real life

"It's given me a peace I've never had before." 5 lessons I'm taking from lockdown to normal life.

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I always leave doing my tax to the 11th hour. This week I pored through the endless receipts and invoices that created a fiscal map of my pre-COVID life.

A life of planes, and taxis, Uber trips, hotels, restaurants, cafes, babysitters, school fees, music lessons, gym classes…

In just a few days this March, all that stopped.

We retreated to the safety of our homes, and the busy grind of our daily lives evaporated into stillness.

I’ll admit, as a touring comedian I found the sudden capitulation of my full and wonderful life heartbreaking. While I felt compassion for those who had contracted COVID-19 or lost a loved one and was concerned for the risk faced by the elderly and the immune compromised, part of me was sulking for my personal loss.

The massive year I had planned had smashed like a glass vase. There I was on the floor sweeping it up. All I could see were the shards, what I couldn’t see was what I was about to gain.

I couldn’t see the Phoenix that was to rise from the ashes.

I am not the same as I was before. Isolation provided me with two months of mindfulness that has changed how I see myself, and how I see my life. I won’t be doing things the same as before.

I am coming out of COVID-19 with a whole new approach to my life, from the big things to the small, everyday things.

1. Family is a gift.

I have never been a stay-at-home mum. While I’ve mothered five children, I’ve done a good part of that from a distance. Being home with my family reminded me of what I often miss.

I often work at night so I miss those long chats at dinner time. During COVID-19, food became a huge part of our day. We thought about what we were going to consume at every meal – we talked about it and planned it. It gave us all something to look forward to.

From the shopping (which we could do online) to the preparation to the consuming – it was so great to slow the process down. We had slowed down. There was nowhere to go. No one was coming over. We weren’t going anywhere tomorrow. We weren’t rushing through our meals and our time together to get to the next item in the diary. We sat. We talked. We laughed. We even played a board game I’d ordered online specifically for the occasion. Pandemic!

She was over me taking so many cute photos together! Image: Supplied.
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2. Your home is your oyster.

I used to look around and only see what is wrong. I’d decide I needed a new bathroom, or better carpet, or another renovation.

Spending time in my home I started to appreciate what I actually had. I found myself cleaning, and sorting and ‘nurturing’ my environment.

In the absence of my income I was doing the cleaning. I enjoyed the humble beauty of my suburban home. I started to see the possibility of how I could strengthen and beautify my nest in very simple ways.

Candles, cushions, paintings I made with the kids, plants I’d potted in the garden. My home didn’t need a major overhaul – it just needed some love. And maybe just a little treat here and there from some homewares I’d found trawling Pinterest.

I always find homewares shopping overwhelming – there’s just too much to choose from, too much visual noise. But online I found myself able to sift through my choices, there was no urgency – I could sleep on it and return to my cart the next day.

In a time of uncertainty I wanted to have a more secure way of shopping online. If I'm making more purchases online than ever, I want to do it well.

I used PayPal a lot during isolation. When I shop online using PayPal I know all my sensitive financial information is encrypted and safe. I don’t have to dig out my credit card and give my details over to every website I shop from, and may never visit again. When I send money to friends and family, it’s fast and secure and I don’t have to worry about texting out my BSB and account number.

PayPal has made me feel safe when I really didn't need another thing to worry about. I am definitely going to keep shopping like this, it's exactly the kind of time saver that will set me in good stead as life gets busier again.

Here's one of my favourite purchases - a toilet brush holder shaped as a cherry. Genius.

So... This amazing cherry toilet brush could not be left in the cart. Image: Supplied.
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3. Dogs are magical beings.

I am not a dog person. But I have a dog. He’s old now – the kids made me get him. He has loved COVID-19. He has become the centre of my family’s new passion for walking. Pre-COVID, he just walked himself. He’d duck out down the street, do a lap of the block and come home.

It occurred to me that in our busy home lives we’d forgotten about engaging with him and he was sadly going about his dog walking alone. Now when I wake at 5.30am he’s there. He watches me put my shoes on and a very old dog smiles at me. For an hour every morning he’s in his happy place.

I loved that I met other people with their dogs – it took me into the heart of my community – to have beautiful simple conversations. Thanks to COVID-19, I’ve reconnected with my dog, and some of my locals.

He loves taking the lead in our daily walks! Image: Supplied.

4. I discovered morning!

I had no idea such a glorious time existed. Pre-COVID, I’d wake to an alarm, groan, set it to snooze. Morning was a time of drudgery, of lunchboxes and unstacked dishwashers, of stress and the realisation that there was no way I was going to manage to cram everything I needed to into this day that it would spill into the next and the next and the next.

During COVID-19, I stopped drinking, I started walking at the beach, I started swimming, I found morning, and in the process I found I was taking care of myself. I had heard about ‘self care’ but who has the time?

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I’d contemplated a moderate life while I drank red wine and read health blogs, but I couldn't see the appeal. But I found morning! Now I get up at 5am. Morning is my new night. It’s like going out! I even started inviting my girlfriends – at first just one at a time, but recently I’ve been going with two. I wake up with the most incredible appreciation of the day. This is something I have never had. It’s beautiful - it's given me a peace I’ve never had before.

My girlfriend and I. Image supplied.

5. We are resilient.

While my entire industry shut down, I realised that I could adapt. I sold my books online, I mentored other creatives, I helped write speaker keynotes, I painted two commissioned portraits – it was brilliant to see some money coming in via my PayPal.me link, and I hadn’t even left the house.

With adult kids living out of home this gave me a real sense of security – that I could still be the lifeline they needed. Four of my five kids are over 18, so I could get them to set up their own PayPal accounts and when they needed a little mummy money I could do it on my mobile and use p2p payments. It was instantaneous! It’s an awesome way to pay anyone – there’s no need to worry about getting a digit wrong and depositing in someone else’s account – you just need an email address or a mobile and you’re in.

We found new ways to do business. New ways to interact. New ways to make our own lives easier.

Now, we're back. It feels like waking up from a dream. I have to admit, I’m excited to get back in the world – but not to do it like I did before.

I want to take these new lessons - these new changes I’ve made in my life and in myself - and try and live with more gratitude, more awareness, and more time for the important things.

Like the gentle art of staying still.

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