Before the present situation arose, a writing friend and I challenged each other to write 73 blogs from a given list. After the first twenty-five they became very repetitive and dull, so between us we created out own list – we are just as strict with sticking t the topic though. One of the topics my friend put on our blog list is ‘Tips for self-isolating’. This is a tricky topic, and what I share below is very much a first draft.
When I was a child there were so many stories about desert islands and people being stranded on them, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Coral Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Lord of the Flies, and I daresay many of the stories I wrote when I was young featured being cast away on a desert island. Those ‘romances’ dealt mainly with the practicalities of survival, shelter, water, food, defence, escape, and none that I can remember, with the possible exception of Robinson Crusoe, dealt with the mental, emotional and psychological aspects. I guess the marooned Ben Gunn in Treasure Island illustrated the rigours of a solitary battle to survive, but that was an implied trauma and not explored in any way.
Not many people these days experience that type of test of their strength and personality, however, recently, over the last nine months, we’ve ha to deal with a different sort of desert island experience. We’ve all been marooned, stranded by the present rather grim situation. Lockdown has become a shipwreck of our ordinary lives, and although we are – in some cases, not as stranded as we were, none of us are living the life we used to live, all of us know there’s a risk that our lives will be wrecked again.
Many people, many many people, like the characters in the desert island novels are struggling with the practicalities; insufficient resources, difficulty in feeding themselves and their families, struggling to keep their families safe, living in a new and challenging situation, unable to access the usual necessities for life and living. Unlike the characters in the novels, who mostly seem to keep unrealistically strong mentally – often supported by their apparent faith, one of the greatest challenges for people marooned by the present situation, is the struggle to cope mentally and emotionally with the isolation and the other challenges.
People are amazing. People are taking on new hobbies, new crafts, new ways of living. Using food and cooking in a different way, from baking bread to growing vegetables in window boxes and plant pots, home schooling their children, finding various ways to keep physically fit, leaning new skills and crafts to keep mentally fit. People are engaging with different ways of working, different ways of travelling, different ways of getting by, from teaching their children to becoming neighbourhood and community heroes. And this isn’t even mentioning those true heroes, all the people medical and non-medical who kept on working to keep us going.
One aspect which has actually been celebrated as a positive is the creativity which people have shown – in many of the ways they deal with the situation as above, but also in an artistic way. Painting, drawing, making, cooking, gardening, writing, clothes making, knitting. This mental engagement I feel is the key to survival, perhaps as much if not more than physical needs being met is the flowering of the imagination.