It’s day 10 of lockdown in the UK (and as much as I hate Big Brother, I can’t help hearing that voice every time I use that phrase!), and I’m in a much better mood than I was when I last posted.
Because kittens, among other things. And our wonderful NHS staff, without whom we would all be up a very large creek with no paddle at all. Clover isn’t yawning at the NHS, she’s yawning because she has no idea there’s a world crisis, and it really made me smile today.
The world is still upside down, the situation is still terrifying, but I have found a few ways to deal with my own anxiety and overwhelm and fear.
Fear does very strange things to people.
Living in dystopia
It still feels like I’ve woken up in the middle of a dystopian novel with a truly appalling plot, and for someone who’s not had a TV for six years, the whole living-through-history thing is something of a shock to the system.
In normal life, I regularly tell people how amazing it is that we’re living through history – the technology revolution! And that children in the future will learn about us and our tech and machines and ways of working and living. Because you can’t take the geek out of the girl.
But fuck me, a pandemic is not the sort of history I want to be living through! Yet here I am, and here we all are, and the thing which has struck me the most about all the many, many conversations I’ve had over the past two or three weeks is that this is affecting everyone. In different ways, and to different levels, but not one single person is going to come out of this unscathed.
Finding a way through
My remedies so far are quite simple – plenty of sleep, vitamin D, time with my kitties and time with my camera. Finding purpose and focus in pivoting my business to run online, and in helping my community of small business owners who have been devastated by this pandemic, and my employed friends who are suddenly having to work from home for the first time.
Not to mention battling ridiculous downtime and server moves on the website front. Tech and patience have been severely tested by this situation, and I imagine I’m not the only one. But it’s been a great distraction!
Baths and books have also featured heavily in my self-care regime, as has an epic stash of chocolate – never before have I been so grateful for my tendency to buy chocolate in bulk.
Video calls – menace or delight?!
Video conferencing, via Zoom or Hangouts or House Party or even WhatsApp, have been both a saviour and a menace. I spent the whole of the first week of the disaster, before lockdown but during the first few days of the entire country trying to work from home for the first time, glued to my phone or my webcam.
True to form, in meetings I wear my unicorn horn headphones and try to get everyone else to do daft things as well! But talking to people for nine hours a day got very tiring very quickly, and drained my ability to do anything else useful.
In the last 24 hours I have forcibly removed myself from those conversations for a while, and I feel better for it. I still want to talk to people, but not 47 people in a day, my introvert heart literally cannot cope. Though I did make some free virtual backgrounds so you can work from bed and pretend you’re not…
I am avoiding social media entirely except for the essentials – the groups which keep me sane and informed and soothed. My phone is permanently turned to Do Not Disturb, so that the most important people can get through immediately but so I can also focus without incessant pinging.
Heading out for a walk at least every couple of days, I’ve been a bit spooked by the emptiness of the streets, the closed parade of shops which are usually bustling with life, the socially distanced queues outside the pharmacy, and the safety zones marked out in tape in the local One Stop.
My other single friends across the world report loneliness in isolation, people forgetting to check on them. I must have very excellent friends or be very lucky, as I’ve been inundated with people checking I’m ok during the lockdown, enquiring after my business, seeing if Mum is ok as well as me. Not everyone, by a long shot – and there have been some who have surprised me with their lack of contact, as ever – but more than enough to reassure me that in a crisis, I wouldn’t be alone.
I do miss Mum, and I wish I could see her for more than occasional essential grocery/medicine drops during this. This picture was taken just a few days before this all got so serious, marking Dad’s third anniversary with a day hunting pebbles & treasure at Walton-on-theNaze. But we speak every day, and for the time being we are both happiest and safest in our own homes. And I miss my friends too, but they are also epic and good with tech and we’ve already established some really lovely regular video chats!
Isolation & life choices
A few people have mentioned that perhaps now is the time I will change my mind about long term single-at-heart-ness, and decide I do want a partner after all, because wouldn’t it be so lovely to have someone to look after me and share the stay at home weirdness with?
And honestly, no. I would probably emerge from isolation into prison, to be honest – I don’t enjoy sharing my space, and while I loved my partners very much during our relationships, I can’t imagine having to stay indoors with them and be with them 24/7 for weeks on end (there, dear readers, is probably a good indication of why they were mostly long distance relationships and are now ex-boyfriends!).
