I honestly think I could get nostalgic about ANYTHING. If I was jailed for a crime I didn't commit then once released, I'd probably miss somebody I met inside; or more likely, the time to myself to think. Maybe not. But even after living through rough times I'm capable of looking back and telling myself 'it wasn't as bad as all that, and anyway at least then THIS aspect of my life was better...' It's a joke. I know that do it, and I still do it anyway. So right now, the culprit is lockdown.
After what felt like a never-ending lockdown, several school closures, bubble closures, self-isolation stints and approximately a quarter of a tonne of art produced by my bored kids during 'home schooling', life has returned to a semblance of normality. The kitchen table doesn't always have crayons, empty egg boxes and glue all over it. I am sort-of on top of the laundry. We aren't eating the same four dinners in rotation. I have the ability to leave the house by myself on any given weekday and have a run or walk alone. I can work uninterrupted for enough hours of the day to (just about) hold down a full-time job.
And yet, sometimes on the lunchtime walks I take, I remember how often I trod these paths with the kids during the various lockdowns, and linger at the trees they climbed (pictured!) and the spots we sat down for snacks and picnics, and I kind of miss those simpler days. They could never have lasted, of course, but I definitely learnt during Coronavirus lockdown that the simplicity of nature is one of the best places to make memories. As is the living room floor, and the kitchen. We spent hours playing daft games, card games, wrestling games and bat-the-balloon, and baking all sorts of different cakes. In a way, it was so peaceful. I enjoyed the lack of FOMO (fear of missing out). The stream of social media images making it crystal clear what fun everyone else was getting up to slowed down and then stopped. The pressure was off.
That period of time seems to be over. School is back on, and with it homework, dressing-up days, after-school activities and - gradually - playdates and parties. I don't think there's a free weekend in my calendar until September. Work is full-on and the juggle is real again. At some point, I will have to commute into London at least some days of the week, and I will no longer be on top of the laundry, not because the kids are home all the time, but because I am not there enough. All this is good, of course, and it's only one very narrow view, of one little, and pretty lucky, life. But I don't want to just go blindly back to the way things were. I want to create a new, more balanced, normal. Take the best aspects of lockdown - the time and energy to be more involved in the community - and keep them, not just because it makes my life easier, but because it could foster the connections that keep us all going.
When my boss asked me how many days I 'wanted' to go back into the office, I asked for flexi-time to be able to start a community group that has been in the works for a while now. I was afraid to admit that's what I wanted to do, but I did it scared anyway. These things are important. Volunteering and helping others locally shouldn't be something I can only do when I'm stuck at home. I'm aiming for it to be baked into my week, as important in my schedule as the days of work that pay the bills and the evenings of family time. We all need balance. For some of us, of course, Coronavirus threw that completely out of kilter. But for others, it brought lessons we can learn from. I don't think anything about this crazy experience should be wasted.