I’ve heard the last few weeks described, quite lyrically, as ‘The Great Pause’. Now, like everyone else, I hope that this experience of lockdown is something we never have to go through again in our lifetimes. And it is certainly true that the world will never be the same. Our workplaces will be altered. (If they still exist – I mean, you know the world’s shifted on its axis when Twitter tells its entire workforce that they can ‘work from home, forever.’) Our wings will be clipped, at least for a while: very few people in my circle fancy getting on a plane with their former nonchalance. But perhaps even more momentously, with the very real fear of a deadly illness (literally) in the air, Covid-19 has, I think, brought into sharp focus thoughts of how we want to live the rest of our lives. Because that feeling of immortality and invincibility that many of us cloaked ourselves in has been taken from us. And you know what?
I think that’s a great thing.
Stay with me here. But the current health crisis reminds me of something my mother said to me, some months after she received a six-month terminal diagnosis. That was more than three decades ago, but our conversation has stayed with me since then. ‘I’m so glad I got ill,’ she said, as bursting-with-health me listened incredulously. ‘It wasn’t until now that I really knew what it felt to be alive.’ Over the course of her illness, my mum positively glowed with a renewed appreciation for relationships, nature, the garden, her sisters, us four kids (and occasionally, even my dad). In the event, she lived for six years, defying her diagnosis – and she enjoyed every day, until the last few, with a passion.
So: now that we’ve all realised we’re alive, the big question is: what are we going to do with the rest of our lives? Because I’ve absolutely no doubt, from talking to friends, that huge changes are afoot. This extraordinary period has been an incredible opportunity for everyone who’s been hurtling through life at a break-neck pace, busy-busy-busy, only slowing down on foreign holidays (which we had to take because it was the only way we could ever switch off). Even if we’ve been frantically running businesses while working from home during lockdown, or working all our waking hours, the world outside has still been blissfully quieter – no road works, no aeroplanes coming into land, no builders’ drills – giving us an opportunity to hear ourselves think.
So my challenge to you is that whatever it is you’ve been dreaming of doing with your life after lockdown, during this time – slowing down, not being so crazy-busy, retiring (or conversely starting a business), moving to the countryside or the seaside, writing a novel, growing more food, seeing more of friends or family (or casting off those who don’t have your best interests at heart), ditto devoting more time to your partner (or possibly finding one), de-cluttering, downsizing… Whatever it is, make a real pledge to yourself RIGHT NOW to do it.
More than that: write it down. In ink. Maybe even make a vision board, with pictures cut from magazines of whatever it is you want to do/achieve/change. Because I can absolutely assure you that when the pace of life cranks up again, however fast or slowly that happens over the next few weeks, it will be so, so easy to forget those plans and dreams and intentions. Everything I hear leads me to believe that many people are wanting to live differently and better *after this*. (Although I also acknowledge that with the economic clouds on the horizon, many will not have a choice.)
It was probably the only other ‘How do we want to live our (probably) one & only life?’ moments in our lifetime which brought about the momentous shift in my own life. Fact: the best thing my husband and I ever did was move to the seaside from Portobello Road. (Actually, the second-best thing; the best thing was to get married.) But that was a decision we took on the night of 9/11 – another world event which brought everything into the very sharpest focus. There’s no question that making that move has saved my husband Craig’s and my sanity during this extraordinary, ultra-weird time. The pleasure of staring at the ocean, breathing the fresh air… And as of a couple of weeks ago, paddling in the actually not-so-cold water.
I realise that’s probably torture for anyone to read who has been stuck in a flat with no outside space these past few weeks, seeing nary a tree, never mind a sunset – but I’m not trying to get everyone to move to the south coast (there’s not room!) Rather, my point is, WHATEVER you have been thinking of doing differently in this ‘great pause’, promise to yourself, your partner, your dog (heck, promise to me, if it makes it easier!) – that you’ll DO it.
Because there may never be another opportunity in this lifetime – this precious, precious lifetime – to follow your dream, and start truly living…