Changing Priorities

As I write, the UK, like many other countries around the globe, is going into an unprecedented but necessary lockdown. It has been a dramatic week, with rapidly changing advice.

It has prompted us to re-evaluate what is really important. This week we have had to adapt to school closures, reduced health and social care services, cancelled holidays and social events, shops and cafe closures and empty supermarket shelves.

We have realised how much we take for granted.

And how much we have.

Whilst the situation is serious, and we should certainly be socially distancing, things could be worse.

It occurred to me this week how much more distressing this would be if I couldn’t see that nature is doing what nature does.

Birds are still singing, and flying, and making nests.

The hawthorn is still sparkling with pops of new leaves.

There is still cherry blossom and magnolia blossom.

Peony foliage is stretching up every day.

The tulips are coming.

Whilst we settle into new routines, deciding on who needs to work where, and how we maintain some sense of normality, our family has come up with ideas for how we get through this.

So far we have come up with:

Making sure we come together for meals every day, and checking in with how one another is doing. We have all had moments of feeling lost, confused and anxious. But we have also laughed a lot, and talked a lot.

Sharing space where we can. My partner and I have so far had back-to-back conference calls with work and so have to work in separate rooms, but our daughters can do school work at the same table.

Video conference calling family and friends who we cannot see in person. This way we can still have a coffee together, share a meal, or even play a game.

Sharing a poem or a song or a thought of the day with a friend. This might be through text-message or phone-call. Learning a word or a phrase in a different language. Reading the same book, or sharing a piece of art, and discussing it.

Taking a walk, whilst this is allowed. We have noticed that when we meet people, we greet one another cheerily (whilst keeping two metres away). There is a sense of ‘we are in this together’. We have talked about how we might show our support for frail neighbours, or those who live alone.

Spending time outdoors in the garden. We are really noticing the birds which come to our feeder. We have noticed details we don’t usually: their flight or walking patterns, where they might be building a nest, their different feeding habits.

Taking an online course. My younger daughter is learning to touch-type. My older daughter, who has had her GCSE exams cancelled, as enrolled in a Mooc course in criminal psychology.

Making time for movement. My daily yoga practice has never been more important. I have been waking up stressed, my sleep having being disrupted by thoughts about all the things I need to consider at work. Within minutes of stepping onto my mat, the flow of movement takes me out of my head and into my body and breath. The resulting calm is profound. For you this might be a different type of movement: dance, martial arts, a sporting practice, walking…

Making time for mindfulness. Whether this is sitting down with no distractions to eat a meal, drink a coffee, look out of the window, look at a flower… Mindfulness means bringing all your senses to the experience, as if you are experiencing this for the very first time.

Making time for meditation. I started a daily meditation practice a few months ago. Sometimes I just focus on my breath. Just ten minutes makes a huge difference. It reminds me that nothing fundamental has changed or broken. I can still breathe, still feel all the parts of my body, still feel my connection to the earth and the world around me. We are all connected and always will be.

Making a gratitude list. This week has made me grateful for many things: the people in my life, the roof over my head, the food on my plate, the sky, the trees, the birds, the bumblebees darting between flowers, the weeds that give me a sense of purpose as I tidy the garden, the soap I am using to wash my hands, the technology that is allowing us to work and remain connected…

This is my daughter weeding, and our dogs. I suggested we weed a square metre of gravel each day!

We are only a few days into this new world of social distancing, and who knows what the next few weeks will bring. I know that I will need to take care of myself so that I can take care of others.

I felt conflicted about writing this post because it is such a small thing in such a huge situation. But then I reflected that the small things have made the difference to me this week. I hope that we come out of this situation with a clear idea of what is really important to us. Never again will we take for granted a casual trip to a shop or cafe, a smile from a stranger, a hug, a touch on the arm.

In the meantime, let’s appreciate what we do have.

I hope to share the tulips and peonies as they come into flower in the next few weeks.

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33 Comments Add yours

  1. So nice to see your lovely gardens again Ali, emerging just in time to cheer us all. In this time of sickness and death, I have felt comforted knowing that nature and our pets are not affected by the illness. That they continue on as before, being there for us and bringing joy. Take care.

    1. It’s lovely to hear from you, Cindy. Yes, we have also been really grateful for our dogs. They are providing entertainment and that sense of normality.

