On Monday I had my first ever PCR covid test. I’d had a hacking cough all weekend and because I run writing workshops where many of my participants are over 70 felt it was my duty of care to get checked. out. By Tuesday afternoon I had a text and email to say that I was negative, which I had expected as the hacking cough/sore throat is a yearly event for me as winter approaches. What I did not expect was the level of anxiety I experienced. This is not that any of the procedure is anxiety driven but there is something in that whole thing of “testing for covid” that caused issues in me.
From the moment I went on to the NHS site to book my test I felt myself start to shake and my chest get tighter. Driving to the test site I felt more anxious than I should have. And then from 1.30pm Monday to 2pm Tuesday I was gentle nervous and felt like my life was on hold. Of course some of that was that I had to cancel a workshop because of waiting for the result and keep the other group poised to wait for my results. I couldn’t go to the shops, though I did walk my dog. My husband started to worry that he would not be able to go away for the weekend. There was a lot of tension in our house that only dissipated when I got my negative result in.
Where did this fear come from when deep inside I knew this was just my yearly bug? I think it came from the high levels of anxiety that have been pumped at us from the media about Covid-19. Yes some of the things are wise advice, like washing hands properly which really we should have been doing anyway, but there has been this fear of “what ifs”. And we do hear of the number of deaths from Covid-19, though interestingly in my piece on The Day of The Dead not one of the people I mentioned had died of covid. Suicide seemed to be one of the big ones but I’m not sure how one tests for that.
So yes I am accepting covid is serious or why would the whole world be in lockdown? I am accepting that we need to do the social distancing and the hygiene things. But where does this level of high anxiety come from? I believe it is because we have been told for the last 20+ months to be in fear, not just of covid but of climate change, of terrorists, of Brexit, of economic crash, of poor government choices and more that when we have to face a PCR test it sets of all sorts of fight/flight triggers. I know it did with me.
So what can we do to change this without living in denial? Because denial is just another fight/flight/freeze/fawn response to trauma. And also how do we deal with this without turning to scapegoating some people group? Watch Ridley Road on BBC i-player, listening carefully to the right-wingers and their complaints. All are valid. All could be said today. We cannot let our anxieties come to this.
I do not have the answer at the moment apart from being aware of the feelings that the PCR test brought up in me and working to stay calm. But it has left me with more questions than answers. But maybe one of them is to Choose Joy?
Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.
At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!
This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.
Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.
As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.
I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.
My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.
We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.
As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called TheLittle Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.
Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.
Wales is now back in full on lockdown as of midnight on Saturday 19th December. This morning I was on the beach praying for all the pubs and restaurants that would lose hundreds of pounds today because they had bought in food to prepare Sunday lunches, which up here is the time when most people go out to eat, and will have to throw it all away. Where is the hope in all this?
I wrote a piece not so long ago called Full Moon and I still hold to that – of God being above our chaos looking down and being with us through it. But this morning as I turned to walk back from the beach it started pelting with rain, cold icy rain, and the sky was just filled with black clouds. There was not even a fringe of false dawn or red tinged clouds. It was black. And it made me wonder “how can we know there is hope when all is dark?” But then I got thinking about the Christmas story, which many of us won’t get to hear in church because of lockdown, about of how when we tell that we tell it full of hope and yet I am sure there were very dark days.
Can you imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they came into Bethlehem and were shunned? How dark must that have felt? They knew God was there, knew God had planned this, but so much was clouding that hope. I think often we “big up” the Christmas story too much and don’t show the other side of things, which then leads us to feel like we are inadequate, that we have to rise to a place that is beyond what we can reach.
I totally believe that God is in all that we are going through, even this sudden lockdown and the loss of earnings from too many places, and mental health and suicides that have come from the anxiety and fear and stress of all this time. This, though for me, is where faith comes in. But too often the burdens we bear make it too hard to look up and find that faith. And that is when we need to be kind to ourselves and to each other, be honest that actually on some days we have no hope, we have no faith. We can only see the storm that is gusting around us.
[I was in the process of pondering how to finish the above paragraph on this post when my daughter messaged to say she’d tested positive for covid-19. She has very minor symptoms and had done the test because someone she worked with had tested positive. So it was all a bit of a shock, especially as she’s been trying to work out how she could get from South Wales to North Wales now we were all in lockdown. So sometimes the storms are crazy and the sky is dark but I am pleased I could find the words for the above paragraph to give myself the encouragement I needed]
Since the start of lockdown myself and other prophetic writers have been banging on about resting, reseting, reconnecting, renewing, etc. Lots of “re”‘s in there!! But are we really listening? Or maybe it is just me!
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been led on the couch getting over a fall from a horse (how it came about is mentioned in the previous post) and I am bored. I still ache, still can’t do all the normal things I do round the house, am tired and am having trouble keeping concentration. Why? Well because my bones or muscles, whichever it is, are trying to reset and renew, but I want to get back to doing, but healing takes time.
