No, it doesn’t end like this.
We have all seen the movie – you know, the one where the crazy zealot shouts ‘The END IS NIGH’ and then the virus breaks out and the zombies chase us, dragging their limbs and we RUN for our lives? I am refusing to believe that is how this one ends.
Decisions I made in the past few months have been side-lined, become irrelevant and obsolete. In a matter of weeks, like everyone, I have become obsolete from the things I recognised from my ‘old’ life. Everything is happening very fast, very swiftly changing and impacting us all in devastating ways. The shock came slow at first watching the news, fear creeping in at distance from ‘over there’. Hand wash, hand wash – antibacterial gel – shortages in the supermarkets. Watching as the world closed down borders and streets, shutting down, retreating and reducing life to its very basic necessity. Not knowing if we all acted soon enough or too late. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? History is always a fine judge.
The news cycle edged us towards a new language of pandemic and we all now stay home, stay safe and save lives.
I think we are in shock.
Collectively in tiny units; of family, friends and islands and nations – each one now looking for small ways to act and do-the-right-thing. In this there are little glimmers to remind us all of the power of connection and community; the joy of a video call, looking out for neighbours, a smile and wave from 2 meters apart – all of these have huge positive impacts on the day to day.
In countries all over the world homes have become offices, schools, sanctuaries of isolation – huge populations are adapting. What can come of this is simple – now everyone is knowingly or otherwise remaking their lives in very uncertain future. Staying safe in a world that has new boundaries and risks, the way we all collectively go from here is the big question.
In the first few days holed up in a random cottage in the UK, I wondered if we’d done the right thing. Greece quickly became less of an option given the warnings against travel and carrying the virus to an island with an at risk population. (Answer: there isn’t a ‘right’ thing now) I worried if our loved ones would be safe where they were at home. I worried about friends coping here and in Greece, urging them to stay safe and healthy. The economic worries are huge – only time will let that unfold.
Before this I wondered if I needed to make myself undone and somehow the world has done it for me.
So without a plan I am turning my isolation time into reflection. Today I read a poem about driving along the USA interstate and paused as my imagination turned the poets’ abstract words into mountains and highways, the window down and the scent of dry Nevada air pouring in; sagebrush and gasoline. If I could calm worry then this was how – we’d have to live like this for a while; scared, anxious, grieving – somehow trusting and coping. Words can form a big part of granting power to human experience – to transport and transform, bear witness and give voice to these times we live in. This is a good thing to ease worry – write it out. It can be a kind thing. A relieving thing. A hopeful sign that we will learn from this – politically and humanly.
When this is over, and it will be one day, we will see people and countries we know and love again – the ones that for now I can make do with conjuring up in my mind like a far off place a long time ago.
I might look back to the before-covid-life and realise that I didn’t know how good it was, when without hesitation one could feel the pull from the broad earth like a magnet and follow it – tasting and touching everything as you went. Believing that it was open with possibility.
And maybe after the silence – then we’ll know how to change it all for the better.