“It’s life Jim, but not as we know it”

Star Trekkin’ by The Firm

I’m not the only person using this popular (so popular I almost mis-referenced it) quote to sum up life right now. Let’s be honest, it does sum up 2020 pretty well. Since March, our lives have been flipped upside down, turned inside out, and sent spinning in the air. Every time it looks like we’re coming into land, another gust of “wind” sends us spinning again. Who knew that a pandemic would last more than six months in this day and age… (apart from the scientists, historians, sociologists, and probably most people with common sense.)

It’s still sinking in that we are seven months into COVID in the UK. Globally it’s been over nine months! The bit I’m finding even crazier is that we are still trying to return to a pre-COVID normal. Come on people, life has changed! No matter what happens next, we can’t return to how life was before.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic and pre-emptive to say “we can’t return”. What I do know is that I can definitely not return to how life was pre-COVID. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling this way either. So, in an attempt to put some structure to the changes, here are three things that the pandemic is teaching me…

Various books, a board game, gifts and knick knacks being sorted through to keep or donate.
Just a small sample of what I’ve been sorting through in order to have less stuff in my life.

1. I have way too much stuff!

I’m even including books in the “too much stuff”. Yes, this book-buying-addict is finally admitting that she has more books than she has time to read. And it isn’t just books! From DVDs to pretty decorative gifts, even my clothes, I am now fully wanting to cut down on how much I own.

How did I come to this realisation? Living with my parents, in a small box room, with just what I could fit into my car. (I moved back within two hours of the lockdown being announced). Sure, I still had a fair few clothes, plenty of books and my various babies (plants and fermentations) that couldn’t be trusted to survive on their own. 

What I didn’t have was all the stuff that crowds my life normally. Loads of washing to do because I can get away with wearing clothing only once or twice before washing it. Multiples of everything so I can be lazy, not tidying up after myself until the pile is too big to ignore. Loads of trinkets and mounds that have to be moved whenever I dust, hoover or clean. Effectively, my life was made busier by “stuff”.

I’m not perfect at this. For example, I bought two books I didn’t need and am already trying to understand why I did so. But I’ve definitely realised that so much of what I own isn’t necessary or even desirable. It is just filling some non-existent hole I believe existed when in reality my life is too full, not in a good way.

2. I need people in my life! Just not my whole life.

I’m a sociable introvert, or, as I like to call myself, an “extroverted introvert”. Sure, I like people well enough. I have my close friends who might get a call from me every now and then or who I see occasionally. Find the right people and I will have a great time with them. It’s more that socialising really tires me out, especially big groups. So I would block out introvert time only to feel guilty because something was happening when I had blocked out that time. That led to me giving up that time and wearing me down. 

All-round disaster for everyone… as my mum helpfully points out. (Love you, Mum!)

Lockdown changed how I saw all of this. Suddenly I had all the introverted time in the world. I belong to a family of introverts, though I’m cultivating a theory that my dad is a secret neurodiverse extrovert. We were quite happy most of the time doing our own thing… 

Yet, if I’m honest, after a while I found a new feeling. I missed people. As in, genuine “I wish I could go to a party or even church coffee (something I struggle with routinely) just to be around people” feelings. These were not something I was used to. I don’t even want to think about what it would have been like had I stayed on my own. Moving back to my own flat in August only exaggerated this, as working from home meant I could easily go a full week with no physical socialising. Trust me, Teams and Zoom meetings do not count!

Obviously, something has had to change from this. This introvert has accepted that she needs people in her life. However, I’m still not willing to burn myself out because I’ve filled every hour with people.

So what’s the change? It is about where I place my intentions, namely being intentional about my time. Who is it good for me to spend time with? How do I share my time between the people in my life and needing my own space? What or who do I spend my time with or doing? I have no answers to any of these questions yet. Hopefully, by asking them each day I will find the right balance of extrovert/introvert in my life.

3. Normal will never look the same again… and that could be a good thing

Normal… I don’t think I’ve heard the word in such continuous use as I have in 2020. Whether it is longing for the “old normal”, discussing the “new normal”, or thinking about the “new post-COVID normal”, a lot of us are fixated on what a normal life looks like now.

I get it. Yes, even me, the girl who thrives off the idea that she isn’t normal (at least by society’s standards). The world has been tossed into so much craziness at me this year that I am craving the routine of normality. However, I’m also having to accept that what was normal will never be the same again. Here are a few examples for you…

Online dating always led to a physical first dateFirst dates are now happening via video call
Commuting five days a week to the officeOnly having to commute when you actually
want or need to be in the office
Regularly leaving your house to go to other placesRarely having to leave the house
Being able to hug your friends and familyNot being able to hug the people you care
the most about

This is only scraping the surface of how “normal” has changed. Some of these are good things (less commuting, less awkward first date coffees, longer in bed, valuing relationships more) and some are not so good (less time outside, less physical interaction with other people). But when something changes it always brings good with the bad. 

With all this change, the good and the bad, I’m hoping that we will learn something from it. Whether that is in the deep joy of connecting with people in a physical way; how digital media is just a tool, neither good nor bad; or that being still and rested has its place, something of this strange season is going to stay with us no matter what normal looks like. 

Superficially it might look like less commuting or more time exploring your local area. But on a deeper level, I hope that you take the things from this season that have been good for your soul, heart, mind and body into normality with you.

I hope that you take the things from this season that have been good for your soul, heart, mind and body into normality with you.