The lockdown has been a strange experience so far. While we are physically restricted to our homes, other things have been released. In our part of the heavily populated English midlands, I never expected the loudest noise around to be the birdsong. The air feels like spring water. The colours are brighter. The garden and the many lives in it can come out to play.
Because of the resurgence of interest in gardening, our tools have never been so popular. As we are a small business, this is challenging, all the way from production through to sending a trowel via Royal Mail (who also have never been so busy).
We are still here, though. If you place an order with us it will arrive. It just might take a little longer to reach you, that’s all.
I suspect the lockdown is giving us each a chance to look at where and who (or what) we are. This writing is about the ‘who’.
As I approach my 65th birthday, here are 5 things I’ve learned about being this age.
- It’s ok to feel tired.
In the last couple of months, work has never been so busy. At times I have felt grindingly exhausted. I found myself wondering why I was so weary, wondering if I could manage. Was there something wrong with me? I could have easily handled this level of work 20 years ago.
It took a while for the penny to drop. My body is in its seventh decade! Give it a break!
- Listen to your systems.
A graphic example. When a child says they feel sick, or they need the toilet, you know you have to respond quickly, preferably within seconds. Otherwise you will have to clear up the mess. When children are tired, they just stop. Adults can override those signals for much longer than a child can. We work through the tiredness, or nausea. We tell ourselves how long it is before we can go to the loo.
So, at this age, I have to learn when not to override the systems. I have to learn to listen. Otherwise I am a tyrant on my own body.
Another example: in my twenties I got out of breath running for a bus. Now I can run for a couple of miles – as long as I pace myself.
- Play to your strengths.
Does experience make a difference? How would I have coped with this workload half a lifetime ago? I wouldn’t be so tired, but I would have been seriously stressed. I have different resources to call on now. I have a better idea of what is draining and what is energising. I am much better at listening to people, for example. I have come to the view that arguments are a waste of time and energy, so I try to find the points of agreement, so that we can find a way forward together. I am learning how to prioritise.
This also speaks of settlement to who I am and what I can contribute. Other people have different life experiences, and different strengths. I trust that they will cover the bases that I am clearly not equipped to cover.
- No hurry.
I have learned that knee-jerk reactions are a bad idea. When a problem presents itself, I now sleep on it. I brew on it, because I know (from experience) that different departments in me work at different speeds. They will deliver their own responses in their own time. I wait until the issue has been viewed from enough angles for me to take a position about it. That way, I know there is less likelihood of getting sideswiped later by a consideration that hadn’t occurred to me.
- Where is the love?
At school I was good at exams. I could learn all the useless rubbish and regurgitate it in a format acceptable to the examiners. I then forgot what I had memorised because it had served its purpose. At this age I can’t do that to myself any more. If something is not meaningful, I don’t want to do it.
I have to find the value in the things I do. I want to be with what is precious, what is important. I want to find the nourishment in a garden, or a conversation. I want those things and people I love to flourish.