If truth be told, this virus has rendered me a teeny bit bonkers, for though I am doing my best to appear unruffled, it is quite possible my family are experiencing me in quite a way they have never had to deal with before. At once the Mother Hen and she of the mini-meltdown.
I have become preposterously organised. Fussing and worrying out loud. Turning out meals worthy of a Michelin star from store cupboard basics and harassing my bewildered family with relentless instruction to WASH YOUR HANDS! And in the midst of my efficiency there is both mild hysteria and a deep rooted sense of calm. As if this is what I am for. As if I am a domestic soldier whose war came sooner than she ever imagined it would.
The oddest thing is that I am scared, but scared to be scared if that makes any sense? As if to admit that I am scared would not be quite the done thing. As if only those who are brave and deny any sense of terror, will be awarded medals at the end of it. All this counteracted by a sense that all shall be well and even I know that this anxious terror I am pretending I do not feel is indeed misplaced. And further complicated by the fact that where I feel I should only let myself worry about our well-being, some of my stress is financial and because I have never been in the least materialistic, I feel enormous guilt about it.
Are we allowed to be scared? Worried? Of course we are. I do not know why my emotional censor is in overdrive right now beyond the fact that none of us really know how to feel or how to be, because this situation is unlike anything any of us have ever experienced before and bewilderment inspires the kind of complex emotions we cannot easily drape in Blitz Spirit, no matter how very much we want to.
I have decided then, to try to think of this time in our lives as a retreat. A retreat from the hurly-burly of modern life. A retreat taken not just on the edges of lovely normality but deep within it. At its very heart. To teach ourselves to stand still again. To sit with the terror and allow the sanctuary of home to soothe it. To let the gentle rhythm of routine and ritual be borne all over again and to finally have the time to see how much goodness there is on this planet. How kind people are. How willing those on the frontline have proved themselves to sacrifice everything so that we may all have the privilege of more tomorrows.
So yes. I am a teeny bit bonkers, but the key thing I want to tell you in this, the first of my dispatches from our retreat, is that I am letting myself be bonkers for now. Though my emotional censor might just be stamping her feet in outrage, what matters is that as we all try to find new flow, we need to let ourselves be. To resist the temptation to fill our days with timetables and rigid routine and instead to allow that routine to reveal itself as it will slowly but surely. To sit and let the tears of fright flow in the moments when we feel overwhelmed with worry and to have the grace to allow our children to do the same. To remember that all the forced jolly in the world will not mend a frightened heart, and that insisting on your own slightly demented version of home schooling might just need to wait until all our hearts are more settled.
In our rational moments during this retreat we will discover ourselves all over again. There will be so many unforeseen gifts in the days ahead, that will, no doubt be challenged by sorrow and difficulty, but may eventually turn out to be a blessing. A renewal of the kind of appreciation for home and family we are usually too busy to feel.
Be scared then. Cry by yourself for a moment or two in the evening bath you light up with all the candles you own. Let worry encourage you to do your very best to protect your family, and let fright feed your babbas with all the goodness you can muster from whatever you have in store. Do not allow accusations of fussing from family members to distract you: be as fussy as you need to in order to cope. Fuss them silly with all the puttery joy you can muster! Whatever gets you through the night, Sweetheart. Whatever gets you through the day.
But remember this: after your panic has been soothed, look around and be glad that in a world gone mad, you have a home to hug you, a family to protect, and finally time to truly enjoy them.
This too shall pass. But in the meantime, let’s keep washing our hands.