Thinking Out Loud No. 30

2020 — within these four walls

I’m not the person I was when 2020 started.

I live alone in a one bedroom flat here in London. When I finish my work day, I close my work laptop and then… immediately open my personal laptop. If I’m not drafting PowerPoint packs and chatting with colleagues on Microsoft Teams then I’m writing content for an online course and chatting with friends on WhatsApp, Zoom and Twitter. It all looks and, importantly, feels the same.

No more commute to work. No more getting dressed up for work! No more changing out of work clothes when I get home.

The drama of my life over the last six months has played out within these four walls — the four walls that I’m looking at right now and will look at again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

Within these four walls I made new friends around the world. Within these walls I contracted and recovered from COVID19. Within these walls I somehow built a side business doing coaching and teaching Alexander Technique online. Within these four walls I comforted those who were struggling with being inside their walls and I was comforted by others as I longed myself to be outside of mine.

A few weeks ago I spent a long weekend in a converted truck by a lake in the countryside. It was almost overwhelming…

Green things! Water! Being able to see into the far distance! The feeling of cold dew on my bare feet in the morning! The fire pit!

Just, oh, the new sensations! Those sweet, blessed, precious new sensations.

And for a while, when the weather was nice and we were having coffees in the new spaces created on the streets, things felt okay. Things were getting back to normal.

But inevitably, inexorably, here we are again. Darkness is already closing in — did you know that London is further north than most Canadians? — and the mercury is falling. Someone said something about Mercury retrograding, but I don’t know anything about that.

My desire here is only to put some words to that simmering tension that I think many of us share.

How long can this go on? Is what I’m feeling normal? I’m luckier than most, mustn’t complain. These politicians couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery [there’s a British idiom for you].

That simmering tension though… what is it?

My Zen teachers have a saying:

Precious energy arising; I am still here; please burn me away.

It’s the fire of transformation. Can you feel it?

These four walls have become a crucible, a container for old structures to break down and for new ones to be forged in their place.

Sometimes those new structures can be stronger and more resilient than the ones that came before. It’s called annealing. I hope that’s what’s happening here. I think it is. I don’t know yet, but I guess I’ll find out.

When I went off to the truck, I thought that that alone was the annealing. Perhaps it was actually a part of a much grander annealing process, a necessary cooling off period before the heat and pressure gets turned up again over the next six months.

Six months in the crucible and I am already someone new.

I am now someone who wants to be outside, more connected with nature. I am someone who is willing, ready and increasingly able to disrupt in my life in pursuit what matters. I am someone who wants — no, needs to build.

I just hope that I am someone who can survive the crucible.

Now, how are you?

I mean that sincerely — hit reply and let me know how you’re doing. I’ll read and answer everyone who does.

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