by a neurotic woman.
I have spent most of my life being a very busy person. During my professional life as a teacher, I always had projects lined up, often redecorating a room in my house, to see me through the school holidays. Weekends tended to be filled with teaching preparation and housework. When I retired from teaching, I took on new roles mostly of a volunteering nature and, since one of my daughters produced children, I have been very busy helping to look after them.
Doing nothing very much isn’t something that I had really experienced before. But then came lockdown. I didn’t intend to be this indolent; in fact, once I pulled myself together and stopped moping about being shut up in my house for the foreseeable future, my intention was to be extremely busy and the first job that I tackled was to make a long list of all the jobs that I planned to do during the coming weeks. These included several, almost stereotypical tasks that I don’t doubt many other people would have included on their list of “Things to do when I have plenty of time”, such as learn a new language, take up piano playing etc, etc.
I started off well and completed several small jobs during the first week, jobs like giving the fridge a good clean, reorganising my wardrobes and tidying drawers. I even baked some bread for the first time ever. I have also tackled a few big jobs such as scrubbing all the black lichen off my patio on my hands and knees because borrowing a pressure washer was not an option.
It isn’t really that I have become spectacularly lazy; I keep on top of the household chores, meditate and exercise every day. It is more that, as the weeks have passed, I have developed a different attitude. I think that I may have had a bit of an epiphany in that I have realised that being busy all of the time was a way of avoiding being alone with myself.
Something has happened during these past weeks of solitude and I seem to have entered a much calmer state where it is no longer an imperative to be fully occupied the whole time. In fact, I can allow myself to spend time in quiet contemplation and a good example of this is how I now spend my time in the garden. My garden used to be a place where I mostly spent my time pottering, an activity which I greatly enjoy and which, I am certain, has restorative properties. Now, though, I have realised that there isn’t so much to be gained by making the garden look beautiful if i don’t also just sit there and enjoy it and so, although I still potter a lot, I also allow myself to relax in the garden with a cup of tea and just enjoy looking at the plants, watching the birds and listening to the bees humming without feeling the need to leap up and remove a weed that I have just spotted or to get out the secateurs and snip off some errant foliage.
I have also been able to read for long periods of time without feeling guilty about other tasks that I should, perhaps, be tackling or to write long emails and to my friends and family and have lengthy indulgent phone calls with them. Time is no longer of the essence, rather the quality of life is.
I still hope that, eventually, I will get around to learning a new language or even making the rag rug that I promised myself I would do right at the start of lockdown. I even sorted out the fabric that I intend to use which has now spent nine weeks languishing on the spare bedroom floor.
I suppose that what has happened is that, due to the considerable amount of time on my hands, I don’t feel the urge to rush around getting as much done as possible and feel bored if I didn’t have something with which to occupy myself. I can take life at a much more gentle pace and, as a result, enjoy it much more. Of course there are many aspects of my life pre-lockdown that I really miss such as spending time with my family and friends but I have hopes that, when this is eventually all over and life returns to something like normal, this new calmer approach will stay with me.
If it does, I shall feel that I have gained something valuable and spent my time during lockdown in an altogether better way than in completing that long list of jobs that I made at the very start.