Taking stock

another happy consequence of lockdown for many has been getting to know their neighbours betteR due to all that public clapping

I’m not religious, so the idea of some form of heaven and hell do not normally enter my vocabulary, but two years of what seem like purgatory have led me to take a decision about this column: from now on I will be focusing on the positive. No more whining about cultural customs I don’t like – be they local, from my native country or from afar. And to start off with, I’m going to talk about the positive consequences of the current situation. Are there any? I hear you ask. Well yes, there quite definitely are, so let’s take a look.

I’m going to group them into three sections: expanding knowledge/skills, improving relations, and reflection. Lockdown has allowed most people to dedicate time to things they either used to like doing in the past or have always wanted to, among others: reading great books (the dreaded question from a dystopian future “What’s a book, grandad?” has always haunted me), writing, playing a musical instrument, cooking, making and doing quizzes... in other words, creative, cultural and intellectual pursuits that I would say advance the human condition, and that has to be welcomed.

In my own case, rather than play music and write songs, something I expected to do more of, having loved doing that when I had more time in my youth, I actually ended up reading more, especially Shakespeare, which I had such a passion for as a young man and have always wanted to reimmerse myself in. In fact, I set myself the task of reading his 37 plays in order (in my mind, “to see whether I could detect his writing getting any better as the years progressed”). I wont reveal how far I got, other than to say it is still very much a work “in progress”. I also thought I would write more, but it turns out that I do so much writing in my daily work that I really didn’t want to do any more of that in my lockdown free time. Hopefully you will have your own rewarding pursuits that have expanded your knowledge or skillset during this period.

As for improving relations, first there are connections with loved ones: strange as it may seem, I have had far more contact with family and friends in the UK than usual during lockdown. I guess there’s been more time and incentive to videoconference, and I’ve made the most of it, with several videoconferences a week rather than one or two a month. That has led to improved relations in my case, although I understand if you’ve actually been in lockdown with your own family you may now want to get a bit of breathing space from them. And another happy consequence of lockdown for many has been getting to know their neighbours better due to all that public clapping.

And the final category: stocktaking. What I mean by this is the opportunity to reflect on your life and take stock of your situation. Some people, and I’m afraid I’ve been one of them, tend to lead their life at breakneck speed without stopping to reflect on their medium and long-term goals and aspirations, a habit that is clearly recommendable if you want to make the most of your short time on this planet. The chance to do this has led me to take up meditation again, which has helped me stay balanced during these emotionally draining times. I was going to write more about that, but I’m out of space... you see? Plenty of positive aspects to focus on if we choose to.

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