This spring I was sure I would be really healthy and productive – eat well, exercise, stick to a good sleep routine, write lots. Last spring was so tough, lockdowns and Covid regulations were the least of it. The worst, at least for me, was that overwhelming sense of fear and sadness. Fear for what was happening and what was to come, and a deep sadness for all those all over the world that were suffering. There was a feeling of collective grief that kept gathering force, like an ever growing wave. Then came familiarity and exhaustion and a feeling of returning to some kind of routine, albeit a very different one; doing some of the same things, in almost same way, but not doing so many others. Still, it was manageable.
The winter was strange. It dragged and flashed by, all at once. Some days seemed endless, but looking back, I could hardly remember them having happened. My daily morning walks in the park were beautiful, as ever, and watching the landscape change with the weather kept me feeling grounded and grateful. But I couldn’t shift this feeling that my life was paused; that I was accomplishing nothing. I was working, less than before the pandemic, but fortunate enough to have some work, but my creativity plummeted completely. I watched hundreds and hundreds of hours’ worth of series. During really slow weeks, I even rewatched some. My list of ‘continue watching’ on Netflix is full of films I started to watch, but gave up on because they were either too slow, too fast, or just not enough to hold my attention. Random thoughts, shallow and deep, were constantly buzzing around my brain. I took to writing morning pages, mindless journal entries, just to keep writing something, anything. I wrote some poetry, but that too came with great difficulty and at instalments so tiny, they could hardly be considered creative output.
After the winter, I thought that with the arrival of spring I would find renewed energy, renewed creativity, encouraged by the feeling of hope that usually accompanies this time of year. It hasn’t been quite like that though. I still feel exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m still not writing as much as I would have liked, still editing and re-editing the book I began to write a couple of years ago, the experiences that initially inspired me, fading day by day.
Still… I’ve decided to change my perspective on the situation, my situation, and be more realistic, kinder in a way. Accept that perhaps this period of uncertainty and isolation was not the enforced, but welcome sabbatical from normal life I’d hoped it would be. That the fear and uncertainty have impacted me much more than I initially thought they had and that I need to treat myself with more kindness and understanding. Not in a self-indulgent, oh, poor me, kind of way, but in a way that acknowledges the limits of my capabilities at this moment in time. It isn’t easy, because having had my 50th birthday this past December, I’ve been feeling the pressure of time, the need to find some meaning and purpose in my life sooner rather than later. Maybe, just maybe, though, it is precisely at this time that I need to find that fine line between expectation and motivation; to find ways with which to inspire myself, but also make room for those hours and days and weeks when it just doesn’t happen.
I have three things that are my stay these days: my morning walks with my dog Daphne, my daily yoga practice, and not causing distress to anyone around me. To some, managing these three things each day will seem like a trivial achievement; to others, facing problems much more serious than mine, it will seem like an unfathomably challenging task. To me they are neither. They are simply the ballast of my every day and on days when they are all I manage, I feel it was a day not wasted; on days when I also manage some writing, spot an unusual migrating bird in the park, or make someone feel happy, I feel it was a day well spent.
The uncertainty will continue, no doubt, but the truth is, it’s been there all along; we just created a world where the illusion of certainty kept us feeling safe and hopeful. The trick is to find ways to feel hopeful within this new reality. I’ve thought about this a lot and I really feel that the answer, at the risk of sounding hopelessly romantic, is kindness. Kindness to ourselves and to others. I can think of few things that can make me smile just before I go to sleep at night more than the thought that I made someone smile that day. The fact that I could do my yoga and could walk with the lovely Daphne is a bonus. Maybe my new goal will not be to write three or four pages every day. Maybe my new goal will be to look for the small, but great kindnesses each day has to offer. To pause when someone is grumpy and remember that they might be having a difficult day; to smile when I find a worm in my path and move it to safer ground; to look up at the sky and search for travelling birds, or the changing moon – kept promises, both. To look for the good in each and every day and hold it close.