I have been so moved by the responses to my first blog posting, and for all of you who have taken the time to let me know who it touched you and how you are doing, and who have offered me their perspectives. Someone said to me this week that ‘we’re in the same storm, but not the same boat’, and people’s experience of lockdown varies depending on where they live, who they live with, opportunities to work, opportunities to rest, and financial anxieties, as well as the expectations that we put on ourselves to survive and thrive through this experience.
I’ve been conducting a lot of supervisions this week with other therapists and with people who work in different frontline roles with vulnerable people made more vulnerable by the lockdown and its consequences. We’ve been discussing what its like to work and live in this environment, the so called ‘new normal’. This is a term that is much disliked – ‘nothing normal about it’ more than one person said. And yet there are expectations that we do carry on, as ‘normally’ as we possibly can. These can come from ourselves, our employers and government. We make the efforts to have regular working hours that pretty much match what we were doing previously, and to achieve the same level of productivity, as well as home schooling, shopping and taking on tasks we may have paid others to do in the past. There is a huge pressure to be ‘productive’ – to use this time to learn, create and have quality time whether with people in our household or on screens.
One person described her experience as ‘strangely normal’, carrying on doing the same job in her home environment. I thought this was a great phrase as sometimes life can feel like this, when your head is in your usual work. And then we look up and around and there is nothing ‘normal’ about these times. People are more fatigued, more ‘up and down’, and struggling to switch off from work when their commute consists of a few steps to the next room.
We are all experiencing a global ongoing trauma and significant loss – the loss of family and friends for many, the loss of the lives we had for all of us, and the loss of the futures we had hoped for and envisaged. I had tears when I turned the page of the calendar to May and saw the events that should have been happening this month, including the fabulous Gaia Tribe festival which was such a wonderful communal experience for our family last year and where I revived in time out with an incredible bunch of people.
In Gestalt therapy we talk about the ‘Void’, the place of rest that can be ‘futile’ or ‘fertile’ – a place of extreme discomfort where we have no choice but to confront ourselves and our feelings, and where we can also recuperate, nurture and practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. In our pressure to ‘do it all’ (internally and externally driven) we distract ourselves to avoid the discomfort of confronting what we are actually experiencing and feeling. By allowing ourselves to occupy this void, this space, we can find the resources to endure, to find hope, and to adapt to our new circumstances as they change week by week and month by month. Mindful practices, yoga, walking in nature all help with this, or even just giving ourselves time to sit and stare into space, to acknowledge the scare and sadness, and to remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can.