Like most people, I’ve been looking ahead quite a bit.
When the whole COVID-19 business started kicking off I found it extremely difficult to look backwards or forwards. Every day lasted an age and I had to wait for the morning news before I knew how to feel about the day. But after five weeks of lockdown, this is (bizarrely) starting to feel like the new normal.
Of course, some bits will never feel right. Having fewer distractions means we had fewer ways to avoid thinking about the things we’d rather not think about that’ve happened to us, even if they happened years ago. And over the last few weeks, I’ve seen so many friends and family lose loved ones. One friend’s younger brother. An ex-colleague’s dad. Another friend’s beloved grandma, who (even though I’d never met her) made me laugh so many times when I heard stories of what capers she’d been up to. And a week ago, my husband’s uncle. None of these endings were long ones. They were short, sharp, and invisible. We have our lifetimes – however long that might be – to celebrate and contemplate them, but it doesn’t change the darkest thoughts we have about these needless endings now.
As a full-time writer and author, I live a lot of my life inside my head. I’ve always done this, so thank goodness I’ve found a reason to get paid for it. But I do usually spend much of the week at a university, talking to colleagues about words and meanings and messages. Being physically inside for these weeks has forced me into my own head even more. Do you ever ‘rediscover’ yourself after being away from the office for a week or two, and then feel like you have to shoehorn a round peg into a square hole to fit back in?
Losing people, having more time to think, and physically stepping away from office politics have made a lot of us re-think what’s truly important. What we want, need, and miss.
I miss the people I love. And hearing their voices or reading their messages or seeing their faces on Zoom brightens the day even more so than before. Haven’t we all been so busy? It’s made me realise how noisy life was, and how it bleached out how I really feel about things.
And something else. I miss culture. I’m a complete introvert, but I love people, their stories, and their histories. This is why I’ve spent my life working and writing for museums, communities, fair trade, NGOs, and now education. Learning and interpreting other ways of life enriches my own inner world every single day.
When this is over, I’m going to appreciate every single mile I travel.
Whether I’m walking in the woods nearby, taking the short drive up to Scotland to sit by a loch, or revisiting Nepal or going on that long-awaited trip to Iceland – I’m going to live and breathe it all with my eyes open. Drink it all in, feel the ground beneath my feet, and share love and kindness with the people I meet.
(Excuse me while I go light some incense)
I may have gone all lovely-dovey here, but I do mean it. And I hope that one day, when this is all over, I remember this.