My sense of passing time is now sharper, courtesy of quarantined life. When I go for my walks at dusk, I want to drink every second down, paint every colour of the sunset with my hands and keep the cold air on my skin. It’s a weird feeling – wanting to slow time, to replay and savour the little things. And I wonder if these little things are really the big important things in life? To take long walks without a destination in mind. To see a sunset like I’ve never seen it before – candy pink and tangerine orange bleeding together, shimmering slightly on the lake I walk around every day. On the flip-side of feeling anxious over everything that is happening, there’s also a deep well of gratitude and joy inside me – for the privilege of being alive, and the opportunity to be awed by the natural world – so timeless, still and solid – ever growing and breathing, just like us.
I’ve been savouring the stillness and the slowness, while realising that I once was living too fast for the sake of speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity, work, progression and professional development. This virus has partially unshackled me from a time-driven life, where I have been pulled along by the rushing wave of “progress” and “development.” Have I been a prisoner of the frenzied world around me? What am I? Who am I? What might be regained with a less hurried life?
There are vast silence spaces in my mind that never use to be there. Rooms in my psych that I can wonder through in private, without the roar of a demand or deadline. I can occupy my own internal dreamings, rather than the outside voices of the things and people around me. Stillness and slowness are kind architects, trying to restore my inner self – the part of me that imagines, dreams, explores and is constantly questioning the intricacies of life, who I am and what I value. Habits of mind and lifestyle do not change easily but I am trying my best to savour the stillness and the slowness. I started writing again. Not the type of writing I do in my professional life – the conferences, articles and library blog posts – but more so the creative side. The words that are more like the old me – the girl that wrote everyday for years and even graduated with a creative writing degree because she loved being a storyteller. I’m telling stories again – because for the first time in a long time I’ve had the mind space to do so. I’m also exercising more and sleeping better. Gardening and doing things around the house. I’ve read more books than I have in ages and for the first time in God knows when I’ve been playing a video game (Animal Crossing). There is simply the needed replenishment of mind that comes from doing nothing in particular. I hadn’t realised I was in much need of thinking space – stillness and slowness – time to reflect, create and reconnect with my inner-self.
However, I know tending the inner self, taking time out and self-reflecting is not a one-time event. It should be ongoing part of a life lived deliberately, to quote Henry David Thoreau. Deliberate mindful living requires a change of habits and I wonder if I’ll still savour stillness and slowness when the buzz of the pre-virus world returns. Or will I get sucked back into that familiar vacuum I’ve come to know?
At some point the Corona virus will pass or recede. There’s been staggering suffering, loss of life, rampant mental health issues, job losses, enormous economic devastation. That tragedy cannot be overstated. For years, we will try to rebuild. But now, in this very moment, perhaps in the stillness and slowness of these isolating months, we can start architecturing the pieces back together – a community jigsaw of not only our inner-selves but our community- orientated selves – the way we contribute, serve, give, love and take care of one another. And maybe, just maybe, a more mindful, deliberate, grateful and kinder way of living can become a permanent piece of that jigsaw puzzle.