I wasn’t sure about taking part in Brigit’s prompt of Love and Life in the Times of Corona. I felt that I had written enough about COVID-19 and how it affected me at the beginning and I have sort of run out of steam with it, but really, that should not be the case. This is probably the single biggest historical event that will happen in my lifetime. It is always hard when you are right there in the middle of something to see what it means and it is easier just to get on with being, with living it and with existing in a new normal. It has left us all feeling a bit powerless. It has ripped the routine and the control of our own lives from right out of our fingertip,s and all we have been able to do is to respond.
That said, we still own our own responses. And so, after some thought, this is mine.
The Best and The Worst
The is nothing like a crisis to allow you to see the best and the worst of people and this situation has shown me that in extremes. I have been humbled by the humanity that I have seen in others. I am not talking about the celebration and recognition of those who have made sacrifices, although that has been warming to see; I am talking more of the gestures, the kindness, the thought that some have shown, not towards friends but towards strangers. I am speaking about the little things which could so easily go unnoticed but which have been felt by those on the receiving end and have made all the difference.
I am fortunate to live in a community which has pulled together. I have always been a person who enjoyed doing things for others. My life is set up in that way and I am proud that I have been able to be useful and contribute positively during this situation. Whether you are shielding or not, everyone can do those things for others in a way which fits their own circumstances and there have been so many instances of that playing out quite clearly. It has made me feel good in a situation where there is so much which is not.
I have seen people come together and support each other in a way which is much more altruistic than usual. I think that life has become simpler and it has encouraged people to focus on the things that matter to them: relationships and friendships, for example. I have been so lucky to have strengthened a number of friendships and I think that because the pace has shifted, there is more time to appreciate those check-ins that people make with you and to reciprocate them too. The feeling of paying it forward has been strong.
Sadly, I have also seen the worst. I suppose that being under pressure doesn’t always bring out the best and I have seem examples of people who really just seem to want to pick fights and have a go at others. While I suppose this is understandable, the pressure cooker that we are all existing in right now has made this more difficult to deal with. Where usually people can be avoided, this has seemed harder to do during lockdown where there is a captive audience through social media to call people out under the guise of one thing or another.
Rather than focussing on those who need help and engaging energy into that, there has seemed to been an attack culture around decisions which are made and differing personal circumstances. I know that everyone deals with things in a different way but on a personal level, I have found this tiring and have tried to step away from much of what is going on, so that I can protect my own mental health.
I think that all of us have struggled in this area. Those who were already managing mental health difficulties have found them exacerbated and others who usually enjoy fairly good mental well-being have seen that dip through the loss of their familiar coping strategies. The world has been shaken. It has felt frightening and unstable and uncertain. ‘Not knowing’ is one of the things that is most stressful on the human mind as we tend to find safety in certainties. Currently we sit on shifting sands.
Due to my job, I have worried about the effects of Covid 19 on mental health from the outset. I can see that to prioritise physical health over mental well-being has been necessary but I expect the effects to be far reaching and, to some extent, hidden for some time yet. It worries me and trying to support others from afar during this time has led me to struggle myself. The usual boundaries are not there for me, so the work is in my home. I am waking each morning after only a few hours of sleep with the feeling of panic that you get when something bad has happened. I work through my commitments and priorities for the day and use that to try to reassure myself, but for this to happen for such an extended period of time, would not be usual for me.
I have noticed shifts in mood too. One day of every three will involve a dip followed by a period of mania as I try to right things inside my own head and take control again. I try to wait my time as I have lurched into so many projects as a means of coping that I recognise now that I am in a pattern. I throw myself into my relationships and am glad for the sense of stability and comfort that they bring. I am fortunate in so many ways that much of my life is online, and I have taken solace in this.
Dominance and submission
Our D/s trickles on but not in any really valid way. I know that may sound disrespectful but I do not mean it like that. Although HL takes responsibility for things being ‘less’, that makes no real sense. A power exchange is circular, based on give and take, and so my behaviour and responses play into any lessening as much as his do. Our work situations have left us somewhat emotionally unavailable to each other and this has meant that, while we still continue with much of what we have, our connection is not as strong as it sometimes is.
Where we might have used our dynamic to support us, somehow we have not reached for it as we usually would. What tells me that something bigger than us is at play is the fact that we are both content with things as they are. There is a sense of biding time, waiting for things to right themselves, for life to return to its more predictable, more manageable reality. We shift on in a comfortable slipper, rather than reaching out for our glad rags and kicking up a stir.
There is anger. There is so much anger around. It is palpable at times and it has affected me on a personal level. I am angry with some of the decisions being made which make no sense. I am angry at the loss and the waste and the mess that everything is in. But most of all I am angry about my work situation and the things that I can’t speak about. It eats me up and I try to push it down but it bubbles and it rumbles and I want it to stop. I feel fiery and saddened and it is difficult to explain to someone who is not in this situation why, although I know that I am not alone.
As a profession we are asked to do the impossible, the unworkable, the impractical. We are set up for failure; we know that things will not work and we know that we can’t do our best to support those who we are there to support. It makes me angry to see stories of teachers going ‘back to work’. We have been working all along and I have worked as many hours as I would usually, many of them over evenings and weekends due to my new online availability.
Work is no longer at work, it is in my home and it has made made it difficult to create the boundaries between the two which would usually be there. The vulnerability that I usually show at home does not stand me in good stead for dealing with the emotional impact of the type of support I offer through work. Young people are struggling, mentally, socially and emotionally and those in the very worst of situations, and the very worst of mental states, are not able to be supported in the ways we would usually do where there is nurture and reassurance through the face to face contract and the stability of routine.
And through it all there is love. I mean that. I know that this is pretty doom and gloom but I wanted to document the way that I felt without diminishing how terrible some of this has been. Overall though. I do see good and that comes from the love and the care and the complete dedication and commitment of those I am surrounded by. For my daughter who works for the NHS and puts herself at risk for others, for my colleagues who twist themselves in knots and go so many more miles than anyone would ever imagine and for HL who supports his own team giving his all and putting his own needs on hold.
For my friends and family who weather their own individual storms but always make time to check in and focus on the others who matter around them. For the readers of this blog who take time to empathise and encourage and offer a hand of friendship. For a community who thinks outside the box and finds ways to ease the pressure for those who need that, and for all the unseen people who play their part, not because anyone has asked them to or because they are required to, but because they want to because it is part of who they are.
Out of all of this, let love be the strongest emotion and the final word. Let love be the thing that will lift us all up and out of this.