Watching my world shrink and sprout wings.
After weeks of blue skies and baked earth, the weather has finally turned. I thought that when this happened I would be massively disappointed, but actually there is something quite comforting about seeing clouds and hearing the rain. When you live in Britain this is our normal, it is what we know. Perhaps it is an omen, maybe there is a return to some sort of semi-recognisable life, hiding around the corner.
For those that don’t know me, in the pre-lockdown world I worked two jobs. I split my time equally between my nutritional therapy practice and my role as co-director of our fourth generation family business. I joined this business many moons ago when my life lacked any direction, however once in, a family business is very difficult to leave. Deemed an essential business (we import and distribute building products), I never imagined that through lockdown we may have to close. However, early on, over three highly charged, highly stressful days we watched sales plummet and customers close; and with them went our plans, our dreams for the future and our financial security. Despite knowing there were millions of people all around the world in exactly the same position as us, the stress was still indescribable. As with all these things the run up was far worse than the actual event. The uncertainty, the anticipation of pain and loss far more nerve-wracking than dealing with the loss itself.
And so we found ourselves in lockdown. The family business closed. I took my nutrition practice online and while some clients remained, all my events, talks and training days were cancelled and new enquiries slowed. There was a flicker of enthusiasm for unearthing online opportunities, (purpose – so important for a happy life, FOMO – my inbox was full of “calls to action” for what I absolutely must be doing NOW), but this was quickly extinguished. I was beyond exhausted; relieved to surrender my working life and watch it slide into a quiet hibernation.
It is often said that grief has five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Well, I was grieving. Not for the loss of my life but for the loss of my future life, the fruits of years of hard work, the plans I had in place for 2020 (there were a lot!); my dreams. For once, being an all or nothing kind of person worked to my advantage and I charged through all these emotions at record breaking speed. By the end of week one I was done with grieving. I was all for accepting.
Unplugged from life. My lockdown bubble; me, my partner, our dog, our home, our garden and miles and miles of remote Pennine countryside. And the weather, the most amazing weather; sparkling sunshine and light. It was not long before I was once again feeling lucky and grateful. Incredibly grateful for everything we have but mostly for the opportunity to slow down. To pause. One of my 2020 goals was to steer my life towards better balance. A simpler life with more down time, in essence to practice more of the lifestyle medicine behaviours that I preach to my nutrition clients. Yet, as a life-long stress head, I’m not sure I really knew what stopping meant, or how to. I was trying. In January I signed up to a weekly art class which I love, it is mindfulness made easy, a cheat’s meditation. But here I was, unexpectedly given PERMISSION TO DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not only that, the world outside my door had also stopped. Nowhere to go. Nothing to be. And it was utter bliss.
I withdrew from daily life (radio, news, social media) and instead chose to pause and to notice. To search out the in-between, those moments when life feels oh so perfect. Watching a blackbird run across the grass or a buzzard circle slowly low overhead. Listening to the words of the wind as it moves through the trees or spotting the little clouds of early beech leaves dancing in the sunlight, captured mid-air like confetti. I ordered sketch pads and pencils and I started to draw. I listened intently for the in-between, and all around me I found it. Moments so beautiful that time stood still. I spent hours in the woods, way off the beaten track, watching, listening, sketching, recording spring unfurl. And so my world, shrunk in so many ways, sprouted wings. I have thrived on the solitude, on immersing myself in nature, on a slower daily rhythm – a slower heartbeat to my daily life.
Like the weather, I know this cannot last forever. For the sake of our business and our staff I am grateful that customers have started returning to work, that momentum is slowly gathering and that this week we have re-opened our doors; albeit in a tentative way, with a tiny workforce muted by social distancing. And in the way that life often works, in synchronicity, my nutrition practice has also taken on new clients.
For me, my lockdown bubble has burst. I have caught a glimpse of reality and felt that familiar seed of fear plant itself in the pit of my stomach. But at least I have noticed this, and in noticing I have given myself a choice. This time I have managed to squash it. I much prefer this new version of me and I would like her to hang around. Who knows whether or not this is a possibility or a pipe-dream, but I guess as with all things, time will tell.