As I stepped outside my front door on Saturday, after weeks of lockdown, it was with mixed emotions. Like millions of people across Spain, I was eagerly anticipating my first walk, having been no further than the rubbish bins for seven weeks. Sharing the experience with my husband was a bonus.
On a beautiful spring morning, in our beautiful village, the feeling of freedom was one I had expected. The feeling of nervousness was one I had not.
Lockdown has caused many of us to consider what we’ve most been looking forward to once restrictions are lifted. The simple pleasures in life – such as taking a stroll with my other half – rank high on my list. It never occurred to me that going for a walk might make me concerned for our safety.
The ways in which we’ve come to terms with lockdown – both the implementation and de-escalation – vary a lot according to our age, personal circumstance and even personality.
Those living in flats will have experienced a very different lockdown to those with gardens. The experience of city dwellers will not reflect that of those living in the countryside. Families will have reacted differently to those isolated and alone.
Reactions of the elderly and vulnerable will not match those of the young and healthy. Our personal lockdown experiences are as varied as our lifestyles and characters.
Some people will have thrown themselves into new hobbies, others will have ticked off a long list of rainy-day chores. Some, myself included, have managed to do neither. I soon came to realise that the chores were being put off for lack of will, not lack of time. My garden remains un-weeded; my curtains remain un-laundered.
Social media has fuelled the theory that we’re failing if we don’t take full advantage of the lockdown. We should all emerge having learned five new languages, how to paint like Picasso, or having written a play worthy of Shakespeare. I exaggerate slightly.
My favourite Twitter response is that the true objective of lockdown is to survive lockdown. Or, as another commentator remarked, there are only two ways to come out of lockdown – dead or alive.
Not only have I survived lockdown, but I’ve almost enjoyed it and have found it easier than expected. What’s not to enjoy about peace and quiet, quality time with family, the reduction in pollution and the blossoming of nature? Perhaps, most important of all, at home I’ve felt safe.
My once-weekly visit to the supermarket has quickly become the new normal for me. Our local store has limited customer numbers and provides hand sanitiser and gloves.
However, regardless of how careful the staff have been, the customers haven’t always followed suit. With each new week of lockdown, my desire to go out has waned and the experience has become increasingly nerve-wracking as the scale of the crisis has grown.
I’m not a nervous person by nature. I’m up for a challenge and open to change, so feeling tense at the prospect of going for a walk – something I was eagerly awaiting – rather surprised me.
We shouldn’t underestimate how scary the de-escalation plans are for many people, especially the most vulnerable. This deadly virus has made us all rethink our priorities, our feelings and our behaviour.
It will take a while before my feelings of freedom completely override my nervousness, when I step outside.
It will take even longer before the excitement of having others close – when permitted – overrides the fear of having them too close. As the prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, says, we’re all going to have to adjust to a “new normality”, perhaps for many months to come.
As we come to terms with Covid, and adjust to further restrictions being lifted, we can expect to feel more conflicting emotions. Caution is sensible – we all need to feel and be safe – but we mustn’t let fear prevent us from living.
I don’t know whether I’ll venture out daily, as permitted, but knowing I have the freedom to do so is welcome and valued. The lifting of restrictions gives me cause for optimism about the crisis and the measures put in place by the Spanish government to keep us safe. Stay alert to the dangers, by all means, but stay alert to the pleasures and opportunities too.
I might be nervous, but I’m fit and healthy, and I’m still here. Those not so fortunate would want us to live the lives they cannot. I don’t intend to let them down!
By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain
- OPINION: 'If ever there was a time for UK to go it alone, it surely isn't now'
- OPINION: Coronavirus has made Brexit negotiations impossible so isn't it time to delay?
- OPINION: In the face of coronavirus, we are all Europeans