It always fascinates me to look at my blog stats and see where my readers are from. In just the past twenty four hours I’ve been read by people from Fiji to Finland, from Sweden to South Africa, Asia and the Antipodes, through countries and across continents. For the most part I will never know which issues are uppermost in your lives, but at this time, the majority of us are linked, (in such a way that many of us will have never before experienced), through our concern as we focus on what is so quickly becoming a world-wide catastrophe. As I sit at my computer composing this post, I look out of the window into the garden where Spring is no longer only a promise. It’s here – a gentle breeze, the sun shining through the trees, the brilliance of the forsythia and the buds on almost every other shrub bursting from what just weeks ago looked like dry twigs. It’s a time that should be full of promise and hope for a warm summer; it all looks so normal. I can barely believe what is happening and wonder if we weren’t all better off and happier years ago when news spread slowly instead of daily, even hourly updates. Ignorance can indeed be bliss.
I looked at my email – a message from M&S about their spring clothing. ‘The compliments will be flowing’ they tell me. The local pub offers me ‘40% of main courses’; other mails propose that I buy tickets for a show or perhaps I’d like a holiday in the Med. What might have interested me a couple of weeks ago no longer captures my attention. It seems so trivial, so completely unimportant. I just want us all to be safe and well. So recently, here in the UK, we talked – in families, in friendship groups, even to total strangers – about the decision of Britain to leave the European Union. It was all so important. Whether we supported the decision or not, we discussed, we argued (sometime in a friendly and tolerant way, sometimes less so) and we despaired as the opinion of others did not match our own. Brexit? What was that? No-one’s saying a word. Every conversation is about this damned virus. Even as we go through the motions of day to day living, surely few of us could honestly say that we are not anxious, if not for ourselves then for the vulnerable people whom we love. For me, this worry is never more present than in those early hours when I’m lying awake instead of sleeping. I call these ‘The dark hours’ and I hate them because I am a catastrophiser. My mind takes a scenario and runs with it to the worst extreme.
“By thinking catastrophically, we are actually making things worse, because our unconscious mind doesn’t distinguish emotionally between what we imagine and what really happens” (Lindsay Dodgson 2018). Tell me about it!
Over the years, because I do not generally sleep well, I have developed a variety strategies for coping with these dark hours. As I find myself anxiously worrying about situations that often have a greater chance of not happening than happening, I tell myself firmly: You’re just catastrophising and force myself to think of something else. One ploy to think of all the houses I have lived in. I go through each room trying to recall the furniture, the colours and things that took place in that room. In another, I re-imagine the rooms as I might furnish and decorate them today. Another ploy is to choose a random letter of the alphabet and to think of as many male and female names as I can. Another time something completely random will pop into my head and I’ll try to dredge up connected memories, and it is this which explains why, last night, I found myself remembering my elder cousin telling me a few years ago that as a child of about ten years old he had dragged a dead sheep to school. Even though in those days he lived in a rural Gloucestershire village surrounded by farmland, coming across such a thing whilst walking to school wouldn’t have been an everyday occurrence. Cousin’s disappointment at the teacher’s loudly negative response to his contribution for the nature table, was still evident sixty years later!
Another of last night’s memories prompted me to trawl through my photo albums this morning to find this picture. One summer’ s day in 1992 I was in the kitchen when I heard a thud and my daughter’s cry of “Ouch.” Since I knew she’d call me if she was hurt and was a tom-boy whose legs were always covered in bruises, I stayed where I was until a couple of minutes later when I heard exactly the same. On investigation I found her climbing onto the coal bunker and from there onto the shed roof from which she then launched herself onto the grass. She was apparently ‘doing olympics’. I wonder if she recalled that when, years later, she researched the history of the olympics for her master’s dissertation.
I wish you all safeness.