It’s been all over the media that we’ve been in a pandemic for a year now (though the virus was likely floating around – and probably in a lot of places, it seems – for significantly longer than that). A bit over a week from now a year ago we started our first lockdown.
This past year taught me a number of things – some of which I’ve written about already (eg, that I can cut my own hair and make it look half way decent, but it’s not half as much fun as going to the salon) and some of which I haven’t, or not in any detail.
Gale force winds. This is a feature of living two miles off the Atlantic coast on an estuary. Don’t get me wrong – I love where I live. I don’t think I’ve ever lived away from water and I wouldn’t choose to be landlocked. In any case, it gets very windy when storms come in off the ocean and push up the estuary … verrry windy. I discovered after I moved here the first time this happened why people say the wind can drive you mad. Being stuck has raised this as an irritant exponentially. It’s a winter thing, so we should see the back of it soon, but it’s made me even twitchier this past year. My yoga teacher mentioned all this, about the gales making it hard to settle on things, on Saturday morning when she offered one of her hardest classes yet. Her point was to ground us.
Small change. One of the things I noted and then started to take serious notice of is how many little things I did by rote. So, over this last year I started to alter this and the result has been enlightening. I’m talking about things like my morning routine – ie, not doing things in precisely the same order every day. I’m talking dog walks – I stopped unthinkingly doing the same routes and also began to stop more for longer when Joe the lab wanted to investigate something and do my own investigating (eg, during the day just looking round me more and actually acknowledging what I was seeing; at night taking the time to really examine the night sky [we don’t have much light pollution] and fully listen to the structure of the silence).
Breathe and move. Specifically on Mondays and Tuesdays, when I have the client I actively hate, I started to get up more to move around, inserting a walk around the ground floor or a visit to the back door to stare at the garden, or a task (move laundry from washer into dryer) into the hours devoted to them as a means of actively taking myself out of what is basically a toxic working environment (I don’t understand how this company’s full time employees maintain their well-being). Recently I came to the conclusion that working for these people is not open-ended and found myself an end-point for them. This means I need to focus on finances in a serious way because once I have left them (and that’s how I’m thinking about the action) my income will fall. Still, I believe this is the right thing to do. It will give me breathing room and space to move more – in all kinds of ways. After being consciously restricted for such a long period I am very mindful of this being important for my well-being.
Masks. I am due my second covid vaccine within the next month or so. I’ve learned a lot about my own safety in the past year. Wearing a mask inside shops and shopping mindfully rather than wandering into some place and wandering about has resulted in no flu or other illness so far since the beginning of 2020. I have ‘underlying health issues’ and getting sick can be a big deal. So I’ve made the decision that even as we open up in the future I will wear a mask in public indoor spaces through the winter and maybe at other times if I feel it’s necessary for my well-being (eg, I long for museums and exhibitions and I look forward to hearing music live again – but I’ll likely be wearing a mask now). I got very ill at the end of 2019 (which may well have been an early case of covid). Very. Ill. I would very much like not to repeat that experience and I am willing to be a bit out of step with my fellow citizens in order to achieve that.
Smells. Finally, I’ve tried to be far more mindful of smells right close around me. That’s meant acknowledging the awful silage smell when farmers are spreading muck on fields rather than trying to ignore it. It’s meant tuning in to my neighbours’ food smells that leech through the walls sometimes (No 1 appears to have pancakes a lot – to the extent that I think I can now identify blueberry day; No 3 appears to leave the oil in their cast iron pan and re-use it, which causes nauseating vapours – but they have serious issues in other areas as well).
We’re a week off spring. I will definitely mark it on the day this year, take some time to consciously note the shift away from cold and dark, acknowledge loss and embrace renewal. Jewish people (of which I’m one) eat apples and honey on the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashonah (ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties and honey signifies the hope the new year will be sweet). I might transfer that to the vernal equinox this year … along with cake.
PS Poet Michael Rosen’s book on his experience of covid infection comes out this Thursday and I highly recommend his poem ‘These are the hands’ about the UK health service