All dressed up with nowhere to go

‘Patience is a virtue.’
‘Good things come to those who wait.’
All the inspirational quotes considered, patience is an attribute I severely seem to lack.

It’s not so much the bratty, whiny kind of impatience that sees me twitch and automatically express a seasoned eye roll, but more a niggling hunger for everything to happen immediately.

I crave the excitement that accompanies impending satisfaction; the kind you get when you go to Alton Towers as a kid and genuinely feel that your stomach may explode as you race through the gates towards the rides.

I suppose I always expect actions to unfold quickly to compliment my fast-paced lifestyle. My attitude surrounding everyday is a strict – sometimes even mechanical – routine, which adapts only to the unique requirements of my schedule, and is then followed with a religious discipline.

The robotic element is probably a coping mechanism to ensure I focus enough to get up when my alarm dictates, push myself through the wall of sleep and complete the activities that will set me on course to get where I need to go.

Of course this approach is most relatable to a typical day in the office: my first alarm hits at 5am, which I snooze until 5:30 and then again until 6. I ride the wave on the third daily announcement, jolting the covers off with a practiced precision before drowsy doubts can change my mind.

I jump straight in the shower, slip into the clothes I have pre-arranged the night before, and go through the motions of applying makeup (my eyeliner is the culprit that single-handedly threatens to halt me in my tracks, and if I’m running late I omit it completely). I make my nan a cuppa, shovel porridge laced with blueberries and honey into my mouth while simultaneously clipping in my earrings and packing my bag, and wash it all down with a strong black coffee before hurtling out the door towards Croxley station.

My constant, meticulous preparation is an attempt to camouflage the urge to always be in control, so situations that jeopardise this dominance throw me a little. When my greed for efficiency is hindered by technology being too sloooow (which appears to happen to me A LOT), I become itchingly frustrated. My laptop freezing, or phone taunting me with poor connection, becomes a barrier to productivity and sends me into an inconsolable stress.

Possibly it’s the fear of rejection that unnerves me when I wait too long for a reply (although I am the world’s worst replier through the medium of text, as I like to wait for the right moment to respond with full attention), or to be called into an appointment; that familiar, tangy agitation as I submit a form late or teeter dangerously close to a deadline – have I completely fucked up? Did I even book a table for dinner? It’s a hellish cycle of insecurity that sees me double-checking my sent mailbox and the dates for events in case I have made a mistake (which I have reason to believe considering how many times I have mixed information up before).

Annoyingly I’m a list maker (the worst kind; who will add tasks I have already completed just to give myself the impression I have accomplished more) and if something lingers in my diary I will carry it to the next day, so that those irritating chores haunt me until I finally give in and tackle them.

On a weekend I haul myself up with the same dedicated rhetoric; an ethos instilled in my programming to guarantee I never intentionally sacrifice a perfectly good day (with the exception of hangovers, illness and pre-arranged lazy days).

What can I say? I have a restless soul. I’m a serial fidgeter. My limbs wake before my mind and force me up and about with reckless abandon. Try as I may, once my eyes are open my body refuses to lie comfortably in bed and relish the morning light seeping through the curtains, because the nagging sensation deep within me understands that there are sometimes more important adventures to be had than seeking out the cosiest corners of my duvet with my sweaty, fluffy sock-coated morning feet.

The pursuit of weekend fulfilment is measured by the sinking Sunday evening emotion that weighs me down in various degrees depending on how much or how little I have attained. The subsequent panic sabotages that last peaceful slice of freedom as I fret over rearranging tasks, and the guilt I harbour bleeds into the week ahead.

I habitually criticise any lack of performance, rather than celebrating the small victories or welcoming joyful moments of calm. I’m a constant doer: whether it’s plugging in a podcast, reading or writing, watching a film or exercising. I long for the ability to nap, or to sit quietly with my thoughts, however I’m programmed to delight in the act of completion and then instantly reach for the next challenge.

This inclination can be handy, although it has major downsides that are especially present in the context of my longer-term mental wellbeing. It’s not particularly healthy to shrug off all emotions whilst busy and then let them engulf me when the precrastination is over and I’m alone with my thoughts.

Despite this uncompromising regime, I often keep a wildly different track of time compared to friends and family. I am impossibly and unacceptably late to social plans – even those of my own making. I am that awful friend who claims to be leaving when in reality I haven’t even showered yet and am actually still sat in a puddle of books and magazines, necking the dregs of my coffee.

