During this time of upheaval and change, it is good to remember the beneficial things that have come about recently to contrast with the news we hear on a daily basis. Social isolation is a grim thing – it removes us from those we love, and as highly social creatures it is painful for all of us.
However, there are a few green shoots of hope that have helped me, personally, to deal with this unprecedented situation.
I’m extremely fortunate that Lifeways has given me purpose. Being someone who thrives on routine, and after an initial dizzy patch of confusion and chaotic responses to urgent situations, I’ve been able to get back into productivity and positivity by creating a timetable for myself – and by sticking to it.
Lifeways is a community of Therapists, Counsellors and people who run workshops such as Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga. I’ve organised a couple of group Zoom meetings for our counsellors and therapists – it’s a lovely thing to share news and updates and see friends. All of these people are self-employed, so their income streams have been halted at a stroke by the lockdown. There will be some support from the Government for them, but they are all facing challenges. What I’ve found is that everyone is developing positive ways of coping with lockdown. Some are volunteering in their local community, some working on the frontline in the NHS and others looking after loved ones. A few are continuing to work – Skype Pilates and Yoga sessions are continuing for self-isolating people; Zoom meetings are being held by counsellors.
One of the most positive things that has happened as a result of the crisis for me is the quiet. I’m loving being woken by birdsong and then walking to Lifeways on a 5-mile circular ramble around the river. I’m a bit of a bird-watcher (I wouldn’t go quite as far as ‘Twitcher’), and this year I’ve seen far more of our rarer feathered friends than usual. Nuthatches, Marsh Tits, Reed-Warblers, Woodpeckers, Yellowhammers and Kingfishers all love the riverbank in the morning.
Another big positive for me is a change of pace. Spending whole weekends in my garden at home is a real joy. I doubt that I’ll see another year where my garden has been quite so productive due to the attention it has received!
Quality-time with my family is also a huge plus. My big daughter, who lives in London, regularly organises online gaming sessions for us all. Last Sunday she organised a quiz night and it was superb. Her little sister is now volunteering with me occasionally in the office and is great company and help. I’m seeing so much more of the two of them than ever before and it is a blessing.
Perhaps the thing about this crisis that has given me the most pleasure is the way that the community has pulled-together. In the street where I live and in Albany Road where Lifeways is based, Thursday-night clapping sessions are themed, we’ve had a social-distancing Street Disco and the VE celebrations were terrific. Neighbours are actively knocking on the doors to check on vulnerable people and do little jobs for each other.
Sometimes I worry that we will lose these positives once the crisis is over. I think this is unlikely. I’m hopeful that we’ll remember them and take time to fit them in as our lives return to a new normal. We can continue to have a slower, more mindful approach to our lives, retain closer ties with friends and family, work towards a cleaner and heathier natural environment and stoke the fires of friendlier and more caring local communities.
Here’s to the future!
James, Lifeways’ Manager