There has never been a better time

I will start this post by wishing you, your family and your friends and pets a very Happy New Year. However last year treated you, I hope you get what you need from 2021, and I am sending you positive, warm wishes.

I haven’t written a blog for what seems like a long time (“Thank %*@#” goes the cry). It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say – I generally always have something to say, it’s usually a choice between whether it needs to be said or if I’ll say it in the right way. Now obviously the elephant in the room in this difficult second paragraph is the C-word. Not the religious festival we just saw fly by in the blink of an eye, or the word mostly used on my birthday cards, no, of course I am referring to the C-word of the global pandemic. I’m not going to write about what I think of the politicians, or any conspiracy theories, or rant about how bad it really has affected me, as I’m sure it has affected everyone in different ways. I will address though that despite a few bumps along the way that weren’t directly related to COVID-19 and lockdown, more bi-products, I have actually enjoyed it. I’ve said before that I am a largely solitary person, and the lockdown didn’t massively change my life, and I’ve tried to work towards self-improvement throughout and seek out the positives. On New Year’s Eve, I wrote a long list of all the great things that came out of lockdown, so I have a lot to be thankful for. In fact, my introspection and getting-on-with-it mentality is the main reason my blog posts have dropped off and my social media presence has been zilch since the summer – I have just been happy doing my own thing. I look at the news every day, but I don’t get down about it as to me, it is what it is and in my trying-to-be-a-Buddhist eyes, anger and worry will do nothing. So being quite black-and-white over the matter, and just making sure I stay on the right side of the law have been just that – no fighting against things that I cannot change.

On my list of New Year’s intentions, I overwhelmingly decided to look at picking up the pieces around me of things that I used to do that had fallen by the wayside, so began writing a new blog at the weekend. Here in the UK on Monday evening, we went into another national lockdown. This altered my post considerably. I had been writing with the subject of returning to ‘normal’ (whatever that may be) and my perhaps cynical views on that. Overnight I had an enforced change of heart – I can’t write about returning to normal when people are now being told not to go out. Even I am not that insensitive (he hopes). With that thought and a combination of things that happened the following day and the rest of my New Year’s intentions, and a blissfully sunny day, my subject matter changed, and I’m glad it did.

I have many goals, intentions, ambitions, whatever you want to call them, for this year. Some of them thrill me, some of them terrify me but they do one thing – they give me a sense of purpose, hope and positivity. It got me thinking – there has never been a better time. I think it is the same for all of us. We can all think about what we would like to do with our lives, where we would like to be, even whom we would like to be. This strange situation is going to play out in its own way. It doesn’t care about you or I, and we have two great tools at our disposal: effort and attitude. I’m not saying that if you feel lonely and depressed, that it is your fault. What I’m saying is setting targets no matter what they are or how big or small they are, they can make a huge difference. There has never been a better time to look inside yourself. Never been a better time to learn something about yourself, history, the world, even someone you’ve never met. The journey could be incredible. Don’t come out of this historic pandemic and live to 100 years old just to tell your grandchildren that all you did was binge-watch stuff on some sort of streaming service (avoiding free advertising space there), and made silly videos of yourself miming to ‘Holiday’ by Madonna on another well known (and morally questionable) social media platform. You are destined for greater things!

In the first lockdown, I busied myself with lots of small projects, more for my own sanity and a break from work really. That lost its momentum during the summer and I lost my purpose somewhat. I spent most of my time outdoors, reflecting, thinking, fighting wave after wave of changes that hit me from all angles. My original hope was that I would continue to post, and continue to support and inspire others, whereas all I did was end up trying to support myself and disappearing off the radar. I half expected to read my own obituary somewhere (transient thought; as an exercise, if you’re up for it, write your own obituary. Write how you would like to be remembered and thought of at the end of your life. A bit morbid perhaps, but I had to do it for something two years ago and it can be very humbling.)

As covered earlier, but humbly reiterated, Happy New Year to you, and I genuinely send you my best wishes. You won’t be reading my obituary any time soon, I am still here and I intend to be a bit more useful.

Hau’oli makahiki hou (try saying that without smiling).

The bit between two normals

I gave out some (no doubt unheeded, dubious) advice to a teenager at the weekend about living in the moment – about not dwelling on the past and not assuming tomorrow is going to happen. Whilst a teenager’s life is vastly different to mine, I feel the advice was relevant and a little nugget of life insight, which undoubtedly was not what they wanted to hear, yet will read all about on Flikflok, or whatever the tripe is called, and then feed it back to me as if it’s a complete revelation that they, nor I have ever heard before.

Living in the moment, so I’ve been reading, is a massive factor in maintaining one’s mental health. It’s something I admittedly don’t do enough of, though probably more than most. Definitely more than the average teenager. I find when I’m outdoors I tend to be more present, stopping to admire a spider’s web, listening out for birdsong, and watching Housemartins sweep and swoop. I’ve probably said it before but lockdown has not brought me down at all, directly. I say directly as factors associated with it have succeeded somewhat, but the whole working from home jazz, and social distancing has, if anything, improved my well being. I’ve always strongly disliked the office environment as regular readers will confirm, so dealing with colleagues on a screen twice a day is bliss. It does pose some serious questions to ask myself though, like why do I need to spend four hours a day commuting in order to fulfill exactly the same job role and feel much better about it too? The time I used to spend commuting is now taken up walking or running in the morning, or out in the garden, watching it grow and feeding the birds. Zero negativity. Zero carbon emissions.

It’s just as well I am enjoying this slower pace of life, having more time to relax and do what I enjoy, reading and attempting to meditate, as I am not sure what I am less enthusiastic about: the old normal or the new normal. I don’t want to sound like I am taking the urine, as I know plenty of people are struggling for many different reasons, and I know I am very lucky compared to some. I just feel that the current situation is not so far from my normal, insular, way of life anyway, and it’s actually allowed me to flourish a little. It was interesting when this all started, weeks ago and comparisons were made to World War Two, as politicians tried to convince them and us that we could all club together and pull through like previous generations did, evoking the war effort. I didn’t see any of that at all. Politicians still had their eyes on money and bending the rules, and the majority of the population went out and selfishly looted bog roll and other essentials that they didn’t actually need. It would have been interesting to see the population cope for just a week under strict rationing. Try six years of it. I can now understand why a large proportion of society were actually caught up in the bittersweet celebrations of VE Day in 1945, as it effectively signalled the end of near socialist, co-operative living, and in the case of the women who kept Britain eating, fighting and moving, potentially the end of their independence and freedom. The men were coming back, and normal roles would be resumed. Obviously, we know it wasn’t the case for long and social reform happened. What will the COVID-19 equivalent be? Let’s wait and see. Probably the doubling of McDonald’s drive through lanes, though I sincerely hope not.

So, as I try to learn more about nature the more I realise how much I, and we, need it. It is flourishing without us. We would not flourish without it. I hope to emerge from this experience with countless more positives than negatives.