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…
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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