Appreciation

I hope after this time has passed, after the restrictions are lifted and we can venture out into the world again, I hope that we have learnt the art of appreciation.

I hope that we feel lucky when we sit down in a cafe across the table from our friends and enjoy a chat, a coffee and a cake. I hope we delight in our pubs, our theatres, our shops. I hope we realise that people fought to be able to re-open those businesses.

I hope we never again take for granted a hug from a loved one, or a random chat with a stranger. I hope we remember the lessons that we learned while the world stopped.

I don’t know whether we will or not, but I do hope. For this period of time has bought suffering to many. Suffering from loss, from grief, from mental health, anxiety, stress, depression. And it would seem so sad, if all the suffering did not accomplish anything. If there were no lessons that we learnt. If all that grief was simply in vain.

I hope we have learnt the art of gratitude, the value of appreciation. I hope we will enjoy our lives again and feel blessed to be allowed such liberties as walking into crowded cafes. I hope we remember the lessons we learned on those long lonely days.

It’s easy at the time to swear that we will remember to be grateful, but it is so easy to slip back into our old disgruntled ways. So remember to be grateful. Be grateful for the time you are having, some people would give anything to be to have that time. And when we are allowed out and about again, remember to be grateful for the luxuries of our world, the laughter of friends, the hugs from our loves. Remember appreciation.

Finding magic in the small moments

Our days are no longer filled with big gestures, with amazing adventures, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t filled with magic moments, we just need to look a little harder…

It is so easy to think of all the things we have lost. The people, the fun, the community, all the things that we looked forward to, the treats that we gave ourselves through the year, the markers that we lived towards. It is easy to think we have lost everything, the our worlds have been stripped away, made grey and empty. But even in this time, there is magic in the smallest of moments. That whinny as you walk across the yard, that moment when dawn breaks across the sky and light shatters the darkness, that card from a friend that falls through your letterbox. It is the small moments that we are cherishing now, the ones that would have passed us by in a frenetic old world.

Savouring the little things is what keeps us going. Small gestures, a quick text, a card, a shouted conversation with your neighbour, a phone call with a friend, a cup of tea on a cold wet day, eating chocolate whilst wearing fluffy socks, whatever the small thing is that touches you, make sure it keeps happening.

This time will pass. We will once again be able to enjoy the bigger things, but for now enjoy the dandelion growing through the concrete, enjoy watching a swan swim on a flooded field, enjoy watching a flock of geese fly in their haunting v-shape across a winter sky, look round and seek out the smallest things to take pleasure in. And failing that put on your fluffy socks, make yourself a hot drink, get some chocolate and curl yourself and tell yourself you are doing an amazing job in difficult times…

Be kind, always…

It’s okay to find things difficult. The world is tricky at the moment and it is okay to feel that. There was a meme going around about enjoying time with your children and spend time baking or gardening, you might have seen it. This is all well and good, but all it actually does is make parents feel guilty. All we should do is be kind to each to other. Maybe some people find the structure generated by school suits their children better, lots of people are still being expected to work from home while home schooling, which is entirely unrealistic. You may as well try and email your boss while doing a canter halfpass! Most people aren’t worried about their children not learning, they are worried about them not learning social skills, not seeing their friends.

Now more than ever we need to be kind, but not only to others but ourselves. If you wouldn’t say it to another person why would you say it to yourself. The world is challenging and it is okay to find it so. Telling people to be positive can be undermining, can make them feel their response is not valid. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to realign your expectations. Remember what you see online is a snippet of other people’s lives. For every positive post people put on you have no idea how much of the day they have spent sat on the floor crying and eating chocolate biscuits.

Don’t judge your life against other people’s social media posts. The world is difficult it would wrong to expect yourself to be unaffected by the circumstances. Be kind, realign your expectations, be kind, eat biscuits, be kind, hug your ponies, be kind, ring your friend, be kind. This too shall pass

Helping others…

The other day I was driving along the road. There was a man sat on a wet pavement. While I was trying to turn across the road, I watched 4 people just walk past the man sat on the ground. By the time I had parked my car and ran back across the road, one other lady had stopped. Together we tried to help the man, wrapped him in a blanket, as he was growing cold refusing to move, called an ambulance and then waited.

