When the first lockdown happened in March, I was okay about it. I knew the government were doing the best they could in dealing with a crisis never before experienced in modern times.
I was set up to work from home, I didn’t rely on a gym for exercise, and I was very used to communicating via Zoom calls to get things done. In fact, my immediate attention turned to those around me. How do I look after my team and make sure they’re okay? How would we continue to do Church service during a time like this? In what ways could I help others who
might be finding this pandemic tougher than most to navigate?
I went through my contact list and send voice messages to people, checking in and letting them know I’m there for them. I offered free coaching sessions online to support those looking for clarity and a listening ear. I doubled down on posting online, encouraging others to stay hopeful and stay connected.
I had a strong routine in place where I was consciously looking after my spiritual, physical and mental health. But I still needed a break. A time to step away and be in solitude. For the last few years, I would go away to the Lake District by myself. I’d spend a few precious few days just slowing down, sometimes to a standstill where I’d be doing nothing and focusing on nothing except the next breath or the next step I took as I took long walks in nature.
So I was pretty devastated when lockdown 2.0 was announced. This overlapped with this year’s retreat and meant I couldn’t go. I immediately felt caged in. The past 8 months or so of being somewhat confined caught up with me and it was only now I realised the effect it was having on me. Deep down I knew lockdown was temporary and I was ready to accept the situation with all it’s restrictions, so long as I eventually had the opportunity to get away and refuel.
When this was taken away from me (intentional choice of words), I was sad. Suddenly I felt claustrophobic. I needed to get out but I couldn’t. My thoughts started to gain momentum. In a negative way. How much longer is this going to last? We haven’t shared a meal with our family in months, and for the first time in years, Christmas won’t be spent with aunties and uncles and cousins playing board games and doing secret Santa.
It would’ve been easy to let my thoughts run wild, and they actually did for a little while. But when you build solid routines into your life, you can fall back on strong habits to realign yourself and get centred again.
As I sat in my thinking chair and reflected, I became aware of what was going on. I took some time to re-orientate myself so I could get a hand of the situation again. The most critical realisation to have during a time like this when I feel myself losing my grip on work, relationships or emotional well-being is the fact that it’s impossible to keep a strong grip on everything in my life anyway.
I am not in control. I never was. That’s just not how life works. I have a poster in my office that says “Life is about learning to adjust your sail”. I had momentarily forgotten this. And it was stressing me out.
I had to remind myself of an empowering truth that I would very often be reminding others about; know what you can control and focus on that.
Adjust your sail to the changing conditions of the weather so you can reorientate yourself towards your goals. If it’s stormy weather, which the whole of 2020 is turning out to be for many reasons, then adjust accordingly. It’s about course-correction, not course-control.
I’ve rebooked my retreat to the week after we’re scheduled to come out of lockdown. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll reschedule again. That’s okay. What’s a few weeks in the grand scheme of things? I’m looking forward to the time when we can sit down with loved ones over a delicious home-cooked meal and enjoy each other’s company. In the meantime, I get to think about how I get to spend more of Christmas with my wife and how we can make it a special time just for us. If you’re going to be by yourself this Christmas, think about how you adjust your sail to current circumstances. Get creative. Do what you can with what you have. If you want community, reach out. We’re all in this together. You might be alone but you’re not alone in your situation.
This Christmas may not look like any other Christmas you’ve ever experienced, but we can celebrate it just the same. It’s up to you to make it happen.