…and how you could use lockdown No.3 to your advantage.
New Year’s Eve 2019. Key West. I’m on a overly-crowded balcony surrounded by hundreds of slightly sozzled party revellers bringing in the New Year in style. In front of me is a 6ft 4’ Geisha style drag queen by the name of Sushi. She’s actually about 5ft 10’ out of heels. Sushi is climbing into a giant red ruby slipper, which will be lowered from the balcony at the stroke of midnight. She’ll be waving with one hand and holding on for dear life with the other, hoping not to repeat the disaster of a previous year when she fell out. It wasn’t in the slightest bit funny, nope you didn’t see me laughing so hard I could barely breath! This is how they do things in Margaritaville.
As I kissed and hugged my hubby and friends when the bell tolled, I had no idea how much our lives would change forever in the coming months. How something so natural as a hug would be all but outlawed. Two hundred happy laughing people on a balcony would become something resigned to the history books, at least for the near future anyway.
I remember chatting with my friend Jerry the morning after talking about plans for the New Year and how hopeful we both were. “It’s going to be a great year, I can feel it” – we were blissfully unaware!
February saw Coronavirus become a world-wide pandemic. Panic buying ensued. Who knew toilet rolls were such a prized commodity? Well, actually, I did! I’d been chatting months and months prior with a conspiracy theorist client of mine about the effects of Brexit and how she thought it of the upmost importance to stock up on the velvety rolls of cotton-fresh joy.
I wasn’t sure I entirely believed her, but just in case, we took a trip to our nearest cash and carry back in September 2019 and stocked up on the three-ply wonders. I remember laughing and joking with one of my clients, saying she knew where to come if she got caught short. The irony of it all is quite astonishing.
A tough start to Lockdown.
By the 23rd March 2020 my hair salon had been closed down in a full U.K national lockdown and we were all told to stay at home and isolate ourselves from society. It would be months before it re-opened and when it did it was never quite the same.
Within days of closing, my hubby Mr C and I both came down with COVID-19. We were never tested, it was almost impossible to be tested back then unless you went to hospital and that was the last place I wanted to go. Our social bubble friends came down with it at the same time and we all had very similar symptoms of varying degrees. It seemed the severity of the symptoms were a bit like playing Russian Roulette. There was no rhyme nor reason to how bad you would get it.
I was ill for many weeks. I found it very difficult to breath and didn’t have the energy to do anything. Just as I started to feel a bit brighter it would come back again with a second wave and knock me over. One of our bubble friends was so ill he had to go to hospital, where he tested positive, which is why I think we definitely had it.
Who knows how we contracted it, it could have been from one of my clients just as easily as it could have been someone sneezing near our friends on their way to work. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that we all survived. Nine months later and I still don’t feel back to my usual self and my sense of smell is far diminished from what it was, even now.
By mid May of 2020 though, I was well on the way to a reasonable recovery and getting my interiors and garden mojo back. All I can say is thank God for my garden, interiors and for Instagram during that time. They saved me throughout 2020 and, in fact, helped to forge a new path for me.
Gardening truly did keep me sane and provided a sense of mindfulness, a moment to stop and just be grateful for small things. My love of interiors gave me projects and goals to keep my mind busy and get a sense of achievement. Instagram and my blog gave me a platform to write about my passions and create beautiful photographs.
I wrote a blog post about Mindfulness last year. It may help you to kickstart your positive vibes and get your mojo back. If you aren’t in the right frame of mind it’s almost impossible to see the woods from the trees and you won’t get that lightbulb moment, where you work out want you want in life. You can read it here: What is mindfulness?
I was also grateful for a whole network of like-minded Insta and Blog friends who shared my passions, people I could chat to at any given moment about cushions, the latest colour trends or our new love for dahlias. I’m eternally grateful for this support network. I’ve said it before, but I truly believe that I have finally found my groove, the place where I belong. I feel part of the gang and what a wonderful gang you are!
I decided back at the beginning of the first lockdown that something good had to come out of all of this. I was determined to use the time to re-look at my whole life, reevaluate everything and come up with a plan. 2020 forced so many of us to think completely outside the box, to come up with survival tactics and pursue ventures we never ever thought we would have the time to do.
Honestly, I loved every minute of the first lockdown, well, apart from getting sick. I know it’s so politically incorrect to say that, but it’s true! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the virus itself, the death toll, or the hell-fire destruction of life as we knew it. But, there was very little I could do about any of that, other than follow the rules, stay at home and make sure friends and family were safe.
No, I mean the peace, the quiet, the time to think and breath and just be! When have we ever had enough time to do that before? Of course, I was very lucky, I had a husband that loved me and a dog I adored. We had a beautiful spacious home and a huge sunny garden in the countryside. It was very easy for me to find things to keep me busy, helped by the copious amounts of sunshine we were afforded during those months.
I know that so many people were not as fortunate, stuck in cramped apartments with no outside space, no loving partner and just the TV for company. I counted my blessings every day. Lockdown No.3 is quite different as we are living in a very small rental and it’s Winter. Things aren’t quite so rosy this time. I’ve had a few low moments, particularly just after Christmas. However, I’ve still tried to maintain my momentum and continue with positive plans as much as possible.
What do you want to achieve?