In all this time, one older man stopped and asked if we were okay. The other people simply stepped around us and the man sat upon the wet pavement. I hope that it is just the effect of the pandemic that is making people so stressed, that they simply don’t have any capacity to stop and help. But I would have hoped that more people would have stopped.

I hope that after this period of time, that life will settle down, and that people will go back to behaving properly. But in the meantime, please try and help. Even a kindly word can go  long way to making people feel better. People don’t need large gestures, they need simple expressions of kindness, a soft touch, or a gentle word, a moment out of your day, may make someone else’s day. You will never know the effect that one simple gesture can have on another person.

So remember, be kind, check those around you are okay, don’t let this terribly stressful time rob us of our humanity. If you are so stressed that you simply can’t reach out to anyone else, then ask for help. We can’t all help people all the time, sometimes, we too need to be helped. But if everyone helps we they can, the world will be a little bit better every day.

It’s okay to just be surviving…

There are so many stories of how people are doing wonderful things. From Captain Tom Moore raising over £30 million for the NHS, to children learning to sew to make headbands for care givers. From your neighbour who talks about how this time has made her recreate her childhood with board games and blanket forts, to your friend who has started to learn Mandarin…

I am not diminishing from anyone’s achievements and I am blown away by the level of community spirit that has risen around us during this crisis. However, if you are struggling, then seeing other people’s achievements can sometimes just feel like a criticism. If you are floundering around, struggling from day to day, spending your time trying to control the waves of panic breaking over you, threatening to drown you and you are managing to still breathe, then you are doing amazingly.

It is just as incredible to manage to carry on breathing if you are in the midst of a panic attack, as it is to raise money for charity. We are all different and we all have different responses to the same thing. Some people rush round being busy, others retreat to bed. Our experiences are unique to us.

If you are just concentrating on existing, you are doing an amazing job. Don’t feel peer pressure to be bettering yourself during this time. We may all be in the same storm, but we are all in different boats. Some people’s boats may be big, sturdy, seaworthy and well stocked with food and love. Other people’s boats may be small and leaking and it is simply taking all their time to bail out the water as quickly as it comes in, they only have the time to stay afloat. They only have the energy to survive…

 

Change…

This will change everything for ever. The world won’t simply go back to how it once was, and neither will we. We will all have been profoundly changed by this time. We will have accessed parts of ourselves that we haven’t before. Aspects of our characters will have been revealed to us, the good, the bad and the ugly.

In Buddhism, you go on retreat in order to learn more about yourself, to address issues, to force yourself to contemplate the less desirable aspects of yourself. We have effectively been forced into retreat, the whole world is being forced to confront their worse selves without the distractions of everyday life. This is not a comfortable process, but it is a necessity for growth.

This is why we can’t go back, because we will not be the same people who stepped into our houses and shut the door. We will be changed, forever. We will have changed, grown, altered in immeasurable ways. We cannot simply go back to who we once were. We can only go forwards, uncomfortable though that may be.

This is not what any of us would have chosen, it is far easier to rattle through life never really addressing anything, than to sit down and take stock. It has been forced upon us. But we have to make the most of it, we have to regard it as an opportunity for change, for expansion, for growth. We must always strive to embrace change, to embrace the unknown, to remember how very brave we are.

The world is waiting, catching its breath, in all its glory, it is resting, recuperating, ready for when we burst forth, as better people from our long period of reflection. Everything will be different, we will all be different, the world will be different, and hopefully better…

Box rest tricks

If your horse is on box rest you are advised to give him plenty of things to play with. Mirrors in his stable, radios to listen to, turnips on ropes to provide him with things to chew. We need to treat ourselves in the same way. We need things to do, music to listen to, food to chew on, games to play. We need to keep ourselves occupied, stop ourselves from developing stable vices. Our brains need entertainment, our minds need stimulation.

We are at least allowed out for a walk every day, some horses on box rest are not even allowed out for a small in-hand walk. Though if you have a horse that is struggling with box rest it may be worth talking to your vet about walking him in hand once a day. Sometimes the psychological benefit of a daily walk will be worth the small stress placed upon the injury.

In the UK we are allowed a daily walk, other European countries are experiencing a more severe lockdown, sometimes without a walk. I fear I would rapidly begin cribbing and weaving if we were not allowed out for a walk everyday.

Remember just like horses all people will adapt differently. Some will be perfectly happy in their stables with lots to eat, and television to watch. Whereas others will be pacing around their stalls, kicking the walls and threatening to bite vast chunks out of their humans. If you are in the second category, that is okay. It is okay to not be coping, it is an unnatural situation. But if you are coping on box rest, that is fantastic, just remember we are all different, we all cope with things differently. Our horses are all different, they all cope with things differently. A laid back cob may be perfectly happy in his stable, whereas a over-excited youngster may find it very difficult to cope with.

We will all get through this. In our own ways and using different techniques and tricks. We will all cope with it differently, and some better than others and that is just one of those things.

Brave new world

In this brave new world, it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to feel like you cannot cope. It is okay to struggle. None of us were prepared for this. No strategy devised for keeping ourselves happy and healthy ever had these restrictions placed upon it. But time will pass, this will end. Remember, every day that passes, we get one day closer to the end.

Humans are incredibly adaptable. Already people have come up with new ways of living, new strategies to get them through their days. We are, when faced with no other choice, remarkably inventive. I hope that you have found new ways to be, new ways to cope in this new world.

Share your tricks and tips with others. If we all have one good idea and share them, imagine how many good ideas we will have altogether? Lots! Anything that works for you, whether it is a game that you are playing with your horses, or a way to make baked beans taste more interesting…

Discard the old rules that you had. I have always had screen time limits with my child, not any longer! In the grand scheme of things another hour spent watching television is not the end of the world. Most of the rules that we held were designed for a world we are no longer living in. You need to flex with the changing circumstances, you need to change according to what is happening in front of you.

The only thing that shouldn’t ever change is kindness. Today we need kindness more than ever. We need to not judge others, offer help if people are struggling, check in with your neighbours, your family, your friends, your work colleagues. Everyone will be coping with this differently, but everyone is affected, in some way.

Should you stay or should you go?

The ongoing conversation that seem to be having with people is whether or not they should stop doing things because of the Coronavirus. This is a tricky one. The FEI is in close discussions with Japan over Tokyo 2020, imagine training for the Olympics, you are healthy, your horse is sound, you’ve been selected, and then it is cancelled. It puts your decision about whether to attend an event into perspective!

Like with everything I suspect the best advice is to be sensible. Government advice is to wash your hands often, to stay away from people who seem obviously ill, and to stay home if you are unwell. The PM has confirmed that sick pay will be paid from the first day that you are off sick, as long as you meet the qualifying criteria.

So should you go to that show you have been working towards? You need to weigh up the risks. Are you likely to come into close contact with people? Probably not. Are the people at the show likely to have come from overseas? Probably not, as they have spent all their money on their horses! If you have been training but consider it unwise to venture out too much in public, why not enter an online dressage test? Check out Dressage 4 All! 

The scientists are hoping that if they can delay the outbreak till the summer months, that the impact will be far less than if it had hit in the depths of winter. The other main consideration is who do you come into close contact with? Do you look after an elderly relative? Or do you ride horses for someone who is critically ill? Think about who else may be affected if you were to catch it and act accordingly. We can’t tell what will happen, the analysts have a variety of predictions ranging in severity, but no-one really knows. So, sit tight, be sensible and wash your hands!