Simple pleasures and patience: IMAGE staff reflect on lessons they've learned in the last 9 weeks

While the global coronavirus crisis has done unmeasurable damage, it has also taught positive lessons that will not be quickly forgotten. In this IMAGEwrites special, together the staff of IMAGE reflect on the lessons learned over the course of the pandemic


Lucy White, Editor, Cara Magazine

I’ve learned that I’m more patient than I gave myself credit for

Since the pandemic I have learned that I consume even more cups of tea than I ever imagined. Boxes of Barry’s have become more covetable than even toilet roll in our house; meanwhile I’ve said and heard the words “is it beer o’clock?” more than I’ve had hot sourdough.

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I’ve learned that nature is my beacon, and having less responsibilities means zero migraines and better sleep. I may not know what my future looks like, but by no longer having to make a zillion decisions each day makes for a quieter mind.

I’ve learned that although I wouldn’t vote for Fine Gael if you paid me, Ireland is the best place in which to endure the coronavirus pandemic (well, maybe after New Zealand… GO JACINDA). Leo Varadkar is not the leader I voted for, however, along with Dr Tony Holohan, his lockdown measures have proven sensible and assured - in striking contrast with his counterparts in the UK and US, who appear determined to kill off the very demographics that voted for them.

I’ve learned that I’m more patient than I gave myself credit for, and that holding your tongue doesn’t mean betraying your feelings; it’s about the bigger picture and asking yourself will this irritation really matter in the morning? In a week, a month? Pick your battles: most are unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve learned that, in this locked-down household with my boyfriend of 13 years, familiarity breeds not contempt, but a deeper respect. For his cake-baking skills, mostly.

I’ve learned that if hell is other people, it is mostly populated with angels, all of whom deserve a good hug at the end of all this.

Dominique McMullan, Editorial Director

Health is the only thing that matters; there is nothing else.

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I couldn't have imagined, only three months ago, the challenges that my family and I would face this year. As March appeared around the corner and I prepared to return to work after maternity leave, little did I know that the virus I had heard occasional mention of on the news, would have such an impact on our lives.

The night I rang an ambulance for my mum, as with a grey, pained face, she told me she could not breathe, is a night I will never, ever forget. In that week I learned lessons that I will hold with me forever. Health is the only thing that matters; there is nothing else. The clarity with which this becomes clear when a loved one is unwell is startling.

Over the weeks we were unwell, kindness and small, gentle acts, meant so much. I will always remember to offer these acts to others. People are so incredibly kind. We were supported, at a distance, by family and friends in ways I will never forget.

Now, as time passes, these learnings are consolidated. I visit the sea every day with my son, and breathe. I am so grateful for it. I am so grateful for the time I am getting to spend with him; time that would have been lost to traffic jams, creche pickups and afternoon meetings.

I am stronger than I thought I was. I am resourceful and calm in the face of crisis. I have learned patience and to slow down and listen to the birds. I have learned that perhaps everything really does happen for a reason, and that nothing will be the same again.

 

Katie Byrne, Digital Editor

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‘I’ve discovered how much money I waste on unnecessary things’

I’ve always been an ‘I spend therefore I am’ type. I feel contractually obliged to buy a scented candle whenever I browse a homewares shop and duty-bound to buy something — anything — when I stroll through the duty-free section of an airport.

I can’t walk into a health shop without dropping at least €100 on fancy-sounding supplements that I will never, ever use. And I really don’t want to know how much I spend on taxis and takeaway coffees.

Lockdown forced me into a spending fast and I discovered, fairly quickly, just how much money I was spending on unnecessary things.

I've always known I had bad spending habits but I’ve never before seen just how much money I could save if I kicked the worst of them.

I’m still shopping online, but it doesn't bring the same immediate, tangible pleasure that I used to get from buying yet another cushion in a bricks-and-mortar homewares shop. And that, of course, has made me rethink the spending that I do for spending’s sake.

Lockdown has taught me to be more mindful with my money — and I’m really hoping this new habit sticks when things get back to normal.

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Lizzie Gore Grimes, Editor-in-Chief

In so many ways, right now, I’m learning to listen more closely

“I’ll figure it out…” he said, as we sat on a bench with the sea behind us. The night before we’d met in the kitchen just after midnight; he couldn’t sleep. It’s only first year summer exams, but how to study for them and sit them, alone, in his bedroom, has him all at sea. Now I can’t sleep either. It’s nothing compared to worries others would have, but it’s the biggest thing in his world right now.

