Well, the world is almost in lockdown. People travelling internationally must self-isolate for 14 days upon return or some countries like Denmark have closed borders entirely. Tourist attractions in New York are closed, football games are over, gatherings of over 500 people in Australia have been cancelled and people have been encouraged to stay home. The whole of Italy is being quarantined. I read this over and wonder if I have written the first paragraph of a sci-fi novel. It’s a strange time in the world and sitting in my living room it’s easy to forget. When I remember I feel an eeriness descend.
And yet, this morning I have woken up and I can feel the quietness of the world sink into my bones and reverberate so that I feel softer, more quiet myself. In movies when there is a pandemic, it’s mayhem – the roads are loaded with cars like sardines in a can and the streets are clogged with people running around. The reality is different and, as always, I think the universe has delivered us what we need: peace, the chance to reflect, go in, connect with what’s really important, clear our calendars, spend time at home and take stock of what we really want. To top it off, my phone stopped charging and although I have a spare, I wonder if it’s a sign to just keep it off.
The idea that the universe delivers what we need may be a bit woo woo to you. But to me, it’s clear as day. Two and a half years ago I was working as a personal trainer – early mornings and long nights – as well as travelling 3 hours to work as a practice manager for a very busy psychology clinic and studying for a psychology degree! I was burned out and exhausted but I needed money and thought I needed a degree so I wasn’t busting my ass in this way my whole life so I just pushed on.
One sunny Wednesday afternoon, my horse threw me off cantering uphill and my ankle folded neatly underneath me like my bones were made of roll-up. Both bones were broken, I needed surgery and there was a chance it would not ever heal fully – I’d be left with an ankle that doesn’t bend. For a very active person this was a nightmare and so I took my period of rest very seriously. It was tough – mentally probably more than physically even though the pain was intense after surgery and I didn’t like the way pain killers fogged my brain so I didn’t take them. I got through it though (thanks to multiple seasons of Gossip Girl & the presence of my best friend who lives overseas and stayed with me to recover from Dengue Fever). I look back on it now and see how sometimes if we don’t listen to the signs, the universe forces us to. After I recovered I became a yoga teacher and learned to take life a lot more slowly.
Sadly, not everyone who can is socially isolating and many people are carrying on as usual. I wonder if perhaps this is because slowing down is too confronting, like the itch we feel to get up and do something else when we sit down to meditate. I felt that itch in the 6 weeks that I was couch bound with a broken ankle, and I’ll admit it is tough – so this is certainly not a criticism. And of course I recognise people must still go to work (my husband for example), but I know many people are carrying on life as usual. What I learned is that if we surrender to what is – to the present moment – and take the opportunity to slow down and give our minds a rest, then really those of us lucky enough to be untouched by the deaths caused by coronavirus can take this as a gift and a sign that we all need to stop doing so much. And we all do really, with the convenience of technology and globalisation we can fit more into the hours of our day than ever before. And perhaps that’s what needs to change. It’s an introvert’s dream, but I guess an extrovert’s nightmare.
Suddenly though, we have the time for the things we didn’t before – reading a novel, calling friends we usually text ‘because a phone call takes too long’, meditating, yoga practice, learning a new hobby, cooking a meal from scratch, baking something difficult, binge-watching a series and not needing to feel guilty for it, sitting down to eat at the table because we’re not too exhausted from our day, playing board games with our kids or playing chess with our partners, literally smelling the roses – we have been given the gift of time and that is very rare. Of course, nurses, doctors and those in the front-line have not been given such a gift, and so perhaps it is even more important that those of us who can relish it.
As with anything, resistance to what is will not change anything – it will simply make us uncomfortable. This is what it is, and the sooner we accept it and isolate, the sooner this will be over. Me? In between nappy changes and feeding my darling boy, you’ll find me relaxing on the couch with my dogs and reading Sense and Sensibility – a reminder of a time when things were much simpler. Bliss.