I remember the hopeful optimism on 31st December 2019. “The roaring 20s”, Twitter users declared. Indeed I bought into to- it felt after the constitutional wrangling of the last few years at last the 20s would provide us with some much longed for stability.
But it has been a rather difficult year. It has simultaneously felt like the slowest and somehow quickest year of my life- slow because we have not been able to do the things we truly enjoy and fast because we have bizarrely arrived at September already.
It is hard to pick out the blessings from a year that has meant grief, health decline and redundancy for so many. Not only this, we have seen many endure the mental heath hardships of a pretty difficult year. In my own personal circumstances, it has seen a flare-up of some rather unpleasant physical symptoms as well as fluctuating emotional health. All this made worse when GP surgeries treat their patients as if they have smallpox, battening down the hatches not letting anyone in, making absurd telephone diagnoses without physical examination and then not doing anything about it. I am perhaps being facetious but that is genuinely my experience.
I have missed the routine of church and fellowship and look forward to the return of in-person church this weekend. It is common to say the Church is the body of Christ unrestricted by physical buildings or barriers. Of course this is true- but public gatherings of the Church are vital to the stewardship of congregations. I am a notorious hugger and hand-shaker and those things are big covid no-goes. I took advantage of a “Rishi Dish” last night (no I will not tweet “Thank you Rishi” even if you paid me a grand) and it was a joyful evening but without the usual human contact. With the brilliant staff masked-up it was still not quite right. But I fear even if we are inoculated against the virus or we accept that things have to go back to normal, that these things will not return, as us as a people are completely terrified. Will the topical subject of consent morph into a new campaign where you must ask for consent to hug to in case of inadvertently passing on the virus?
Pre-coronavirus I was a very ambitious individual- always looking for the next career promotion in the workplace. Always kicking on. Always striving. However this year has allowed me to stop and reflect. It has made me question things such as purpose and re-evaluate what is important in life. The incessant pinging of Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp feels rather meaningless and thankless when the world has changed so much.
For me it is the bonds of human connection, to genuinely invest in personal relationships not just in career. To become mindfully aware of my senses and surroundings to immerse myself in the present. To participate in community life, whether through sport, music, the arts or politics. To love and care deeply towards those we hold dear and yes to those we do not know well too. To love and care for oneself is equally important. As Jesus Christ said himself, ‘Love neighbour as yourself’. How you think and care for yourself is surely the yardstick for caring for other people too.
No I have not learned another language, or learned a new skill as many sought to achieve through lockdown. But I am learning to slow down, which is perhaps the most vital lesson of them all.