Currently, I am spending quite a lot of time on my own, as are many people I know. I have to admit that I like it, the freedom to choose what I do and when. I find that I am always busy although busy and productive do not necessarily equate to the same thing. Time seems to move erratically slowing down and speeding up or even jumping ahead. The basic cooking and cleaning and the weekly shop form the structure of a loose routine however all of those initial thoughts of a big ‘spring clean’ have stayed just that, initial thoughts. The rationale is that we don’t make much mess and we’re not expecting visitors anytime soon.
The garden though has benefitted, there are seedlings growing, the compost heal has been turned over and its dark rich centre extracted and put to good use and for the most part, there is an air of contentment in the isolation and solitude of our rural surroundings. I say for the most part because at the end of the day, ‘a gilded cage is still a cage’. Freedom and personal choice have been curtailed. It is all well and good making plans, but without a start date, many of these are just dreams, pie in the sky.
Perhaps it is time to stop thinking. Our ancestors who toiled in the fields from sun up to sun down before falling exhausted into bed did not have the luxury of contemplating the existential meaning of life, no time to worry about what their neighbours said or did or what was happening in the next village or town let alone every other country on the planet.
Were they happier than us? Listening to folk espouse the good old days where doors were always open and everyone stuck together you may think so. However, take off those rose-tinted glasses and the poverty, disease and cruelty are brought into a sharp focus alongside the high child mortality rates and the short life expectancy of the general population.
In truth we cannot know if they were happier times as these things were not measured and today’s definitions of happiness would in no way correlate to life even fifty years ago let alone a few centuries.
So here we are all of us in our beautiful gilded cages. Full of food, nice and warm and spoilt for choice with gadgets and electronic devices to keep us amused and entertained and still it is not enough. What happens in those quiet moments when Facebook and Netflix have been exhausted and nothing in the fridge is hitting the spot.
For some it will be a challenge, to be alone with their thoughts, where time is moving so slowly it is virtually standing still, not experienced since the long-forgotten school holidays as a child when the plaintive cries of ‘mum I’m bored’ rang out across the land and the stock answer of ‘go out and play’ cannot be transferred to the present day if you’ve already had your daily quota.
So what if we shift the perspective, see this gilded cage as a safe place from which to view this golden opportunity, to contemplate the true meaning of life, to begin or to continue that epic journey of self-discovery. To navigate the twists and turns and ups and downs associated with reconciling the preconceived and institutional ideas and beliefs that form our world with the free-flowing, dreamlike qualities of meditative thoughts and daydreams. Allowing the unconscious mind free reign to travel backwards and forwards through our own history reinterpreting and re-evaluating our experiences of life with the benefits of hindsight and maturity.
There will be golden moments of true happiness and joy, just as there will snapshots of grief and sorrow all intermingled in a glorious tapestry that is life. There could also perhaps be areas where the weave has loosened resulting in little holes in this great work, or knots and loops in the brightly coloured thread that have distorted the picture and twisted it out of shape.
So what can be done to repair and restore this intricate creation, make it more robust and more beautiful than before?
Let’s start with the basics; self-love and self-care, then perhaps we could engage the care, love and support of those around us, providing a safe and secure environment in which restoration can take place.
For many, this will be enough, this regrouping and re-establishing lines of support and communication. However, there will be others who for whatever reason would prefer to look outside of their circle of family and friends, who perhaps do not want to reveal to them what they have kept so carefully locked away.
Those who would rather seek support from someone unbiased and impartial. Someone who could perhaps fill the role of a critical friend; listen to your dreams, help you unravel negative thought patterns and quash those limiting beliefs, help you identify your goals and devise your strategies whilst destroying those roadblocks enabling you to get back on the right path.
Or perhaps help you to rebuild your self-esteem, walk beside you on your journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. Offer gentle reminders and encouragement to keep that momentum going. Praise your achievements and help you see your next steps when you feel things are getting tricky.
Heather Wood. 30.4.20
Existentialism is the search and journey for true self and true personal meaning in life. Existentialism is a 20th-century philosophy concerned with human existence, finding self, and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions.