollerskates.

Is not sleeping on planes genetic?

Will we sleep, as we fly through this night? Thousands of miles above our planet, crossing time zone after time zone, chasing the future while it gets impossibly late both in the land where we took off and the land where we’ll land.

Oh, we tried. We even had an extra seat. But fresh ten year olds take up a lot of space. Young enough to need sleep, old enough to cope for just a little longer.

So they both lay their heads on my lap; I wonder if I’ll be trapped and need to pee. Just as sleep steals in, turbulence hits, a baby cries. The sound of a hundred metallic clicks of people fastening seatbelts surrounds us.

We sit up. We lean heads on tray tables. I listen to music, you both watch movies. I think about the likelihood of there being tears and despair as we wait in the immigration queue.

It’s been two years since we’ve flown this far – well, only a month, technically, but two years since we overnighted on the way home. Dim glows of screens. Me wondering if I need to pee for the eighth time in five hours, if people around me assume I’ve got a bladder infection or am pregnant.

Darkness gets deeper around us as we are poised, perfectly balanced between the sunset we left behind and the sunrise we are heading for.

Do we sleep? 1522 miles remain, two hours and fifty six minutes. Memories of another flight where you stayed up all night, until the last fifteen minutes where you both passed out and I couldn’t wake you up again. The stewardess demanded we leave the plane, you were screaming, you fought each other at baggage claim while tears filled my eyes and a pair of older women – probably the age I am now – swooped in and hugged me and got our bags.

I watch a mother five rows up with her screaming baby and think I may offer to swoop in. Seeing as you’re ten, and you’re awake, and I’m thinking middle of the night movies are better than middle of the night misery.

Will we sleep?

I’ll say no. And hope it’s okay, anyway.

What if the future is even better than the past?

There’s something bittersweet about watching my children have these fleeting moments that are echoes of my childhood. I spent virtually every summer on the water, in the water, listening and smelling and loving the water. My grandparents had a boat, and I loved to sit on the front of it while the boat sped along the waves (and looking back, my life was probably at risk! But how wonderful it was.).

We are in America now. My children are on their grandparents’ boat, on the water, in the water. It smells like sunshine and water weeds. They are joyfully piloting the boat, asking to swim in the centre of a lake bigger than they ever knew existed.

It makes me happy; it makes me sad. What sort of life would they have if we lived in America? Specifically, this bit of America with water and huge lakes everywhere, lakes so big they look like the ocean.

I think nostalgia overwhelms me when I get on a boat. I could sit here all day. But I’m wary of letting that nostalgia put this life on a pedestal. Maybe one day my children will be watching their children live the life my kids had when they were little. No regular boats, no jumping off pontoons.

But maybe my future grandchildren will splash along rivers, play deep in the dappled woods, feel the magic of dancing around a campfire as the sun sets. And my kids will look, and sigh, and feel nostalgic and wonder what if, even as my grandchildren create their own childhood memories.

And so the cycle goes.

Untangling.

It’s so easy to get tangled up in this world, whatever your age. Wondering who you are and how you fit in, adapting to change, navigating relationships and friendships, exploring the world in the way that feels true to you.

Sometimes it’s important to find a little corner of peace, a place to untangle yourself. A spot where, whether for ten minutes or ten hours, you find a way to give yourself time and space. Doesn’t matter if you then distract yourself, burrow in, create something, whatever.

When you find that little oasis, take it for what it is. And when you are lucky enough to be with someone else when they find it, keep quiet and let them be. The most complex and confusing relationship any of us have, and the one that has the potential to yield a lot of growth and contentment, is the one we have with ourselves.