Apr 2, 2020
Well here we are heading toward the end of week 2 of our official lock down and it’s been really interesting to see our emotions come to the surface as the dust has begun to settle don’t you think?
Whilst the virus is in the air, there is also this weird sense of uncertainty, a kind of low hum of what next? We don’t know what to expect, we are all in the dark and this naturally causes this feeling of unease, of agitation, and of heightened emotion – I’ve had so many messages from you and read so many posts from others all saying the same thing, random tears, feeling fine one minute and then overwhelmed by an imposing sense of doom the next – it’s just a roller coaster and it’s a ride that we can’t get off - ….I remember years ago going to Chessington World of Adventures with our church youth group and I’ve never been one for heights and I was literally man handled on to the Vampire Ride, for the first few seconds I fought it, my fear rose to the surface but once I realised there was no going back, I embraced the fear, screamed my heart out and made it to the end. Giving birth is the same, once it starts, there’s no going back, you know its going to hurt and you can’t guarantee the result but there’s no pressing stop.
We keep seeing the words “in this together”, there’s been no greater equaliser in our lifetimes, a disaster that has pretty much effected everyone and I feel like whilst we have all spent our lives merrily discovering our individual senses of self, doing our own things, building our own futures, suddenly we have become realigned with this deep connection with one another, and this deep NEED for one another – don’t you think? …saying that, there is nothing equal about our situations, I can only imagine how claustrophic it is for someone without any outside space, or families cramped into small houses, multiple children sharing rooms or even beds – even worse when you look out beyond the UK and look at countries such as India and where people live in incredibly close proximity and the idea of washing your hands is completely foreign, the mind just doesn’t know where to go – so yes we have so much to be thankful for safely in our homes – but then saying that, I know having grown up in a violent family myself, there are people who are not safe at home either, they say domestic abuse is up by over 20% ….the situation is so much bigger than the virus and that feeling of being powerless, of just waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, the not knowing about jobs and businesses …I mean the financial implications are massive for many! The government have done a great job with the packages they have provided but at the same time, I know of plenty of people who have slipped through the net – its exhausting!
For me this is where looking back to history is helpful, there have been many many disasters over the years, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and fires that have killed hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of days – that has brought entire villages, towns and cities to their knees, eradicated businesses and crashed economies ….and then it comes to an end, and they rebuild
This will pass, like TB, like Smallpox, like measles, all of which have taken billions of lives over the years, we will find a vaccine and we will eventually fight back – but in the meantime – what do we do?
I had to contact my daughter’s school this week as they are piling on the work, reminding everyone to be ready for virtual school at 8:55 as if they are still at school – and totally not addressing the fact that everyone’s lives are different right now – it virtually impossible for most to just keep on going doing the same thing as before when everything else around them is different – I have to say, personally I’m still working and leaving the house to commute and take provisions to my mum when she needs them so in many ways I don’t feel isolated – but my mind seems to be going at a different pace, it’s like the entire world has suddenly slowed down and I have to say I’m loving that, whilst I’m probably more busy than usual, and I know it’s the same for many parents who are now desperately trying to keep children stimulated and entertained whilst also working whilst also providing more meals than before and absolutely no peace anywhere – weirdly a bit like the eye in the storm, if we could lift all the pressure that says learn an instrument, pick up a new skill or suddenly become super fit, if we could find somewhere in our minds to stop and just be, in the midst of this new normal, I don’t know about you but I start to assess where we have come from!
There are lots of silver linings to be found in the midst of this if we are willing to find them – Cathy talked last week about the humming bird and the vulture – they both find what they are looking for, one looks for life and the other looks for death. ….
Suddenly we are forced to stop and acknowledge that perhaps there really is more to life, that through this re-connection with one another and the world around us, we really start to be aware of our deeper sense of self and spirituality. We have lived through the rise of the great “I”, the individual, that to be fair, has been going on probably for the last couple of centuries but in the process, it has slowly drawn as apart from each other and with the rise in technology and the ability to be socially connected in so many ways, the irony is that we have also become hugely disconnected at the fundamental levels and through this period of isolation, we are reconnecting.
