I’ve been re-reading my old blog the past day or so. Some lovely, timely reminders about the lonely, sad and exhausting nature of living away from friends and family – as well as some observations about expat life and motherhood that made me giggle and miss the chaos just a little bit too. But the main thing that struck me was how alone I was during those years. I forgot just how much I flew solo, trying to cope with a small child without a support network and missing my old life so much I would ache with the misery of it. It’s not dissimilar to how many of us are feeling right now, and reading it back, I realise just how much resilience I managed to build up over that time, that’s being redeployed over and over again this year and especially during this bleak, dark winter.
Writing that blog didn’t just kickstart my career; far more importantly, it helped me to work through any number of painful or difficult moments in time when I would have otherwise felt like I couldn’t cope. I supposed it’s what inspired me to write again, today; the move into yet another lockdown, or Tier 4, or whatever you want to call it – the cruel cancellation of Christmas, the shortest and darkest day of the year, the rain, the incessant underlying stress of holding it all together for my family when really I just want a break from the utter relentlessness of it all.
I read, I write and I remember; I know the demons that will come if I let them. So I push against them; I let myself have a cry, but I don’t let myself dwell on the situation. Instead, I get on with life. I write, finally: I’ve spent long months not writing, or pretending to write, or writing but finding it so hard to be motivated. I’ve missed the flow, the smile it brings to my face when a thought or feeling invokes words on the page; but suddenly I am filled with the want, to make the words come again. I have been inspired by that person I used to be, who wrote herself through everything once before and can do it again.
This period of our lives will pass. And the realisation, from reading words I wrote nearly a decade ago, that I’ve got this, has given me the boost I needed. My first novel was born out of my time in Dubai and a difficult re-entry back to London life; my second will come from the wastelands of 2020. One day soon this terrible year will be a memory, something we refer to in passing. In place of the misery and sadness we’re surrounded by right now will be a summary phrase adopted to encapsulate the time: ‘during lockdown’ or ‘during Covid’ – and just like saying ‘when I lived in Dubai’ to people who weren’t there, it won’t seem real or relevant. But the strength that we gain, the knowledge and power we hold tightly in our fists right now as we battle against the endless ocean of personal challenge – that’s real and relevant. It’s time to wield that power and begin again, even while the days are at their darkest.