I’m lucky that my circle is pretty relaxed (and know me well enough to tolerate and expect my shit – my best friend says she calculates her arrival to be half an hour later than I claim I’ll be there, or brings a book along to read in my premature absence) and guess this is less impatience on my part and more a blatant disregard for timekeeping (and, let’s face it, a subliminal desire to be fashionably late).

My default reaction, then, to a global pandemic that has quite literally ripped away every foolish notion that we are govern our own lives, was disbelief and then a creeping, unsettling fear for the future.

While my experiment to be more present is proving successful, I still (like almost everyone) have events to look forward to wayyy in advance. Whether that’s a holiday, festival or just a few hours squeezed in a booth at the pub, my calendar is plastered with coordinated activities. The sense of unknown now surrounding those unwritten pages is disheartening and confusing, the circumstance nudging me with a catastrophic capsule of loss whenever a fresh ripple of realisation strikes, reminding me that I have no power over the bigger picture for the moment. For someone who thrives on independence, a lockdown is testing.

It has reinforced the authority that a democratic society holds, and nauseatingly awakened me to the restrictions we face everyday. At the same time, I’m grateful for the institutions we have for introducing measures to try and contain the spread of Coronavirus. Without them, whether we agree with their manifestos or not, there would be no order and who knows what would happen.

At first I was surprisingly positive, and on the whole I remain optimistic in spite of the implications. However I do fleetingly struggle under the weight of it all, and I’m a middle-class white woman who has the luxury of working from home. I can’t imagine how medical staff, refugees, the homeless and others either fighting on the ‘front line’ or in minority groups feel. The nightmare I am enduring doesn’t even touch the sides of the daily hardship for some. I have friends that have been fired or made redundant, or who can’t work because of the new guidelines, which only inflicts more grief and guilt on my part.

Prior to Coronavirus I saw myself as open-minded and charitable, but sadly it has been a real eye-opener to how materialistic I truly am. This curdles my stomach with anger and regret, and I am trying to donate to charity and volunteer for my community as much as possible to do what I can.

I try to take each day as it comes and let go of the strive to micromanage. Through this tactic my patience is improving (e.g. I’ve been living with my brother for nearly two weeks and somehow we’re still on pretty good terms), and the devastation sweeping the globe is enhancing my gratitude for the little things.

My state of mind is evolving to recognise that the world is not going to implode if I miss something off my to-do list. Regularly I ache for a week off to wipe out those jobs I have been meaning to do for ages and start with a clean slate, however it has suddenly clicked that no matter how spare time I have, the list will infinitely keep piling up.

In light of this recent evidence, I am setting myself less to do and instead outlining realistic targets. I am limiting my news intake because the sheer force of it has induced headaches and fatigue I have never before experienced.

I salute the upsides: a drop in air pollution, communities clubbing together to help each other, technology connecting us with the loved ones we are temporarily physically distanced from.

While I definitely do not miss the commute into central London, I am still rising early (albeit an hour later than usual at 7am) to use the sacred minutes wisely. I keep it simple with key principles that nourish me and imitate a display of normality.

I start the day with a 20-30 minute session of Yoga with Adrienne. I always eat breakfast and am attempting to stick with porridge, but tend to revert back to sugary chocolate cereal in times of crisis. I’m not even ashamed of the fact that I rely on my first coffee of the day to feel remotely human and prepared to concentrate (even if that is a psychological placebo more than a genuine caffeine kick).

I am thankful for the opportunity to get outside for a solo walk or run (once every 24 hours I hasten to add) and find myself in a healthy, mostly happy place. I am in tune with my raw instincts and remember it’s okay not to be okay, and to slob on the sofa and eat my body weight in Monster Munch and only watch TV for an entire afternoon. This balance is the solace that gives me momentum to carry on.

I still have that tendency to get-up-and-go, but it’s contrasted with a strange and overwhelming tiredness – like being held underwater – that I can only put down to the habitual exhaustion that clutches at the sleeve of internal confinement. I spend less time agonising over personal duties, and channel unused energy into devotion to my network: Face-Timing mates, a weekly family quiz night, savouring quality time.