I’ve noticed the last few times that I’ve gone out for a walk, as we give each other space, as we take the wide birth, we then make the effort to seek out eye contact, say hello and make that connection – which is in STARK contrast to our lives previous to all this where we had our heads down, were generally considered weird if we said hello and did all we could to avoid eye contact but really not bothered about stepping into someone’s space – IT’S ALL CHANGE isn’t it? For years it’s been that way since smart technology really began to take over, especially in towns and cities, it’s eyes down and keep yourself to yourself.
And we’ve been so obsessed with self for so long – I’m glad it’s being challenged, aren’t you? We have had control for such a long time, and influence over the outcome of our daily lives that we’ve fallen into this false sense of security that self is what counts - so of course suddenly when something comes along that we have zero control over, its going to feel as though the rug has been pulled from under our feet, of course we then struggle to stand, both individually and collectively. So if you’re feeling weird and wobbly right now please don’t think you are the only one!!
Do you remember the weebles back in the 70s? They had weights in the bottom of them and the phrase was “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” – those weights grounded them – suddenly all the superfluous bits of 21st century life have been cast aside and we are left with who we are and the thing that grounds us, whatever that might be, faith, love, trust, elements that have been revered for centuries but at the same time can be easily swept aside when “self” starts to take centre stage – suddenly we are becoming reconnected to those absolute basic human needs that psychologist Maslow set out all those years ago – I talked about it in an episode way back …..
I was listening to Rob Bell’s podcast last week and I loved how he worded the fact that amongst all this fear, worry, sadness, and loss, is an invitation to be found and the challenge that comes with embracing that invitation, to acknowledge the fact that we have been plastering over crack after crack after crack over the years, and we have been hurtling towards this breaking point for a very long time.
For how long have we been saying we feel like we’re on a machine that is just getting faster and faster, that technology is improving at such a pace that we just can’t keep up any longer? I know I’ve used the phrase multiple times over the years “stop the world, I want to get off” – well the world has stopped for us, not for us to get off, but so we can collectively take stock.
By embracing what’s landed right in the centre of all of our lives with this virus, we are offered the chance to change. You might remember last week I mentioned how I had been chatting with my daughter about school. For years she has asked to be homeschooled and this has really given her the opportunity to try it. Granted she’s a little older now in year 10 but still, we talked about how this is an opportunity to create life to function in a way that works for us, and not the other way around – we live in a bunch of systems, family is a system, the education system, governmental system – so many rules and boundary lines and whilst some of them are necessary, we can also take this time to create something new, rather than being too quick to leap into back the old system when the time comes.
In the midst of all the stress and grief and worry and fear that we are experiencing right now, there is also this gift hanging about offering to us the chance to really examine what matters, who matters, how we are spending each and every moment, what we are doing with our lives, where we are going and where we have been. Do we want it to continue in the same way?
Over the last few years I have managed to drop my phone down the toilet twice and after the initial shock of oh good Lord now what am I going to do, it has offered to me a blessed relief of disconnection and both times I found I was sad when the time came around to reconnect – not because I don’t love connection with the outside world, you know I do – but I am always aware of exactly that, being connected and stretching out far and wide …we all need to switch off and disconnect at times and this is why I have always guarded our family holidays with this ring around it that says no screens. I personally don’t find the speed of life manageable 24/7, I find it destructive and sometimes it feels like we are heading towards the edge of a cliff so I cannot help but feel that in the midst of this there is a chance to change pace, change focus, reassess our values, and take stock.
I wondered if it what is too soon to talk about this but this is where my head is right now and I don’t want to let this time slip by without making the most of it. We are finding that one school is setting way too much work and piling on the pressure to continue as if nothing has changed whereas the other school is completely opposite. EVERYTHING has changed and if we continue to just do the same thing, and not allow our emotions to raise up to the surface and our minds to rummage through our thought processes, no matter how absurd they all seem right now, we are just creating a whole new set of denial to push down – and in that case, we may as well just be robots – but I’m not up for that. I’m human, and in order to really have the full human experience, we need to connect at all levels – emotionally, spiritually and physically. I fear that if we don’t take this time to examine how we are doing life, once we’re out the other side we will just revert back to our old ways – that is unless we take the time now, to embrace what we’re feeling and really think about what it is that matters. I was going to talk about mental health this week but I’ll save it for another time as I think this is enough for now – but to be honest, I do not believe that the system that we have been living in has been helpful to our mental health, any of us, for a very long time. We talk about mental health now partly because we are more aware of it but partly also because we’re all struggling with it so much more in one way or another.
