“Every day is a new step, a new series of emotions and a collective need to find our way together.”
In the past 24 hours more emotions have happened to me than have happened in the space of the past year. The only close contender for the prize of emotional rollercoaster of my life was the week that followed the birth of my first child. Mangled from a long birth and a bout of the norovirus, I cried on-and-off for a week. Hot, urgent tears of self-pity over breakfast when my husband told me I looked tired (fool). Sad tears for a previous miscarriage and thoughts of who that baby might have become. A waterfall of happy tears when I heard Elton John’s Your Song on the radio and rocked my son in his Moses basket. I had all the tears – fast, slow, overt and secretive – but crucially, they were all tears.
This week? Well, all bets are off. I have kicked a door over an automated telephone system that kept going wrong and called my husband an unprintable word. I have cried through frustration at trying to home-school and work at the same time, but also with gratitude at the kindness of people and the love of my friends and family. I have felt happy, bored, annoyed, scared – sometimes all at the same time. I have felt anxiety where usually there is none; unable to process the enormity of what is happening to our lovely world. A world we have treated so casually and taken for granted for so long.
Speaking to my friends (incidentally, I don’t think I’ve made this many voicecalls since I was 14 and would ring every single one of my friends to debrief on what had just happened in Neighbours) I can hear it in them too. Our chats and WhatsApp groups fluctuate wildly between sympathy, concern, useful links, offers of help, rants and despair with a topping of hysterical laughter usually reserved for hen nights and white-wine drinking with your colleagues. Some friends have full Blitz spirit, rallying, helping others and tending to chores with renewed joie de vivre. Others have cried every day and are too anxious or terrified to do much else. In the middle there is a sense of confusion – as one friend so succinctly put it, “I just feel lost”.
The truth is, there’s no right or wrong way to feel right now. No reason to beat yourself up if you feel sad or guilty because others have it worse. No need to feel concerned if you feel energised or are focused on action over emotion. There is no rulebook for these unprecedented (yes, that word again!) times. Every day is a new step, a new series of emotions and a collective need to find our way together.
So I am going to try and lean on gratitude to get me through – because there is so much I do genuinely feel grateful for right now. The health of my friends and family, of course. The home I live in, access to food and medicine and the support network around me. The NHS and the absolute heroes who risk their own health, giving us the time away from the safety of their own families to work on the frontline and help us all. I know gratitude can’t solve everything right now, but it might be just about enough to stop me kicking that door again.
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