Like so many over recent months I have spent much more time in solitude than I would normally do. I consider myself so fortunate that I live in a place where it was possible daily to walk country lanes and in wild places. The daily experience of gentle woodland sounds such as water, birdsong, the crunch of fallen leaves and twigs and the breeze rustling the leaves in the overhead canopy all served to improve my mood leaving me more relaxed with improved concentration and less stressed and anxious.
In conversations be they “in my mind” or with family I’ve found myself recounting memories from my past. The things I miss that I never thought I would have, had to be passed on and I have learned to live for today and find satisfaction in that for now. Some are very simple and I’m sure shared by many like a visit to a barber or hairdresser. Alfie’s my barber, we grew up together in neighbouring estates on what was then the very edge of town surrounded by woods and what we referred to as “swamps” and “the far bogs”. The monthly visit to Alfie’s usually starts with a quick burst of “Did you hear-----” and it’s frequently related to a friend or acquaintance that has recently died. I once reminded him that I felt he could begin his conversations on a more cheerful note only to be told “that you have to recognise John that he is now pulling from our pen”. Once we get past that initial “did you hear” bit the next 15 minutes or so is at times a true journey in nostalgia and over the years the stories rarely repeated get better and better as after some 40 years behind his chair listening to all kind of town characters Alfie’s storytelling skills improve.
Others things missed are more personal and the resulting experiences learning over the years have hopefully left me more resilient. Becoming more resilient in ourselves becomes easier if we set out to do it with others like our family, extended family, colleagues, friends, and those close to us, so it’s important to continue to reach out to others and to understand that no two personal situations are the same. After listening to a young 6th year student on radio recently talking about the impact of Covid-19 on her life in not being able to celebrate the end of her secondary schooling, her inability to make plans or indeed contemplate a future and how she saw her world versus that of her parents it struck me that for many of us happiness was about hope of things that were or might happen and that living and finding satisfaction in the now was simply not enough. This was reinforced listening to interviews of customers leaving Penny’s in Dublin on Monday last. So the news last night that barbers and hairdressers and many other areas of Irish life could recommence on the 29th I’m sure brought joy to many like me in that it’s something that to most brings a degree of happiness and something to look forward to after months of living in the “now”.