Where do I start with this month?
Christmas preparations seem a long time ago. There was a Covid spike of course, meaning my one invitation to festive drinks became yet another Zoom call. I was worried about more restrictions but thankfully made it to visit family. There were some really nice moments making Christmas cookies with my niece, having Christmas dinner at my sisters and minimal arguments that I can remember! I also got the unexpected bonus of seeing my Aunt and cousin who managed to travel to the UK despite the travel restrictions. We drank coffee together. We’ll never take that for granted again.
When I returned home, I found water coming through my ceiling from flats above. This started what feels like a nightmare that is still playing out. The first few hours were surreal – my confusion and shock becoming panic as I realised the scale of the damage, being on my own and calling people for help, gnawing anxiety in my stomach, piecing together what happened, the fire brigade checking the building for safety, a sleepless night in a hotel. An emergency over a bank holiday during the Christmas period and pandemic is bad timing! Lots of companies aren’t there and phone lines are closed. My list of tasks grew in an alarming way – investigate leak, contact neighbours, contact insurers, keep photos, get repair quotes, write down damaged items, hire storage unit. I was dizzy contemplating it all. New Year dawned with me already exhausted, yet knowing I had to sort all of this out.
4 weeks later, I’m still working my way through it. Modern insurance is a complex business, with many layers of outsourcing. This does not benefit the customer. You can hold a policy with company A, who delegate claim assessing to company B, who delegate visits to company C, who contract textile repairs to company D. A can’t act until B, C and D complete their parts. Each one comes with a different reference number but no one is accountable. The majority of my clothes, damaged by the water, are in the keeping of a dry cleaner. I await news of their status and live out of a suitcase. I make trips to the storage unit, moving possessions around and quickly forgetting where anything is. I drive back and forth to meet builders. I make calls, listening to awful hold music. I write polite but persistent emails.
Unsurprisingly, I became very anxious. Night after night, I’d sleep for a few hours before sitting bolt upright at 3am. I was thinking about how to resolve things. Lack of control is a huge problem. We all like to feel in control of our lives, but during the pandemic this feeling was heavily disrupted. We had our homes where we were told to stay. That’s no longer an option for me and it’s a very unsettling time. I really wanted to fix everything as soon as possible, but I have to wait until the processes are followed. I find it difficult to focus on anything else, and relaxing seems out of the question.
A low point came whilst I was on the phone to one of the insurance companies, seeking assurances that some of the out-of-pocket expenses would be covered. The man sounded bored and said he couldn’t give me an update, there was queue of work, my case just one of many. It’s unlikely those costs will be covered, though he could see it was inconvenient for me. I started crying. It was the word ‘inconvenient’. Life disruption to this level is more than inconvenient. It’s really, really hard. A little empathy goes a long way. Note to insurance companies.
Things are starting to improve, though I’m still unsure when I can move back into my home. I’m in an acceptance stage. I read a book about Compassion Focused Therapy and it gives tips to make your self-talk more compassionate. Trying to remember how far I’ve come and how much I have already managed helps. I’ve been through tough things. I’ve faced admin and domestic chaos. I’m going to get through this too.
My imagination can be a blessing or a curse. There have been scenes this January that were straight out of a dystopian film. Driving over a flyover on the outskirts of London, I carefully steered around a car on fire. One day I’m woken by the fire alarm in the early morning and have to wait outside the building in my pyjamas and coat, peering through bleary eyes at strangers. I get stuck in circles, trying to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy that the doctor says is there but they say isn’t. I make calls, requests through the app, walk back and forth. I eventually find it’s been sent to a different pharmacy. In a cafe, I watch the staff preparing food for the Deliveroo drivers. They don’t see the people in front of them and clearly prefer orders to be placed through the app. They seem upset to be asked for a sandwich by a human. No one can hear my voice through my mask.
Yet there are bright spots. I’ve seen a few friends lately who I hadn’t seen for ages. Sitting and laughing over lunch with music playing in the background, I suddenly remembered fun. It’s that light and fluffy thing we haven’t had much of lately. Where you talk and respond without screens. Where it suddenly seems like anything could happen. Even good things.
The universe sometimes throws us challenges. This one prompts a rethink of where I’ve been living and of how I’m going to set my life up for more happiness in future. I can’t see much yet except day by day tasks. But I am chipping away.