The dilemma I know we’re in the middle of a global pandemic with the economy knackered and the free world led by a man like Trump. I know our freedom has been temporarily taken away from us. But I’m dreading the end of lockdown.
For years I’ve craved a slower pace of life. Lockdown has allowed me to spend time with my family – and not on the relentless promise of success in my career. It has allowed me to play and learn with my child, rather than rush to drop-off or pick-up at wraparound care. It has allowed me to walk in woodland rather than standing on a crowded commuter train. In many ways it has been idyllic.
Yes, I know I’m lucky to be able to work from home instead of being furloughed. Yes, I miss friends and family and meals out, and theatre and cinema and sport. But I’m loving this pace of life and struggle to come to terms with going back to “normal”. Should I use this break as a chance to re-evaluate my way of life?
Mariella replies The short answer? Yes! I’m sure that plenty of us will look back at this momentary pause in normal proceedings and share your sense of regret for its passing.
Yes there is extreme hardship and a financial impact that few will escape but, for all that, these are definitely gentler days for many of us. Not just in terms of kindnesses and a reduction in the everyday frenzy of life, but beyond that, there is a slow dawning of appreciation of the things we’ve failed to value highly enough. The proximity of those we love; the luxury of idling; the value to our lives of friends not in our immediate reach; the enriched quality of a kind of existence that is possible when we are not running our lives against a ticking clock. There is also the pleasure of supporting local enterprises that have proved so much more essential than the impersonal giants that, for all their market domination, just weren’t there when we needed them.
For old socialists like me, the best of that ideology seems to be experiencing a reawakening as more and more people realise that the way of life we’ve been aspiring to pre-Covid hasn’t produced a bounty of wellbeing. It says a lot about our old lifestyle that the “wellness industry” was booming, making big bucks by commercialising the very things many of us are now enjoying under lockdown. Maybe that goal of “wellness”, but without the trademark, should now be top of our list of good things to retain from this traumatic time. Would it not be a fitting fate for this insidious virus that’s stolen so much from us, to rebrand it as a positive new “ism”, symbolising the moment our world paused and we reconstructed our dreams of what a good life should be? When we are forced to battle our way back into business, would it not be possible to make sure the same old rat race does not re-emerge? To try to maintain the central compassionate glow of this Covid spring?
Making the most of the time left is starting to feel like an imperative and you are not alone in experiencing the tightening of a knot in your stomach at the prospect of the lockdown bubble bursting. The cooped-up chaos, endless rowing and inertia that most of us expected seems instead to have configured itself into a better sense of being. Kids, no matter how reluctantly, taking some responsibility for chores; adults with time to talk to each other, to walk and read and listen and even play cards of an evening! Our world definitely seems to improve when we relinquish the expectations we have come to embrace as normal ambitions, sustained by endless and relentless consumerism.
Now may well be the moment to take note of the beneficial impact that simpler lifestyles have had on us and our planet and insist that, when the time comes for re-entry, we won’t just step back on the treadmill. I know that with an economy in freefall and job losses at an all-time high it won’t be hard to tempt us into re-embracing our bad consumerist habits, but does a less frenetic pace have to be a bad economic choice?
What I am certain of is that it would be an even greater tragedy than the one that has just befallen us to learn nothing from the whole experience except how to be better prepared for a pandemic.
Would we be “living the dream” if, after losing so many of those we love, enduring terrible financial hardship and cataclysmic job losses, we turned around and went straight back to normal once the threat of the virus abated?
If I believed in God, I’d consider Covid-19 a pretty strong message from him about the need for behavioural change. I’d like to join with you in exhorting readers to celebrate how different and better a world not based on “busyness” actually is – and could be. I’d be tempted to call this new awakening Covidism, as a mark of respect to those who have died and a way of reminding ourselves that their deaths should not be in vain. It’s given us pause for thought and if we’ve learned nothing from it, we really are a lost cause.
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