I May Come Out of the Cave, but I’m NOT Leaving it For Good.

March 29th 2021 and England has taken another step towards freedom. A little less locked down.

In England, from today, the rules are now that six people can meet outside, two households can get together inside, outdoor sports are allowed again and weddings can begin again, although they’re limited to only six attending. Time to crawl out of the cave and start blinking at sunlight again. And I’m truly grateful that the country is opening up again, I really am, but I wonder if we’ll be able to hold on to the good parts of Lockdown. Just in case this ever happens again.

I know that for many of us there have been times when coronavirus was all too real with sick relatives, or ourselves being ill, and I know that many of us (myself included) probably have the aftermath of Covid-19 still messing us up. I’m more breathless than ever before, I catch colds more often and have a cough that is quick to pop up if it’s cold, while my energy levels are easily depleted. I know friends have suffered the strains of having children home 24/7, of having to work from home (getting out to the office has been a God send for me: it turns out I am not a natural homeworker) of being unable to meet friends, relatives, even just to walk in a park and sit and watch nature. Thinking back to the atmosphere last year, it seems remarkable that benches were blocked off, that supermarkets sealed up clothes and book aisles as ‘luxury’ items and that all the festivals, religious or secular, were off.

It’s been a crazy year, all told. I’ll be glad to get out of the cave, glad to breathe the air and take the steps of freedom… to the pub, the cafe, the restaurant. I’ve got my dream list of things to do, and happy to share it with you later. But I don’t want to lose the positives from this year. Because, buried in the box with the stress and the pain and the worry, there were positives in the world as well. Memories that we need to hold on to, and lessons that we should learn for the future. Because, sad to say, there will always be another pandemic, another virus, another moment when we will either need to stop living again or step out cautiously avoiding each other like the cracks on the pavement. I’m keeping my batcave prepared, and keeping my valuable life lessons from this pandemic close to hand. This is what I learned:

  • Keeping a box of long life food somewhere you can get to it quickly in an emergency is not a mad or bad idea, but make sure that it’s food everyone will eat. Corned beef is better than spam, and pasta is better than individual noodle servings.
  • Getting outside as much as possible works whatever the emergency. Any time of day will do, as well. A walk taken after dark may not give you the Vitamin D, but it gives you the headspace to walk and worry less. And walking in the rain or wind is a very stimulating experience.
  • Get a birdfeeder. Watching birds turned out to be the active inaction I needed most of the time. Trees are all very well and good for you of course, but you have to sit still for a very long time to see them move. Birds keep you entertained for hours and yes, you will start giving them names and characters.
  • If you’re in a family, remember you’re all in this together. That means sharing out the work as well as the worry. My house has never looked as good, precisely because I now have 2 or 3 adult children who all learned how to cook, clean and even do the laundry.
  • No cave, however beautifully decorated, can be restful if it doesn’t make you comfortable. Don’t aim to impress others, aim to suit yourself. My daughter created a nest for herself on the settee most of the time: blankets, cushions, books and computer. It didn’t look fancy, but it worked for comforting her. And my cosy nook has adapted over the year, with space for my crafts, books and a bar of chocolate close to hand. My home is not immaculately styled, but it’s immensely superb for relaxing in.
  • Online life is no substitute for real life, but it does well enough when real life isn’t happening. I found Facebook and Twitter gave me the contact with the outside world I needed, even if getting out and about to groups wasn’t happening. As this year has gone on, though, I can feel my keenness to get back to book club, and to start a craft circle again. I’m not a happy Zoom person, so video clubs don’t give me exactly the contact I need but I will always enjoy the cosiness and comfort of The Hygge Nook.
  • When humanity has its back against the world, people come through for each other as long as there is community. In the face of the initial lockdown, my local Church finally got its Facebook group, my road set up a Whatsapp group and the people that I saw most in real life were still the people I communicated with most in virtual. And there were offers of help, volunteers to do chores, shout outs with request and more that made life brighter just because it was people setting aside little differences and being together, working together. That unity happened between the small people, the foot soldiers in every day life. We need to remember that community, and to guard against anything that seeks to divide us. My neighbour is my colleague in life, and working together regardless of personality or politics is the way to create an oasis of community even if we disagree fundamentally on the Big Stuff of Politics.
  • There will always be times when the sensible thing for me to do is withdraw and regroup. Nobody needs to be on 100% top form all the time: it’s just not possible. Withdrawing from the world and boosting your own mental and physical health is not selfish, if it means you have the energy and power you need to help others again when you come out. A weekend off, an evening taken to just be or a lunch hour reading a Good Book are three of my favourite ways to charge myself up. And, yes, sitting still, meditating, praying, mindfully contemplating life works as well and can be done anywhere you can find a seat.

How are you feeling on this long crawl back to normality? Are there lessons you’ve learned this past year that you will keep? I’ve been tremendously lucky in that the people I have lost have not been close members of my family, but I know that bereavement at this time must be a hard slog. Are you still mid-cave, and not ready to come out, or are you at the cave mouth and waiting to race across the landscape? Let me know how you’re feeling, whether that’s positive, pessimistic or pretty bored. I think people becoming more aware of their own mental health and other people’s has been an advantage of this year. That, also, is one we should not lose. Share the worry, support each other and recognise that the darkest nights are often followed by the brightest dawns.

Todays header is a photo by Michael Behrens on Unsplash. I chose it because the colours just shone out at me, and it conveyed in a picture what I was trying to put into words. That although you need the freedom to go outside, sometimes a cave is just the peaceful, quiet place you deserve to spend time in. Who could resist a dip in that cool lake? And can you imagine a small side cave with a warming fire, a low bed and the rum to warm your heart as well? Keep your cave dry and cosy, and it will always be there when you need it.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.

How to Hygge Your Summer: Hygge isn’t just about candles, throws and fireside cuppas (if indeed it is ever actually about them) and this book gives you ideas for creating hygge ready spaces and paces of life throughout the summer.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me. An especial big thanks to a reader who sent me a donation this week that has already been put towards a new book: Homebody, which I’ll be reading and reviewing shortly….. thank you so much for your kindness.

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