On Small Miracles (and finding love in a pandemic)
It’s hard to decide to write an essay on love. To put down strong emotion to paper. Because you don’t want to look like an idiot if you’ve got it all wrong and end up with egg on your face. But if no one had decided to write about their current love, how many sonnets and songs and stories would we be without today?
Sometimes you find yourself in a strange place. You’re suddenly alone, you didn’t mean for your life to end up where it is, you have to build a process of letting go of those former hopes and decide to build a future for yourself.
But when you’re in the middle of this transformative process, and a pandemic suddenly halts all your plans for travel, growth, new companions and unplanned experiences, and you are suddenly planted where you are, it can feel as if you’re suddenly stuck.
And yet, life has a way of still sending us in new and divergent paths. Mine came in the most unexpected of places… a rather unromantic place called twitter.com.
I’m still not really sure why I was drawn to send that message to a stranger. It was lockdown, it was depressing. It was warm and I couldn’t sleep, again. I wanted to make sure he was ok after sharing an essay on his anxiety. I knew Jono was sweet but wickedly funny and popular, but I didn’t know who he was as a person.
I can’t really describe how it felt suddenly being interested in someone. I’d been on dating apps a few days when we started talking, but they seemed so artificial and robotic. I was receiving a ‘playing it cool’ message a day from some guys I was barely interested in, then suddenly out of nowhere I’d found someone I’d struck up a rapport with in the space of an evening in my DMs. I thought it might just be one of those random occurrences, but when I received a message from him the next morning I figured this was something we both wanted to pursue.
Often they describe meeting someone as a whirlwind. But even though we connected quickly, this was something else. It was like we’d known each other for the longest time. It was like feeling at home, but being excited by all the things I was yet to find out about him at the same time. I lost interest in the dating apps asap - I’d found everything I was looking for here.
But Spring 2020 wasn’t a normal time, when you could meet at the pub for a drink and see if the chatting turned to chemistry. There were no guarantees we would be able to meet each other any time soon. Even in pre-pandemic times, Norwich to Hull is no mean feat on the backroads of Lincolnshire.
But Boris announced the support bubbles for people living alone, and we suddenly had a shot.
Meeting for a first date isn’t the easiest thing to do, long distance, in a pandemic, sticking to the rules. Luckily there was a service station with a toilet (and a starbucks!) half way, even though there were no motorways.
And when normally for a date you like to look and feel your best, no hairdressers or beauty salons were open. Neither were the pubs and restaurants. We settled on a prosecco picnic in the park - which almost ended in disaster when it turned out even the park toilets weren’t open yet!
It’s very different having that spontaneity taken out of the early days, and it felt like we already knew each other pretty well before our first restaurant date in August, as Rishi introduced Eat Out to Help Out. When lockdown means you’re bubbled up, you get to know each other pretty quickly.
But it didn’t take the sparkle out of things. If anything it made it more magical - it was almost like a strange modern fairytale, this relationship starting out of nowhere and bringing something wonderful out of one of the most difficult things our society had been through in quite some time.
There were adventures aplenty, discovering each other as we headed to the Norfolk Broads and the Yorkshire coast in the summer, discovering new cities and showing each other our old favourite places, renting a cozy cottage and walking through autumn leaves in the rain as the year went on.
And even though it sounds like we might have been getting carried away, things were still difficult.
More lockdowns, tiers and tears - a close family bereavement. Potential redundancy, company takeovers and restructures. Things that would have rocked previous relationships I’ve been in, in this relationship we navigated those difficult times together and came out stronger and closer.
They say that a two month relationship in lockdown feels like two years and believe me it does - but in a good way. Working from home and basically living together for weeks at a time means that you get to know each other much more quickly than in normal times, when you’re normally spending your days in an office, then meeting friends or going to the gym. Not just home together most of time, eating takeaways and binging Netflix.
Who knows what the future might bring, right now we’re living through lives lost, anxiety about careers and homes and what our cities might look like when we finally pull through. How our friendships and family relationships and social lives will look on the other side, how all this might fit into a relationship built in isolation from the usual external pressures.
This unsurety just means you have to go with the direction life is taking you, it sounds like a cliche but we’re all adapting and rolling with the punches, even when it’s hard. And isn’t that what the most successful relationships do too?
There’s talk of a post lockdown baby boom, or a hike in the divorce rate. But I think there’s also the strong possibility that love, even in its quiet, everyday, unassuming way, will be more appreciated now than ever before.
Whether that’s with a new love, an old love, love for your friends, family or colleagues, I think we’re all going to appreciate the great connections we have a lot more when we’re able to be physically close once again.