On Being at Home
Of course, most of us have spent much more time being at home for weeks now. For me, at the start at least, I couldn’t understand why so many people seemed to be pulling their hair out with boredom. In my bubble, life seemed to be busier than ever and I had even less time than before. I was still working, perhaps harder than usual to compensate for an irrational but deep-routed feeling of guilt about being at home rather than in the office. Simple things like shopping for food took up far more time than before. Lockdown presented a perfect opportunity to do all those odd jobs around the house that there was no time for in normal life. But worse, lockdown appeared to take away the lack of time that was the perpetual excuse for my failure to succeed in any of the somewhat arbitrary goals I had set myself. There was now no reason not to learn Japanese, to finish that novel, to really do some serious art, to make some beautiful lino prints with the set that my daughter bought for me, to memorise my favourite poems. Then there were all the books that I had been meaning to read for years! The list goes on.
In short, being at home brought me no closer to achieving any of these things or bringing any calm or order into my life. Perhaps, not being at home wasn’t the problem after all.
I think the answer lies in the word “being”. There have been occasions more recently, now that the claustrophobia and panic have subsided, that I have experienced being at home in a deeper sense. Sitting here in a quiet old house with sleeping dogs, right now, I do feel a sense of deeper peace that there was no room for in the old normal. The lovely weather helps. Hot and quiet. No wind. The only sound a bee buzzing lazily around. Nothing that really needs doing now and many hours till bedtime. Anyway, at moments like this I accept that I can’t do it all – at least not right now. This feeling of calm may be fleeting, and I may be in a rush later when I realise I have wasted half the day doing nothing much; but the most important thing is that I know that the peacefulness is possible and it can come back, and that when it does it is conducive to doing all those things that I beat myself up about – and to doing them better. When I am really being at home, being in this moment, I can lose myself in what I am engaged with; one thing at a time. The writing comes easier. The art is better. I can read for hours without half of my consciousness distracted by something else. Even the Japanese starts to make sense.
Why does being at home make this possible? Perhaps my world becoming so much smaller and mostly contained within this house has eventually helped me to simply calm down. Some of the incessant noise of modern life has receded leaving a more natural space to just be. A space in which it is possible to see life in a different perspective and start to understand what is important, and what isn’t. Once the self-inflicted pressure to do everything at once starts to diminish, I realise that I do have more time. Less time spent driving around, less time in the pub, less meals out, less time visiting friends, less time at work. It seems clear now that I used to do too much. I am surprised to find I don’t really miss much about that old life as much as I expected. I suppose what I have discovered in those fleeting moments of real calm, when I am really being, at home, a quality of life that was never possible before.
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