As we approach the anniversary of the country entering lockdown, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the past year. The opening words of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ spring to mind; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…’. I won’t pretend to have read the rest of Dickens’ novel (it should have been a lockdown project!) but these few words sum up what the past twelve months have felt like, at least for me.
This is not a year I’d choose to live through again, but amongst the worst of times – the sadness, uncertainty, isolation and frustration – there have been some great times too, underpinned by a more deep-seated happiness and contentment.
I eased – reluctantly – into a slower pace of life
Forced into the self-employed version of furlough I suddenly had time on my hands. Once I got over the initial shock of not always having six things that I was running late for, I eased – reluctantly – into a slower pace of life. I used that time to sleep, to exercise, to plant a veg patch and to re-decorate some of the house. Gardener’s World even inspired us to convert a redundant computer table into an auricula theatre.
And while part of me is aching for us all to be able to safely meet up again with friends and family, and to travel beyond the paths we have worn on our local walks, I’m reluctant to allow my life to slide unthinkingly back to the way it used to be.
I’d like to take a fair chunk of lockdown life with me when we finally emerge, blinking, scratching, and stretching our wings back into society. So, here are three things that I choose to keep.
I choose to keep Mr Marr
First, I choose to keep Mr Marr. That might sound obvious but hear me out. For two and a half years, between him stepping down as Chief Executive of Eden Court and taking over a theatre in Edinburgh, we lived our own Tale of Two Cities – me here, him there. On paper it worked beautifully, we had weekends and the company of good friends in our home in the Highlands, and through the week he had a base in Scotland’s capital.
With the freedom of a freelancer, I flitted between the two – our tiny flat giving easy access to Edinburgh’s restaurants, theatres, and galleries, and to our central belt friends. But over time, the novelty of the weekly journey wore off and we found we were never together for long enough, and rarely in the right place at the right time.
First world problems, I know, but this year of 24/7 living and working under the same roof has shown us that living apart isn’t what we want long term. The practicalities have yet to be negotiated, but I choose, post-lockdown, that we’ll spend more time together.
I choose to carry on coaching
Second, I choose to carry on coaching. Last summer, with all that time on my hands, I revisited and refreshed my qualifications as a life-coach. It reaffirmed my belief that coaching is wonderful and powerful and radical. It helps people to work out what they really want from life, and to take the first steps towards making it happen. Hand on heart, it is one of the most fulfilling things I do. Whatever else happens next, I choose to keep coaching.
I choose a quieter pace of life
And third, I choose more time, and a quieter pace of life. I don’t mean a boring life; I mean one that’s just a bit less cluttered. It’s old-fashioned, but I keep a paper diary, as much to record what I’ve done, as a reminder of what’s to come. The pages for January to March 2020 take me back to how exhausting those months were to live though, and the months and years before them were no less hectic.
Work has to fit in somewhere, that’s a given. And I’m never going to turn down the chance of lunch with a friend when that becomes an option again. But slowing down has been good for me, so if I can, I’d like to have more of Mr Dickens’ wisdom when choosing what goes in my diary, and maybe a little less foolishness. Unless, of course, that foolishness involves friends, ice-cold water, and a wet suit…
I can’t be the only one looking at the timetable for lockdown easing and wondering if ‘back to normal’ is what I really want. Is this the opportunity we need to rewrite our own rules a little?