Once upon a time, back in late January to be precise, I was happily enjoying a spa weekend with friends. There was nothing more pressing to concern me then than my choice of ‘Waterfall Rush’ or maybe ‘Tidal Surge’ as I sat in the rain room contemplating the tempting dinner menu.
Then life moved on a month and a new word crept menacingly into all our daily conversations, ‘coronavirus’. It was shortly followed by ‘pandemic’ as news footage made the reality of the virus all too clear. And then the much awaited (at least by me!) reading of my play at Leeds Playhouse was cancelled.
Life lurched on unsteadily through March. The usual weather worries around events like Beasts from the East seemed like nothing compared to what was suddenly threatening to engulf us. And then lockdown was declared and all our lives shifted on their axis and we hunkered down as if for a siege.
Nature took pity on us and gifted us the most glorious spring most of us can remember as we took our allotted hours’ worth of exercise or had lunch in the garden. Over 5 months later we are emerging into what we are learning to think of as the new normal. Personally, I much prefer the old normal, but there you are.
But what have I learnt in lockdown I began to wonder, since modern psychology is noticeably clear on one point; that every experience, however uncomfortable, is an invaluable life-lesson to be eagerly embraced. Yes, even experiences which make us feel a little like Alice must have felt as she tumbled headlong down the rabbit hole to find herself in Wonderland.
So, what has lockdown taught me? Well for starters (and despite all my initial good intentions) it has taught me that I am never going to embark on an ambitious home renovation project or learn to meditate. Meditation is just too difficult for my grasshopper brain which simply refuses to concentrate meditatively but insists on wandering off wondering if the noise I can hear is a burglar trying to get in or the cat wanting to go out. Or what are we having for supper or whether we have enough milk. It is like a rampant, delinquent teenager determined not to cooperate with me however much I beg it to behave.
Another thing lockdown has taught me is that I do not want to leave my warm bed at 6am ever again for the sole purpose of queuing outside a supermarket wondering if I will be home in time for Xmas. In any case, online shopping makes every day seem like Christmas Day. I have learnt that you must be darned quick off the mark to make it to the front door before the delivery driver has sprinted away up the drive and off to the next drop. And the chance to say an old fashioned, ‘Thank you’? Forget it. They are in the next village by the time you open your front door. But there is one thing you can thank coronavirus for – at least they have dispensed with those horrible handheld computers. You remember having to use your forefinger finger to scrawl a signature across the screen. They quickly became a complete no-no in our new virus conscious world.
And whilst I am forever grateful to ‘Zoom’ et al for making virtual get-togethers possible during the long weeks of lockdown, I absolutely will not miss gesticulating wildly to other people in an attempt to get them to unmute their microphone. Or to realign their screen so that I haven’t got a panoramic view straight up their nose.
Lockdown has taught me that I don’t need so much ‘stuff’. Ok, I kind of knew that already but my lockdown habit of taking the time to assess whether or not an object sparks joy (as instructed by the Queen of de-cluttering Marie Kondo) resulted in a hefty ten bags of the aforementioned stuff being donated to charity. And there will be more to follow. Who knew that it was even possible to own so much stuff that didn’t spark joy? Or even spark so much as a flicker of happiness, come to that?
Frugality too is a newfound lockdown virtue. My watch strap broke, which would normally be all the excuse I needed to buy a new one. A new watch I mean not just a strap. This time I mended it. Me, who mends absolutely nothing. And apart from the glow of self-righteousness which this small act engendered, I saved a bit of money. Result!
Lockdown has also taught me to accept the joys of home and garden. Suddenly home and garden became all the world I had. So after a lifetime of busyness, most of it self-imposed, I have finally learnt to appreciate the small pleasures of a comfortable home and a garden full of interest and colour. Thanks to this unwelcome trip to Wonderland I have finally learnt to cherish and even love my little world. And by being forced into a form of house arrest during lockdown I have, in some strange and unexpected way, come home at last.
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