I have rarely gone more than four weeks without writing something, but I have just checked and the last time that I published anything on here was Friday 20th March. I remember the day because, after writing about fictional dream where I had imagined the last five or so years, it turned into something of a bad one. It was our fourth day in isolation as a family and it was slowly dawning on our boys, aged 12 and 9, that this was a serious situation that was going to take more than a few weeks to put right.
I got very emotional, and felt totally overcome… I felt really sorry for them wishing that they did not have to go through this pandemic at such a young age (well at any age really). I had to go to bed and I just sobbed and sobbed. The responsibility of looking after them, and home-schooling them, just overwhelmed me. How on earth, I thought, are we going to get through this… how can we spend week after week, if not month after month, in lockdown… how can I make sure we are safe, have enough food to live on, while at the same time staying sane and well.
These feelings gradually subsided, the crying proving to be cathartic as much as anything; and as the days turned into weeks something of a routine settled in the house. Coming out of isolation after two weeks helped as we were at least able to have our daily exercise; and one of us able to go food shopping (this was very important for me).
But why, I wondered, had going into isolation had such a profound effect on me, and so quickly. It felt like a bereavement, that raw emotion that you only get when someone close to you dies. That sense of loss and hopelessness… a loss of control, not just of the situation, but of our emotions as well. Looking back I think that I was mourning for the sudden jolt that the Coronavirus had brought me, but most of all my children… a pandemic had always been a concept that has felt so abstract, and in a way it still did as I struggled to come to terms with it. For the boys it was confusing and fundamentally unfair… sentiments I could not argue with.
As with bereavement time can begin to smooth over the bumps and cracks in the psyche… there is a sort of normalisation that takes place as a particular situation becomes more familiar and the Thursday evening claps come round each seemingly quicker than the previous one.
With that normalisation come a certain acceptance (as with the Kubler-Ross model of grief), which I think might have lead to a certain sense of complacency; because this week saw a second particularly bad day, but in a different way. This time I was angry and numb… that I had to live my life this way especially in trying to homeschool the boys… which I felt singularly unfit to do. For the first time in years I felt very inadequate. I did not like it!
Several things helped me out of that funk. An excellent article my wife shared with me reminded me that these are extraordinary times and we should not expect too much of ourselves… and look after ourselves. It was particularly critical of those online ‘gurus’ telling us that we had to use our lockdown time wisely and do something extraordinary. The next day I read an equally good piece that a friend shared on Facebook equating our current situation to that of a journey; the principal aim of which is to just arrive at our destination.
This was very helpful and made me realise that the period between my two bad days had seem me gradually ramp up the pressure on myself to do and be everything, and in doing so I was forgetting to be myself.
So the next day I was a lot less stressed about how much the boys had to achieve in a day (reminding myself that they’re going through all of these emotions too), I listened to a couple of podcasts and went on a long early morning walk through the wood in the above photo. It was great to go back to doing something that five weeks ago was a daily thing… a re-connection with the lost life that I had been mourning, perhaps unnecessarily. That was plenty extraordinary for me.
I have no idea how the next few weeks, or months will go… when the next bout of grief will hit… and how it will manifest itself. What I do feel is better about today is that I have perhaps moved my resilience levels up a notch. I think that I have realised that this is a journey where I need to find the path of least resistance while at the same time making sure that those around me can take that path too. It is the situation that we are all in that is extraordinary… and just getting through it equally so. That being the case do we really need to go out of our way to be extraordinary ourselves?
No we do not!
When we arrive at the other side we can dust ourselves down and see exactly where we are, I think we know that in a number of ways life will never be the same again. Until then perhaps we need to safeguard ourselves to preserve the ability to mentally shape our future as much as possible..