It has been a long while coming, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is a slow journey, but at least we are on the way. The children are back to school, and there is hope in the air.
As we emerge from lockdown, I wonder if we will reach a point where, looking back, this will all seem like a bad dream - or will we still be surrounded by enough reminders to keep that bad dream alive?
One thing is sure and that is that we have all been affected, in some way or other, for good or ill by this past year in a way that we could never have anticipated. For numerous people, this has been a time of absolute tragedy – too many deaths, many bereaved families, and so much pain and distress. Many have caught the infection and survived, but their lives have been changed because of the ongoing ravages of Covid. Those who have been on the front line in the care of the sick and dying have experienced trauma and immeasurable stress because of it. At another level, the majority have gone about their daily lives, adjusted to the requirements of lockdown, and, while recognising the real pressures they have lived under, still talk about all the ways in which life has improved during this time.
Several people that I have spoken to recently are asking how they can ensure that the good things they have enjoyed are not swallowed up in the busyness of life when restrictions are lifted. Two issues have emerged from those conversations.
Strange as it might seem in a time of social distancing, many people have welcomed the time and space to reconnect with those closest to them. I have heard of families who have simply sat and talked together, played board games, watched a film together, or gone out into the fresh air for a family walk. For those who have no family or are cut off from them because of the restrictions, have you discovered people in your neighbourhood who have taken the time to talk, offer help, and show acts of kindness? At the very least, for most of us, this time has reminded us of how we are created as social beings and need and long for human connection.
Another theme in our conversations is that people have enjoyed the opportunity to be in their own space. That does not contradict what I have just written but simply shows that in our lives we need a proper balance between solitude and socialising. Perhaps we have discovered how good or poor we are at either. The fear that comes through the conversations is that ‘normal life’ will engulf and sweep away all that has been good about this time.
So, how can we carry forward the positives into the coming freedom? Firstly, start thinking about it now. Lockdown is being lifted slowly and, before we know where we are, we could slide back to where we were before. Be clear in your mind what you are going to carry forward. Ring fence that family time. Take time to talk to your neighbour without rushing off. Protect those times when you need to be alone. Give yourself time to think about what matters in life. Secondly, be specific in what you are going to leave behind that you were doing before lockdown. Living with intent means that you prioritise the values that matter to you. We might have to sacrifice certain activities or change how we do things to protect what we have come to value. One thing we do know is that we all have a limited amount of time. Let us not spoil that time by going back to a frenetic pace of life in which the quality of life gets lost.