Scenes of Life – How do I heal?

Scenes of life - How do I heal?

Scenes of life was a weekly now sporadic personal diary. From moments in my life that have marked me, to passing feelings and overheard conversations, I record what has made an impression or what has caught my attention.

Scenes of life – How do I heal?

Words slip. I think, I reflect, I notice. I forget, I let them go instead of committing them to paper and the written words.’

I wrote those words on the 17th of April in my diary. Work had started anew, out of lockdown and into the office, my days once more led by the rhythm of counted time. Space to think and write evaporated as I felt the need to finish this one task, to read one more paragraph of a book, to make progress in that one project before collapsing into bed.

I ensnared myself into the passing of time and the need to do. I forgot the stillness of the days when time didn’t matter. I had the luxury of it and could ‘waste’ it by simply sitting, thinking, writing. I was surprised at how quickly I let go of those habits. The habits I promised myself to keep.

It is June now and I am sitting on an unfamiliar sofa in a rented space for a week’s holiday. My mind stopped its incessant racing, words bubbled inside of me, and here I am typing on a keyboard. I feel grounded as I hear the calls of bird I cannot see, the intermittent pattering of rain on the window, and the gentle music humming from the speakers. I am still, counted time left behind.

‘It’s funny, isn’t it,’ I tell my partner. ‘We’ve spent so much time indoors, stationary, that I don’t feel the need to move, to get out, to do.’

In pre-Covid times, I would have been jittery, urging my partner to get ready for an outing. The rain would have driven us to museums, galleries, and coffee shops. Today, the rain is keeping me inside, unwilling to go anywhere, prepared to hanker down for the entire week of our time away.

I think back on words a friend wrote to me a few weeks back:

we’re all still barely hanging on by a thread, the pandemic isn’t even over, let alone the process of healing from the shared trauma of the last year.
I was unsettled then, my brain flitting from one thought to another, incapable of focusing on work. Her words brought the frenzy of my brain to a standstill for a moment. I had forgotten that I am still in a pandemic, that I am learning myself anew and in need of healing. But how do I heal in a world that demands I move, produce, consume, and do constantly?
I am grateful for the speed at which I have learned to stop. A week prior to this holiday, I went away camping and cycling with a friend, my body instantly relaxing into the stretched hours of leisure. Time doesn’t pass too fast as people often say when they are away on holidays. Instead every second is felt, the days elongating weeks. Is this rapid shift in being a symptom of how little I know how to relax when in the midst of everyday life? Am I not, after all, apprehensive about a walk in the park after dinner during the week? Going to the park takes ten minutes, then there is the walk in the park, the walk back, the tidying of the dishes, the cleaning of the kitchen, the gathering of clothes for the following morning, the packing of lunch and snacks for the day at work, the book to read before bedtime, the e-mails I haven’t found the courage to send and now feel guilty about, the recorded programme still to watch, the… I forgot to breathe. I forget to breathe.
And maybe this is it. In lockdown, furloughed from work, I had time to devote to things that bring me joy if not money. I had time to face myself, to break down. But I had no time to heal. By the time I collapsed, I was already back into the office, my life split into halves once more.
My working hours reduced, I had imagined a life with greater freedom, and in a sense I have achieved this. I am getting more sleep, more time of my own at home. What I do with this time hasn’t changed. I scroll on Twitter and fill my glassy eyes with content, my ears with music or words to block out the thoughts. I am scared to dig deep again, to explore thoughts to their ends, to feel the state my body and mind are in. I have no time to devote to such trivial things as these. I need to keep functioning, to navigate the world of work, colleagues, and customers with a happy smile on my face and solutions at hand.
I need to shoulder the world, cling on to normality, hide behind my well-constructed mask because if I don’t… If I don’t… I cannot finish that sentence because there is no end to that sentence. I have never been given the space to be myself, let alone taught how to be myself. So the question comes back. How do I heal?

One answer comes easily: go on a long walk, a long cycle. Get away, rest, recover. It is easy enough to do this but I know the effects are only temporary. I need something else, something more. The Internet is awash with suggestions from meditation to journaling, crowds of people swearing by each methods. I have tried many over the years but failed to make any stick. So I am still searching. 

It is July now and I am no longer sitting on the unfamiliar sofa of rented accommodation. Instead I am cross-legged on a chair at work. I have completed the essential tasks that need doing but find myself unable to work on anything else. My mind drifts and for once I let it. It goes nowhere in particular, my thoughts undefined. I watch the trees sway in the wind outside of the window. Their colours are dulled by the plexiglass covering most of the window opening, streaks of sanitiser sprayed and wiped over and over again decorating the plastic.

Maybe part of healing is this: not following my thoughts to their end but letting my mind rest, allowing myself to pause and do nothing. Isn’t it after all what I do on a long walk or long cycle? Sure my body moves in those instances but my mind stills. I look around and feel my body, the straps of my backpack digging into my shoulders, the muscles in my legs straining up a hill. I am flesh and bones. Sitting still, it is hard to remind myself of this. My mind whirls and whirls and whirls, as if it needs to compensate for the absence of bodily movement. I actively have to remind myself not to check my phone, not to open a webpage at random, not to check social media, not to refresh my e-mails again and again in search of a fleeting business.

The trees are still swaying. I can hear them now. They sound like white noise accompanied by the occasional shrill of gulls calling to one another. An exclamation of happiness breaks the odd moment of quiet. I am reminded that I am at work and will soon need to write certificates, book people for future sessions with us, and answer all sorts of queries.

I am at work and this is not the time to heal. Maybe this is part of the problem. I constantly need to change gear, from work to hobbies to home life to chores to… the list goes on indefinitely and I forget to add ‘to stop and let yourself drift’. And maybe this is it? I need to actively stop and drift. Sit in the garden, at the dining table, at my desk, and watch life go by. Observe silently without thought, without worry, without time constraint. I know a promise to make time for this is useless because I’ll fail but I can try. And maybe this is enough?

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