The first couple of weeks of lockdown were taken up with a non stop production line . Every sofa, table, inch of floor and kitchen worktop was taken up with a pile, box or bag being printed, sorted, collated and labelled. It was industrious, challenging, extremely time consuming and, because things didn’t arrive from Amazon, also entailed rummaging for art materials in my cupboards and drawers to make up a set for each of the 30 Art bags.
Everybody helped and it was finally complete. We loved doing it. And since the brilliant charity I work with have picked up the bags and distributed them: so many messages have pinged through my phone. Some people unwrapping their bits and pieces pencil by pencil, some folk already creating artwork , some are feeling happy to have things to do with their family members and children. Or over the phone in a zoom art class . Sometimes a call to action is a great distraction. A couple of nights ago I had a spare portion of curry I couldn’t squeeze into the freezer. It was passed, on a plate over the fence to my neighbour. It didn’t matter if she actually ate it. It mattered to try and share it, and potentially save the meal from the bin in these times of austerity. We are living inside a time of feeling utterly helpless, in so many ways. Doing what we can is all we’ve got. Our freedom to travel and see relatives or friends, huge restrictions in all areas of our lives, and we are unable to fulfil our grand plans and gestures in almost every way possible. The initial sparks of good intent and a willingness to contribute to the greater good, may be wearing thin as the reality of dwindling resources, boredom, and in house fizzing grows in direct contrast to what you can do about it. Feeling charitable might be tough. And celebrating, normalising, and expressing extra festive cheer is really hard. There is a wave of pressure from all directions , to find our superpowers, to be somehow extra nice, extra cheery perhaps. When some days just getting the laundry done is enough. Everything sometimes might be feeling a bit much. Watching and listening to the snippets of news I allow myself on radio or the tv, It seems to me that kindness is still there, not least the 100 year old man walking laps of his garden to keeping the nhs in protective clothing. Many people I talk to should know that they are managing huge journeys every day, just by every small act of coping. Every swear word they don’t say out loud, every time they smile even though they want to rip the wallpaper off and drink brandy. You are not expected to feel amazing. Or positive. all the time. Your love won’t break. The government won’t arrest you for not following the herd. We are all already doing something. Even if that something is staying calm for someone else, sending a letter, reaching inside for patience we haven’t used in a while. Some days are exceptionally challenging, and kindness comes by just not speaking what we are thinking.
So we keep watering, tending, learning, and if we can communicating. Trying to think too far ahead will only make your brain turn to spaghetti. A few times in the last year, people I love have changed the routine of gift giving . It makes sense for many of us, to simplify our stuff, our postage costs and burden on the planet. So this is absolutely ok. What I found the trickiest bit was the absence of the search for their gifts. If we think about what celebrations are for us, it is often the anticipation of joy for other people, finding treasure for friends or family who would have spotted that object but never believed they could ever have it. The act of giving is a whole body experience. The process of feeling a powerful connection, or wish to give pleasure to someone else. But, the trick with giving, is to know that once this sparkly message/present/blog/post/parcel has gone out into the ether, and hopefully arrived at its destination; you have no control over its reception. To let go of the need for like for like is very freeing. Once you know that people don’t necessarily all want something back, you are then free too. If someone choose to call you, you are free to choose to answer. If ideas, presents, thoughts are offered, have gratitude but not guilt.
We have enjoyed our daily drawings over the last few weeks, a good discipline for me, having to do mine first! But fantastic words, pictures, photographs and artwork have been created by you , all over the place; some privately, some shared. All of equal wonderfulness. This has felt like a great way of sharing and connecting. Thankyou.
Easter came and went with one of the usual visitors to Blue Skye House . He managed to surprise one happy girl, and she was also showered with surprise eggs on the doorstep from young carers and some of our neighbours. We celebrated in ‘Hotel Mums Room’, with a spa and pretend takeaway. We even had a night in the caravan. Which, due to meowing cats, snoring dogs and tap dancing seagulls, might not be repeated just yet . Your worth is not dependent on the approval, praise, or thanks you get. Your good -person -status won’t change because people press like a lot. The fact you try , you get up in the morning, make plans, believe in your value to each other. That matters. Giving warmth and kindness, and wanting to do things for someone at the moment is a small and vital pleasure . In this climate, the best thing to be happening is the small acts of kindness not rewarded, or clapped, or celebrated in the papers, not uploaded onto you-tube and followed by thousands. Billions of things are done with no audience .. Like the wildlife creeping out from behind hedges, out of mole hills, from out of burrows; people are finding hidden super powers and getting on with it . Kindness and determination are thankfully free and can be renewed after a good nights sleep.
Our week has been taken up with hand feeding our little Pumpkin, who has been really poorly. When I heard the clapping for the n.h.s. on Thursday, my immediate reaction was, “oh no, Id better leap up and get outside”. Only I couldn’t. Pumpkin was upside down being syringe fed. my hands were full of green gunk. Nobody is more grateful to some of the n.h.s. staff over the years than me, and for what they are doing at the moment, but right then, I was also grateful he was still alive. , I was unable to be with the masses, but he and I clapped his little feet together..
To give your time, a well thought out message, a piece of artwork, your time, your thoughts or your emotions.. these are all your gifts. All things which you offer up to those people you care about.
If you are alone, remember you aren’t really. Even if your clock ticks so slowly and your cat is talking back to you
Be kind anyway. To yourself, your family. Immerse yourself in an audio book or a drawing. Or buy a random wonderful thing to eat. You can guarantee no-one is looking. Oh, apparently, my neighbour’s curry was a starter for her main dinner that night.. fabulous xxx
As a postscript to this post, we are both terribly sad to let you now that Pumpkin lost his brave battle to stay with us here, a couple of days ago. He was an amazing, funny, quirky, friendly ball of fluff. He made so many people happy ,and he was my constant companion. I am certain he read my mind. Or at least absorbed my woes . He leaves a little pumpkin shaped hole in both our hearts and we know you’ll join us in saying goodbye. To the kindest little friend we knew xxxx