Gillian Harvey: Life on the other side

Read the latest column from freelance writer, author and mum-of-five Gillian Harvey.

We’ve all got important dates marked in our calendars – milestone birthdays, business presentations, holidays later in the year that we hope may still happen.

Often, we spend time imagining what these moments will be like, and how we might feel. We anticipate nerves, happiness, failure, joy. Looking forward to things can sometimes be nerve-wracking, but can also be part of the fun.

Lots of us were waiting for lockdown to be eased – imagining a time where we’d be able to leap into each other’s arms and resume the activities we love.

Instead, we’re carefully dipping a toe in the swimming pool of normality to see if the water’s too deep, too cold or polluted. We’re testing how far we feel comfortable with going, and feeling far from relaxed. It’s not quite as we hoped it would be… not yet.

Years ago, when I struggled with infertility, I used to imagine what it would feel like to finally have a positive pregnancy test. The joy! The skipping into baby stores to buy little booties. Announcing to friends and family, being congratulated and welcomed into the fold of motherhood.

In reality, a positive pregnancy test just led to several months of a different sort of worry. It was only when I was ready to pop that I allowed myself to believe it was real.

Last week, I released a novel – and as a long-held dream, I’d spent years wondering what it would feel like. Champagne corks popping, cheering from the rooftops, a glamourous launch in a major bookstore.

But as you know, the restrictions placed on our lives at the moment meant that plans had to be changed – and I launched my book on a Facebook live.

I expected the day to be an anti-climax. Without seeing friends, family or even meeting my publisher face-to-face, I thought I would feel as if it wasn’t real.

I surprised myself.

Because, sitting in my office, waxing lyrical into a webcam, I still felt excited and happy. Without the external trappings to mark the moment, I was still able to acknowledge that it was a Big Deal.

Over the days that followed, I was also amazed at the number of people who contacted me – people who still made up my list of virtual ‘friends’ on Facebook, but who I hadn’t heard from for some time. I didn’t realise how many people had been rooting for me over the years – and still are.

These are odd, dark times. The news is full of hatred and despair. Nothing is quite working out the way we’d thought it would.

But there is still love and hope to be found if we look hard enough.

And although the dates we’ve marked on our calendars might not turn out the way we originally planned; it doesn’t mean they can’t be amazing in a whole different way.

Gillian Harvey is a writer and mum-of-five. Her debut novel Everything is Fine is out with Orion in May 2020.