OPINION: Summer 2021 is a balance between normality and simplicity
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Someone I know has just tweeted this message to her followers: ‘What ARE you doing? What are you thinking? Would everyone just be quiet. You're all too lively and loud.’
This made me laugh, because as we take up previously forbidden activities and become more sociable, I’m sure lots of us are feeling the same way. We want normality but we don’t want to lose the simplicity and peace of the last 15 months.
We’re all different though, aren’t we? And just as we had to find our own methods to cope with the lockdowns, we now have to find our own way out of them – and not beat ourselves up if we don’t get it right immediately.
Looking back, many of us had firm views about what we would, and would not, do once the worst of the Covid threat had passed.
We had Zoom conversations saying that we’d never forget what nature meant to us, or how important families and friends were, or how vital it was to appreciate home cooking or birdsong. We also said that the pandemic had changed us, and that we planned to incorporate some of what we’d learned about ourselves, once life opened up again.
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So where are we with those good intentions?
A neighbour has returned to travelling to London every day and he’s upset with himself because he’d intended using his commute to continue to learn French, which was something he’d enjoying during lockdown. But he isn’t doing it – because he’s far too tired and falls asleep on the journey.
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After 15 months of working from his dining room, he’s out of practice with travelling and seeing so many people and, like my Twitter friend, he needs to chill a bit till he gets used to it.
Someone I was speaking to in the last few days said she worried that so many of the valuable parts of the last year – long meals with her children, cooking together, and family walks – might disappear now everyone is busier. She wants to hang on to them however, because she felt they strengthened the bond between family-members.
I know other people who found such solace in their gardens in the early weeks of the pandemic that they vowed to continue to spend time there every day once life returned to normal. They’d found a gentler way of living and were determined to maintain it. But they, like so many of us, are beginning to discover that these promises to ourselves aren’t so easy to keep.
I confess I’ve disappointed myself. When I was self-isolating, I’d reflected on how often in pre-pandemic times I’d allowed myself to get steamed up about things that really weren’t important. A typical example was how I tended to get upset whenever travel plans by car or rail failed to go exactly to plan. So, I decided that I was going to keep calm and let all these trivialities wash over me once we could travel again.
Well, I have to confess that last Saturday my good intentions flew out of the window. Was I tranquil? Alas, anything but!
I drove to London to see relatives who have a toddler of 18 months. I hadn’t seen them in the flesh for almost a year, so it felt like a big deal. And I’d found out that the best time to arrive would be between 2.30pm and 3pm, when the baby would have had lunch and a nap, and be playful and wide awake and happy.
It was a sunny, hot day, and I was sure that few people would be on the roads because they’d all be in their gardens having barbecues. Big mistake! Why, I wonder, do we always assume that everyone else will be doing something different from what we want to do?
Why does it never occur to us that other adults might be thinking precisely the same way as we are and planning to see their own far flung families?
So, the roads were clogged with individuals like me trying to reconnect with their old lives. And there were road works, diversions and accidents along the way. The journey felt quite overwhelming and I found myself muttering words under my breath that I haven’t felt the need to use since about March last year.
Eventually, I reached my family. No one was cross that I was late, and it was all very jolly and delightful and relaxed. But as I drove home that evening, I felt seriously miffed with myself that I’d been so uptight on the outward journey. Obviously, the ‘new calm me’ is a work in progress.
I suspect we’re all struggling a bit. But let’s resolve to keep trying to cling to the most important changes and lessons we gleaned in lockdown.
At the same time, let’s be understanding of ourselves when we fail. We’ve never been in this situation before. It’s going to take a while to sort it. Our post-pandemic world won’t be built in a day!