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  • Emma

Looking forward, being present

“The first week back – oh, I cannot WAIT. There will be lots of hugging. Lots of tears. Some wine. Many parties. More hugging. A billion books sold. Bookshop doors thrown open, authors spilling out onto the pavement. Laughter!”. On Tuesday, Meryl Halls, Managing Director of the Booksellers’ Association described her imaginary first week back at work, once bookshops can open their doors and some form of normality return. The description really caught my attention. I read elsewhere about a family who is putting together a ‘I can’t wait’ jar. Every time they say ‘I can’t wait until’… they write it down and put it in the jar so that when the time comes and they are allowed to do those things, they take time to appreciate it. I’m not sure I’m quite that organized, but the idea resonated.

The power of looking forward to things has made itself more obvious during our quarantine. I do find myself daydreaming, in almost a film like way, looking forward to the time when I can just go out for coffee again, worry less, go for a walk without trying to keep two meters apart from everything including wheelie bins that I thought were humans! (It really happened - in the dark!) Even normal things like getting on a train seem somewhat exotic right now. And those things seem all so very, very attractive, and frankly, quite a way off!

And then there’s my other domestic/work reality. On social media this week: “You are not working from home, you are at your home, during a crisis, trying to work." It’s an important distinction, worth emphasising. Weirdly, in one way, this reminder was strangely comforting. But if I honestly think about ‘normal life’ - only a matter of a short couple of weeks ago, I was going out for coffee, seeing family and friends but I was still worrying about something – it wasn’t the virus, but, like most mothers, I’m rarely lost for something to worry about. Two weeks ago I had bouts of FOMO. It occurred to me the other day that I’m not worried about missing out on anything now. There’s nothing to miss out on! I may be stressed now but during ‘normal’ life there are always different sorts of stresses.

I’ve never forgotten what the philosopher Alain De Boton says: ‘the only problem about going on holiday is that you have to take yourself with you’. At home with two children and a husband who’s also trying to work, I’m certainly not on holiday now. But Boton’s words have something to say to me. I can get so busy imagining how wonderful the first week back will be. If I’m more realistic about how I usually am and about what is happening now, I might find it easier. And if I’m realistic about the future and my own capacities and weaknesses, I might pine for it less and be more content to be present and work through where I am now.

I’ve a feeling, though, that for some time to come, I’ll still be watching out for lurking wheelie bins!

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