The Unexpected Upsides of Lockdown

The world has got both bigger and smaller. Bigger because this generation has never experienced anything as universally impactful as this global pandemic, and smaller because we are seeing our own lives, our own neighbourhoods, and our relationships to ourselves and to each other with new eyes.

It’s weird. Going out to the shop feels weird. The news is depressing and scary – as too is the thought of losing anyone I care about before their time. My heart aches for those who have already lost loved ones… and cannot even say goodbye. My soul is shocked by what is happening in the world.

Yet.

Everything feels more precious.

Birdsong.

Clear bright stars.

Gazing up at an un-streaked sky.

A quieter world.

A solemn world.

So still.

Stepping outside last Thursday to hear the whole village clapping the NHS filled me with warmth, comfort and community, Knowing that it was happening all over the country filled me with hope in humanity.

This is a time for us to remember what really matters, how inextricably linked we all are, how interconnected everything is. I wonder why we could only do this lockdown out of fear for our lives and not for the environment, for nature itself which sustains us and of which we are a part? Rumour has it that the rivers run clearer and the ozone layer is mending itself and that animals walk the empty streets again.

For myself, I have settled into ‘what is’ much better than I thought. I don’t hanker to go abroad, take that long overdue holiday or move to a bigger house. My expectations have lowered, and the imperfections of life now seem almost perfect. My beloved holds me tight every night and I feel lucky. If we have food – then that is good enough. If the sun shines – then that is good enough. If we are still healthy then that is good enough.

We didn’t plant the seeds and flowers last year because, apparently, we were much too busy. Living one day at a time, I feel like I have landed right where I am right now instead of envisaging some day in the future when life looks the way I want it to look or running over past mistakes and bad decisions. Small things help of course. I hadn’t done yoga in months because I couldn’t decide which class to do or which day would work best, and there was no room in the house to do it. But these were just excuses. This week I’ve done yoga at home for three days running and a Pilates class that popped up online, and I realised we could move the table around – which seems bleedin’ obvious now but somehow having less choice reminds us to make the most of the resources we do have. My fear of missing out has gone away too. Despite the tragic circumstances, there is some comfort in the fact that we are all in this together.

I forgot to water the seeds today, the ones I planted only yesterday. ‘It’s like having to wait a month or two for Universal Credit’ I thought… in seed terms. So many of my musician friends are experiencing financial hardship right now. Yet there is some amazing stuff happening. We all knew we should be learning to produce videos, live streaming, updating our online platforms… and suddenly the impetus is here because we are wired to create and connect and there is no other way. I’ve seen my friends performing online, and artists I’ve not been able to see for years, performing live in my living room. I am discovering new music and a host of unprecedented initiatives and innovations every day. Perfectionism is stepping aside in the desire to make a contribution. Whilst everything feels too big and too out of our control, we reach for the small things we can offer in the hope it might help others to feel a little less lonely, a little less misunderstood, a bit brighter perhaps, and especially whilst we are physically isolated: more connected.

Someone recently sent me a photo from 28 years ago. Busking outside the Pump Rooms in Bath in my youth I could never have imagined life as it is now. We played music and, if people felt inclined, they gave us some money. It was simple. In some ways, life feels simpler now…. like when you go camping, or play a festival or go on tour and you have to think about the basics: where you are sleeping that night, how you are going to get fed, showered, travel the next day, or find your way to the next show. Apart from that, you sing, talk and laugh, work really hard, rest and play.

In returning to the essentials there is refreshment. In having limited choices, you can see the array of choices you normally overlook. In crisis there can be found opportunity and in restriction, resourcefulness and creativity. In this new reality less glamorous qualities like kindness and compassion take their rightful place. As well as the health workers, there is a newfound respect and appreciation for the supermarket workers, the delivery drivers, the post people and the recycling collectors. In turn, the gossip, the petty quarrels and the unfounded prejudices are being overshadowed by the fact that we all want to live, and in living we want to love. We want to value our health, our planet, our loved ones, our family, our friends and our communities.

Every day brings the possibility that someone I care about will die, but for now we can only look after each other and do the best we can. We demonstrate our love by keeping our distance.

And one of these days we will once again swim in the sea and picnic in the park and dance in the aisles. We will gather together and hug and kiss and join hands, and oh how sweet that will be. How precious.

For now, though, keep on washing them.

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‘Busking in 1992’ Photo by John Gordon

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