Routine and daily rituals can create a welcome comfort in uncertain times. Meditation, yoga and the burning of essential oils are morning habits that serve to keep my equilibrium. Other habits can turn into a rut without us even noticing. This week, I made 3 small tweaks to my routine, with welcome results.

Every Tuesday evening, I join my fellow ashtangis for a zoom Mysore yoga practice. We have practiced side by side in our local studio for years, now their presence on the screen and the sound of their breath offers a familiar reassurance. The humour and camaraderie in conversation at the beginning and end of class maintains our strong sense of community. Habits like these offer structure and a sense of wellbeing that help bridge the sense of isolation.

But this Tuesday evening, my friend calls, the tennis club has re-opened and she is dropping her son off, do I want to go for a socially distanced walk? It’s a beautiful summer evening, the air still warm from the heat of the midday sun. As I cross the bridge over the water, I spot her on the other side, all in white, tan loafers, straw fedora. It’s the first time in the last 8 weeks that I meet a friend in the flesh, a moment to treasure. We walk along the water. How I have missed this human contact, the easy conversation with a friend.  I reflect, that on the phone or a video call, there is a desire to keep things lighter, in real life, conversation effortlessly move between the highs and the lows that is life.

I had planned to be back on the mat by 6pm for yoga, now it seems less important. I’ll join another class the next day. Instead, I saviour the moment.

At home, my son is on a videocall with a friend, my daughter is cooking dinner (this is not a regular occurrence, but a welcome surprise). So, I join my partner in the garden, appreciating the change of Tuesday routine.

This has been the most glorious spring that I can recall for some time, my senses on full alert, taking in every smell, every sound, revelling in the beauty of nature. For several weeks, I walk along the same path every day, observing the stillness of the water, reflections of the blue sky, the sunlight playing in the leaves, birds chirping, goslings and ducklings jostling for space between their parents. I know this walk, have made it many times, but my sense of wanderlust takes me elsewhere. One morning I decide to walk up the hill in the opposite direction. My son joins me, he discovers a shallow ditch that he can walk in, it becomes a daily mini adventure (later, inspired by Cressida Cowell’s brilliant session at Hay Literary Festival,  he writes a story about a monster ditch).  As we come to the top of the hill, we discover a public path across a big field. I make a mental note of the benches and the next morning I bring a surprise flask of hot chocolate for the walk. We are on our own. Taking in the morning. It’s still a little bit chilly. We warm our hands, holding the hot drink. Beyond the field is a path covered by trees and as we emerge on the other side, we are met by a glorious view of the hills beyond. We have a running competition to the end of the slope and my son rolls down the grassy hills below. In this early morning moment, we find a sense of freedom.

I’ve always been a morning person. I treasure the stillness of the early hour. But in lockdown, I have felt less alert as I wake up. After my morning walk or yoga session, shower and breakfast and an English lesson the morning has all but disappeared. I decide to reclaim it. It is after all the time of the day that has always been my most productive and creative. It also offers the opportunity to be alone, before the rest of the house wakes up. I set the alarm 10 min early the first week, it doesn’t make much of a difference, then 10 earlier again the following week and so on. I decide to leave my shower until after breakfast. Accumulating an extra half an hour each morning, I’ve managed to reclaim some time for me. I’m writing again.