Like a lot of people, 2020 so far has been one of the most memorable years of my life, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. I struggled tremendously with the sudden change of pace that the lockdown brought for me. Although I am very lucky in many ways - haven’t had to deal with worrying about homeschooling, being separated from my partner, or struggling to pay the bills - the utter stillness and silence that has surrounded me, compared to the busy life of work, study and volunteering that I am used to living, has been a real shock to the system. When life was stripped back like that, I found myself faced only with my own demons, and countless hours spent in my own head. It has been one of the most challenging periods of my life, and for most of it I was sure that there was no ‘silver lining’ to be found. However, as this period has begun to ease, at least for now, and life starts to show some small hints of normality, I have started to reflect on the things that I have learned during this time.
- How to be still
Being still is something that has never come naturally to me. Like a lot of people, my ‘normal’ life sees most of my week crammed full of work, meetings, classes and time to see friends and family. For someone who considers them self an introvert, it wasn’t until the lockdown that I realised how much time I actually spend with other people! And so, although I would have previously daydreamed about having months of free time away from work, study and general busy-ness, in reality this was really difficult for me to adjust to.
Something that has really helped me to cope with the stillness has been meditation and mindfulness. These are techniques which focus on bringing the attention to the present, and helped me to break out of the loop of wondering what might happen tomorrow/next week/next month. I started by following guided meditations on YouTube and through apps like Headspace, but have also enjoyed finding my own ways to meditate creatively, through drawing or writing poetry.
- Connecting with my immediate environment
After the lockdown was ordered, I quite quickly felt like the world shrunk around me. I had never spent so much time in my little house, and suddenly it was my entire world! I felt very lucky to have my own little garden, as well as a park across the road, where I was able to spend time outdoors, and after a few days I was noticing so much more about the space I was living in than I ever had before; taking in the sounds of the neighbourhood, noticing what types of birds visited our garden… we even went and lay on the grass in the deserted park in the dead of night and watched shooting stars.
And so one of the major side-effects of the lockdown has been this appreciation for the environment around me, because I have never before taken as much time to stop, look and listen. Despite there being numerous ways to continue connecting with people through countless digital means; zoom, facebook, whatsApp, email, messenger and so on, I found myself embracing the opportunity to nurture a more tangible connection with the physical world around me. I hope that this is something I am able to continue to connect with and carry forward once life returns to normal, because it has been so enriching for me during this time.
- The importance of creativity and the arts
I have always felt the profound benefits of engaging in creativity for myself, and since leaving school, I’ve been working to build a career that enables me to share this with other people. Something that I have learned during this time is that actually as humans we default to creative expression as a way to connect with one-another, even as we are faced with day to day uncertainty.
From the first day that I went for my government approved 30 min walk around my neighbourhood, although the streets were silent and eerily still, they had also been quietly transformed into an open air gallery by the countless images of rainbows in windows, chalked onto the pavements, crocheted and hung on trees… on every street there were creative expressions of hope and support. I was so fascinated and uplifted to see that creativity could not only endure this hardship, but actually thrive in a way that helped everybody feel connected in such a challenging time.
This has reinforced for me that creativity and arts are such an essential and important part of our communities and for us as human beings to make sense of the world and connect with one another, and has reignited a passion within me to continue working, in whatever ways I can, towards making sure that everybody has access to the arts.
One of the many chalk rainbows that appeared on the streets around my home.
A painting of my sister, an ICU nurse that I made during the lockdown. This has inspired a series of portraits that I am currently working on, which will celebrate the NHS and the key workers who kept us going in the most difficult of times. You can follow updates on my work on instagram @lydiapaints