Yesterday morning I found myself feeling really happy. I was singing to Lizzo as I did the washing up and had one of those ‘all is well’ moments of joy and peace. I’ve been having quite a few of those lately.
After the initial weeks of shock and loneliness, which was followed by the mood swings and an inability to concentrate on anything, I’ve settled into a kind of groove. I am doing bits of writing, going for little walks, napping most days and cleaning up more than usual. As a result the flat looks lovely.
This morning I found myself ordering a ukulele, a paint set and a baking set. I laughed at the foolishness of it – no doubt the paints and instrument will be under the sofa gathering dust before too long and using the baking will set off the fire alarm… but who knows? Maybe I’ll be the kind of fully rounded person who has hobbies.
I’ve never had hobbies before. I’ve mostly worked, got drunk, watched television and slept. My priority was always work and everything else fitted around that.
Now I find myself craving beauty and gentleness and doing things for no reason at all but the joy of it. I have little interest in the hustle of achievement. I am even reading poetry.
In lots of ways this new life is bliss. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do. At times it has felt limiting and lonely but lately it’s felt like a blessed relief. I can just be.
I have even had moments of not wanting to go back to my old life of getting on trains, shouting in loud bars, and restlessly striving for more.
Then I remember that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and that while I am looking at linen sheets on Toast, tending to my new found domesticity, others are living a nightmare.
Then I feel guilty.
This post was going to be about how to hold both. How to keep bearing witness to the horror on the news while also bearing witness to the beauty of clear skies and sunny days. How to hold the injustice of so many of us having warm, safe homes, while reading about hospitality workers who now find themselves sleeping on the streets. How to feel OK with the fact that some of us can work at home while key workers are out there working themselves, in some cases, to death.
But I do not know how to make sense of any of that. I really don’t.
And so my post is not about that, it is about a question asked by Sue Rickards, a Five Rhythms dance teacher, whose beautiful sessions have moved online. At the end of the dance last night she asked the 130 little zoom faces: ‘Is there anything you want to continue when this crisis stops?’
People said lots of things. They wished the quiet roads would continue and the friendliness between neighbours. They would love to continue working to their own natural rhythm, instead of having to be at work at a certain time. They would like to keep having time to write or paint or walk in the fields behind their house in the middle of the day… They want to keep seeing their children more… and sleeping eight hours a night.
Then we got into bigger things – we wanted to keep valuing the NHS and worshipping money less, we wished that we could put the environment before the economy…
At this point the tone of the conversation tends to shift. It feel like these changes are out of our control and it’s easy to feel powerless and cynical. What can we do to pay undervalued essential workers more, to redress grotesque wealth inequality and save the environment? In the UK, certainly, we do not seem to have done a good job of voting in leaders who value these things and taking to the streets has not resulted in big change. Yet.
But still, Sue invited us to listen to our longings – longings that often get suppressed by the noise and hecticness of ‘normal’ life – because they point us towards ‘the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.’
This is the title of a book by Charles Eisenstein, who is author of many books and this essay on Corona.
In The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, Eisestein argus that we are all connected and that our small, personal acts of courage, kindness and love have more power than we think to change the world.
He says that until we get our selves in order, any action we take—no matter how good our intentions—will ultimately be wrongheaded and wronghearted.
So for now I’m trying to not despair at the big picture, and to focus instead on getting myself in order. I am treasuring the peace I feel when I’m pottering in the flat and gently doing my work. I am looking out for the people in my life and the people who live around me.
I am dancing and breathing.
That is all for now. And I think it’s enough.
In fact, at times, it’s beautiful.
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