Reflections on Quarantine
Disney has always been a place of magic but could anyone have guessed that they had enough magic in them to choose the UK Disney Plus launch date of 24th March 2020, 4 hours after Boris Johnson announced Lockdown. Forget 5G, there is your obvious conspiracy theory. Lockdown has turned our world upside down, and inside out. The freedoms that we have taken for granted have been snatched away from us by a silent, invisible enemy. We have all needed to adjust to a new reality, and some have argued that we should thrive by learning new skills, working out at home, and planning that new business. Others have reminded us that its okay to struggle, to feel lonely, and to binge Netflix or Disney Plus. This is a pandemic after all. An event of global trauma that will be studied in the pages of history, and I can’t imagine the students will be asking why everyone gained a couple of pounds. A friend of mine tweeted a helpful reminder, that the truth is that we aren’t in an ‘this or that’ situation. We don’t have to thrive, but we also don’t have to sink into sadness. For me, the reality is that each day has been different. Some days I wanted to try yoga for the first time and enjoyed work more than I have in a long time. Home was exactly where I wanted to be. Other days boredom has been a killer, work seemed like a burden, and home felt like a prison.
As I have sat thinking about these things, it seems to be that whether we are thriving or sinking, now is a good time to do some reflection, to listen to our bodies, and to ask ourselves how our lives might change because of this time. Over the last few days I noticed a feeling I didn’t expect that forced me to do just that. I was talking to my family about news on when our Lock-down might end, and I felt a rush of anxiety, not because of how long it might last, but at the thought of it ending. I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not, why that is the case. But I knew for sure that my body was trying to tell me that something about my normal life has to change, and that something about Lock-down life had made me aware of it. During this time of anxiety, I was fortunate that my life group began reading a book called ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’, and it has shone a bit of light on my worry.
Lock-down has slowed life down to a snail’s pace. No morning commutes. No social pressures. No rush to fit in time to do shopping. For a while now, I have felt more like a passenger than the driver of my own life, and maybe you have too. Often, I find myself ‘watching’ a movie and suddenly feeling the need to check my phone, only to find myself scrolling pointlessly through twitter, blissfully unaware of the crucial character development I was missing. How many times are we socialising with friends, and the laughter stops while a friend sends messages to someone not present. How many fights are caused at home by a desire to just get the chores done, rather than acknowledging that the relationship is more important than the task. Even during lock-down, when I am forced to be at home with plenty of free time, my attention is stolen by things I barely care about via the technology in my pocket. Too often, I feel like life is dragging me along, telling me how to feel and what to do. It can control me simply because I won’t slow down, listen to my body and my soul, and decide to do the things that matter to me, with the people that I love. In the last few days I have discovered that some small conscious choices can start to make me feel more in control. The most helpful has been turning my phone off (Yes, you can turn it off) for hours at a time, turning it on only when I have chosen to be contactable. As a swipe the screen turns to darkness, and suddenly my FOMO on great tweets, or hilarious memes has diminished, work seems a million miles away, and suddenly I find myself interested in that movie again. I feel more connected to the people I’m with. I feel more creative, and less agitated. I hope with time, and a few more small conscious decisions, I will begin to feel in control of my life again, and feel a renewed connection to my calling and faith. Sure, turning off my phone is just a small thing, but sometimes when there is a mountain to climb, you just need to take the first step.
Lock-down is a time when our freedom to do as we please has been taken from us, for our own good, but maybe that freedom had been taken long ago, by a relentless pace of life. Maybe that freedom was just consumerism in disguise all along. Maybe Lock-down isn’t just a loss of freedom, but also a temporary reprieve from economy and a chance to return to society. A chance to remember what is important to you, and to ask do you spend your time on those things, or is your time wasted away by being busy or distracted? At Left Side Up we love Irenaeus’ claim that ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive’. May this time of Lock-down, with all its sorrows and challenges, and also its joys, be a time of reflection, so that we may come out the other side, fully alive.