Emerge – Can planning help us build resilience? Reflections from @verbisan

We are always delighted to receive another beautiful contribution from Ayrshire-based writer Lynn Blair.

This isn’t over. We’re not past the worst. Whatever this is we’re emerging from we’re not coming out to a world of safety and clarity. Full lockdown may be over, but it’s been replaced by a tangle of rules, the constant threat of disruption, of two paces forward and three back, and of no more false dawns. This won’t be over by Christmas, possibly not by Spring. I won’t call it the new normal – there’s nothing normal about it and it’s best to be honest with myself: I reject everything about living like this and I want the world back.

There are a few things emerging for me though and I wondered if it might be the same for you? I hear my voice more clearly. Have you noticed that? Without the busyness and the chatter, there is time to think, to sit with a thought and look at it. Above all, there’s time to be kind to myself. I like me now. I love my own company. I’m messy, full of faults and contradictions and I could have handled hundreds of things in my life better than I did. They’re done, but I can hold them to the light and understand that I did my best with what I had.

Meantime, I survived. Meantime, I grew into someone a little different. Meantime, I’ve learned to listen to my own thoughts and to be honest with myself and that means my priorities have reordered themselves and new ones have emerged. This pause has created a new, stronger voice and it’s one I’ve got to listen to.

Then there’s the underlying joy in my life becoming more visible, emerging from the smallness of my world this year like some kind of treasure. I’m sure you’ve discovered this too; your mental list of Things That Make Life Better. The ones we love are a given, so what we’re talking about here is your personal life raft, those irrelevant, desperately important things that make you feel cared for. They’ve got a job to do right now haven’t they? My raft contains as much reading material as I can lay my hands on, propped up by podcasts that make my brain work. I need a bit of time for sky watching; clouds and birds during the day, stars and satellites at night, all of them making me feel happily insignificant. I’ll add in some warrior red lipstick, walks on the beach or in the woods and a bit of red wine. I never underestimate the joy of a hot water bottle. Somewhere my twenty-year-old self is screaming but what can I say – the heart wants what it wants. Keep your own raft fully stocked for what’s ahead and unapologetically ensure that it’s always close to hand. Drag that sucker around like a talisman.

I’m sometimes slow on the uptake, but what’s emerged from all this is that I realise I can actively enhance my ability to be resilient by thinking ahead. It’s a war time mentality and it’s fully blossomed in me now. There’s the practical side: saving what I can, stocking up, repurposing and planning a month or two ahead. Christmas will look different this year (home centred, less expensive than usual, full of fairy lights and silly fun) But I’m now thinking about January and February and imagining the cold and the dark and the Brexityness of it all. Those months are universally dreaded. What we need to plan for is not a run on beans or loo paper, but for little islands of nonsense spread throughout what will be a long, tough winter. We need things to look forward to, markers in time which help us keep moving forward when it’s easier to freeze.

What might that look like? Let’s assume things are worse. Let’s assume we’re mostly staying home. I’m thinking of planning a party on a random February date (current household only) which celebrates just being us. I’ll organise a bonfire and (Bailey’s) hot chocolate night. There will be film marathons that start at 5pm and involve wearing onesies and eating chips, and hopefully a picnic breakfast on a stormy morning where we walk on a deserted beach and eat foil wrapped bacon rolls. Weather permitting, I’m having a barbeque in the snow and I’m going to paint a sunflower on my front window in January. Around all of this, work will happen, things will go wrong and at some point we’ll run out of loo paper. Yet resilience happens in our heads and plans make us resilient: plans for fun, doubly so. This isn’t over. We’re not past the worst. But we’re emerging with black humour and new ideas and maybe, just maybe, we’re a little more grateful.

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