  2. Angela says:

    Beautiful. Thank you and God bless.

    1. Thank you Angela. Sending love to you too.

  3. Tish Farrell says:

    Making the best of things that matter, Ali. Three cheers to you. You’re right. There is so much to enjoy and feel grateful for. Lovely, lovely tulips for one. Keep up the good work.

    1. I have been trying to have my morning coffee with my tulips inbetween quite intense conference calls. It has been a much needed piece of quiet.

      1. Tish Farrell says:

        That sounds a perfect stress remedy, Ali.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Alison. Your tulips are looking lovely. Hope you stay safe and supplied.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Ali. Your garden is looking beautiful. You are absolutely right that this situation makes us focus on what is important. Take care x

  6. Nature is my oxygen. I wonder around outside numerous times each day. Good post Ali

    1. Yes. The sunshine on my skin has been incredible this week. I am so glad it is the weekend and I can be outside all morning.

  7. Jane Eastgate says:

    Beautiful and so needed. Thank you x

    1. You are most welcome, Jane. Take care.

  8. Jo Shafer says:

    Small thing matter the most in times like these, I believe. Your lovely Sunday post is loaded with small things, uplifting ideas and thoughts, pictures of spring gardens. I haven’t been able to concentrate enough to write, but I believe I can after reading your post. Thank you! ~ Jo

    1. That is lovely to hear, Jo. I felt very lethargic about writing, almost starting, and then stopping two or three times. That’s really unusual for me. I am glad I did write though. I will try to write a post every weekend.

  9. pommepal says:

    Those of us with gardens are blessed to have the beauty of nature around us, and always something to do… lots of good and practical advice in this post Ali, thank you. I think this is mother nature’s way of making us all slow down and be aware of the world around us. Already there are signs of regeneration, lowering air pollution, clearing water ways. It’s a start 🙏🌷🌻

    1. Yes, I am so thankful for the garden. I hope we do appreciate what this teaches us, and makes us determined to be more thoughtful citizens and share the planet more fairly with other species.

      1. pommepal says:

        Hopefully some good will come out of all this pain

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Nice, upbeat post, Ali. It is truly the smaller things in life that are the most essential. Hope you and your family continue to thrive.

    1. Thank you Eliza. We are about to start digging a new potato bed together as our exercise for the day. And to give our neighbours some entertainment.

  11. Heyjude says:

    Lovely to see a post from you again, I love your tulips! Maybe some good will come out of all this. Companies will realise that they don’t need to fly people all over the world for conferences when video links work well, and also working from home can actually benefit both employer and employee, and maybe people will begin to appreciate what is around them.

    1. Yes. Certainly being able to have coffee outside between meetings and having a walk after lunch has been so nice. Though I have missed my colleagues. It is something to video conference, but we lose something. Maybe we can do half-and-half work from home then work at base in the future.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Lovely blog Ali and yes we need imediate lock down.I have never tried take yoga think this would help everyone.Keep safe and take care

    1. It is frustrating that we did not learn lessons from China and Italy and somehow thought we were different. I think now we see we are all the same, and need to think collectively.
      I can’t recommend yoga enough. There are so many different styles that you can find something to suit you. I love the Yoga Anytime app.

  13. Dear Ali,
    This is truly a wonderful post, and is just the kind of thinking that we all need to focus on during such a time of huge challenges and changes. Thank you for reminding me to be mindful, and to be grateful for what we still have. Caring for each other is turning out to be the most important thing any of us can do. Stay well, and enjoy your beautiful garden! —Val at JoieduSoleil

    1. Thank you Val. Yes, I am trying to balance fear for what might happen with presence in what is happening. I need the sunshine and the tulips. I think they will help sustain my energy for when I need it.

  14. prue batten says:

    Such an insightful and grounding blog. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Prue; that is good to hear. I will be writing again this weekend.

  15. Jewels says:

    Lovely post Ali, thank you for sharing, stay well! ❤

  16. Cathy says:

    What a lovely post, as always – your mindfulness shines like a beacon throughout. I agree, it helps to remain mindful and grateful of the small things Ali, and how privileged we are to have our gardens to self isolate in. Thanks your sharing, both words and pictures

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