So the question is why are we all struggling with it? And is it a case of more therapy and more drugs or is it a case of a monumental change of the way we do life?
The other thing I have been acutely aware of this week is history – we can take great comfort from history as what we are experiencing in so many ways is not new…. This time will indeed pass and we can draw comfort from that knowledge. However also in revisiting various historical texts, we are also reminded that in ancient traditions, there was always the sabbath – something that we have pretty much managed to eradicate, there were breaks that were placed into the rhythm of life - we used to Rise with the Sun and go to bed with the sun - but now we just keep on going.
We aren’t built to live this way, so of course we’re all reaching breaking point but the question for me is “what next?”
And this is part of our process right now, it’s not about coming up with answers. I think this is more about starting to ask questions, having the time to explore, to rediscover, to reconnect, to reimagine, and when the time comes, we will then be ready to rebuild life in a way that we want it to be, in a way that works for us so that we are not serving life, but instead we are living it.
Half of the reason why we don’t feel fulfilled is because we have been on catch up for such a long time, never feeling like we’re ahead of the curve but always feeling like we are behind it, always trying to catch up with technology, always trying to catch up with the next best thing, Always demanding our right to have this and our right to go here, or our right to say how we feel about x y or z without necessarily considering or caring about the consequence, or the effect on the bigger picture.
The pursuit of happiness, knowing our rights, having ALL of our perceived needs met – holidays, technology, new cars, new trainers, designer handbags, the latest mascara, the flash watch, the list goes on – In new York, as of I think 2018, more people lived alone than not – what does that say about us? The system has raised us to be individuals who consume and this over inflated sense of self has pulled us all apart from each other when you could say that the very reason for humanity is for love and connection.
We keep saying written everywhere we are in this together, and maybe that is something that we can draw on, a sense of togetherness for the first time possibly in our entire lives that we have been aware of community, something bigger than ourselves, something more than consumption and what we own, what car we drive, what holiday we go on, what job we have. Suddenly we have the opportunity to be defined by more than what we do and what we have but more by who we are and how we connect, deeply, at heart and spirit level.
This virus has come and thrown a ball right in the middle of all the skittles that we have been carefully lining up for so many years, you know that feeling when you’re building a House of Cards and the dog rushes by and they all fall down. It’s like we’ve been building this House of Cards for such a long time and we thought it was perfect and orderly and exactly what we wanted ……and suddenly we see how fragile it is.
The question is do we start again and pick up where we left off or do we look to do it differently?
You know what I’ve observed over the last few years? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t say they were sent to social media at some stage or that they just want to be able to stop, or that they just wish that life would slow down. I don’t know anyone, there is not one single person I can think of that says I love life at this pace.
I don’t know about you but I do not want this time, and the lives that will be lost during this time to go to waste. We celebrate and commemorate on November 11 every single year the lives that have been lost for the sake of our freedom. I don’t want the lives that are lost during this virus to be wasted because in a way, it is through this that our planet is being given the chance to heal and we are being given a chance to change - We are in this together
So Let’s be in this together, let’s feel this together – allow ourselves to slow down enough to let those feelings come to the surface, no more numbing with a busy life, no diverting our attention elsewhere, no pushing down or denying, but actually allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and take the time to do that.
It is so good for our physical and mental health to actually acknowledge and feel our feelings rather than in true British style, bottling them up and storing them on the shelf
So whether it’s fear, frustration, cabin fever, anger, sadness, or whether hilarity and hysteria kicks in, whatever it might be, allow the roller coaster to take you where it goes
We need this time to learn how to feel again, to reconnect with our humanity, to stop behaving like robots and start behaving like living breathing human beings again