RUSHING TO A STAND STILL
Words Lottie Lewis & Sarah Bird
16 April 2020
4 minute read (you can do it)
Practically overnight, everyone went home. Suitcases were packed and planes were boarded. Vans loaded and ferry tickets booked. Schools closed and jobs were put on hold. Everyone suddenly found themselves in the same position on an otherwise uneventful morning – at home. The government announced that the only way to ‘Protect the National Health Service and Save Lives’ was to STAY HOME.
In a time when we take travel and constant movement for granted, home can sometimes be more concept than concrete. When you were suddenly told to stay at home, where did you go?
For some, we were already there – surrounded by our family; parents with children whose schools were no longer open, university students whose dissertations are now being written from their childhood bedrooms, grandparents being practically bubble-wrapped, getting fresh air through open kitchen windows. Others returned on long-haul flights from tropical islands, seasonnaires packed up and left resorts, city office workers sought refuge in their flats or with family members in the countryside.
“Woof woof woof”
You’ll hear people half-joking; “it’s taken a global pandemic to get us all back together!” – and whilst this may be said as a throwaway comment, for some families, it’s the truth. Rushing around, constantly working, travelling, bettering ourselves – have we forgotten that home is more than just a place to lay our heads, but also a sanctuary where we gather with people we love when the world gets a little rough? Across the UK, at 8.30pm on Monday 23rd March, if people weren’t already at home, they were making arrangements to head back to their roots, rejoin their families, and stand in solidarity against Coronavirus.
What does home mean to you? Perhaps now, it represents safety, comfort, peace, love. It might also represent boredom, constraint, nagging anxiety. Perhaps it means different things at different times.
“Rushing around, constantly working, training, bettering ourselves – have we forgotten that home is more than just a place to lay our heads”
For some people, home is not a safe place – it is a place of very real danger and fear. This article is not meant to undermine the very real need to provide practical refuge and help to people at risk of harm at home – whether children, women or men. And many, many people are facing severe stress and anxiety over loss of livelihood, reduced income. Not to mention the thousands who have been affected by the virus, and the care workers who tirelessly put others before themselves.
During this strange time, we can choose to see the constraints placed upon us as positive, not negative. The idea of positive constraints is that unlimited freedom is not as attractive as it sounds. It can lead to overwhelm, paralysis and dissatisfaction.
“Infinite options equals ultimate prison, in many circumstances. You end up with this paradox of choice issue. It’s like standing in front of shelving at a Safeway with 300 brands of toothpaste and just wasting 15 minutes of your life trying to pick a toothpaste. You don’t need that kind of cognitive burden and decision fatigue.”
~ Tim Ferriss
The current situation has imposed constraints on us that would have seemed unimaginable a few months ago. But what if these were positive constraints? What if these are constraints that force us into new kinds of creativity and connection? Who do you want to become through this experience? Who do you want to be on the other side?
Nelson Mandela was asked how he survived his time in prison (27 years) He answered “I wasn’t surviving, I was preparing.”
Most of us are not experiencing the same material and sensory deprivation that Mandela lived through. But sometimes we put ourselves in a prison of our own making. It can take a little practice to look around and choose gratitude and perspective over complaining and negativity. What would that mindset shift look like for you – if you went from surviving – to preparing?
It doesn’t have to be about going into overdrive – learning an instrument, Kondo-ing every cupboard, starting a side hustle. But it’s also not about watching Netflix and eating family-size packs of Easter eggs all day. It’s somewhere in the middle – being curious about the everyday moments of our experience – our experience of home, ourselves and of the wider world in this new phase. Being kind to ourselves and others. Inner worlds expanding as the outer world fades for a time. A conscious intention and choice to see this time at home as fertile and full of opportunity, rather than wasted.
And this choice, this choosing to reorient towards the positive – will not be a one off. We will choose – and then we will be overwhelmed. We will choose – and then anxiety will creep in again after we spend just that bit too long on the news. But that is the practice. Choosing again, and again, and again – to reorient towards the sun.
The expression ‘charity starts at home’, has never been more applicable. Home-schooled kids are learning from their parents that a small community gesture can go a big way. Neighbourhood windows are dotted with hand drawn, colourful signs thanking the health service for everything they are doing for us, and the country is united in wanting to help in any means possible to bring about the best possible outcome. The amount of charity that we’ve seen happening throughout our country, in just these few weeks alone, has been a testament to human nature. A global pandemic has highlighted the millions of homes at the heart of our little country and it’s brought meaning back to the word.
We hope you are staying healthy, staying happy and staying home.
You can #shareyoursun wherever you are.