Lockdown reflections – Hannah Gilbert

Wow, has it really been practically two months of Lockdown? I hadn’t really felt that until today, but my mood seemed to match the weather, and I’ve been unable to shift a weird sense of unease.

Over the years, I’ve learnt to distinguish between two main anxious states, one which is linked to obvious immediate events (deadlines, conflict, particular circumstances), while the other is more fractious and doesn’t seem to correlate to a particular stimulus, but generally unravels as a kind of foreboding, a sense of feeling threatened but not being able to identify what the threat is; likely suddenly becoming aware you are being watched by someone out of sight.

I’m always tempted to write off the later as ‘hormonal’, but I wonder if Lockdown is actually playing out in my body and mind in ways I’m not entirely conscious of. On the whole, I’ve been relying on past experience of solitude, and on the whole, it’s been bearable, and offered benefits for work, writing and reading (though not quite as much as I would have liked). But today… hmmmm…

I think I’ve learnt from this period that solitude needs to exist in balance with connectivity, and not just zoom meetings and phone calls, but actual physical bodily contact and being with and being in situ.

And not half mast connecting either – but being fully awake, focused, listening, letting other people lead your attention and not diluting them into a flicker on one side while you scroll through your minifeed or waltz in your thought palace on the other. I actually miss being on a train (never though I’d say that!), being in a crowd, gently watching people in cafes.

Have I always been fully present, concentrating, and appreciating other people and their mysteries and magic as much as I could?

No, and I feel bad about that. I’m going to start leaving my phone at home when I socialise – I hadn’t fully realised how much of a distraction it is, and how much I secretly resent that technology interferes with our physical connecting.

Maybe I’m being romantic, but I think something deeper could emerge between people when they are not distracted by their phones, or social media, or thinking of how they can record the current moment.

As lovely as being virtually connected is, I really, really miss the physical presence of other people. My body sulks after zoom sometimes – ‘you’re trying to trick me’ it says. I guess zoom is the substitute sweetener to the real cane deal of proximity.

I’m curious about how this might be playing out for others. The sense of despair and disconnection today surprised me, and its been pretty grim, but when I stop and think about where I am, and how long I have been on my own, it makes sense.

I’m resistant to attempts to introduce a concept of ‘new normality’ for now – in my mind, it feels imperative that we recognise that this is temporary, and deeply abnormal.

Dr Hannah Gilbert has a BA (Hons) in Anthropology, and a PhD in Sociology. Her doctoral research explored narratives of spiritual experience in the British spirit mediumship community. She spent three years as a psychiatric support worker during her undergraduate degree, and has recently returned to working in mental health having qualified with an MSc in Integrative Psychotherapy in 2018, and is now working for the Compassionate Mind Foundation. Hannah founded Compassionate Wellbeing in 2012, and in 2017 she started a small publishing company called Annwyn House. She is currently writing a book about compassion, ghostlore and grief.

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