Talking about how my perspective has shifted and what I’m craving more of…
As I write this I’m looking out of the window, searching for signs of spring; there are gentle, hopeful snowdrops starting to appear in tiny clusters, determinedly poking their delicate petals above the icy ground.
If I go outside I know that – today at least – the sun is radiating a glow that could pass for Spring, if you wish hard enough. I dream of the sounds of a suburban summer; lawnmowers, birds, music coming from open windows, the billow of washing on the line. It’s coming.
I make a hot ginger tea and keep my eyes firmly peeled on the pinky sunset, purposefully not on my daughter’s open packet of Maltesers that lies on the side (big mistake, huge). It’s good to know that horizon is bringing better things, isn’t it?
Slowing down and the magic of solitude
For many reasons – the main ones I will explain here – I chose to stay silent online for much of last year, especially on social media.
It hasn’t been intentional; but I realised my intuition was telling me to slow down, to listen to others’ voices, to observe the changing world around me, to pay attention to the voices that so needed to be given a world stage..
A world mostly deep in mourning but with some positive change, voices of hope, acts of radical compassion, that give a glimpse into the soul of the earth.
I spend these tiny moments of solitude in the garden watching plants grow, out walking on my own for a daily headspace shot.
I can just sit, idly dipping a biscuit in my tea and dream away half an hour or more.
More recently, sitting and staring into the embers of the fire, candles lit, finding comfort in classical music.
Feeling alive instead of running away
I realise something early on in the first lockdown.
I’m feeling a deep and surprising realisation that I’m alive, that I exist.
I’ve spent years running away, getting wrapped up and lost in the art of busy, chasing headlines as the sun rises, numbing my feelings; acting out someone else’s version of me; repressing emotions has all kinds of ramifications and I’m not very good at playing a part.
If I’m really honest, I never expected to make it until now, the year 2021, and all the silence and solitude has made me realise that it’s quite a shock to me to be planning The Rest Of My Life.
I’m six years on from breast cancer. My chances of it coming back were high. I expected the worst and focused on squeezing every last drop out of the time I had.
Last year taught me that I was running away from reality and hiding from myself, my truth, and anyone else that might get a glimpse of the real me.
It was a funny time really – lost in this semi-meditational state of introspection – because all of a sudden nothing felt clear.
Cloudy with a chance of brain fog.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be for most of the year as this realisation that just maybe I can plan a future. Just maybe I might see my girls as grown women – not something I’ve ever dared look ahead to.
Now I can see it was part of the messy middle bit that often comes as we shed a skin and feel more comfortable in another one.
We’re surrounded by so much death and heartbreak; I feel absurdly lucky as well as surprised to be alive and give thanks each and every day (the gurus might call it gratitude, up North we call it ‘counting yer lucky stars’).
In the midst of the pandemic the visceral need to feel alive has never been stronger. Stripped back, just me, the elements, maxing out on the things I love; music, movies and food, running in the pissing rain, getting whipped around the face by the wind.
Coming home to have a hot bath with red cheeks and feeling the soapy water enveloping my rain-soaked body. My only luxury buy this year, other than food, has been expensive bath products and salts.
I sink deeper and wonder what would I find if I keep going underwater, is this the gateway to another world? Are my loved ones ready to meet me if I just slipped away?
But of course I don’t. I pull my head back up as Flora comes in to see if I’m having a nice time. I am.
I celebrate alive in these tiny moments
~ The end of the “school” day can washed away with a cold shower, I almost need a physical reminder that my insides still store vitality.
~ Each day I choose not to have a drink, the 6pm wave soon washes away and it makes me feel alive and in control of my thoughts.
~ Noticing how the pain of years of grief feels when not numbed with that 6pm opening of a bottle of wine. It stabs a little bit harder and runs deeper, but I’ve learned over the last year, it’s good to feel how it feels.
A bird’s-eye perspective
The year has changed; and it’s changed us, hasn’t in? Us as in you and me; you, me and every other human in the world. My perspective has definitely shifted through this quietness.
There are many people – privileged people – for whom this is a gross inconvenience. Who see staying at home as a massive ball-ache without taking a wider viewpoint.
Really I am exceptionally lucky. Lucy to stay at home with healthy kids, plenty of food, heating and more. The more I take a bird’s eye view the more compassion I feel.
But mostly my compassion is directed at the people who don’t have privilege. Who are knee-deep in grief.
The refugees who don’t get the luxury of keeping their kids at home, or get to hear their kids merry laughter as they bounce on their own private trampoline, who get outdoor art tables and iPads and warm hugs and bedtime snuggles.
People for whom the risk of the virus is nothing compared to the risk of death as they try and reach safety.
A year of anxious peaks
Anxiety levels are peaking. A red glow covering the world from this high-up vantage point, covering the world like a trawlers net in my mind. The oceans look more blue, nature might be breathing a temporary sigh of relief, but it is only temporary before the wheels of society and the global warming of capitalism takes over again.
The canals of Venice can breath again. George Floyd can’t.
Loss breeds loss breeds loss
I’ve lost people this year. To Covid, yes, but also tragic circumstances that are the result of the lack of support for key services like addition and mental health. People who might have been saved in another year; but who slipped through the net and were unable to deal with the realities of their hurt during the pandemic.
And the collective grief brings our personal grief stories to life again.
I picture – often – the conversations I’d have with my mum and dad if they were alive.
I imagine dropping them off some ridiculously fancy, home-made foods. Provencal dips, asian noodle salads, lovingly made curries, my home-made mushroom and chestnut rolls, focaccia dripping in oil for them to make into sandwiches with a tupperware full of burrata and some best-quality parma ham.
I’d sit on the wall with them, chewing over the news, what various members of the family were doing, all while socially distancing.
People can’t see their families and that hurts.
A world turned upside down for many. A world already turned upside down, made even worse for many more.
A world that has shone a light on deep-rooted systemic racism that we’ve put up with for too long. A cruel world. An unjust world with so much darkness, but beyond that darkness the glow is real.
The light and love are there, making themselves heard.
We’ve just got to be the light.
There’s no time to waste
There’s so much that the last year has given me, I’m not aware of everything yet, but I’m going to trust it will come. A new direction, a desire to live more simply, to only spend time where I think I can make a difference. To have more meaning, less superfluous shit in my life; both emotionally and physically.
We’ve got One Life haven’t we? 2021 feels like a year to make it count.