I had been managing the days well but things changed. The weather turned, which didn’t help. Waking up each morning to face the day positively became a challenge. I can talk to myself severely and say there are many people worse off than I am. I live in a house with a garden. I live with my husband, whom I like and is my best friend. I live near my children and can see my grandchildren. And yet…..
Nothing is quite the same.
My normal way of living has stopped. I counted on continuing to work with the Off West End Awards, which I have done for the past ten years, but theatres are closed. I danced, because I love to, and zoom doesn’t come close to being in a large mirror-bedecked practice room, with people I know and like. I visited and hosted friends for meals, and whilst we’ve set up zoom meals, it’s not the same. There is pain in the months of loss.
I can see the grandchildren now. The pain of separation was great, and our family has grown closer.
I recognise there is pain in so many; so palpable it’s carried in the atmosphere. Pain of living with people who abuse in so many ways and cannot live in peace. Pain of loss of loved ones. Pain of those in different countries where Covid runs rife with people dying, their medical workers overrun beyond endurance. The horrors of explosions, of killings, of racism, of the knowledge that those in charge do not know what they are doing, learning along with the rest of us. Yet, we are irrevocably part of each other, as Covid has shown so eloquently. One is ill and the rest of us become at risk. Life is more than me, it is about us. A great lesson.
This upside-down world we live in brings to the surface many emotions. Alongside unexpected joy, delight, appreciation and wonder creeps wave after wave of fear, anxiety, despair, depression, loss, grief, sadness. I can choose to self-medicate with all the devices and methods of engagement at the push of a button, rather than allow myself to feel all these uncomfortable emotions.
‘I have done Netflix’ I heard someone say. I haven’t.
The changing weather worries me. If the day is glorious sunshine, the natural world sings hope. I delight in physical exercise because the world looks so good. Will that continue in the pouring rain? Today I was out, having been unwell for about ten days, for my first run. It was a challenge, but although not fully recovered, it did my psyche so much good. I pray for a beautiful autumn to minister its wellness. Gifted with the most glorious spring I can ever remember, followed by a glorious summer, do I hope too much?
Listening to a Rob Bell podcast on my run, he speaks about needing to train ourselves to sit and listen to our emotions. Not to reach for an anaesthetic, rather to follow these emotions back to their caves. I don’t like to feel all these emotions, to sit in the quiet, let the pain emerge and then follow it. My challenge is to follow these things back to their caves, find out where it sleeps, then maybe I might transcend, grow, innovate and work my way through to the other side and find something delightfully unexpected.
There are things that haunt. Things like ‘have I failed?’, ‘have I lived up to my potential?’, ‘have I wasted my time?’ Then I think of the fleeting nature of life, and everything in me wants to have lived it well. The question is – what is a life?
I don’t know the answer to that, but about fifteen years ago I made a decision that I would become a person who loved others. My background did not prepare me well for this. However, it seems obvious to me that all things pale compared to relationships – with my husband, my children, their spouses, their children, my friends, my local community, my wider community. Learning to love people, and contributing to their wellbeing through prayer and action, despite all the upsidedownness and reshaping of these days, doesn’t change.