Is it just me, or has anyone else been forced to radically update their to-do list in light of the pandemic? For as long as I can remember, I have had a to-do list. The list is filled with things I am certain I'll get around to 'when I have the time'.
Learn to play the piano; convert my shed to an office or writing room; re-read Don Quixote or Shakespearean tragedies; perfect some Darina Allen recipes; re-string my guitar; tackle the junk space under the stairs and watch The Sopranos are some of the things that have been waiting for my attention for years.
Wasn't busyness a lovely excuse?
Does anyone else miss having excuses like lack of time, clashing appointments or getting held up in traffic? Time is all we have now. We can no longer delude ourselves that our interests and talents are simply waiting to be fertilised by time so they can blossom to their full potential. These last few months have proven to me that it is not time I have been lacking. It is desire. The pandemic has been an acid test of my commitment to, and passion for, certain things. The conclusive results show that time is not a contributing factor in my lack of accomplishment of these tasks.
Gift of forgiveness
I saw an opportunity here to beat myself up about not being good enough, but instead I have given myself the gift of forgiveness. I am clearing my to-do list of anything that I thought needed only time. I could easily read a Shakespearean tragedy every day during lockdown - but I haven't, and don't want to. It's an unexciting activity on an unnecessary agenda, and it's gone now forever.
I am a creature of habit. I am fiendishly competent at cooking the four to five dishes I enjoy eating, and I'm now leaning into my selfishness and putting a full stop right there. I am no longer holding Future Stefanie responsible for puncturing a ham with cloves and using copious appliances to turn potatoes into a 'dish'. Chef Preissner is off the list.
I've drawn a definitive line through anything I was sure I'd get to if I ever 'had the time'. There's a pile of books next to my bed that I call The Pile of Hope.
Whenever I buy a new book, I inadvertently think I'm buying the time to read it. The books wait there, socially distant from one another, separated by greeting cards and electricity bills that have come into my life in the meantime. I have read a total of one book since March. I cannot concentrate for long enough to read a chapter. I can tell you the first five lines of Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh verbatim, because I must have read them 30 times, unable to retain their meaning.
The books won't be destroyed; they aren't waiting for time, they're waiting for safety. The books are being patient. They know once my brain feels safe enough in the real world, it will allow itself, and me, to escape into fiction. Right now, my mind won't get lost in a book because I don't feel safe enough to take my eye off the real world, threatening and all as it is.
The age of Jesus
I'm the same age as Jesus was when he died. Who knows how long I have? I'm not spending what's left of my precious life slaving over ivory keys, gaping at cryptic music symbols, and feeling guilty I didn't learn sooner. Piano: struck off my list.
There are a few skills I have honed during my time in lockdown and some of them I am even going to work into my life post-pandemic (PP). I'll share my top tips:
1) Putting a drop of essential oil into my laundry detergent. Who doesn't need a subtle hint of lavender infusing their cotton? Pandemic or no pandemic - it's a morning surprise when you get dressed, and sets you up for a day of olfactory opulence.
2) Putting a drop of essential oil into my floor cleaner.
Granted, these hacks are somewhat lavender-oriented. But I challenge you not to enjoy the just satisifyingly perceptible hint of it around your home.
I'm also going to keep in greater contact with the friends who've carried me through this time. I hope to retain my excitement for the little things, like getting to a supermarket, or bumping into a friend who's out walking and stopping for a socially distant chat. I hope I don't go back to the relentless scurrying of Pre-Covid times (PC). There is no rush now, and I'm not sure there ever was.
I feel a light relief after reducing my expectations of myself. I don't have the weight of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow weighing on me.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine