Has anyone else found themselves saying that recently?

It’s an expression I have caught myself using quite a bit over the last few weeks. In fact it has become something of a catchphrase with me.

When this is all over, I am going to [insert positive life change here].

When this is all over I am going to get myself a really good pair of walking shoes. That was yesterday’s pronouncement after returning from a nice long walk with slightly sore feet. That’s another of mine, when this is all over I’m going to keep walking. I have always enjoyed a good walk but for some reason I never seem to do it very often, the current situation has caused me to go out walking almost every day in a bid to relieve some of the boredom and oppression of being stuck indoors and I have found it incredibly helpful. A good walk clears the head, clears the lungs and helps us to reconnect with the world around us. The last six weeks has seen the transition from winter into spring and not since I was a child have I taken so much of an interest in nature. I have been endlessly entertained by watching the flowers bloom, the insects dance and the birds building their nests. Who needs television when you can spend twenty happy minutes watching a squirrel bounding about from tree to tree gathering nuts?

It’s only natural I suppose, having time on our hands but only a very limited capacity to do anything with it that we should make these future promises to ourselves. It’s a bit like that squirrel, instead of storing up nuts for the winter months we are storing up little nuggets of happiness to be savoured and enjoyed when the winter passes.

Making these commitments to ourselves is also a way of manufacturing some positive outcomes from what can otherwise feel a bit like wasted time. The sacrifice of the last few weeks will have been much more worthwhile if we can at least say we’ve learned something valuable from it and made some positive changes as a result.  

I have made so many of these promises to myself that I have started writing them down, not only to remind me of what they all were but also as an added impetus to actually make good on these good intentions. A commitment written down takes on a little extra gravity than one simply uttered aloud to the air and the indifferent birds. Or to a spouse who has long since given up believing the promises of a man who has been “meaning” to paint the ceiling in the bathroom for almost seven years. I am going to do it…it’s on my list.

My plans for the post lockdown new me are not confined to taking more exercise or treating myself to a new pair of shoes. There are also one or two more important items on my list.

One of the first things I am going to do, “when this is all over”, is to take a trip to see an old friend of mine. It’s someone I have known for years; we went to college together. He lives in another part of the world now and we haven’t seen each other for a long time. We talk on the phone from time to time, maybe once a year and we always end the conversation with the same promise, I’ll say “I’m definitely going to come and see you this year” and he’ll say “Great. I’m looking forward to it.” But I never do. Something always gets in the way. Something that seems more important or more pressing. But not this time. The second that the ban on travel is lifted I’m booking my ticket. He lives in Jersey now. A beautiful part of the world; it’s somewhere I’ve never been but I can see it in my mind. We are going to sit on the beach, eating ice cream and talking about old times. We are going to laugh and embrace and wonder what the hell took us so long.

That’s one of the very few benefits of the current situation. It has brought time and intention into much sharper focus. It has helped us to realise that time, capacity and opportunity are not infinite. They can be snatched away at any moment. It has also given us the space to reflect on what’s really important and what’s not.

There are no promises owed to us. Don’t leave the ceilings of this world unpainted or the old friends unvisited. Don’t put off until tomorrow what can and should be done today. Who knows when the opportunity might be taken away.

At the same time remember to stop every so often and smell the flowers. Store up some nuggets of happiness for the winter.  

Now I’m off to find a paint brush. There are some things that don’t need to wait until the lockdown is lifted…unfortunately!