Lockdown Project

So, with all this extra time on your hands, have you been learning a new language or a musical instrument or finally getting down to reading War and Peace? No, me neither. I haven’t even bothered to download Tik Tok though I do enjoy watching other people’s silliness, and I’m now on Day 66 of my “jigsaw a day for 80 days challenge” on my iPad.

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To be honest, my daily jigsaw is probably the only thing I’ve done absolutely every day since this whole lockdown business started, and that includes getting up, going out for a walk and doing the washing up. Yes folks, I’ve had a day or two under the duvet, and I’ve even been known to leave the dishes overnight. Mind you I sometimes do that anyway, it doesn’t take being in lockdown…

On the whole though, I do get up, get dressed and go out every day – one has to keep up some kind of standard doesn’t one? And I’ve learned not to beat myself up for all the things I’m NOT doing. I got the ironing board out six days ago and it’s still sitting there beside a pile of crumpled clothes, and as to the novel I should be half way through by now, well… Trouble is when you have all the time in the world to do something, it tends to TAKE you all the time in the world, doesn’t it? I think I might have said that before somewhere. Is it starting to feel like groundhog day? Probably. Except that I’ll not be a concert pianist at the end of it…

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Way back in April I think it was, my crochet project started well, I even posted a picture every day on Instagram, even though I have only a very hazy idea what Instagram is actually for…

I really enjoyed watching the needlework grow day by day, stitch by stitch; seeing the colour gradation in the wool develop and gradually progress from light through to darker grey. I found myself fully absorbed in concentrating on the intricate pattern while listening to lots of BBC radio dramas and podcasts (You can’t do a project like this while watching telly!) But then something a little odd happened. Normally when you’re approaching the completion of a project you can’t wait for it to be finished so that you can admire the fruits of your labours. But this time, once I’d got through all the shades of grey and had started on the final purple section, I started to feel more and more reluctant to keep going. Thoughts came into my head such as “The size is all wrong”, “It’s not turning out like I thought”, “Who am I going to give it to, who’d want a shawl anyway?”

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I was in fact well and truly stalled. I started to get distracted by making little rainbows, finishing off a blanket, deciding to knit handwarmers I could sell on Ebay. The shawl got relegated to my work bag (newly acquired for the purpose from said Ebay when the sight of the unfinished work started making me feel guilty and uncomfortable).  At least, I thought, it has a lovely bag to languish in while it waits for the day when I feel the urge to get it out and finally finish it off.

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Thinking about it now, I suppose that the whole point of embarking upon the shawl project was just the project itself, the challenge of being engrossed in something intricate and absorbing. The closer I got to finishing it, the more resistance I felt. Because I hadn’t realised that I didn’t particularly want to have a shawl as much as I wanted to be making one.

It’s not just the lockdown. Many times in life you don’t really appreciate the purpose of an event or an undertaking until you look back and start to understand the effect it has had on you, or the inner resources you’ve had to discover or develop to get through to the other side. I’ve seen this time and time again as I’ve explored aspects of my family history in this blog, each time gaining new perspectives and insights from those I might have had as a child or when I was at a different stage in my life.

I’ve just read a post from a fellow blogger entitled “Let Life Change You”, which kind of sums up what I’m getting at. Getting though lockdown, or indeed life, isn’t about having a balance sheet of goals attained. It sounds like a cliche, but it IS all about the journey, the moment by moment engagement in the minutiae of our lives. And that’s true whether we are focused on some grand plan or just trying to get through until tomorrow.

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I know it’s a tiny, tiny example, but getting stuck on my shawl project represented a need for me to press my own pause button and refocus. And that meant overcoming the feeling that leaving something unfinished is some kind of failure, which in turn involved a shift in my perception of success. Such weighty notions from such a little incident!

The shawl can wait until I am in the right frame of mind to enjoy the task of finishing it off. In the meantime, there’s always the daily puzzle and the rainbows to keep me going. Oh, and by the way, since I starting writing this a couple of days ago I’ve actually got through that pile of ironing and put the ironing board away – hooray!

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My non-resolutions for 2020

I don’t like making New Year resolutions, they just seem like a list of ways to fail in the coming 12 months. Or, more accurately, by the 3rd of January! Apparently just 8% of people keep their resolutions, did you know that?

Anyway, I already don’t smoke or drink (never have, never wanted to); I walk or use public transport to get about (don’t own a car); I recycle everything I can, always have. As you can see, I’m perfect already! Ha ha ha, excuse me while I roll about the floor laughing at this ludicrous notion.

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Anyhoo. I can’t get away from the fact that the turn of the year is nevertheless a time to take stock and re-evaluate your life, to clear the decks for the new year to come. And if you’re like me, to berate yourself for projects left undone or never started, time wasted, clutter collected, all my best intentions lying in ruins at my feet.

Really? Well that’s what it feels like. Never mind that I did a big clear out before Christmas, took a whole pile of stuff down to the charity shop, caught up with my to-do lists, wrapped up and sent home made gifts to my family… That’s all very well I tell myself, but what about all the stuff I didn’t do? The blog left untouched since last October, the workshop I should have written by the beginning of December, the friends I meant to have lunch with and didn’t… Now that list literally is endless!

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It’s not all doom and gloom, well it is, but not because of the undone stuff. As I went to bed on Hogmanay (way before the bells by the way), I did allow myself to resolve (as I have for several years now) that in 2020 I would carry on striving to be more true to myself, not to be diverted by irrelevant stuff, whether of a physical, mental or spiritual nature. And therein lies the potential for the doom and gloom. Because of course the question then arises “Who AM I anyway???” Aargh!!!

But, dear reader, there is a small candle of hope in the midst of all this endless introspection. It comes in the shape of a Prayer for the Day which caught me unawares as I was texting/messaging New Year greetings to all and sundry while Radio 4’s Today program played in the background.

This bishop chap started telling us how during a new year retreat years back, he’d been given the task as a spiritual exercise of writing his own obituary. Once he’d got over the thought that it was a rather macabre thing to do, he discovered it was a really helpful way of forcing him to reflect on what it’s worth spending time on and what it’s not. What he really cared about and what he didn’t. What’s worth fighting for and what’s not. What, in short, he’d want to be remembered for.

And just like that, I had suddenly found the right questions to ask, a helpful perspective. So, I can do no worse than finish by repeating Bishop John Inge’s New Year prayer, in the hope that it will inspire me (and perhaps you?) all the way through 2020 and beyond:

Loving God, give me the grace to make good use of the time given to me here on earth. In the coming year, give me the wisdom to know how best to use my time, my talents, my energy and my resources. Help me to discern what it’s worth spending time on and what is not; what I really care about and what I don’t; what it’s worth fighting for and what is not.

Amen.

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