Working, Living and Learning in Lockdown.

Oppressive and restrictive in some ways, Lockdown has been liberating and stimulating in others. In this blog I reflect on some thoughts that our changed pace of life has reminded me of or caused me to consider. 

The blog follows three parts:

  1. Memento Mori – A reminder of what’s important in life. 
  2. A Tool for Change/ A Chance for Choice – How we can shape our lives now. 
  3. Winter to Spring – What are the good things that have come out of Lockdown? 

Memento Mori

The virus itself, an invisible threat that seemed to leap with quantum speed through our societies, has placed demands on our physical health and our ideas and minds.

In the hospital I have seen the physical consequences of infection. People die of Covid-19, especially when they are also frail or have concurrent physical illnesses. 

There are some anomalies who do not seem particularly frail or sick yet also become seriously ill or die, which is one of the key drivers for fear of the virus. 

At home, in the real world or on social media, I see that the virus has also afflicted physically well people with the realisation of their mortality.

A ‘Memento Mori’, a reminder that you might die at any time, can be at first depressing but can quickly become liberating.

A moral prominent in Stoic philosophy, knowing that you will die and might do so soon acts as a powerful motivator to evaluate the value of what you are doing right now. 

e.g. If you were to choke while eating dinner tomorrow, would you regret scrolling your social media feed today?
If your carbon monoxide alarm failed to buzz when cooking said dinner, would you be happy with your latest (and final) conversation with your loved one?

What else would you regret doing?

What would you wish you had done?

A Tool for Change / A Chance for Choice. 

With the world already turning itself upside down, so came along the Lockdown with the next push. 

Your pattern of working has probably changed. Mine certainly has. Before, I worked a job with regular hours, like most other people, with night shifts and weekends added on top. Now, the hospital has adapted our shifts so that we work three or four 12-13 hour shifts with a few days off in between (still including nights and weekends). 

I like the change. I work the same number of hours, but this format gives me a binary nature to my day. I am either at work or not at work and I can plan my day accordingly. 

For instance, regular working hours mean that there is a snippet of free time before work, where I have lots of energy and focus but little time to do anything substantial. On the other hand, the after-work hours are often under-utilised as my best energy was spent at work. Having an entire day to my own devices allows me to shape my day to allow my best output. 

I also like the ability to get outside, to walk in the park at a socially accepted hour or to ride my bike on a random Wednesday in the mid-afternoon sun. I also don’t have the wasted time of a morning commute.

I have written, read, learned and explored the outdoors a lot more than I would have been able to do previously.  

You probably have lots of flexible time too and might have unknowingly constructed your day to suit the way you want to work and play. 

We also have to think a bit more about what we choose to do. We cannot do all our previous activities, so we have to reconsider what we will do today. Something routine, such as supermarket shopping, now may need to be planned and executed. We might have too much free time, now that we have resurrected the ‘dead’ time spent commuting – Sometimes initially distressing, but when repurposed, leading to exciting possibilities.

It makes me wonder – If I could combine pre-lockdown and lockdown living, which bits would I keep and which bits would I chuck? What have I gained and what have I lost? What has become more important, or what aspects of my previous life have become redundant? 

How would I shape my future life after Lockdown has ended?

1) Living in a city does not hold as much importance anymore. Instead, I wish I could be closer to the countryside and areas of natural beauty. Concrete and cityscapes are no longer teeming with metropolitan bustle or hidden discoveries-to-be-had. Like a bleached coral reef, the concrete doesn’t seem so fertile anymore.    

2) As written before, I am really enjoying the separation between work and life. Treating each day in a binary fashion of work/no work seems unbalanced (restrictions on social life, daily activities) yet very balanced (long periods of freedom to recuperate and grow).

3) I would like to construct a life closer to my friends and family. Pre-lockdown, it was all too easy to neglect these connections. During lockdown, Zoom has given us a connection, but highlighted that virtual contact is incomplete. 

4) I have not been to the gym because it is closed. Instead, using what I have, press-ups and kettle-bells have provided a more minimal approach to weight training. It’s not going to replicate a world class training program (not that I deserve one) but it has made me question whether I need to subscribe to a damp gym and whether I would like to continue spending more time getting sweaty outdoors. An easy question to answer. 

What about you? I invite you to use lockdown as a foil to see what really matters. How would you design your life? 

(Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies well here. If lockdown was much more severe than at present, with drastic limitations on supply of items considered modern amenities, what would you need to live?)

A benefit of a lunchtime walk – discovering a forest full of blooming wild garlic. This means that Spring has sprung!

Winter to Spring

As I still have to commute I can sense a daily change in the world. Cycling to work feels far safer and takes half the time as there are fewer cars on the road. I have also noticed that the pot-holes and bumps have been filled or smoothened by the council finally given the opportunity of funds and time to restore infrastructure. 

Nature too seems to have bounced back in a matter of weeks, accelerating the transition from Winter to Spring. 

Throughout the day I can hear birdsong from my window, which is a surprise as 1) I live in a city, 2) this was rare before and 3) the nearest tree is more than 100 metres away. 

There are birds playing in the sky. There are insects in the air. The sounds, smells, greens and blues of the woods and lakes I cycle by seem more vivid and nuanced. 

It’s pretty special to go outside. The outside is pretty special.

Of course, the absolute health of our ecosystems won’t have budged in this short time, but perhaps the silence of lockdown just unveiled nature’s continued presence, or that the absence of human pollution has returned nature to reality in high definition. 

Or maybe it is our perspectives that have changed. Free from the blinding speeds of pre-lockdown life, sensitised by the plain painted walls of our houses, we now see the natural world with more receptive eyes. I want to understand the reason for this new sense of vision, because I want it to stay. 

So, to conclude, while we try to remind ourselves of the importance of spending our daily lives well, we might use lockdown as an opportunity to continue to see our world and way of living with a restored sense of awareness. 

Thanks for reading! If you think someone else would enjoy reading this, please share this article with them!

A day off – a visit to the seaside at Clevedon by bike.

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