Slowing down

This pandemic has changed us all.

I was hustling, and hating it, in an industry I didn’t even enjoy working in. It was bad for my mental health.

After a couple of months of struggling, I realised that the only thing that felt good was working with my hands on the basic stuff of living. I wasn’t alone. Lots of people took up sourdough baking and gardening. I was already doing this, but I started to take it more seriously, thinking about civilisation collapse and survival.

I’ve always crafted too, knitted and sewn and made things to wear. I learned from my mum and my Nanna when I was a small child, and haven’t really stopped since then.

The last year or so, though, I’ve been buying lots of my clothes. My gender transition (coming out as non binary to everyone, not just my queer community, and starting to take testosterone) meant changes in my self-presentation and in the shape of my body. I was experimenting and trying new styles, seeing if they matched the new me. I found myself buying cheap clothes online, and discovered that AliExpress (the Chinese eBay) had lots of things I wanted to try. Obviously not great quality, but very cheap.

When the pandemic took off in China and we started to worry about travel and trade, I stopped buying from there. We didn’t know whether the virus could spread via trade goods, and we knew that factories were shut down and postal services were disrupted. “Supply chain” entered everyone’s vocab.

And of course like everyone else, I stopped going out, stopped having meetings, stopped leaving the house for anything much other than exercise and groceries. I didn’t need new clothes.

But making things felt good. It grounded me and calmed me during a time of stress. So I knitted. And I sewed. And I took over the living room with fabric and ironing boards and paper patterns and tools for winding yarn.

What do we need, as humans, when things are going to shit? We need shelter, water, air, food, warmth, comfort, intimacy, connection, activities, distractions… good old Maslow.

Aside from all the video-conferencing, surviving a pandemic brings us back to the simple things. For many of us, it also gives us the time to slow down and focus on them.

When we need to limit our grocery store trips, and can’t eat out, we cook more at home and eat together for company. When we’re not downtown walking past shops every day, or the shops aren’t open, we have to appreciate the clothes we have. We’re doing jigsaw puzzles and reading books and spending time in our gardens. We don’t have the FOMO over parties and events and gigs we’re not at. We’re not planning our next cruise or international vacation. We have to find our fun closer to home.

You know what? This is the life I want to be living anyway.

In July I committed to spending less time hustling and worrying about my tech job, more time on making things. With needle and thread, cloth passing through my hands, yarn on the needles, I can take it one stitch at a time and know that I’m making the stuff of life, the things we need to stay warm and comfortable and have a little bit of sensory and aesthetic stimulation every day.

I need to take it slow. Perhaps we all do.

Alex

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