It’s actually been really affirming to discover that my life choices of being single, childfree and self employed are so exactly the right choices for me that I am able to flourish even now. I’ve never been so thankful to not have children, either – anyone who is doing this and also homeschooling has my utmost admiration.
Of course, we are living through the middle of a crisis, and if I get the virus, I probably will be dealing with it entirely alone, because I don’t want to infect Mum or Gran or risk their lives. So for Mum’s sake, for Gran’s and for my own, I am staying as isolated as possible – food shopping, pharmacy trips and the post office, only when absolutely unavoidable and necessary, and getting medicines and medical supplies to Gran when she needs them.
And I am so lucky that my skills & knowledge allow me to do that – that although losing all my upcoming photography clients in three days was fairly horrific, I am more than capable of switching to online – mentoring, teaching & otherwise working remotely. God knows I’ve talked about it enough over the years!
Staying at home
And so I am sitting tight like Luna (though not on a shed roof, you’ll be pleased to know), and holding on for dear life, and hoping that me and my loved ones will weather the storm together but apart.
Taking the pressure off myself has definitely helped my mood – there is so much I want to do, both in business and in life, during this rare break from the world. But there is no rush. Sadly, I don’t think the end of three weeks of lockdown will be anything like the end of this crisis. And so many people have been financially affected that there will be plenty of time to dream up new things to create online, while my main client base, like so many others, has been decimated.
But I am determined to rise from the ashes a success story – I just also need the occasional lazy morning to breathe.
How are you coping with lockdown? Wherever you are and whatever your situation, I am sending you sparkles. We need to take joy wherever we can find it!
Where you can find me or more info
If you’re moving your business online, using this time to work on your branding, content, systems or any other tweaks to your business, or of course you need brand photography (products, or planning a shoot featuring you, I can do both!), then I’d absolutely love to chat and you can find out more at carlawatkins.com
Ink Drops is still open though posting at much less frequent intervals, and we would love to help you stay in touch with your loved ones through the post. My postie approves, too! Find lovely cards and delightful gifts at inkdrops.co.uk
If you’re working from home and thinking WTAF, then I wrote the WFH Toolkit for you.
You can follow my new 365 project (what a year I chose – I’m 44 days in) at @colourfulmagicalweirdo
And if you’re in need of some support, wisdom & a safe space to let it all out, come & join the Improper Job Collective.
I’m most active over in the Collective, on Instagram & in my photography newsletter, although I may resurrect this one in the coming weeks to share some useful and lovely things I’ve found.
I’ve been trying to write a post over here for some time. I still don’t have the words.
This is how I live now – on Zoom. Which has been a lifesaver, to be honest, even if I have spoken to more people in a week than I usually do in a month and a half.
We are in our first week of lockdown, and the world has gone completely mad. I’m having problems getting hold of essential medication for Gran, I can’t get shopping delivered to Mum, and I can’t go shopping because I’m trying to keep them both safe.
Yes, that’s more than a QUARTER OF A MILLION people trying to get onto the Boots website at half past ten on a Saturday night.
Ocado wasn’t much better earlier in the week – today I am just getting a “we have no more delivery slots” notice.
And it is breaking my heart, because some people will be slipping through the cracks. Never mind that every small business I know has crumbled to 0 income overnight, that every major non essential shop is closed, that the majority of the office working population is finally and suddenly working from home, that schools are closed indefinitely.
I’m lost for words – we are living through history, a serious and terrifying part of history, and I don’t like it at all.
I’ll try and post something slightly more coherent in the next week or so.
Each year I have a little list of things I’d like to do that year in my blog sidebar.
Although 2017-19 haven’t been the most prolific for my personal blog, this was this year’s list and…
~ Draigcon and/or Wizardry School – done, Bothwell School of Witchcraft in April and August
~ Steampunk events – done, at the Museum of Power
~ experiment with film cameras – not this year
~ walk more – yep
~ explore Colchester – yes, although not as I expected – mostly through networking and 121s and finding new places in town!
