I’ve always leaned towards the excess.
I’ll gorge a family-sized bag of sweets, eating until I’m sick to my stomach. I’ll play my favourite song of the week over and over and over. Hours of looping, until I can tunelessly sing every word. I was a chain smoker. The sort that would light up cigarette after cigarette, the craving impossible to satiate.
“Everything in moderation.” My mum would say wryly.
And yet it seemed impossible to me. I was the antithesis to moderation. I would drink until I was on the floor and then insist that a three-mile jog was essential the next morning, before buying seven pain au raisins and eating every single one of them. As a teenager, I found the ending of the Harry Potter series simply impossible to comprehend. I reread the books so many times I could recite entire sections on command. Friends would quirk their eyebrows and comment on my fabulous memory. Closer friends would sigh knowingly, painfully aware that it was due to an endless cycle of rereading until I was word perfect.
Lockdown, however, has allowed me to discover moderation in a way I never thought was possible.
Wake up, work, eat, sleep. During the first two lockdowns, I found a strange comfort to this groundhog day loop. There was nothing to be anxious about, no change would be afoot. This, it seemed, was the answer to offering me a semblance of moderation.
I ate a similar meal each day, I walked to the same coffee shop, to the same barista. There was no way for me to find excess in something so balanced.
Even the weekends, previously spent in London or Reading or wherever else a £7.50 Megabus would fund me, would now be the same day. A walk in the park, followed by dinner. And, I was overjoyed. I had found the answers to my lifelong search for moderation. I felt a certainty in everything that I’d never felt before. And, yet something was missing.
My chaotic lifestyle had offered me something that moderation could not. Inspiration.
I no longer wrote poetry and plays and articles on the tram, because there was no tram or other humans to observe. Crafting pointless lyrics and prose with collaborators fell to the wayside. I even stopped playing music because, quite simply, there was no one to play with. No one to challenge me or improve my skills. And, while it feels like everyone else is setting up incredible DIY shoots, the FT found that lockdown has made it far harder to think outside the box.
If curiosity killed the cat, moderation it seemed, killed creativity.
As we entered the third (and hopefully) our final lockdown, something had shifted. The brief thrill of freedom in September and October had inspired something. I’d missed the chaos that I used to exist in. While the routine I’d got myself into was productive, there was no creative spark or fun. The monotony that I’d always thought would make me into this new, more grown up version of myself, was just monotonous.
As we returned to our homes for the longest winter in existence, I no longer wanted to go to the same coffee shop. I strolled aimlessly on Sunday morning to one further afield. And, then I went home and insisted we set up a beer garden in our freezing cold concrete yard. The next day, I rewatched ‘I May Destroy You,’ noting all the small details that I’d missed in my first viewing.
The problem with moderation is that we need to moderate it.
We need excess sometimes. We need tears of laughter and so much food that we can’t move. We need the icy cold winter as much as we need balmy sunshine. And, in my search for balance, I found that balance itself can be half the problem. I’m glad I no longer chain-smoke or binge eat. But it’s ok to acknowledge that we all don’t thrive on routine. That variety is truly the spice of life. Whether that’s just walking to a new coffee shop or trying out something new.
Lockdown has given us plenty of time to reflect on the value of routine. Of creating a timetable for our week, but it’s reminded us that there’s a lot of value in spontaneity. Of just doing something because you feel like it.
As my mum says, “everything in moderation”.
Even moderation itself.