Children chat to friends, social-distance style. Photo: Alison Goldie
Realisations and revelations have been coming to me daily in these unprecedented times and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Here’s a summary of mine:
1. Importance of family
Whether you’re isolating with them or just staying in regular touch, have you noticed how we need them? Sure, they can drive us crazy, but when push comes to shove, who would we fight to save, who do we know the most deeply, who can we learn the most from? If we remember how much we valued them at a crucial time, maybe there’ll be less family warfare and more family appreciation in the future.
2. Joy of nature
We’ve been blessed with lots of sunshine in the U.K. and our daily walks or gardening efforts have resulted in a deluge of flower photographs and delighted social media posts about the pleasures of scenery and greenery. You don’t need much – other people’s tiny front gardens can be little patchwork squares of marvellous wonders – strange leaves, fat buds, delicate blossoms. We’ve slowed down and we’re seeing things – and those things are often natural and lovely and nourishing to the core.
3. Value of creativity
Where would we be without the wealth of drama, documentary and comedy on our screens? Those programmes were made by creative people. And creative people need to practise their crafts to become really, really good at what they do. Maybe we’ll honour the arts and media more after this – and see the need for supporting them. On a personal level, we’re finding occupation and meaning in making aimless art. Indulging ourselves in painting, crafts or ukulele lifts the maker, and maybe even an audience of family or FB friends too…
4. Spending little
So you’re earning less, or scrabbling for grants and benefits, but luckily you didn’t need to buy a new spring wardrobe or fill the house with new kitchenware or electronica or a new cushion you just happened to see in John Lewis as you passed through home furnishings in your lunch hour. Maybe you didn’t really need most of that stuff anyway and the stuff you have is actually fine and you’ve found out how to repurpose it or repair it or zhush it up with some of those new artistic skills you’ve discovered. Less is more.
4. Even you can exercise
Confirmed couch potatoes or workaholic office-livers have discovered, now that we have government-sanctioned exercise time, that they can do a few stretches every day and it doesn’t kill them. Quite the reverse. Do you see now how exercise creates endorphins and has effects on your skin and bones which make you feel better in mind and body? Do you notice how doing a little every day is the best routine? Do you get it now?
5. Books are wonderful
Since lockdown 31% of all British adults and 45% of 18-24 year olds are reading more books. Maybe we’re finally realising the alternative to being screen-sick. We’re reading books we’ve had piled up unread on our bedside tables for years, we’re rereading books we loved once, we’re ordering books from a megalithic supplier and making it even richer (other booksellers are available) – but we’re reading more. And that is because books are comfortingly escapist and educational and wonderful.
6. Neighbours are people too
Even in urban centres, where a cursory nod is customarily the most frequent form of neighbourly interaction, we have started to talk to each other. Maybe out of sheer necessity – if you can’t ask someone to shop for you when you’re ill, you could starve – or maybe because when we’re all in this together, perceived barriers between us melt away, and a little natter with a neighbour feels warm, natural and important. The more you get to know someone, the less you want to hate them. Fact.
7. You can do your own nails…
…and you don’t need plastic surgery, tanning bars, five kinds of exfoliating body scrub, ludicrously overpriced and dubiously effective vitamins, crystal therapies, astrology readings or scented candles that cost £100 each. Or anything at all from Goop.
8. We need experts
In Government, science, medicine, mental health, food distribution, education, we need people who know what they’re doing to help organise and deliver the fundamental tools for our survival as a species. When the NHS need PPE, when we want to understand the likelihood of a vaccine being found, when the shops are plundered and we have to do homeschooling, we suddenly see how highly trained and experienced people are the ones we need running the show, not armchair conspiracy theorists and inept world leaders.
9. If we mess with nature it messes with us
This whole thing started because of unsound practice around the procurement, buying and selling of animal products. Nature is merciless – it doesn’t need or want to protect us, and will go on without us. If we treat its creatures, their environments and ecosystems with contempt, we risk destabilising the natural world and its cruelties being inflicted upon us. With climate change, floods, fires, bacterias and viruses are running rampant. This is a wake-up call.
Look at what you’re learning about yourself. Who’d have thought it? New insights every day about your own flaws and virtues, your good and bad habits. Write them down. Remember them. This is one of the greatest opportunities you’ll ever have to see how you cope when all the props and distractions prove unfit for purpose, when you’re thrown onto your own physical and mental resources. What’s at your core? Where’s your strength and resilience found? Note it, work on it. This is good stuff.