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An image of Jane Thomas, the valleys steps volunteer support officer

Easing out of Lockdown

If someone had told me I would have been looking forward to, excited even, about having a vaccine – I would have laughed at them and told them not to be so ridiculous!

BUT – that’s what I am, excited.  I’ve been given a date and I am now deciding what to wear. Do I wear a trendy ‘jab jumper’ with holes in the right places to enable quick access or, (which is more likely) an old t-shirt with baggy sleeves!

Eighteen months ago, life had its challenges but was generally okay.  Was I complacent? I don’t think I was, but I certainly didn’t appreciate how good things actually were. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, after the initial panic, I started to appreciate the little things that pleased me, the increase in bird song, the sunshine, lack of traffic and community spirit with the clap for the NHS each week. 

I had a job I loved, I could work from home and even though it caused me many headaches adapting to a new way of working, I was excited about learning new digital skills. I really appreciated (and still do), my long suffering colleagues who had to keep reminding me that ‘I was on mute’. A few weeks prior to lockdown I didn’t even know what that meant!!!

When there was a bit of respite from the tough restrictions and we could go out more, I still had this sense of gratitude and that all would be well.

Then came the second lockdown!!

To say I struggled with this would be an understatement. I seemed to concentrate on what I missed instead of appreciating what I had.  I did try to think positively but it was tough.

Then I caught the virus!! 

I don’t know how or where I contracted it but all I know is that I felt very poorly. I won’t go into detail but it was tough.  As I recovered, It was as if my priorities came back into focus and I had a chance to reset those values. 

Who did I value? What did I value? Why did I worry about unimportant things? Why did I sometimes give myself such a hard time?

I have had a chance to reflect on what I have gained during this period instead of what I’ve lost.

What I’ve gained is the knowledge to try my best to stick to the guidelines. I’m the first to admit I’m not the best at sticking to rules for their own sake but these rules are necessary to keep us all safe.

I’ve gained a new respect for people’s resilience and ingenuity. I have learned to accept situations that are outside my control and have  gained the power to attempt to make a difference wherever I can, even if it’s just to provide a friendly nod to a neighbour or a supportive ‘phone call to a friend.

I have also been truly humbled by the role Valleys Steps volunteers have played during the pandemic. As well as helping with online sessions, writing content for social media and promoting our courses they are always willing to be our ‘guinea pigs’ to trail new courses and give valuable comments.  It has been amazing to witness what can be achieved even when we cannot physically meet. 

Now I am back, fit (ish) and healthy – the extra pounds I’ve put on, will go at some point! My sense of taste and smell came back just in time for my Christmas dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed all the chocolatey excess that the season brought.

Now the news I have  been longing for with the easing of some restrictions is here.

I am looking forward to meeting friends I haven’t seen for over a year. There are ‘milestone’ birthdays to catch up on and in theory I could spend days partying, (I think there is still a bit of a wait for those parties). My friends are very dear to me – even to meet up with a take away cuppa in a park will be such a treat.  When we are allowed to travel further afield I can visit friends and family in North Wales and Scotland.

I am aware that not everyone will feel as elated as I am. There may have been loss that has touched your life. People might still feel very wary or anxious about our new freedoms and resist resuming a more ‘normal’ way of life.

It is difficult for me not to get carried away by the thought of new freedoms but I am trying to remain sensible and find joy in each little moment. It is finding some joy in the small moments that add to my sense of wellbeing and will prepare me for whatever is next.

By Jane Thomas

Volunteer Support Officer