Once upon a time, I had a garden. It was tiny. A visitor once remarked, (tongue in cheek) “It’s not very big, but it’s deep!” That is exactly how I have experienced the time of the pandemic. A time of and for deepening.
Here in Ireland all of us “over-70s” were advised to “cocoon” – meaning stay at home completely. As I no longer have a garden, and live alone in an empty building, in two small rented rooms and tiny balcony, there was no alternative to “going deep.” For the first month, I consciously practised a “Regular Routine Regime” – rising by 7am, and doing an hour’s keep fit to old but useful Rosemary Conley cheery exercise DVDs. Then I sat and reflected, wrote, and meditated for another hour or so after breakfast, and also after my evening meal.
It struck me that this time perfectly fitted the experience of “Transition” which William Bridges1 associated with dis-identification (“Who am I?”) disorientation (“Where am I?”) and disassociation (“How am I – with where I am (not!)?” So I took time to try and orient myself in that “neutral zone” that he also describes – where one is very alert to cues of life, even though there is little that is familiar and there is nowhere to run, either backwards or forwards.
This led me to check what I could be or do in the present, and after planting beans, peas, and tomatoes from seed in small balcony pots, and acquainting myself more intimately with visiting sparrows and blue-tits, I decided to set up a website. Time showed me this is not easy, but it has stretched me, bewildered me, occupied me, and stimulated me, culminating in taking an online course in web-building. Alongside, I wrote a lot of content on relaxation, guided meditation, life-reflection and so on, for when the project is finally launched.
I made phone contact with all my clients, saying I was available if anyone wanted to check-in, or for a phone session. Two or three did so, in the first month.
After six or seven weeks, we cocooners were allowed out for an hour’s exercise, and as I live less than 10 minutes’ walk from a national park, you can imagine how I felt, that first morning, when once again I stepped out at 6.30am. (I’m a lark, not an owl.) Walking for an hour with Spring unfurling into vision all around, I finally learned the names of most trees, and some of the many wildflowers.
Because still not “officially allowed” to shop for myself, grocery bills have dramatically reduced, because asking for a bag to be dropped off under my balcony, cannot translate into “several bags and loads of random treats”. So just veg, fruit and some protein, meant outgoing expenses reduced, which in turn, somewhat offset loss of income.
Now, as we seem to be anticipating some “opening up”, I find myself at peace in the solitude and deep silence, determining to retain the periods of reflection, repose, and reading, (including Therapy Today and Thresholds – cover to cover – quiz me!). TV and radio played very little part, and that suits too. Zoom has entered my life, and although I don’t use it with clients, (all of whom have returned for phone sessions), I have learned to accept the reality of such meetings as necessary to other aspects of my life.
All in all, like that garden, I hope this time has been a deepening experience and I believe it has. Not only for myself, for clients also.
1. Author of several books/models of Transitions. 1980s/90s
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