Pre-isolation I returned to my parents’ home in Wales as I felt it to be the safest option for my nan who I usually live with, and also logistically in terms of work. I feel enormously lucky to live in the hills and escape the concrete confinement of the city, particularly as outside contact is currently so refined and holy right now. On top of this it’s a bonus to co-habit with my core relations again; the nostalgia of being firmly back in the house that encapsulated my teenage years hitting hard.

Clapping for the NHS on Thursday night was wonderfully evocative and helped forge a bond between the country, regardless of the usual categories society so viciously divides us with. Even down our cul-de-sac in a rural Welsh village, doorsteps distanced and barely visible in the darkness, families rallied together to clang pots and pans and whistle and cheer and applaud. The videos I saw from around the country cemented this praise, people huddled on balconies and suburban streets to join in.

Yes, to some it may be an empty gesture (I won’t get into the politics of it although I will proudly say I voted Labour), but to me it gave faith in humanity and showed we can all unite for the cause that will hopefully save thousands of us, and in turn this gives me hope for what lies ahead.

Most of my connections are abiding by the rules and taking the lockdown seriously, but if you are wondering whether it will make a difference to ignore the rules and drive to a pal’s house for a catch up, I beg you: it will – please stay inside and do your bit. Play your part. It’s hard but it’s genuinely lifesaving. I miss lying in my boyfriend’s arms, but that is nothing compared to the culpability I would feel if I knew I had willingly contributed to passing this illness on and costing lives.

BLAZER & TROUSERS Boden (gifted) | TRAINERS Boden (gifted) | T-SHIRT Fred Perry (property of Joshua Watkins) | SUNGLASSES MaxMara (old) | NECKLACE Alighieri Jewellery | EARRINGS Auree Jewellery

If I’m up to it, getting dressed can have a hugely beneficial influence on my mood. My focus when working is dramatically improved and, hey, when a work Zoom meeting is the only thing you have to get dressed up for, you might as well go all-out.

These photos were taken pre-lockdown, at one of my favourite locations in the Brecon Beacons: the Common in Aberyscir. I’m so glad that this suit was one of the random outfits I slogged with me to Wales, as I got the chance to show it off and now have a power ensemble to armour up with when I need to!

It was a gift from Boden (in the interest of transparency I should inform you that my brand ambassadorship has now paused due to the pandemic) and while I generally agonise over what to order due to the brand’s exceptional collections, I didn’t think twice about this two-piece.

I wore it to the International Women’s Day event I covered earlier this month, and in true Lily style slipped down some stairs in the rain, confirming why I really shouldn’t be allowed to wear beige. Luckily the damage was minor and I managed to scrub it out!

As it’s a lighter material I’m looking forward to trialling it in warmer weather, but there’s something about a classic, crisp suit worn with a black t-shirt underneath (this one just so happens to be a Fred Perry top borrowed from my boyfriend for the shoot as I had misplaced mine) that appeals to me endlessly, and if you look closely the jacket even has snazzy tortoiseshell buttons.

I went for my usual combination: size 8 in trousers and an oversized fit in 12 for the blazer, and am so pleased with the result! The wide-legged, high-waisted silhouette is right up my street, and will look fabulous in the heat with a crop top. I may even get away with wearing it with a blouse in the office if I can keep from spilling coffee down myself.

I have also been dying to show you my leopard print trainers, which I have been parading around in since the day I got them. The ‘Elise’ in tan leopard / tuscan sun are my first pair from Boden, and I can vouch for their airy lift and the buzz of joy the bright details bring. When coordinating accessories I had a hunch the shoes would compliment the suit amazingly, and am chuffed that for once my intuition was correct! The way the hem is just aligned above the laces creates a flattering effect and also hides my ugly trainer socks.

Unbelievably we haven’t had a downpour here for well over a week, and with the treat of sunshine encouraging me to bask in the garden sipping at a g&t, I had to dig out some sunglasses. This is a pair I almost forgot I had (the dream of finding neglected treasures in dusty cabinets) and most probably ditched for my sleeker, smaller cat-eyed frames; but which nonetheless I am very much into now we have been reunited. I am fully embracing the soccer-mom vibes, although doubt I’ll be picking anyone up in my Ford Fiesta for a while.

Never again will I indulge myself in the pettiness of crossed arms and huffing at a delayed train (we can hope anyway). After all, it seems the things we cherish most really are worth the wait.

Ph. Joshua Watkins

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