17 Weeks is the longest I've ever had off (except for maternity leave.) There was no preparing for it. It just happened. Everyone of us was affected either by not working at all, working from home, being a Keyworker in whatever capacity or simply just by having our world as we know it stopped. We all reacted to the lockdown and then the easing of restrictions in different ways. How did it affect you? Did much change for you? What did you find hardest and what was better? This is me.... 
The lurgy is coming. Clients are beginning to cancel as cases increase and they have been in touch with poorly people. The last day I worked was Tuesday 17th March. Little did I know at the time but that last lovely massage was going to be my last for 117 days.  
The news was relentless & I watch lots of it to keep up to date with unfolding events. I very quickly learnt that watching the BBC news was a mental health risk. As I watched the horrifying figures rapidly rise I became increasing worried about my family and friends. Paul & Alexander were both Keyworkers heading out each day into the big bad world while I stayed at home. So many industries were grinding to a halt, businesses were closed but the NHS was pushed and pushed. What could I do? Very little was the answer. I was able to help out with shopping, collecting prescriptions & bits like that for other people but the biggest thing I could do to help was stay at home. Generally I have to say that I enjoyed it. Is that ok to say??? 
I decided from day 1 that I was going to keep smiling. The year before I had been very poorly and managed, just, so no way was I going to let a global pandemic beat me. I decided to use the time constructively. So I started everyday with a smile and a chat with family, friends, clients, someone, as those early days seemed very long. I took lots of training courses & refresher courses. I did lots of background work on my business so that things would be more streamlined in the future. I learnt about this coronavirus thing & how best to protect from it. I did all the things that I often think "I wish I had time to do that". Routine was important. A tea break in front of Facebook or the telly could easily steal an hour or sitting in front of the laptop for too long on Zoom calls gave me a very painful neck so I split my day into blocks and I stuck to that, not rigidly but near enough.  
When Paul was off it was great to have the company but we worked hard. Again doing things we didn't normally have time to do. We chopped the oak tree back, disentangled the Christmas tree from the too high hedge, re-roofed and painted the tree house, refurb'ed the compost bin after emptying it's contents onto the rockery which had been weeded and replanted, & lots more. Hard graft but sometimes in the afternoon we'd just sit in the garden (totally knackered) just relaxing under the shade of a tree together. It was really lovely to just sit together chatting. The jobs were endless but we had the time and the weather!  
Then bit by bit the restrictions were eased. Word from the Government was that we may be able to open on 4th July along with pubs, restaurants and hairdressers. I prepared but was fairly sure that we'd have to wait a little longer.  
Thursday 9th July 3.30pm I checked the Government website again for news. The information said that gyms & outdoor pools were likely to be opened mid July with other "Close Contact" services probably by the end of the month. Fair enough. "Ready when you are Boris" 
5.05pm got a message from a friend saying "Monday". Wasn't sure what she meant. Perhaps there was more to follow. Then the phone rang. "You can open on Monday. Can I book?" WTF I switched on the TV and sure enough they were announcing that we could open on Monday.  
The rest of the evening was very odd. Shock. Relief. Fear. Excitement. Panic. Confusion. We hadn't had any information on guidelines other than those that we were included in with the hairdressers. So much info was missing. The next 3 days was spent putting everything I'd prepared into place.  
We could open up but with lots of restrictions. We were not allowed to do any work in the "highest risk zone" so no facials, brow shaping or tinting, no eyelash lifts or tints, no face/lip waxing, no massage above the neck etc. So massage was allowed (with some slight alterations) along with manicures and pedicures.  
Monday 13th July dawned. I felt like Id been hit by a truck! I'd seen very few people over the last 17 weeks. I'd been practically no where and yet now I was inviting people here to massage them at close quarters and the big bad lergie's still out there. The smiley face was challenged as I felt extremely tearful. I think all the uncertainty and concern of the last 117 days hit me all at once. I felt vulnerable and wobbly. So I put on my big brave girl pants and got on with it. I'd prepared. Everything in the salon's the same - more or less. My work is the same with some adjustments.  
Seeing so many of you and hearing how you and your families have been was wonderful. I'd missed people. Hearing your news of a new grandchild, an engagement, special lockdown birthday celebrations was great...just like normal. And it is normal. We just have a few more things to consider when doing our normal things.  
So what did I learn? I love my job. I can adapt to new situations quickly. I'm happy in my own company. Family and friends mean the world. I'm not to old to learn new tricks!!  
Let's hope rates continue to go down and stay down. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR MESSAGES OF SUPPORT. They have all been very much appreciated. Stay well  
Joanne xxx 
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