I lit a candle to write this blog post. I made some tea – well, a caffeine free tea of sweet spice and dried fruit, in a teapot, with some oat milk. I’m listening to a playlist my sister suggested on Spotify, ‘Peaceful Piano’. There’s thought behind this, a discussion I had with her earlier when I said my head didn’t feel right at the moment, and I’d slipped back into a bad pattern of going to bed too late again.
To be exact, what I’m really doing is delaying my sleep for no other reason than habit. Time feels a little meaningless (and yet it still means everything, having time), extremely fluid, and so I push against it. I mentioned in my last blog post that time feels both as if January was years ago, and that time has rushed by.
I’m always interested in how other people see time, in their minds. I started a book years ago, called Time Warped by Claudia Hammond, and it was all about our perceptions of time, what time is (a construct), and the history of it. In my own mind, I see time similar to a grid, that stretches into the distance. Days are blocks, and weeks are seven collections of blocks. They have the names of the day, the number, and the month.
A year is a collection of months. In a way, like a filing system. It’s strangely mathematical for someone who has trouble with numbers. Maybe it’s a nod to the part of me that needs structure and a bit of order. Or maybe it’s socialisation, a result of how we count and visualise time in Western culture. I see past years as being behind me, and the next years in front.
The structure of a day is odd to me. Sometimes I see days in my mind as broken up into half hours, with a clock. It’s quite a visual but numeric way of seeing time. But I also see days in the past as having colour, a block filled with memory and experiences. That brings me to this year.
I can see the things that I did this year. I feel as if I haven’t done much, but when I think back, yes, I did actually do some things. I’ve cooked a lot, but then we’ve also had plenty of takeaways and small celebratory moments with cake. I’ve watched 34 films this year, read 26 books (so far), watched theatre performances online (and two before lockdown in person earlier this year), watched a few Hay Festival and Edinburgh Book Festival talks (with captions too!), WOW (Women of the World festival), and a number of YouTube channels. I’ve breezed my way through many Webtoon episodes, and read plenty of articles. So, though it may feel like life is in stasis, it hasn’t completely come to a standstill.
In England, we’re going into another lockdown on Thursday. A month which ends on my birthday (2nd December). I’m not too worried about it, but equally it feels like it should have been earlier. I’m one of those people who have been largely shielding because we live with my parents. Mum has been on the shielding list because she was having treatment for cancer earlier in the year, and that only finished around April or May. Then she had a major operation in September so we basically kept shielding as much as we could.
When lockdown ended in June/July, we stayed away from doing things like going out or to shops. Anywhere where people might not respect social distancing or wearing masks properly. It has been hard to see people going to restaurants and seeing friends, trying to stay the course. So it doesn’t feel like I’m ‘going back’ into lockdown, as such.
We’re heading into winter so I’m just preparing to do cosy, gentle, calming things. Of course I’m anxious, but part of me is tired of looking outward all the time, especially when I need to heal. I have to re-learn how to look after myself, because I haven’t been doing so well with basic self-care. Survival, yes, but not the very basic things that all of us need to thrive and feel resilient.
And I think it’s perfectly fine, if you’re struggling, to retreat a little. Not from your community and loved ones, but just to take the time to do nice, calming, good things for yourself. To check in with your heart and mind. Especially this year. Especially. What fills you up and brings you joy?
Who makes you laugh? What sort of thing brings out the child within you, your imagination and playfulness? How can you bring more calm and kindness to your life? Is there someone you’ve been meaning to check in with? Don’t forget the joys in every day moments in a surreal dystopian year like this. Drink your coffee or tea, light a candle (or turn on a fake candle, or string lights), and, if you want, put some calming music on. Let time be what it is.
‘Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.’– Thich Nhat Hanh