I spoke to an elderly family member on the phone yesterday and realised how much this lockdown might affect the elderly. I hadn’t considered the impact on their mood, their physical health, their motivation and desire for life. I didn’t realise that loneliness is not the battle for some.
I know that struggles in this period and in the aftermath will come for old and young alike. There will be people who face the prospect of financial ruin, those who are in danger of losing their homes, people living with abusive parents or partners, those no longer able to receive mental health support, isolated people, parents trying their best for their kids….
The list goes on. I imagine the impact of this time will be felt for months and possibly years to come. But, this forced slowdown, this time when someone or something has pressed the pause button in our lives might have some chinks of light in it.
As soon as the lockdown came into force, I noticed a flurry of activity on social media platforms. People rushing to create and share content (exercise videos, home schooling material, music related content etc). Whilst I am not against these things in theory, I wondered whether this busyness was a reflection of our struggle as human beings to shut down, rest, RELAX.
I know work is not only necessary but for some an outlet which helps them cope with daily life and keeps their mind occupied. Sometimes, work is our way of running away from ourselves. It certainly has been for me in the past. Given how busy work can keep us, it’s not a surprise that relaxation does/will not come naturally to some. But we can learn to relax.
Relaxation during this period means not feeling like we have to be super productive. It means not beating ourselves up or equating our self-worth with how much we get done. It also means not worrying about things we cannot control and there are plenty of those ‘things’ at the moment.
I know that for some, relaxation at this point is not an option – those with dependants, those who have to keep working… But for those who can choose to rest, it just might be the time to do so.
If the one thing you manage you achieve by the end of this lockdown is some rest, recovery, relaxation, that is in itself enough. The rest of this post is about what might come after rest.
I do struggle to rest at times but I know rest has its rewards. It can help us feel more refreshed and leave us with a clear mind. This clarity can help us REFLECT on life – our lives.
Reflection is not synonymous with rumination. Reflection does not mean worrying. It means giving something careful thought or consideration.
During my time as a teacher, I often reflected on my lessons – things which had gone well, things which had gone badly. Reflection helped me realise what I could have done differently, better. Rumination on the other hand would have looked like me staying in the past and focusing on the negatives rather than thinking of how to move forward.
The mother of reflection is reconnection. If we do not know ourselves, if we cannot be alone with ourselves/our minds, if we cannot be honest with ourselves, see our life as it truly is, then how can we reflect on our situation with a view to improving it? The ability to RECONNECT with ourselves (our dreams, our values, our gifts and talents), with others, with God, rarely occurs by accident. It comes about because we choose to do so. Over the years, I have chosen to reconnect with myself because the alternative was a slow death of mind and then body.
Relaxing, reflecting and reconnecting might help us press the RESET button.
When a virus infects our computer, we can choose to press the reset button and start again or live in the hope that the computer will somehow sort itself out, fix itself. If we choose the reset button, it means losing everything – pictures, documents, music. But it also means starting afresh. Not being weighed down by who we were and the things we had collected in our lives. A thing can be painful and exhausting yet still rewarding. This period might be just that for some.
Losing everything can help us see the fragility of life, the speed with which all can be lost. Losing everything can focus our minds on the things that matter most. It can create an opportunity to start afresh and change the direction of our lives if we so choose.
For many pressing the rest button will not be a choice. REBUILDING finances, careers, broken minds and ailing bodies will be a necessity. It will require patience with the process and with ourselves. For others, pressing the reset button will be a choice. Some will choose to reset and rebuild, others will not.
The process of rebuilding might be made a little easier by reconnecting with others and reaching out for help.
It would be a shame if this lockdown period were to end with people feeling burnt out rather than revitalised or stale rather than fresh. It would be sad if people were to return to well-trodden paths rather than ready to embrace new ones.
Over the past two years, I have had to and am still rebuilding my life. The process has been excruciating at times. But I know that where I am is better than where I was and I hope that at the end of this period of lockdown and in the months and years which are to come, there will be others who will be able to say the same – that in spite of the pain of this period and this year, that were they are is better than where they were before this lockdown.