~ beach time – yes
~ kitty portraits – yes and Philly is painting them too
~ western riding – nope
~ spa days – don’t think I’ve been on an actual spa day this year, but did spend a day at Lifehouse for my first headshot day
~ kayaking – nope
~ learn to make bath bombs – nope
~ recreate Lush’s Angel’s Delight soap fragrance – haha I had forgotten I wanted to do this, hasn’t happened yet
~ slow reading club – nope but this year have mastered my balance of writing & reading, I think, and am reading without guilt
~ craft gatherings – not really, but made some friends through making which is just as lovely, and had a couple of gatherings at mine which made my heart happy (including 2020 planning!)
~ work in sterling silver – YES! Completed the BENCH Space beginners course and am booked onto the improvers in January – made two rings, the leaping hare necklace of my dreams and some earrings, and cannot wait to learn more.
~ build a catio – nope, but still on the list
~ handwritten letters – yes, and would like to write more this coming year
~ photobook of the house project – no, but very much still on my list along with photobooks for Poppy, Dad, and the kittens
~ print my own photos – for open studios and marketing yes, for my wall no
~ explore – I am unsure exactly what I meant by this but I have been all over the country for work and pleasure this year, so counting it as a yes!
At some stage I will be writing up my 2019 review and my decade review – the days speed past so fast that I can’t actually keep up!
There’s a day every year, usually close to the turning of the clocks, where I am suddenly, viscerally aware that the season has changed, and it is autumn.
Today was that day. After resolutely wearing summer clothes despite the rain, and fighting my thermostat because I really don’t want it to be the time of year where I put the heating on regularly yet, I stepped outside to pop to Tesco this evening, turned around after locking the door – and it was cold, it was dark, it was blowing a gale and it was most definitely autumn.
I don’t notice the other seasons in the same way, but today there have been lots of little signs that winter is coming and now is the time to prepare. I am tired and lethargic, and found it hard to get out of bed (though admittedly, that might be more down to the 3.30am bedtime after podcast recording last night!). I am craving comfort food and made a massive pot of pasta carbonara to combat the chilly outdoors. My winter duvet is back on my bed, and my summer duvet has been moved permanently to the sofa, to enable my morning pages to be written without shivering. Suddenly, I want tea all the time – I am usually a strict five-can-a-day Pepsi Max girl.
If September is full of that back to school feeling, then for me October and November are the months where I go into full cosy mode. This week I’ve had to reschedule a shoot due to rain, I’ve had several meetings cancel (and have been relieved rather than annoyed because honestly, who wants to go out when you can drink hot chocolate and work on the sofa?!) and I have been sleeping really weirdly.
I love autumn’s colours, the obvious change, the starting to hunker down for winter. I feel like it’s snuck up on me this year and I’m not terribly well prepared – I am still wearing flipflops 90% of the time, for starters – but on the whole, I’m so grateful to live somewhere where the seasons are obvious.
And more grateful, these days, for the freedom to notice the seasons changing. Because once upon a time, I didn’t see my home in daylight from October to March, because I was either commuting to London or working in a high rise office. Nature didn’t feature in my life and I was sadder for it.
I am thankful for so many things, big & small.
Oh, and this article made far more sense than it should have done, in a weird, time-melty, how is it October and more to the point how is it nearly the end of 2019 already kind of a way.
Yes, that’s up there with some of my least imaginative post titles ever! I guess it’s a sign of how busy I am with my other sites these days, that when I thought I’d pop over and check in, it took me half an hour of updates to get this one displaying properly…!
It’s the middle of July, and approaching a year since I left the day job and struck out on my own, and nearly seven months into my Depth Year, so I thought I’d have a really quick check in.
Except it’s gone midnight, and my finger joints hurt, so it might end up being quicker than planned and ironically not very in depth!
So let’s start off with that time I realised I’d never been that close to a squirrel in real life before:
Mainly I wanted to sneak in to say how much I enjoyed shooting Graduation for my old day job this year – it’s always been my favourite time of year on campus so getting to be in the thick of it every day was a joy, and reconnecting with old colleagues was fun too.
Though there were some very entertaining conversations – “you look really professional with all your gear there. What is it you do nowadays?” “Well, funny you should mention that… I’m a professional photographer!”
I’ve had some amazing clients this year too – SO excited to see them use their photos to grow their businesses & their dreams. More on that over on the brand blog!