As the start of the U.K’s third national lockdown begins, there’s a sense of dread and foreboding amongst most of us, particularly as this time we are in the dead of Winter and the twinkles and sparkles of Christmas are well and truly over.
However, now is the time! If you want to change your life and you need a new direction, a new goal, now is the time! I know it’s really tough as all we all really want to do is finish the festive chocolates, pour another glass of Bailey’s and hibernate till it’s over, and yes, do some of that too, but don’t waste the time.
When will you ever get this chance again? The vaccine should see the world gradually go back to whatever normal is. Work will resume, going out, being super busy. You won’t find this time again. What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted to do?
It doesn’t have to be quite so dramatic as selling up, giving up your job and relocating, that was quite an extreme way to not be bored in a pandemic! Is there a language you’ve always wanted to learn? Is there somewhere you have always wanted to visit? Plan it now! Are you sick to death of your manager and want to be your own boss? What could you do? Perhaps you enjoy floristry? Enrol on a course. Invest in you for a change! The possibilities are endless and you could come out of this lockdown a wiser, better person, with more skills or a complete change of life.
To be fair, I have done this a few times before. I changed career and went from being a professional singer to learning the ropes as a PR consultant. Years later, I turned my back on that, sold my house and retrained as a Vidal Sassoon stylist. Now, I’m doing it again. It keeps life exciting, you just have to learn to not be scared and take that big leap.
Write it all down!
Write things down. It clarifies things in your mind and helps you remember them. It’s why I’m a huge fan of lists. It’s the only way I can structure my life and get things done. It also helps make you feel better and as is good for mental health as you can tick things off when they are done. If you have an idea, write it down, even if it’s 3am. If you don’t you’ll forget by the morning. Use your notes in your phone, if that helps.
Write it down:
- What do you really love doing?
- What makes you happy?
- What have you always wanted to do, but never had the time?
- Do you have a talent that no one knows about?
- Where haven’t you been, but always wanted to visit?
- Who do you admire and aspire to be?
- Perhaps you had dreams, but somehow they got lost along the path in your life. What were they? Get your old diaries out!
Lockdown No.3 is for you! Yes, there may be home schooling and everyone wanting a piece of you all day long. You matter too though and you need to carve out time just for you. Perhaps you need to be inspired? I always find reading an autobiography of someone you really admire, a great way to get inspired. If they can fulfil their dream, then why can’t you? It’s never too late.
Put time aside to achieve your goals.
In May 2020 I started an IGTV channel on Instagram called: “Gardening to stay sane.” The idea was that I would go around our garden and talk about my favourite plants and borders and how to look after them. I would teach people how to prune roses and how to lift and divide plants. By doing so, we could hopefully all stay busy, active and happy – keeping our mental health as the number one priority. I recorded ten episodes up to the point I started back at work in July. They are all still there on my Instagram account: @jpslifeandloves
I also wanted to use my new found free time to really knuckle down on my website. It was called “My Gay Best Friend” at the time, but my instagram account was called @jonpaulclark and my Facebook and Pinterest accounts something else. It was time to put my marketing and PR skills from a previous career to good use. I would rebrand everything to be one name: JP’s Life And Loves. It summed it up really and encompassed everything that I do and didn’t limit me in any way for the future.
That’s an important point as so many Instagram accounts use their house name: “Life at No.37” for example. What if you move? Re-branding is a tough business and takes loads of effort and time on both Instagram and on your website. I don’t plan to ever do it again. I could have just used @jonpaulclark, which would have been easier, but I was a bit sick of being called Jon all the time, one of my pet hates.
I studied day after day, learning how to change a domain name, getting to grips with website hosting, Mailchimp marketing, creating pop-ups and learning a little computer code along the way. It was so exciting as I was learning something completely new and it was taxing my creative brain, which hairdressing hadn’t done for years. The huge freedom to actually do what I really wanted to do was so liberating. I got to write every day about the things I love.
A catalyst for change.
Throughout this strange period in time I started to realise that what I was doing day to day is what I loved doing the most, so much more than hairdressing. I had been fortunate enough to sign my first big Instagram paid contract too with Cox & Cox, one of my all time favourite brands. It was a dream come true and it saw me styling up our front steps for Christmas. It also finally showed my hubby that all the hard work of the last year and half on both Instagram and my blog were starting to pay off.
Other jobs were starting to come in to, working for Not On The High-street, Sthil and Smartplant App. I was beginning to realise that it just might be possible to actually make a small career out of my interior and garden faffing and ramblings.
I’m never happier than when I have a hundred plates spinning in the air at the same time. After completing our master bedroom makeover, I decided the front door needed a facelift and we also needed to clad our dunk pool. While we were at it, why not finally finish the boot room/utility and create a new herbaceous border at the back of the garden? I was on a roll and loved every minute of it.
Looking back, of course, the path that we were heading down seems clear. We were finishing everything off. What do we usually do when we have finished everything in our home and garden renovation? We move, sell up and start all over again!
The easing of lockdown in July allowed us to go on a weekend break by the sea with our two friends who were in our social bubble. That trip changed our lives forever.
Part 2 will be next Sunday. Why not sign up to my blog so that you don’t miss it? It’s easy. Just fill in the sign up form and then you’ll get a verification email. It could be in your junk mail, so do check!