Small tasks, busy mind.

I was half tempted this week to temporarily change the title of my blog to My Indoor Living Room, but realised that this is a nightmare to do, and also that the indoor living room is exactly what I’m trying to escape. I read a very interesting post on social media by one of the few famous people I take seriously enough to respect, and he talked about making choices during lockdown as well as life in general, choosing to do what you should do as opposed to what you feel like doing. So, think of the dilemma of setting your alarm for a 5am run. Then the alarm goes off and the urge to hit snooze is overwhelming. He used a phrase about choosing to meditate than to contaminate his mind with nonsense from social media, the internet in general, and this blog of course. Just read to the end of this post though, and I promise there’ll be a meme of a cat. It made me think about what I’m doing during all this to cope, so I wanted to share a few things that are keeping me going. There have been some incredibly tough moments, mainly to do with my situation and my mental health has taken a few beatings in the past month, so I naturally do what I have trained myself to do – I make an island of myself. I find activities for me to do to keep my head above water. A well known saying that goes something like, “A drowning man cannot save another man from drowning”, dispelling theories of selfish behaviour to a degree. So in order to be all that I can be for others, I need to take care of myself for a while. The world seems to spin fine without me, and most people seem just as happy with me out of the way, so I just focus on finding a place within myself.

One way I do this is setting myself small challenges. Right at this moment in time, I have (mostly physical) challenges going on like seeing how fast I can sprint up a hill I’ve found. Or seeing if I can complete a song doing push ups throughout, seeing if I can complete different fitness tests, and also seeing how low I can get my resting heart rate. I’m also closely monitoring the progress of an oak tree sapling in the garden, and the speed of the decomposition of my compost heap. It’s safe to say I’m busy with lots of things. But lots of little things help me stay on track and stay occupied.

Whilst lockdown has presented problems as well as opportunities to  improve areas of my life, I have generally fared better than the daily grind of commuting and stultifying office environments. It’s made me seriously think about my future, the people I work for (and question their ethics), and showed me hope that something alternative exists.

I do hope that you are all well and coping. I also hope that when we come out of this, all of the promises about the future and regrets about the past that I am seeing on social media are followed through and are not just empty hashtags. This really is an opportunity.

Looking around me

Nowadays I have the luxury of not having to drive to work, so I get forty minutes at each end of every day to myself (kind of) on the train. This has many advantages, that for the time being, I’m well and truly er, taking advantage of.

The first thing is I can walk to the station so I can listen to some podcasts or music and enjoy being out and about in all the seasons. Not using the car every day and being able to look around me means I can appreciate the seasons changing, and the minute happenings that nature gives, which most of us miss because we’re rushing about mainly. For example, most mornings I see blackbirds and robins. These are notoriously territorial birds, so every one that I see along the way shows the different patches of each bird. Blackbirds’ have an average territory of around 100 square metres, hence why we see so many of them. Autumn is when territories are renewed so there is a lot of activity (and noise).

When I was about ten, I was off school for a few days with an illness. Confined to the house, bored of the daytime TV and before the internet, I looked out of my bedroom window and saw all of the birds flitting about across our garden and the neighbours’ gardens. Being interested in maps (as I still am) I got my writing pad and drew a bird’s eye view of the gardens. I then drew a line in a different colour for each bird that I saw and where it went. Very quickly, a colourful chart appeared. I think techy kids these days would call it a heatmap or something like that. Either way, I learned about territories, as well as nesting preferences for each bird.

The second major advantage to this commute is the amount of reading, writing and sketching I can get done on the train. I try not to absorb myself too much into what I’m doing on public transport, like I try not to walk along gawping at my phone when I’m out and about. Part of it is because I’m far too inquisitive and like to look about me and people watch. The other thing is everyone is glued to their phone! Head down, gawping. An atomic bomb could go off away on the horizon, and they’d miss it, only to see it flash up on their phones a minute or two later. I don’t want to sound morbid, but I can easily see a terrorist attack happening on public transport all too easily in plain view of all the victims, who saw nothing of it coming, only their ‘smart’ devices. Before this turns into a typical rant of mine, I’ll steer course toward something a little more positive. In the mornings, the station where I get on is the end of the line, so it gradually fills up the closer it gets to the city, so I have the pick of most of the seats. I always choose a window seat that looks out across the open countryside. Again, I’m usually the only one looking at it as everyone else is scrolling away like zombies. The low winter sun this time of year casting long shadows over frost covered fields is still one sight I can’t resist gawping at. And it’s not on my phone.

If any of you are reading this blog, ironically, on a train, or bus, or somewhere else that you could be appreciating better, it won’t hurt my feelings if you put the phone away. Well it’s the end of the post anyway!