It’s almost six months since the government instigated lockdown. Lockdown has introduced us to a new vocabulary and a ‘new normal’ - words such as ‘furlough’, ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘face coverings’, along with incessant hand-washing and cultivating fresh air pursuits to compensate for the lack of indoor facilities. During that time our priorities, according to our age and circumstances, were keeping ourselves and those we care for safe and making life work in the absence of school attendance, shops being closed, lack of routine hospital appointments and social care and entertainment venues closed.
Alongside the difficulties of lockdown, there was a positive effect with the possibility of life being different when some of the things mentioned above returned to normal. I found myself using the phrase ‘I must’ or ‘I mustn’t’ followed by what needs to be done and what needs to be remembered. There is a buzz in conversations of getting children ready for school, preparing for the exodus to university and planning how to balance work with home life. In several situations, it matters if things are missed because there are repercussions; for instance, home-schooling and actual school have different demands and getting something wrong or forgetting things have different consequences. Life has become complicated, and complications need solutions. So, the pressure of ‘I must do’, ‘I mustn’t forget’ and ‘I mustn’t be late’, which weren’t there in lockdown, have become the norm. We cannot excuse ourselves any more with ‘It doesn’t matter, I can do it tomorrow or next week’. The world we’ve found ourselves propelled back into is much more complicated than the world we left.
Perhaps the need is to evaluate how we will manage the situations we’ve found ourselves in. Nobody chooses the grief, continuing ill health, loss of jobs, underlying panic and fear at facing school or university, travelling on public transport and re-entering work situations. The truth is everybody is struggling, and struggle in itself can bring frustration and despair, and perhaps not the hope and determination that’s needed to begin again. Rather than using the phrase ‘I must’ to push forward, we could use it to encourage a process of slowing down. In that place of slowing down, we will give ourselves space to find a way that works and enables us to be encouraged and hope again.