HOW THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED ME
At sixty-four, I’d thought my growing up was over. I’d run a successful training consultancy for thirty-five years, travelled the world, raised two daughters single-handed for the most part, so what else was there to learn?
New Age chatter about getting in touch with my true self made me feel uncomfortable. I had more important things to do such as house improvements, playing the stock market and other capitalist-fuelled activities.
As I’m retired, I haven’t had the worry about going to work or supervising the online learning of school age children. In fact, life under lockdown has been relatively easy, because as an introvert I’ve never been a social butterfly. My hobbies are home based and require no interaction with people. Nope. There was nothing for me to learn.
So, why this post?
Because nine months down the line, I have undergone a major transformation at a visceral level. I take nothing for granted and I’ve slowed down. There is no longer any hurry or desire to achieve anything. All the things that have gone unnoticed in my world are in my field of awareness. Birds, wildlife, flowers, weeds, the abundance of berries, the cold, the dark, the rain, the wintry sunshine feed my soul and bring me a joy I’ve never experienced.
Now, I hurry out in the mornings to fill up the bird feeder and check the progress of the miniature chrysanthemums that are thriving in my garden because of more care and attention from me.
Instead of daily tasks being tinged with resentment, everything I do now, from cooking a meal to clearing up the leaves is infused with pleasure and contentment because I remind myself that I am alive and safe.
I take more time to listen to my family and friends instead of jumping in with my problems. Volunteering for Age UK as a befriender has given me the patience to focus on the other person develop real understanding for how they are feeling. It’s easy to claim to be empathetic until it is put to the test and many don’t have the patience or ability to feel another’s daily struggles.
My writing ambitions have changed. I no longer push myself to write 2000 words a day of my latest novel, many of which end up being rewritten, but am happy if I achieve a quarter of that. More thought, more gazing out of the window and definitely more tea is now part of that creative process. I ask myself what I’m rushing towards and the answer is stark. Death.
The biggest change I’ve noticed is letting go of outcomes. It no longer matters if my books don’t attract many readers. I write for those who do enjoy my Peak District Cosy Mysteries and the indomitable Edna Reid, and appreciate everyone who generously gives their time to leave a review.
Detaching from the world is a slow process that happens in our sixties and continues to death. That doesn’t mean opting out of society and becoming a hermit. It’s more about choosing what matters to us, whether that’s going for a walk, chatting to a neighbour, checking on a depressed friend or simply being.
Certainly, being and not doing is becoming more important as I get older. We don’t need to be active for the sake of it because my experience has taught me that once one aspiration has been fulfilled it will be replaced by another. There comes a day when you will be able to set aside goals and dreams for a more peaceful way of life.
On a final note, I’ve said goodbye to so many of those emotions which have damaged and drained me of joy throughout the years: guilt and anger being my main one. I turn negativity on its head and replace it with positive thought, and aim to do one small thing each day that might ease the life of another, even if it’s just a ten minute phone call or a quick message to say, I’m thinking of you.
I can’t change the past but in the years I have left, I’ve made a pact with myself to learn from my mistakes and do things differently: with more care, more consideration for others and more love.