I have often dreamed of a temporary respite from work. Just a couple of months away to have time to think, to identify and draw a line under bad habits and most importantly to work out what to do with the next stage of my life. To find my reason to be.
In the days leading up to social isolation, I considered ways of spending the time constructively. I promised myself I would write every day and exercise regularly. I researched online learning courses around a variety of topics. After six months of heavy rain, the garden plan was behind schedule. I wanted to crochet more and get the sewing machine out again. And the thing I was most looking forward to, putting aside a quiet time to think.
Most have come more or less with ease. A regular routine helps to keep the mind calm and it works. Despite the ongoing crisis and plethora of unknowns, I’m more at peace than I have been in recent memory.
But the writing, that has been a struggle. Do I talk about Covid-19 or not, or gardening maybe or baking. These questions have been circling my mind sufficiently enough to cause inertia. But then, in the end, these musings are for me and I feel it’s probably important to document these times as well as we can.
For the last few weeks I have been tuning into a Monday morning Zoom meeting run by Mark Shayler. A sort of communion for creatives to share thoughts. It’s become a real lifeline to the outside world. Although I have a serious case of imposter syndrome when I’m there (I would definitely not refer to myself as a creative). But it’s a wonderfully safe place to share ideas and more importantly listen to others and I really like it.
Each week, we are asked to consider a couple of questions. We have examined how this process is changing us, what facets of our previous life we are happy to give up and what activities started during this time we will carry on. This week we were asked to consider joy, specifically what acts are bringing us joy in the current situation.
The answers were both compelling and mundane. Growing vegetables cropped up a lot (sorry). One chap had spent the last month dedicating his time to converting ‘every square inch of his lawn’ to growing veg. His intention was to grow produce to give to his neighbours in times of shortage.
There were views on whether a lack of structure or construction and implementation of one is better – people generally fell into a specific camp here. One chap has taken his intent to write a book to the planning stage. There was a lot of de-cluttering and in response to a lack of open shops (and a reluctance to trade with Amazon), a return to ‘make do and mend’.
Serendipitous mindfulness was used to describe the phenomenon of tinkering with the challenge that presents itself to you in that moment. We have used it ourselves, utilising top soil our neighbour was looking to dispose of for our new raised beds and using timber from our broken fence panels (a consequence of the winter storms) to construct bean poles for the runner beans.
I love that I get to lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling in the middle of the day. Seeking warmth in the house like a cat sat in the sunshine. I’ve taken to sitting on the back step with a cup of tea and relishing in the fact I have absolutely nothing to do other than drink tea and stare at the garden. The other day I spent 15 minutes lying on the paving outside looking at the clouds floating overhead, something I’ve not done since I was a teenager.
I’ve also spent a lot of time living vicariously through the internet, exploring places and ideas that are not possible to effect right now, but may well be in the future.
On that point, so many people are stating that the world will be a different place post virus. It is certainly true our frame of reference will be different to that which preceded isolation. It is still too early to predict what this future will look like but I am not scared. In fact, I’m hopeful many opportunities will present themselves once we have all recovered from the shock of a change that integrated itself so rapidly.
The childhood belief that adults know what they are doing and more importantly, are in control has never felt further from the truth. That has always been the case. The benefit of getting older, of living a life that has been examined, is that every challenge overcome contributes to a tool box for dealing with life. And as we acquire those tools, we also acquire the strength to apply them when we need to.
The first marathon is always the hardest, because the physical challenge is married to the possibility of mental failure. The unknown is a significant adversary and really, completing a marathon is a test in problem solving and defeating adversity. Because of this, the second, third and so on are easier. You know it will hurt, but you also know it is possible, because you have already done it.
So, despite being social creatures, we are strong enough to get through this time in solitude and come out the other side even stronger, even if we are emerging into an unknown world.
For now, we have been given the gift of time, to rediscover the small things that really count and that brings me joy.