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Breathe Out

1
Life after lockdown is on the horizon, like a yellow neon arrow flashing outside an American motel.  Now it’s so close it looks Vegas-cheap, a gaudy thing.   I have been trying work out how the pieces of this strange time fit together, turning back to work out what it has meant.  The lesson is unexpected.
I am not, by nature, much of a planner.  I let life spool out in front of me and just turn towards the path that seems the most exciting or interesting.  I suppose that was how I came to walk down the aisle on my wedding day five months
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pregnant, my Autumn wedding losing out to a September due date.  It was why life as a criminal and family barrister suited me.  My days were mostly unpredictable.  I would rarely know for certain what would happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month.  I had been someone happy to think no further than that afternoon.  My children were the ones who made me live in the future.  They turned me into someone who thinks of spare changes of clothes and snacks and water bottles and suncream.  It did not come easily.  I had to wash naked babies under
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cafe bathroom taps to remember to carry wipes, and feel the full force of a blood sugar crash to know to bring snacks in a tupperware box small enough to be held by a hot little fist.  Becoming a mother turned me into a fortune teller tasked with predicting the needs of others.  But somewhere along the way they had stopped being true needs and had become ‘shoulds’ instead.  We should go here. We should see them. We should fill the day with a task or activity or experiences.  We should do something productive.
Then lockdown came and punched the
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future in the face.  Our world shrank, and our expectations with it.  No longer hauled to museums or galleries or parks or playdates my children did not bounce off the walls as I had thought they would.  We just kicked around.  We just hung out.  We played some of the games I’d dug out, coloured some of the pictures, read some of the books.  Sure, there was a crippling level of cooking and tidying up.  My brain longed for creative space amongst the domestic.  They asked for their friends, their grandparents, their cousins.  But their
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connection grew stronger than it’s every been.  I’ve spoken to friends whose children have, during lockdown, somehow resolved their sleep problems, whose toddlers have rapidly started speaking, whose children have become soul mates.  Homeschooling meant I saw sides to my children I had not properly understood before.  I felt ashamed not to have noticed how carefully my three year old colours in and how upset he gets when he makes a mistake.  I was surprised by how little my five year old cares about getting things right, and glad to discover
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he’ll happily read a book about bugs rather than struggle through another adventure with Biff and Chip.
My temperament is happy with not knowing the future, but not with doing nothing.  I am, by nature, restless.  The idea of a day without activity usually makes me itchy.  But locked into our bubble,  for some reason, I did not feel the kind of suffocation I expected to.  Maybe it was the security of knowing that it was not just us that had stopped but that the rest of the world had too.  My home, thankfully, is a safe one.  And that is exactly
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how it felt as we slowly moved around it, with no need to leave.  It felt safe.  Once I’d pushed past the anxiety of illness and uncertainty, time just shaped itself around our new life.  There was nowhere to go, no-one we should see, nothing we must do.  We just stayed put, wriggling deeper into our shrunken world.  I breathed out.  And, it seems, my children did too.
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Sarah Langford

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- 25 Jun 20

Life after lockdown is on the horizon, like a yellow neon arrow flashing outside an American motel.  Now it’s so close it looks Vegas-cheap, a gaudy thing.   I have been trying work out how the pieces of this strange time fit together, turning back to work out what it has meant.  The lesson is unexpected.

I am not, by nature, much of a planner.  I let life spool out in front of me and just turn towards the path that seems the most exciting or interesting.  I suppose that was how I came to walk down the aisle on my wedding day five months pregnant, my Autumn wedding losing out to a September due date.  It was why life as a criminal and family barrister suited me.  My days were mostly unpredictable.  I would rarely know for certain what would happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month.  I had been someone happy to think no further than that afternoon.  My children were the ones who made me live in the future.  They turned me into someone who thinks of spare changes of clothes and snacks and water bottles and suncream.  It did not come easily.  I had to wash naked babies under cafe bathroom taps to remember to carry wipes, and feel the full force of a blood sugar crash to know to bring snacks in a tupperware box small enough to be held by a hot little fist.  Becoming a mother turned me into a fortune teller tasked with predicting the needs of others.  But somewhere along the way they had stopped being true needs and had become ‘shoulds’ instead.  We should go here. We should see them. We should fill the day with a task or activity or experiences.  We should do something productive.

Then lockdown came and punched the future in the face.  Our world shrank, and our expectations with it.  No longer hauled to museums or galleries or parks or playdates my children did not bounce off the walls as I had thought they would.  We just kicked around.  We just hung out.  We played some of the games I’d dug out, coloured some of the pictures, read some of the books.  Sure, there was a crippling level of cooking and tidying up.  My brain longed for creative space amongst the domestic.  They asked for their friends, their grandparents, their cousins.  But their connection grew stronger than it’s every been.  I’ve spoken to friends whose children have, during lockdown, somehow resolved their sleep problems, whose toddlers have rapidly started speaking, whose children have become soul mates.  Homeschooling meant I saw sides to my children I had not properly understood before.  I felt ashamed not to have noticed how carefully my three year old colours in and how upset he gets when he makes a mistake.  I was surprised by how little my five year old cares about getting things right, and glad to discover he’ll happily read a book about bugs rather than struggle through another adventure with Biff and Chip.

My temperament is happy with not knowing the future, but not with doing nothing.  I am, by nature, restless.  The idea of a day without activity usually makes me itchy.  But locked into our bubble,  for some reason, I did not feel the kind of suffocation I expected to.  Maybe it was the security of knowing that it was not just us that had stopped but that the rest of the world had too.  My home, thankfully, is a safe one.  And that is exactly how it felt as we slowly moved around it, with no need to leave.  It felt safe.  Once I’d pushed past the anxiety of illness and uncertainty, time just shaped itself around our new life.  There was nowhere to go, no-one we should see, nothing we must do.  We just stayed put, wriggling deeper into our shrunken world.  I breathed out.  And, it seems, my children did too.

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Sarah Langford

I used to work as a Barrister but nowadays am judged mainly by my two small boys. We shuttle between London and Suffolk. 'In Your Defence' is published by Transworld on 28th June 2018 and available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Defence-Stories-Life-Law/dp/085752528X https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Defence-Stories-Life-Law/dp/085752528X/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1524691844&sr=1-1

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