So that afternoon he talked and I listened. It was just before 5pm and the mid-May afternoon sun was still warm. Usually at this time on a Tuesday I’d be in work, he’d be scoffing down a toasted sandwich at home, in a rush to finish homework before out to GAA training. We’d barely see each other before bed. But today we’re here together on a bench, I can see the fine hair on the back of his neck has turned white-gold from the good weather and I’m grateful to be here, listening.

In so many ways, right now, I’m learning to listen more closely – to the birds (thank you Lucy White), to the sea, to my body (thank you @Freedomphysio), to the people I live with and the people I can’t see face to face. As long as we’re listening, we’re learning and getting stronger, together.

Sophie Teyssier, Social Media Manager

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It's okay to feel it all, to let your emotions take over, to allow yourself that moment of pain and upset.

It's funny how you feel like you have a certain amount of control over your thoughts and your feelings. In general, I'm a little bit of a control freak and at the start of the pandemic I genuinely thought "Okay, I got this, it will be fine. Luckily (and so far) everyone I know is healthy and that's the main thing. The most important thing. And then working from home, I mean it's a nice change; cancelling holidays, it's okay, not ideal, obviously, but can be done. Rescheduling my wedding, it's disappointing but I suppose it's not the end of the world."
Somewhere along the way, I was hit with everything all at once. The walls of the emotional dam in my brain broke down and everything crashed through. All the feelings washed around me, swallowing me up. It was hard. And so often I had kept it all in, thinking it's a lot harder for others, who am I to complain? During this whole thing, I've learned that no matter what you are going through, big or small, it's okay to feel it all. To let your emotions take over, to allow yourself that moment of pain and upset. Because, you are not your emotions, you can't control it all and it will eventually break through. So let it. I promise you will come out the other side feeling differently.
I think I now have a new-found appreciation for the little things. The bigger picture in my mind has been altered so much, I can't believe I tried to arrange it all. I planned, I booked, I lived in the future. And now, I'm finally living in the present: My little morning ritual, the various sounds of nature around me, the work from home lunches with my fiance, the friends' voice notes... even the DHL delivery guy saying "another one Sophie" (yes, I have an online shopping problem.) The little things are what life is about, I was rushing around before just not paying very much attention.
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Erin Lindsay, Deputy Digital Editor

As someone who loves stuff  - I've found that I don't really care about any of it now.

I haven't been spending my lockdown learning new skills or honing a talent. I've bought a sewing machine, which I'm very excited to use when I can go and buy fabrics, but has since sat unused in my bedroom. I dabble in cooking and baking, sticking to the recipes that I'd already learned pre-lockdown. I knit, using the most basic stitches, and am pretty satisfied with not learning new methods.
The thing I've learned, that has taken up a permanent space in my brain that I suspect won't be forgotten once lockdown ends, is what's important. As someone who loves stuff - retail therapy, going out for unnecessary coffees and dinners, just toddling around in a crowd - I've found that I don't really care about any of it now.
All I want is to see my family and my friends, sit in their company, relax into the comfort of them just being around me, and know that they're safe and okay. Nothing else matters as much, nothing consumes my mind as much as plain, simple quality time. That's the one thing that will stay with me for life from this experience.

Shayna Sappington, staff writer

I’ve learned that I want to keep prioritising these simple pleasures.

Since the pandemic forced us to remain homebound, my perspective on the world has shifted. My priorities have completely rearranged themselves. The big things that I thought mattered most have fallen to the bottom of my list and I’ve learned to find pure joy in all the little things. Cooking, baking, reading, walking, facetime catch ups with loved ones … I’ve even found enthusiasm in coffee making and am currently on a quest to make the perfect cup of joe.

I’ve relished sleeping in and waking to the morning sun pouring through my bedroom window. My hour-and-a-half commute used to be filled with drawn and defeated faces on their way to work, half-asleep and half robotically scrolling on their phones. Now, I take walks through the park and see families on bicycles, couples strolling hand-in-hand, puppies determined to keep pace with their jogging owners. Everyone is smiling and it’s a different type of contagious, a welcome respite from the anxiety-riddled headlines flooding my newsfeed at home.

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I’ve learned that I want to keep prioritising these simple pleasures. And, what I desire is not for things to go back to the way they were, but to create a new normal, where distractions dissolve and we realise the importance of positivity, individuality and community."

Lauren Heskin, Deputy Editor, Image Living and Interiors

I'll remember that small lives can be lives well lived too.

I have learned that the highs and lows of my life are not dominated by the fiscal or the newsworthy, but by the small, everyday moments.

