03 Oct 2022

The road less travelled - losing the 'tedious time-wasting commute'

Laois Dublin commuter on her lease of life thanks to Covid lockdown

Grainne Territt working at home in Portarlington. Photo: Paula Campbell

It’s been a while, just a year now, since I’ve had the privilege of heading up to Dublin and taking the M7 motorway for my daily commute to work.
My commute usually accounted for between 15 to 20 hours of travel per week. Yep just travelling….In the mornings I’d set the alarm for 5.30am, grab a coffee and out the door. Most mornings I was half asleep until I hit junction 14 and the coffee kicked in. I would slowly leave the country roads of Portarlington and Killenard to merge onto the fast pace M7.
I joined the hordes travelling up the N7 and M7 and I constantly questioned the sanity of such a decision.
The sheer volume of traffic caused daily congestions. Accidents occurred in both directions allowing me extra time to savour the beautiful breakfast in the car (usually a banana!). The commute was tedious, mentally and physically draining and above all time wasting. I was exhausted. Come Friday, I would be unable to focus on life's details such as family, exercise, socialising or even TV!

Below: Grainne beside her car that's little used now.

Commuting is not for the faint hearted.
So now I’m not saying the world is obsessed by Covid but it is a pandemic after all, an event quite historic and unusual in one's lifetime. I have to say most lives have changed and not for the short term but for the foreseeable and somewhat unstable future. I’m no exception.
However, for me, I’ve now 20 hours a week more than I’ve ever had. I’ve a daily routine that has provided me with time to catch up on life at home which till now was foreign and quite frankly alien to me.
Having worked more than 22 years in both the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector and 100% of that time required some sort of commute. I have had ups and downs this last year the same as everyone as I tried to acclimate to a whole new world working from home full time.

Time well spent
So an extra 20 hours a week. What does one do?
By now, I have forged friendships with most of the local birds which I can now also identify.
I’ve cleaned out garages containing memories from my childhood and further. This has taken hours if not days and which I am still trying to complete, 2 skips in.
I’ve painted bedrooms, bathrooms, fences and swings.
I’ve completed 5k a day (run/walk...or eat!)
I’ve become part of the cold water dipping sorority that has become more than a mental crutch and I am grateful to those ladies, no sisters who have forever earned my love and gratitude. We are fortunate to have some beautiful locations to dip in. I might add before now, some of these superb locations I knew nothing about… let alone had time or energy to discover!
I’ve also returned to study and completed a Life coaching course with the Coach Institute of Ireland. This was a year long and actually took up a lot of that new found freedom.
Now, not only have I had this extra 20 hours but I’m home full time now so between meetings or projects I have time to “indulge” in life. I can now pop into town during the day and do the traditional Lidl loop for those walks. I can pop in and complete the shopping. Even more so, I now at times during a school night watching movies till 1am and I have loved each and every episode of Benidorm… twice!
I no longer am required to be up, dressed and out the door by 6, home at 7pm. The commute is now all too familiar but a stone's throw from my bed. Now sure if even Bill Gates has a shorter commute... All these daily chores had been completed late at night, on the way home or only at the weekend, so having completed them during the day has fried up more time for family and friends again.
As for my new office. It's not state of the art but it comes with a great coffee machine and fully stocked fridge and mini bar!. Next to my office is a cosy “break out - brainstorming room” which houses the TV, several couches and currently a half eaten easter egg. I have a large window overlooking a newly painted picket fence, cut lawns and a garden full of the most beautiful birds. I have grown to know their schedule and bed time and have had the privilege to see many of the next generation rared!

Today a year on…
Yes, I do miss my work friends, dreadfully. The lockdowns have added an increased isolation I have never experienced. I miss the nights out and the coffee mornings. They will return, of that I am certain. Yet, I have found this latest lockdown 3.0 particularly difficult. There is no plan it would appear (again this is new to all of us, the government included) but I’d like some sort of guidance. Having family and friends so close has been my life line. Not everyone has been so fortunate. I was raised here, grown up with all my wonderful neighbours and have life long friends that I can see or bump into when shopping or over zoom. Zoom, what a terrific invention, created by a 12 year old no doubt in TY.
The last year has not been easy. As I said there were plenty of ups and downs. I have however developed a few mind games so to speak to help. Here are my top 4:

Get up and show up.
This may be the biggest challenge to face each and every day. For some the reasons may have changed but for me I set my mind to get up each day at a set time and arrange a walk with a friend (social distancing) or a phone call to check in on someone or just to organise my errands for the morning this will help start the day.

I have found that even on days I wasn’t working, I set a routine where I can. I get up, I log on either to the phone or friends and start the day. It may not go as you plan during the day but where I can I do the usual stuff. Clean the rooms, go for a walk, check on my mum (I’m dreadfully fortunate that I live 200m from my home house and I get to still see my mum most days).

Get out and walk or pick up a water bottle and do some stretches. Walk in the back yard, walk the hall.. I’ve seen one particular lady run 16k in a hotel room!! Serious girl crush on this achievement. Exercise in any form is key to mental and physical health. I was fortunate to be reared by a mum who believed strongly in all the alternatives. As such I also appreciate the huge benefits that can be achieved from disciplines such as yoga or Tai Chi.

Set Goals
I am definitely one of those “goal orientated individuals''. I have several “To Do” lists that I work off at any one time and I find this helps plan my day / week better. I’ve found that setting small goals on a weekly basis gives me a sense of focus and achievement.
I acknowledge each and everyone I fulfill no matter how small or insignificant it may appear to others. I’ve also had to reassess some goals during this lockdown (for obvious reasons as one of my huge passions is travel) but I have found that this has presented me with some of the most wonderful travel experiences I’ve had this year and possibly in my life.
I have experienced Laois and most of what it has to offer and I have to say, It's a beauty! I’ve seen waterfalls, trekked through bogs, climbed mountains, ran around lakes, dipped in springs and man made bog lakes and seen some of the most beautifully kept OPW houses.
It's a credit to Tourism Ireland for identifying and promoting Ireland so well this year especially when most of us can only travel locally. As we continue into 2021 and into the unknown I promise that there are even more impressive goals I have set for myself and the beautiful island of ireland.

Last but not least, I have to say a huge thank you to my local community for keeping me sane, fed and watered! I have never appreciated or been more grateful for the huge amount of local businesses and individual people that have turned this “Covid situation” into an inspirational story.
They have transformed their business and perspective to once again be a huge service to the community. To the strength of people, my friends, my neighbours, their ability to reach out and support each other has just been phenomenal.
The willingness to make a call, sit outside and visit us all from the car, from the door, from the gate. The delivery of a cake, sandwiches or a virtual hug to those who have lost loved-ones.
The essential workers who got up early, showed up and ensured we continued to have food, fuel, medicines, electricity, water and heating. I thank you.
To the nurses, doctors, pharmacies, garda and paramedics...the front liners, you never gave up on this pandemic or us.
To you we salute. You have our backs, a thousand and life time of thank yous.

Stay safe.

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