I genuinely can’t believe this is my life, most days – though I never expected to have to do it without Dad here, this is for the most part the life I always dreamed of, and the work life I have plotted and schemed and worked towards for the last ten years.
I’m also the proud owner of a Sony a7iii and LOVING the shift to mirrorless – this both goes perfectly with and completely contravenes my depth year plans, as it lets me go further into my photography career, but obviously isn’t making the most of existing kit…! But in a weird way it is, as I sold all the stuff I wasn’t using and invested in a new body and a 135mm lens to complement my existing kit… and suddenly my work is shining even brighter. So I’m counting that as a major win. Shooting dual system is interesting too – I’ll probably start a little series about that over on carlawatkins.com as I’m intrigued by the similarities and differences.
Anxiety has been at an all time low for the last few months and I am crossing EVERYTHING that that stays the same. Confidence has been at an all time high for some time now and again, hoping that stays the same – there will always be ups and downs because creativity, but I’m feeling good for now.
There was Bothwell. Bothwell needs its own post as the first run in April was profoundly, permanently and unexpectedly life-altering for me.
There’s a grant application in the works and I’ve had two fantastic shoots with a wonderful friend, and several more in the works with people I love. Is there anything better than getting to work and play and create art with people you love?!
I’ve taken on a couple of mentoring clients which is exciting – for business systems, visibility, content & growth rather than specifically for photography, and I’m loving spending time on that side of the business.
Intriguingly, and very appropriately for a depth year review, I am LOVING creating new opportunities and avenues and products and things within a business, rather than constantly creating new businesses. This is another unexpected development, but one I’m very happy about.
Much to my surprise (and to no one else’s surprise at all), I am really enjoying networking and have joined a couple of groups – the ones that meet at 6am can fuck right off, but the friendly ones I’ve found which meet over lunch (very civilised) are lovely.
I’m experimenting with tattoos – temporary but longer term solutions, rather than real ones, because there still isn’t anything I want on my body for ever and always.
Morning pages have made a welcome return to my life, and the Artist’s Way continues to delight and astound me on a daily basis.
Luna and Clover just fill my days with love and purrs, and emergency snuggles when Luna runs in meowing, panicking that the cuddles have run out. I love these two little furry beings more than I ever expected I could – I genuinely don’t think I could love them more if I had given birth to them, and I am certainly keener on being their parent than I am on ever parenting a human.
Luna’s newest trick is to snooze in the doorway of my office, so that I can’t escape without giving her cuddles, biscuits or both! Clover is recovered from her ordeal last year, and is ruling the outdoors with a firm, fluffy paw – her current favourite snoozing spot is right in the middle of my flower bed.
Mumski and I are moving through our days as best we can – still grieving, still so sad under the surface that I try not to think about it because I can’t bear it. Dad makes his presence felt regularly, and this is a huge comfort to me, but I miss him so much I still don’t have the words for it. But I am very lucky to be their daughter, and I’m so grateful that Mum and I have each other. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
On that note, it’s now nearly 1am and I’m shooting in the morning, so bedtime for me. It’s nice to be back!
People often ask how I can bear to eat alone most days.
They say mealtimes are social, a time to catch up, go over the day, share stories.
But there is a quiet ritual to my mealtimes, especially in the evenings, and even more so now I’m self employed.
In my working days, mealtimes were a pause – a sort of peace between the hustle of the day job and commute, and the quiet, determined industry of my evenings spent working on my then fledgling businesses.
Now, they are a reminder to stop, to nourish and take care of myself. Mealtimes are a chance to catch up, and to go over the day – but with myself, not with a cacophony of other voices and experiences.
The act of cooking, and then sitting down to eat (yes, alone), is one I find deeply soothing. As a child we almost always ate at the table rather than on our laps, and I try to make sure that happens at least a few times a week.
Though indulging in my favourite films while eating on my lap is also one of the many pleasures of living alone. This evening’s was Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes.
I like my solitary meals, and I love my own company. And, should I crave chatter and voices to accompany my food, I’m never lacking in friends to eat with.
The choice is the thing – one of the many parts of singlehood I find magical in spite of others’ misplaced pity.
Do you eat alone? Is it joyful or do you find it strange?