In perfect dramatic irony, as the clocks went backwards, we too seem to have gone back in time in entering a second national lockdown. Inevitable? Perhaps. But this still does not make the concept any easier to comprehend. The somewhat novelty that the first lockdown held has instead been replaced by an overpowering sleepiness, a state of slumber with the thought of Christmas – in whatever form it may be – for many being the one shining light to look forward to. This is a heavy thought; for a time where options and free will are somewhat limited, there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of material to dwell on and overthink. This is one perspective anyway, one which may be getting in the way of the lighter, warmer alternatives which, believe it or not may be closer in reach than we realise.
In such a suspended state, it is not surprising how easily our minds can slip into seeing this period of our lives as a dreary one. It would take a lot of searching to find someone who could honestly say with hand on heart that they are currently the happiest they have ever been. So, the quickest and easiest solution, a defence mechanism to cope with the great unknown, may be to look at Autumn and Winter as the darkest of times: a time where leaves are falling, branches are bare and to add insult to injury the days are outrageously short. But this is counterproductive. Surely a time that takes up half of our lives (likely more, thank you Great British ‘Summer’) should not be one of heightened doom and gloom, a period largely consisting of just counting away the days until Christmas, until it’s lighter outside, until our skin is tanned once again, until something ‘better’ comes along.
When the present moment seems empty, we latch onto the hope of a better, more exciting time. This is comforting: it is a natural response to seek out the positives that lie ahead when the current times are challenging. But with so much reliance on wishful thinking and each ‘tomorrow’, what happens to the ‘now’? It hasn’t gone anywhere and time itself is not on hold: each day that passes, lockdown or no lockdown, is one that we have lived, one that we will be able to look back on when we are older and wearing masks is hopefully just a distant memory. How can we reclaim the now and make the most of the present once again? This is where perspective is needed, along with a dash of the thing that lives inside each of us but often gets lost in a 9-5 world: open-mindedness.
Take a moment to look again at the Autumn and Winter: the leaves that are falling are almost always the most glorious shade of amber and gold, a shade so raw that it could only possibly exist at the hands of mother nature. The fallen leaves crunch under footsteps and childhood memories of Sunday walks and collecting conkers flood effortlessly through our ear canals and into our hearts, which are then warmed, and we feel better for it. We feel more at peace.
The barest of branches allow us direct viewing of squirrels playing, robins flirting and icicles forming while we can take comfort in knowing that directly under the surface of the bark and under this darkness, there is new life forming and the silent promise of growth working away. Instead of succumbing to sadness as the daylight fades before we have even finished the working day, we can use the extended night-time as a chance to remind our minds and our bodies to rest. Once rested, perhaps it is easier to see the light in the now rather than only in what lies ahead, no matter how small these rays of light may be.
Perspective is a powerful thing which when utilised can help make the now just as comforting as the thought of the future. Times are undoubtedly hard and many aspects of normal daily life and routine are indeed paused, but life in its most basic form is carrying on. The world is still turning, our hearts are still beating, our smiles behind masks are still so raw and so recognisable in each other’s eyes, so they are never really hidden away. We can also carry on. We can carry on by looking forward, but also by not losing the sight of the little things that can make the present feel more like home.