Getting used to ourselves

You may be a star abroad, but when at home, who are you then?  Photo by Emily Campbell on Unsplash

The recent ‘lockdowns’, in which people throughout the world have, for fear of disease, been trapped in their homes, are a new chance to get to know ourselves.

Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for so many years in South Africa, reflected: ‘Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance.’

We learn the shape of ourselves in difficult circumstances.  After several weeks of time at home, with travel severely curtailed, we only have ourself to face for most of the day.  Even those of us with live-in friends and family have to face ourselves in relation to others.  In particular:

  • if we have been used to escaping from pressure easily, we may need to get used to coping patiently, without easy escapes
  • if we have been used to losing ourselves in social activity, we may need to get used to relying on our own company
  • if we have been used to following orders, we may need to get used to deciding how to structure our day

In such times, we also learn the strength of our own determination.  Whether we want to stay fit and healthy, or learn something new, or tidy up the home, we are faced with how we are without the trappings of our usual timetable and travel.

It is perhaps easier to see ourselves as ‘achieving’ when we are on a plane to somewhere, or driving to another town.  We get a sense of ‘there and back’ which can shape our day.  Without that, at home, our sense of achievement can be challenged.

We are forced to choose what is important to us.  What about tidying up those old possessions archived in the attic, or in cupboards, or on the computer?  How keen are we really to sort things out?  It may be that we find it more important to keep an eye on friends and relatives, or to learn mental peace.

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Whatever our particular situation, we are probably having to live without some of the usual trappings of our lives.  The timetable has become simpler.  With the transport chunk taken out of each day, we can look at where we are as home, rather than as just the the place we return to, eat, and fall asleep.

When we are stuck in one place, we can’t escape from our own upset, but have to learn to be calm with our ups and downs.  And we can’t as easily borrow other people’s priorities.  We may have to pay more attention to what sustains us and our loved ones well.

Instead of being a loose, world-travelling agglomeration of busy people, we may learn to become more locally-settled, peaceful, individuals and communities.  A quieter version of civilisation.