Last week I was fortunate enough to go back to Sweden to stay with my grandma, who I haven’t seen for about 2 years because of – you guessed it. Normally, it’s a week spent seeing family over there (and I’m lucky to have a lot of it), spending afternoons in the nearby woods, by the lake, going into the local town some days and then just *being* at home with Mormor (the Swedish name for grandma). Though we did all of the regular cosy things we normally do, something about this time was different.

I know a lot of people have had some inevitable personal shifts because of the trauma (micro and macro) that the pandemic has caused and I’ve definitely felt that effect too. If being forced to move back home and spend every waking minute with your family without anywhere else to go for an extended period isn’t somewhat stressful and/or challenging, hats off to you. Being stuck inside with anyone without anywhere to go is, needless to say, stressful in itself. But over that cooped up period, it gave me – as well as everyone else – so much time. Time to stop, to think (not always a good thing), time to really look at myself and what’s around me. Time to really bloody appreciate all the blessings I have in my life and in fact: how my life is made up of an abundance of them (thank you, whoever’s/whatever’s up there).

In that chapter, I learned about what this wishy-washy term of ‘presence’ really means. And the role of gratitude in someone’s life, when it doesn’t feel like a suffocating shame-inspiring mechanism. And when those two are put together, it gave me the opportunity to see life in a stripped back way I’d never seen before – most likely because my vision was clouded with heavy layers of unresolved trauma/personal issues (I’m by no means anything special BTW, everyone has some levels of trauma whether they know it or not).

But as I said, that time over lockdown gave me the space to stop resisting the discomfort of facing my shadows and look them directly in the eye. It was liberating, having moments of realisation where I’d think: ‘Oh! I don’t actually need anyone to validate me at all to feel worthy’, or ‘Oh! I’m not actually the victim of anything unless I choose to be’, or ‘Oh! It was actually me in the wrong the entire time!’ Hilarious little nuggets like that, yeah.

Anyway, to get back to the point, shedding these layers, slowly but surely, eventually gave me clarity. That clarity came in the form of simplicity, which brings me back to the title of this piece. When the mental chatter died down a little as I tuned into the present moment more and more often, the inner chaos was replaced with quiet. The constant narrative of thought/judgement in my mind was replaced with stillness. While I was out and about on my daily walks, noticing the marbling colours of the sky, or the elegant swooping of a wagtail or even occasionally the bounding motion of a deer in the distance – as cheesy as ALL of that shite is (and inevitably what’s still to come will be) – everything else abstract didn’t matter. Nothing mattered right then apart from the beauty that was around me. And it felt ridiculous and wasteful to be anywhere else but right there at that moment. Sometimes you’ve gotta give into the cheesiness and just choose peace, bro.

I felt this same feeling when I was in Sweden recently, which I now realise is because I was actually present – not only physically, but mentally. I was nowhere else, not planning the distant future or worrying about what was coming next. I was completely absorbed in the environment in which I was. I soaked up every moment – from the feeling of standing barefoot on her linoleum kitchen floor, to noticing the tiny rose motifs on her wallpaper, the pile of sudoku resting on the midnight blue table mats, her ‘90s style cooker with small framed photos of her every grandchild sitting on the shelf above it, the little seal sticker stuck to her radio that she’d turn on every Saturday morning. My days were filled with rich moments of noticing all the beauty in these details, all of which represented something of my grandmother – what she likes, where she’s been, what she’s seen, who she is, how those things are also in me somehow. And I really think this is why I remember this particular trip so vividly, as if it were barely a few moments ago. Every second was rich with my feeling of being completely there and when I say completely, I really mean it in the literal sense.  As a whole, grounded person; not someone who is half there and half in a future universe that doesn’t exist yet.

In learning to romanticise the ordinary, the previously mundane and even boring, that instilled not only an intense, electric presence, but a full sense of gratitude and love within me. Gratitude for having the ability to see and feel and hear these things, to even be there in the same room as my grandmother whom I adore so much. I think now, ‘Why wouldn’t you romanticise the ordinary?’ Because once you do, you realise just how ephemeral life is and how special everything in it is – and brace yourself for some more cheese, here – from the bricks that make up the building in which you live, to the hug from a friend after a tough week, from the smell of a vanilla-scented candle to the unexpected smile from a stranger. All of it is beautiful, simply because you’re alive to witness it.

Well, ahem, after all that mumbo-jumbo nonsense, I reckon it’s time for a stiff drink and a pack of Doritos, don’t you?

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