“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
– Aldous Huxley
What are you bringing with you from life in lockdown?
As much as I am excited and relieved to be returning to a more normal way of living, reconnecting with my friends and family, and having my hair cut again (phew!), something is nagging at me inside.
I’m not resisting this return to normal (well maybe just a little bit!) but I am surprised to find part of me feeling a sense of loss that this unique time is changing.
“There are so many more cars on the road!” my son remarked wistfully on the way back from my parents house recently, “It’s so busy!”.
He sighed, and although it was just a fraction of cars we might have seen on a normal rush hour, we both agreed it felt odd, and that there was something we had liked about deserted roads and silent streets – the sense of it being just us.
There’s not much we can do about the cars on the road or people on the street, but there are things we can remember and hold on to.
Skidding to a halt and changing tack has forced us to pause and think. Everyone has faced different challenges and every one of us has had to adjust. It has been a time for noticing. Noticing what we miss, what we don’t miss, what we really need instead of what we think we need, and all those things we take for granted. The nagging feeling I have urges me not to lose this new perspective and to cherish the important things I’ve learnt during this extraordinary time.
Someone who knows this to the extreme is Nasa astronaut Andy Thomas who has been on four space flights and spent several months onboard the Mir space station. In an interview during lockdown he talked about how astronauts cope with return from long periods of isolation. He says that an unexpected benefit of being isolated was the opportunity for introspective thought “I found myself particularly thinking about family and family relationships and I realised that some of those needed some work on my part,”. He explained that he was able to look at the things that weren’t working or weren’t fulfilling in his life and decide ‘I’m not going to do those any more,’ and suggests that we can all use our experience of the last few months “to rebuild a non-lockdown life that is far more positive.”
So take a moment… what are your reflections?
In our house, my daughter says she is proud to have become more independent with her school work and she wants to do more cycling. My son says he has learnt that he is pretty resilient and perfectly content to be in his own space. Both children are happy to have spent more time with my husband who has been working from home, and we have all enjoyed being together more as a family unit (mostly!). My husband wants to continue our Friday film nights (something we have never had time for before).
For me, I’ve learnt lessons in patience and have of course had the opportunity to write this blog which has been a new, slightly scary but hugely rewarding experience. I also want to hold on to my evening walk which I manage a couple of times a week, made possible by my husband working here – with with no hour and a half commute, he finishes work and is instantly home. In the past, my evenings used to be a relentless and energetic rush with homework, clubs, hobbies, and friends round which was fun and good for the children but probably needed slowing down for me!
Take yesterday evening… we all sat around the new pond that my husband and the kids built during lockdown, to watch two little frogs which miraculously have already moved in! We would never have spent half an hour sitting together by the pond before – partly because we didn’t have a pond of course, but mostly because there would never be a moment where we all had time together to do that.
My evening walks are not long but they are lovely. I just leave the rest of the family to themselves and shut the front door behind me. Sometimes I listen to an audio book, ring a friend or compose an email in my head. Often I just lose myself in thought and once, despite having lived here for nine years, I lost myself literally after taking a new route, but despite that I do thoroughly recommend it if you can.
Whether it’s about the food we buy, the exercise we take, the time we spend with our families or the amount of toilet roll we use, we have all had time to think about how we were “doing” life. For many of us, we are not the people we were before and that old life won’t do anymore either.
Take a moment… be the astronaut… think about what things weren’t working or weren’t fulfilling for you, and which of them you will choose to say “I’m not going to do that anymore!”.
And there’s something else too…
It is good to find those important things we want to hold on to make our lives better, but how do we make it stick?
Each year, thousands of us make well intentioned New Year resolutions but rarely keep them beyond the first week. I have often returned from a summer holiday with a new perspective, and made a beautifully written list (I love a list) of changes I am absolutely going to make… I solemnly promise myself to do this and although some of it happens for a while… do I keep it up? Errr… No!
But its ok – even at Nasa Andy Thomas says that it is easy to slip into old habits;
“The thing that will surprise people the most, is that after a few days it can feel like it was all a dream and it’s easy to go back to your old ways, including the parts that weren’t working. You have to be quite disciplined about not slipping backwards.”
He’s right… already those empty streets with not a car or a person in sight do feel a bit like a dream, and as the weeks go by it will seem even more distant, but let’s not slip backwards. The answer to this will be different for everyone, but it is about being disciplined – and that’s about choosing to take control, believing it is possible, and not settling for second best. It’s about telling yourself “I am worth it” … because you are. You are worth making these changes for because you want and deserve to live the best life you can live.
So… what are you going to do?
And now, if you’ll excuse me, while you are being the astronaut, I’m going for a quiet walk.
Deborah Stephenson, Ollie Coach trainee
I am an Ollie School trainee and a Director at an Independent Prep School for boys. I am a trained journalist and worked in BBC Local Radio for more than twenty years as a reporter, bulletin reader, news editor and programme maker. It was a great job, but I wanted to do something to support my own children’s wellbeing with a view to taking that on to support others and, in pursuit of a better work life balance, I resigned as the Assistant Editor of BBC Essex last year. Inspired by the Ollie School concept I was excited to be accepted for the training course and it has been a fascinating and enlightening and journey so far.
To get in contact with Deborah, email email@example.com
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com