Taking the weekend off

Friends who know me well will tell you that I’m someone who finds it hard to relax. I think it comes from just years and years of always keeping myself busy. It hasn’t always been work (in the career sense) but certainly projects that takes up a lot of time. I try not to complain because in most cases, I do enjoy working on them but it can get pretty tiring and overwhelming sometimes.

Over the past few years, however, chasing the PhD has been different. I tried to keep it up at the start – still working on my storytelling projects and even published a book in the first year or so – but soon realised that it was just not sustainable.

For one, working towards a massive four-year deadline means that it’s so easy to lose sense of the idea of time. Then, there were other aspects of academia to navigate to make sure that I finished the PhD ready for the world – working on research projects, publishing in journals, attending and organising conferences, and more. I’m slowly learning how all-consuming academia can be.

The fact is, even though I completed the whole PhD process late last year, it’s all been a blur since with teaching, marking and catching up on academic-related commitments that took a backseat as I attempted to finish up my thesis.

But it took a bloody pandemic to make me force a proper weekend on myself. I went to bed on Friday telling myself that I should sleep in (I even added blankets over my curtains to block out the morning light) and not do any work for two days.

I woke up at my usual time on Saturday – body clock and all that – but decided to make myself a massive English breakfast to mark the distinction between a weekend and a week day. Then, I spent a couple of hours cleaning my flat – being indoors ALL the time makes it dustier than usual – and catching up with some friends and family on video chats. I settled down for the night by watching Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat, which was showing on YouTube for 48 hours as part of Universal and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Show Must Go On where they release one musical each Friday.

NIki pouring the drizzle into his cake
I could hear the sizzling still when I drizzled the lemon juice onto the cake.

Today, I lazed in bed quite a bit in the morning before baking the most amazing Lemon Drizzle (if I do say so myself), and sharing my adventures on my Instagram account. Then I decided to take advantage of the lovely T-shirst and shorts weather by going for a walk to the nearby nature reserve (it was less busy than two weeks ago so that’s promising!). Hence the GIF (which isn’t working!) at the top of this post. I’ve since had a shower, joined a community Zoom social chat and then had some leftover fried rice from Friday for dinner.

As I write this post, I’m just finishing glass of white wine and about to lie on the sofa and catch up on some TV. Hmm … maybe pour myself a nice Gin and Tonic first.

I’ll be ready for the upcoming week in the morning. I hope.

A shot I took along my walk today.

Covid-19: Staying in or Going out

Attenborough Nature Reserve: 22 March 2020/3.08pm

I took the picture above when I went out for a walk this afternoon with my friends Rob and Lauren. I had messaged them yesterday asking if they might be up for a ‘social-distancing’ walk at the nature reserve which is within walking distance to both our homes. It was a chance to get out for a bit of fresh air and some exercise while we all practice our self-isolation.

In the UK, there is no restrictions yet on our movements. People are encouraged to stay home and head out only if they really need to be (get essentials, front-line and key workers etc.). It’s probably one of the most lenient approaches in terms of regulating movement in the major European countries. In fact, it was only as of yesterday that pubs, restaurants and gyms were closed (midnight Friday, to be exact).

As I started walking over to meet my friends, I remember feeling a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Or perhaps naughty is a more appropriate term. It’s almost like when I was grounded by my parents as punishment as a kid, but found loopholes around it because they weren’t home watching me.

I had to shake that feeling off – eventually I really enjoyed that walk – by reminding myself that the UK is not in any form of lock-down. Whether or not the guidance by the government is the right one will remain to be seen, but as it stands, the science as I understand it is that going outdoors for some exercise is fine as long as you keep your distance from others.

The reason why I had this internal conflict really is because I’m starting to get my news about what is allowed (and happening) around the world mixed up. Obviously, I’ve been monitoring the Malaysian situation closely, if for no other reasons than the fact that my mum and the rest of the family are all there. But as a news junkie, I’ve read easily hundreds of articles about how different countries around the world are responding to the pandemic.

This negative feeling in my gut really I feel is the result of the anxieties I’ve had the past couple of weeks trying to advise my mum, and the people around her, to be really cautious about their routines. Then of course, the two-week movement restriction order by the Malaysian government (personally don’t think it’s wise to have put a time limit on this) came into force, and my frustration at the inability of so many Malaysians to follow that order.

I’ve spoken to so many friends and family members in Malaysia (and on the radio) about the movement control restrictions that I felt it also applied to me. But this is where the danger in, especially with the abundance of information and knowledge available out there. It is so easy to remove ourselves from contexts that do not apply to us. The repetitive nature of news, social media information and conversation topics often drills things into your mind.

Moving forward, I need to be careful now especially as more and more reports come in from around the world. Already, in some countries like the US, different states are going about things differently so we can’t even refer to the American response as a collective. Add to the fact that the situation is so fluid that even in a country like the UK, or Malaysia, policies, advice and regulation are changing by the day – if not hours – that it’s so easy to be relying on outdated information.

For me, I think I’ll just need to be a bit more aware of my thinking and emotions, and stay alert for any potential changes. How about you? Are you feeling as overwhelmed by all the information and getting your wires mixed up sometimes like me too?