As Winter gets ready to exit stage left, the last week of February brought a sneak preview of Spring. Sunshine. Warm enough to close the laptop & eat lunch in the garden while gazing at the first bees nuzzling the crocus flowers. Happily pegging washing on the line for the first time this year, as a ladybird landed, enchanted by my partner’s Star Wars socks. You’d love the films, I thought, while gently moving the tiny spotted one away from Chewbacca & onto the daffodils.
Rehearsing these Spring rituals of outdoor ‘firsts’ lifted the tail end of February. Particularly welcome, after a long winter lockdown that saw many of us weary and fed up. Longing to meet family & friends for lunch & hugs and all the many things we’ve missed for the last 12 months.
We can never be so sure of the ‘Lasts’ in life. Whether it’s smaller things like the last time we went to a cinema, gym, or hairdressers. Although a quick glance at my recent home haircut tells you it’s been far too long…
Or the bigger things, like the Last Time your youngest child wanted a bedtime story. Or the last time you held their bike seat until they could pedal off independently to freedom, leaving you trailing behind in the park. Or the Last Time you juggle ‘home schooling’ in lockdown. Something difficult & challenging now, but in years to come you might remember with fondness & even nostalgia.
Or the Last Time we got stuck in rush hour traffic heading to work, only to be made redundant. Or the Last Time we took our health for granted, before that hospital diagnosis that changed everything. Or the Last Time we saw a loved one. The minutiae of daily life that precede major life events acquire added significance.
First Times & Last Times, big & small mark all of our existence. As we’re nudging into Spring, ready to let go of Winter losses & restrictions, we try to focus on the optimism of the ‘First times’. Practising what Liz Gilbert describes as ‘stubborn gladness’; we can see clouds in the sky, but continue to tilt our heads towards glimpses of sunshine.
It doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the losses wrapped up in our ‘Last times’ list. By fully acknowledging the sadness of them, we eventually find an impetus to savour the details of these ‘ordinary’ moments that become extraordinary with hindsight.
David Kessler’s book about the 6th Stage of Grief notes how the vulnerabilities of loss can ultimately lead you to you find extra meaning in the everyday. Moving through intense pain & suffering heightens sensitivity, but can also attune you to appreciate the sweetness of a simple moment.
You may know this already. The loss of loved one highlights how precious other family & friends are, and you prioritise time to cherish them. Or a serious illness helps to shift priorities in your daily life. Following months in hospital, the gratitude of waking at home to greet another precious day, where just watching the cat yawn seems wonderful. Literally full of wonder, in our new state of gratitude.
All of us will have serious losses to deal with in our lives at some point, as well as the Pandemic experience, which has been likened to a form of bereavement. The loss of those everyday freedoms we took for granted, and to be with loved ones. As Winter fades away & we welcome Spring, let’s learn to trust in First Times again. Notice & appreciate them more than ever.
Celebrate with a toast to friendship & laughter when we return to a favourite cafe, or greet the Landlady with a bunch of tulips when back in the pub for a pint. Hold hands & hug for much longer than usual when we greet much loved family again. Savouring & supercharging all our senses. I’ll be overjoyed to feel the warmth from the oval Pyrex at the first roast dinner at the in-laws & hearing the mini avalanche crunch as the Vienetta is sliced will be glorious!
Let’s practice these rituals to relish the everyday throughout March. We’ve got a few more weeks at least, before we’re fully able to reconnect with loved ones or return to Hairdressers or cafes. But we can still notice & appreciate what each day brings us for now. That’s what Mindfulness helps with, staying in the moment and becoming aware of where we place our attention or focus. Like taking a Kodak Moment snapshot & tucking it close to your heart.
Rituals to relish the everyday, not always knowing when will be the First or Last Time, but appreciating this time. Now. Today. In this moment. This cup of tea. Or this bag of chocolate Mini Eggs. Don’t judge me, they were by the till when I did the shopping! The First bag of Mini Eggs this year has become something to celebrate & add to the list of Spring Rituals.
I think Einstein would’ve liked chocolate Mini Eggs. He once said ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ Your choice, but I know which I prefer. The harshest losses may have dented my armour to teach me this, but I stumble forwards with stubborn gratitude.
Seeing the first bees and ladybirds & taking a moment to marvel at them. Which reminds me, I’d better get the washing in. A simple domestic task, but one I still relish after decades of living in flats, where washing dried indoors & underwear would stare at you from the radiator. Now I delight in the impromptu ballet of the duvet cover twirling in the breeze, or a tea towel tumbling into the birdbath.
So here’s to Spring. And us enjoying stretching our crumpled wings to gradually explore the world afresh. Like the ladybird & the Chewbacca socks. Perhaps I’ll show it the Star Wars films this year? That would be a First Time, for me and the Ladybird.
P.S. if you’d like to know more about this Mindfulness stuff, and join one of the regular sessions I run, just message me from the ‘Contact Charlie’ bit of www.charliejordan.co.uk There’s one coming up Sunday 7th March at 10.30am, or Monday 8th March at 7pm. You’ll have to bring your own chocolate eggs though, as they’re on Zoom…