Mirror image

I was feeling smug that it was 4pm on Monday before I remembered that it was allegedly ‘Blue Monday’. ‘That was easy,’ I thought and kept myself busy until the end of the day feeling grateful that, in the context of what we have been through/have yet to face, Blue Monday seemed to be fading into a lighter shade of pale this year. Wrong.

By Thursday I had changed my mind and I felt that I was wading through treacle. I ploughed on valiantly , doing all the things that I usually do to top up my reserves of ‘can do’, and to stop myself sighing too loudly in public, but I still felt I was suffering from a metaphorical slow puncture. Blue Monday seemed to have outwitted me by mutating surreptitiously to take over a whole week – it was now threatening the viral load necessary to hijack the whole month if I didn’t take stock and regroup. It is so typical that everything feels the need to grow into the superlative in Lockdown 3. I wish negative things would just stop showing off. We get it.

Back at the ranch Favourite Man (FM) had been battling with his own viral load in an uncharacteristically stoic way – thankfully not Covid, but nasty enough for him not to notice my lack of witty banter until Thursday night when he bounced back from his sick desk (‘I’ll have you know that I have never taken a day off work in my life’). ‘I’m just flat,’ I said, when he notices my silence, ‘nothing’s wrong, it all just feels a bit bleugh. I feel a bit invisible and not me’.

FM is an engineer and he likes people to be precise in discussion; frankly he is not impressed with my woolly and vague response, my apathy about trying to explain in more detail and my refusal to engage in modelling some solutions.

I give myself a strong talking to; so many of my friends are battling huge grey mountains at the moment so planning a January self-pity party is totally unacceptable (although craving any sort of party in lockdown is perhaps understandable). I limp off to bed with a book, not wanting to inflict my black dog on anyone else – well, specifically on FM, because there is no-one else in the firing line in this Home Alone context.

I can’t seem to concentrate on the book however, so I decide to practise gratitude instead and begin to list the things that have made me happy this week:

  • Seeing my daughter, her boyfriend and my niece all join my Zoom yoga class from their London living room – their mats are so beautifully aligned and their movement so choreographed that it is like watching a Red Arrow yoga display.
  • Hearing that my friend’s mother is home from hospital after suffering a stroke
  • Receiving some superb essays during a remote Year 10 English class, despite the students telling me that they can’t access the technology or hear me (although I think pizza and Fortnite may be more of a distraction than buffering). ‘No, you just keep breaking up Miss…we heard the bit about you cancelling homework, yes?’. One boy does get over familiar at the end of the Teams call, signing off for the weekend with, ‘cheers mum, have a good one,’ but I still got more work out of him than I have done all year, so I’ll take that as a win.

I then get distracted by social media and because of this, stumble across the reason that may explain why I have been feeling so bleugh lately; Mirroring. A psychologist explains that one of the reasons we are feeling adrift right now is because we all feel less ‘present’ . In pre Covid times apparently we interact with on average 30 separate individuals during a day and this means that it is likely that our presence will be acknowledged by some eye contact, shared smiling, chat or hand shaking (pre-Covid, remember?). Now that we are not having our presence mirrored (the people we live with only count as one interaction so no opportunity to increase the tally here, sorry) it is no surprise that some of us are feeling beige, invisible or just bleugh.

I feel heartened. There I was thinking that I might have caught FM’s cold virus, but instead I just need to work harder at getting some human interaction – without flexing the rules of course. I will need more resolve to get students to unmute their mics and cameras on remote lessons; I have spent too many hours looking at my own reflection during lessons lately. No wonder I am getting such a buzz from taking zoom yoga for these lessons allow me to see different people – contorted through wifi and lycra, but reflected interaction nonetheless. Roll on Zoom book club.

By Friday night I am rebooted and primed to address the last week of January with fresh energy. Thankfully I have my socially distanced long run booked in with my regular running partner on Saturday morning so I know I will bag at least one interaction out of my target 30 as the weekend kicks off.

I should have factored in the weather forecast however for our running interaction is to take place in the context of black ice and fog; I confess that there is a point at the start of the run where my moody bleugh self reemerges and is on the brink of asking if we can retreat. Then I look up and start laughing because I can see that the hairs on my running partner’s legs have frozen white; in return he laughs at my reflection because apparently I am sporting white icicles where my eyebrows used to be. We are still skating across some impossible roads at this point but we are laughing and we get bonus interaction points by sliding (nearly, I promise no contact was made) close to other socially distanced walkers/skaters. The ice gives us all something to bond over and even the odd impromptu flourish of a triple salchow. I think we bagged 5 separate interactions in this section of our Cresta Run. Best of all, I then ask a man unloading his car of crampons, ice pick and huskies if he knows how we can cut across some fields to avoid the ice rink. He directs us down a country trail to a deer park that we have apparently been skirting around for the last two years without knowing of its existence. (I’ll leave you to do the work on this potential metaphor).

We run up the trail and I feel my January blues disappear as we run through white fog, ice, frost and a huge herd of wild deer all waiting for us in the most stunning country park. These deer look across in unison; I notch this up as at least 50 interactions because there is certainly plenty of eye contact. What we don’t achieve in miles on this run, we achieve in restored spirit and mirroring.

As I dethaw my eyebrows at the end of the run, I reflect that February has the potential to be fab if I can keep my magic mirror working. I may not be able to shake February by the hand, but I am armed with a new puncture repair kit; I will be smiling, greeting and chatting to any random stranger who wants to nod in my direction from 2m+ and I make no apology for insisting that cameras are on for lessons, yoga and book club. I feel we can creep forward in a pincer movement to July 14th – allegedly this day is the antidote to Blue Monday.

Anyway, must go. Snow has fallen overnight and I have snow angels to interact with.

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