More and Less (Lockdown Edition)

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation.” — Henri Nouwen  

Hi my lovelies,

I hope you’re safe, I hope you’re staying indoors, and I hope you and your loved ones are well and healthy.

Have you been thinking about how you want things to shift – personally or globally – once this crisis is over? I am, all the time.

I always quote Dr Dean Ornish who says that if you have a leaking tap, you don’t just keep mopping up the floor – you fix the damn tap. (He says it in the context of healing diseases; I use it as an analogy for just about everything.)

For me the “tap” in this equation is how we’re ravaging the planet – the reason, I believe, for many of our current world problems. I want so much for global change. Humans managed to live for millennia in harmony with the earth but in short, sharp time we’ve destroyed it to almost beyond repair for greed and profit.

I don’t know how to make headway into something as colossal as that. So, instead, I’m focusing on some things closer to home I’d love to have more and less of.


Meaningful work. My industry – film, largely made up of freelancers – has been upended. Everything is on hold. It’s forcing me to examine it all.

Is what I’m doing the best use of my time, skills and energy? Am I being of service? Am I fulfilling the campsite rule (leaving things better than how we found it)? And – why not go there – at the end of my life, will I be able to say that I did what really made my heart sing?

I have not yet read the book Ikigai (by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles) but I love the Venn diagram in it. The circles show: that which you love + that which the world needs + that which you can be paid for + that which you are good at. This equals to: passion + mission + vocation + profession. When all of these overlap, you have Ikigai – what the Japanese call “a reason to live”. Food for thought.

Grey. I’ve been getting my grey roots dyed for 11 years now. I don’t know if I will emerge post-lockdown looking skunky/stripey or just plain white all over. Maybe this is the time to stop putting toxic shit in my hair altogether (though I fear vanity may win out…).

True treasures. I’m pretty decluttered but in light of current circumstances, I look around me and still find a shitload of pointless purchases. I’ve already made quite a pile of stuff to donate once the lockdown ends.

The things I am now exceedingly grateful for are what promote good sleep (orthopaedic mattress, organic cotton bedsheets, flat firm pillows), and easy cooking (one great knife that makes for efficient chopping, a handmade clay pot that cooks without burning or sticking, a reliable blender). This has come to define the art of living well to me.

Affection. I live alone and the only live objects I’ve touched for four weeks are the two stray cats who stroll in and out of my building. I see them sporadically as I’m rarely downstairs these days. So it’s come to this: I’ve taken to talking to my plant the way I do with the cats. Hey, sweetheart! Aren’t you a cutie! I love you! (I think the plant likes it. It’s kinda perked up and looking slightly less sad.)

Garlic. With no risk of going near people allows me to eat garlic with abandon. Silver linings.

Surrender. Ooh, unclutching. I’m finding it deeply sexy.


Procrastinating. I have a sofa slipcover that I’d been meaning to give to the cleaners for a deep wash. But I kept putting it off and then, blast, came the lockdown. And now I sit on it every day and feel disgruntled, aware of the stains and the texture that feels weird against the skin because it’s just that bit too dirty. Urgh.

Likewise, I have two lamps that have been flickering for some time now that I meant to give to an electrician to fix the faulty wiring. Now I just have to keep them switched off. Ufff.

Alarms. I stopped using an alarm clock since the lockdown started, wanting to allow my body to decide when to wake up. Also: naps. Divine.

Agonising. As Bruce Springsteen once sang, “All them things that seemed so important / Well, mister, they vanished right into the air.” This time has given me fresh perspective on how few things are actually worth fretting over.

Measure. I don’t want to live a life based on calculations – who said what, who called first, who did more. If we’re feeling love and compassion, let’s give it freely and honestly. It all eventually evens out anyway.

Perfection. I look around my lovely white flat filled with carefully chosen furniture and belongings, with everything beautifully arranged and organised. While it is an accomplishment (and I’m very happy here), I don’t believe it’s the end accomplishment.

Even I can recognise that the end accomplishment is a home filled with love and laughter. And if chaos – anything that is not OCD-organised is chaotic to me – and mess is a part of that picture then, well, that’s the price of admission.

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” — F Scott Fitzgerald

Related Recommendations

I believe Nature will always have the last word, and what we are witnessing is her correction for our earthly fuck-ups. Though made in 2014, this short, exquisite video from Conservation International called Mother Nature feels extremely relevant now. It’s perfectly voiced by Julia Roberts.

I am hardly a monarchist, but I was genuinely moved by the Queen’s speech two weeks back. It was everything most politicians in most countries have not been able to do: be calm, supportive, comforting and encouraging. I felt magically reassured that these testing days shall, indeed, one day come to an end.

(Also, have you noticed it’s been female country leaders who have done some of the best work these weeks by planning ahead, being decisive and providing a reassuring presence? See Angela Merkel (Germany), Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand), and Sanna Marin (Finland). Though hats off also to (male and newly re-elected) Moon Jae-in (South Korea) whose handling has been stellar.)

I have never paid attention to opera before, but I saw this video of Andrea Bocelli singing inside and outside the Duomo in Milan for Easter Sunday and I couldn’t stop weeping, it was so incredibly moving. The full video – interspersed with mesmerising footage of vacant cities around the world – is here.

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