• neil

Day 59 (15 May): Panning for Gold

Yesterday I wrote about the negatives of isolation; how I had become deeply sad and demotivated.

Today I’d like to muse on some of the positives. I am somewhat cheered up and in a position to do this in large part because many of you wrote heartwarming messages or called me for a chat. Thank you so much.

Pre-COVID many, if not most of us, were leading lives chock-a-block full of commuting, working, looking after family, shopping, house maintenance and paying bills.

Evenings meant a rushed dinner, a bit of forgettable TV, a glass or two of wine and then bed. Weekends slipped by in a rush of things we didn’t have time for during the week; a little socialising, some sport - either as a participant or a spectator, a dram or two on Saturday night and a bit of sex if we had been good.

All in all almost as much running around, pressure and stress as during the week.

The pressure to feel pleasure.

Isolation broke those rhythms and, in my life at least, led to outcomes which I would describe as superficially good, followed by depressingly bad followed by the potential for the profoundly good.

The superficially good was the immediate 'rush' of the release from the well-worn rut.

We were obliged to take a step back and reallocate time and priorities.

We started gardening, walking, baking and reading the books we had never got round to.

If we were with family we played together. We binged on Netflix, ate more biscuits than we normally would and generally took a chill pill.

Great, for a time.

The depressingly bad set in as the negatives progressively showed themselves.

Not the trivial negatives. I don’t mean the closures of bars, restaurant or hotels (trivial - unless your job), nor do I refer to the curtailing of the infinite possibilities for purchasing tat. By this I mean most everything we buy beyond food.

I refer instead to the very human need for connection with other humans and to feel space without constraint.

In my case, as I pointed out yesterday, I tried to keep the consequences of the negatives at bay by keeping busy. Too busy to feel. Too busy to examine.

And that is where I risked missing the profoundly good.

I assume you have all watched westerns. I sincerely hope I am not giving up hours of my life writing for people who don’t like westerns.

Many westerns feature appallingly unwashed, unshaven and, one can only assume, very smelly men panning for gold.

I recommend Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider

as the place to get acquainted with the type. Panning for gold is remarkably simple and consists of scooping alluvial deposit into a ‘pan’ and agitating it so that material of a low specific gravity spills out of the pan - but gold nuggets sink to the bottom.

The profoundly good is that we have been given time to agitate what makes up our lives in the pan of isolation and distinguish the dross from the gold.

This process can be painful. I am certainly finding it painful. It is so much easier to keep your foot on the accelerator and go full speed ahead, no questions asked.

Re-examining who you are, what you want and what you need, sitting quietly with sadness rather than camouflaging it under a layer of business is painful.

Being “locked-up” with others for such a long period can also be difficult and painful.

But some pain motivates us to make changes.

We cannot do anything profound or essential while skating on a surface of trivia and distractions. TV and Tinder, shopping and city hopping doubtless have their place in life. But they will not bring you face-to-face with yourself.

We can use what remains of this special time to feel more profoundly and to understand our sadness and longing so that we emerge deeper, kinder, more considerate, loving and beautiful.

And that Stan, is the plan.

Be warm, considerate and loving!



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