Yes, there have been periods of worry over personal finances, frustration at global politics, tears of joy on hearing sonorous voices sing to one another across darkened piazzas and the surge of relief as a light appeared at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
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But when I look back on this moment, that's not what I'll remember.
I'll remember the difficult moments when I've found myself low and did not have the friends, family and community I usually turn to to raise my spirits. I'll remember the weight and effort it has taken to lift myself up from the gloom. I'll appreciate the importance and support of the people I surround myself with.
I'll remember the pleasures of fishing in the ocean for dinner and visiting a swan nesting along the canal. Watching seven fluffy little cygnets take to the water for the first time. A bunch of flowers from my mother's garden left on my doorstep.
I'll remember a time when the world became very small for a while, but from it burst forth an infinity of life within it.
I'll remember that small lives can be lives well lived too.

Laura George, Chairperson IMAGE Media 

Time means something else now.

Some small things I've learned

  1. Carbs are not the enemy.
  2. Sourdough making is a cult for good reason.
  3. Irish people consider takeaway coffee an essential service.
  4. A dunk in the sea really is a total reboot.
  5. Walking trumps driving.
  6. Harvesting homegrown salad is a real buzz.
  7. I can’t read a book during a crisis (zero concentration).

Some bigger things I've learned

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  1. Boredom is nothing to fear- so far it hasn’t ever reared its head
  2. I was right to move here and become a citizen. The way people and governments handle lockdown shows their true colours. By virtually any measure, orange, white and green are way more preferable to the red, white and blue I grew up with.
  3. We are all more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for, especially the elderly people I know who are navigating cocooning with grace and bravery- whether they’re learning how to embrace new technology to connect with friends and family or ordering food online for the first time.
  4. Time means something else now. Just as the pace and arc of a ‘regular’ day have already become something utterly different, I can feel the concept of longer periods beginning to erode too. Limbo apparently has no clocks.

Eoin Higgins, Deputy Editor, Cara magazine

I am walking, or cycling, my way through as much of the natural world that I can experience in my locale each and every day.

Since the pandemic I have learned that the emergency on planet Earth had already begun, long before the Coronavirus. The pandemic was just another symptom of an increasing global malaise. We are nature, there is no society and nature – we are one and the same.

I have realised that I had become detached from the natural world, locked into a terminally unhealthy, grindingly machine-like, superficial "life". The contemporary, consumerist daily trudge of buy-consume-dump; the treadmill of the nine-to-five/Monday-to-Friday/rinse-repeat ad nauseum work cycle, had dehumanised me in some way. As had an unhealthy addiction to the artificiality of “recreational” technology, and the acceleration of the means of production over the past 20 years.

Combine all of that with living in an unsustainable, growth-at-all-costs capitalist system, and is it any wonder that societies across the world have become so fractured and factionalised over the past five years?

Living a life that rewards a detachment from, and ignorance of, the natural world is literally depressing. At least that's been my own personal realisation. As a result, my pandemic experience has been influenced by an ongoing internal conversation about how better to connect with, and nurture, the nature on my doorstep. How to live a simpler, happier life.

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The result is I am walking, or cycling, my way through as much of the natural world that I can experience in my locale each and every day. Admiring the astonishing abundance of flora and fauna that I would otherwise have missed while going about my previously myopic daily life.

The result is a return to consistency in mental states that I had almost forgotten: a greater general calmness, more overall contentment with life, lightheartedness, a greater sense of a more wholesome relationship with the natural world and a desire to add, rather than take away from it, from here on in. Fitter, happier, more productive …

Eva Hall, Branded Content Editor

The first person I see when we come out the other side of this is getting such a massive hug, that I must warn them, I may never let them go.

I didn't go out of my way to be unaffectionate, but it was always apparent to me that I didn't always have the same reactions to, shall we say, emotional scenarios, as most of my female friends.

For instance, I could walk into a room and someone could be holding a baby. I'd notice the mum's shoes before I noticed the baby. Upon meeting friends I hadn't seen in a while, it never occurred to me to hug them when they arrived. That is, until now.

I haven't seen my boyfriend for nine weeks (and counting!) as we're isolating in different parts of the country, and while I miss all of the obvious things you would miss from not seeing your partner, most of all I miss his hugs.

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Never again will I cut short our embraces because my neck is strained because he's so much taller than I am. I can't wait to hold my baby nephews. Never again will I put them down because they're getting too heavy. I can't wait to hug my best friend. Never again will a drinks order come before embracing her. The first person I see when we come out the other side of this is getting such a massive hug, that I must warn them, I may never let them go.

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