Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lockdown Reflections: Being Present



My morning walk is a little different to what it was a few months ago.

What once was a hurried dash to the office is now a commute with no destination, weaving between trees instead of rush hour traffic. My thoughts have also adapted accordingly from what they were before - mentally calculating what time I'd arrive at work, praying that the green man didn't change to red just as I approached the crossing, did I remember to pack lunch? (Answer: of course.)

Now, in the absence of these habitual thoughts that occupied my headspace like a colony of bees bumbling into one another, there is space in my mind for the quieter aspects of life - the ones that sit patiently, waiting to be noticed. The sky with its soothing blueness, the relentless chime of birdsong, the trees with their feathery, dappled shadows.

I'm reading a book at the moment called The Rosie Result (the final instalment in The Rosie Project trilogy), and the main character is immensely passionate about 'time-sharing' his daily tasks. Leg exercises whilst brushing his teeth, prepping for a big meeting over lunch, returning an important phone call whilst on a walk. It dawned on me how easy it is to fall into this pattern. I realised only recently, just how long it had been since I'd been for a walk just to walk. No destination, no mentally checking off a to-do list, no probing thoughts about what the rest of the day or week holds. Just clean air and headspace and footsteps on grass.

For so long I have felt like we are the ones in fast-forward, and the world is simply struggling to keep up with all of the milestones, the bustling commuters and the concert crowds. There is comfort, now, in watching the world blossom around us during this time, finding its rhythm again whilst we are the ones standing still.

Most days I head to the local lake with my family, and at the start of all this we found joy in the clusters of fuzzy ducklings that framed the pond, barely able to stand on their tiny legs without wobbling. Now, these ducklings are as big as their parents, soaring through the water and flapping their fully-feathered wings, and new families of hatchlings have formed. Those ducklings were a reminder to me that the world keeps turning.

I didn't always realise how much time I spent thinking about tomorrow. In my work life, my thoughts were largely consumed by what tasks I needed to do the next day, hoping that the traffic would be better, getting an early night so that I could wake up feeling fresh the next morning.

And maybe it's because the thought of what there is to come tomorrow, or the day after that, or the next day, is quite frankly terrifying right now, or maybe it's because recently I have felt a new sense of calm, but I have finally allowed myself to experience today. 

If it wasn't for Elon Musk's Starlink then I wouldn't have headed out into the garden for five nights in a row, and in turn, wouldn't have discovered the lingering stillness that comes at the end of the day, when the sky sleeps and the world is entirely quiet.

I'm a big fan of blue skies and burnt orange sunsets, and yet I had never truly appreciated the sky in its sleepiest state, cobalt slowly fading to black. When I looked up - tilting my head towards endless expanses of navy - I saw stars. Lots of stars, glinting and delicately pinpricking the darkness. The more I looked, the more I saw. I wasn't sure if it was because I was usually in bed nursing a cup of tea right about now, or because of my less-than-adequate eyesight and the fact that I hadn't quite looked hard enough, but it occurred to me that I couldn't recall the last time I looked up and saw the stars.

Unfortunately, I didn't spot Starlink on any of those nights, but I did develop a newfound appreciation for those quiet moments late in the evening - when the birds nestle comfortably in the treetops and everything starts to settle, almost like the world is holding its breath.

So let's not dismiss this time with a huff and a bat of our hand, but accept for what is, with (apprehensive) but outstretched arms. Let it be the nudge, the wake-up call, or the break that you need. Let it remind you of those all-important present moments, whether that's phone calls with family, walking with no destination, or simply remembering to look up at the stars.









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