Here in North Wales in are about to start a two week “firebreak” to try and deal with this coronavirus. Who know if it will work or not but I wonder if it is like me having a long bath with Epsom salts and hoping that means I can put the hoover round later. I will tell you from experience that it doesn’t work. I still need the time. And I need to be imagining my “new normal“. But I, like my country and my church, and like so many others, do not want to put in that time. I’m bored of sitting around doing nothing but reading and thinking and sleeping!
Did God let me fall off my horse so I could have time to rest? Did God send the coronavirus so we could all have time to rethink? Someone I know had a horrid accident and got compensation for it, then 20 years later a member of his family nearly lost their home and he was able to use his compensation to stop that happening. Did God cause him to have the accident so he had that money? I don’t think so but I know God uses everything.
So I need to let God use my time led on the couch here and having to ask people for help so that I can rest, refresh, reset, and renew. And maybe too we to, as a Church, as a nation, need to follow the same example and allow God to help us to reset, refresh and renew and so become all we are meant to be. Perhaps this is a time to humble myself and pray and let God do the healing?
What I have noticed about this pandemic is the order things have reopened and the things everyone, including Christians, have seen as important.
Our economy – which meant certain things had to reopen even before it was probably safe to do so and those things are:
Firstly large sporting events that bring in lots of advertising revenue which are being watch at home on TV
Second pubs, restaurants and cafes
shops, hairdressers, etc, etc
And then lastly our churches.
It seemed to me in reading about revival that no one cared about the economy. Does this mean there was a huge economic crash at this time? In Wales in the early 20th century people really were only going to work, which at the time was mainly agricultural and industry, and then going straight to church. But also at that time there was no major hospitality industry, tourist industry, no consumeristic society.
My daughter works in hospitality. If she stops work to go and pray all the time, or has to stop because no one goes to the pub because they are all praying, how will she pay her rent? And she’s not the only one.
It made me wonder if this is why we are often reluctant to pray for revival, even if that reluctance might be only on a subconscious level. The pictures we are given is of the things we know and love – hospitality industry and sporting industry – grinding to a halt. Do we really want that? As we have seen with things being lockdown for a few months the country has tumbled into recession. Do we want that?
Much as these stories of revival are totally awesome I think we need to be praying for a new picture to talk to us about revival. Someone did say to me that this pandemic and the lockdown have shown some key things – man’s fear of dying, the fragility of the economy but also our need for it, and also our individuality. Maybe our new picture for revival needs to be about tackling those issues rather than bringing down the economy and the industries that our country now survives on.
So don’t just pray “Revival” but ask God how it would look and how our families and friends would survive through it.
One of the big things that is taught about how to look after your mental health is not to compare yourself to others because your trauma, your issues, your situation, is yours and it is hard for you. It may appear easier than someone else’s but that doesn’t matter. As lockdown has eased there have been more articles appearing about how those born from about 1990’s are struggling with lockdown and those born before 1965 are wondering what all the fuss is about.
I have been trying to write a blog post about rights and privileges but it hasn’t been coming. I did do one just after the Brexit vote which flowed but this one was not coming. Lots of drafts but nothing that made sense to what I wanted to write. Then, after receiving a forwarded article from a friend from her local vicar, and going for a long walk on the beach with the dog, it all fell into place.
In this article, from my friend’s vicar, he talks of all the major historic events that happened for those born in 1900 compared to those born in 2000. And yes those born this century have not had to deal with 2 world wars, plus 2 minor wars that the West was involved in, major economic crashes, and the Spanish flu, amongst other things. And yes those things are horrendous and are not comparable to not being able to go to school, not being able to hang out with friends, not knowing if you can go abroad on holiday, of having to wear masks, of being confined at home, miss out on growing and developing as an adult at university. No they do not compare but they are the issues that young people are having to walk through and it does not make them any less traumatic.
As another retired friend of mine said that even though she misses her friends and her clubs, etc, she has had a life that she can look back on when she’s at home on her own. There is the phone to call people and she’s getting the hang of video calling too. But as she says, she’s had her life. Even for myself, I missed seeing people for those first couple of months but now I can go visiting and am even off to England to see family. I’m even restarting horse riding today. I have reached a stage in my life where I don’t want much but that is because I have done things, travelled, partied, had freedom to come and go as I like, in my teens, 20s and 30s.
Also I believe our media has spent that this century pumping anxiety into us from climate change to Brexit to terrorism. We live in fear and are constantly in flight or fight mode but can do nothing to change it. So our young people have been born into this high anxiety media storm with social media and image over riding so much. So no it isn’t a World War pr any of the things listed above, but this lockdown is riding on the back of traumas, anxieties and much more. As well as the media portraying the pandemic as possibly never ending.
So let us be kind to those who look at some of things that we might see as privileges as their right. Let us try and understand why they feel this way and not just tell them that “it was harder in my day“. That really isn’t helpful. That piles on the guilt which makes anxieties even stronger. It becomes not just “what is wrong with the world” but “what is wrong with me“.
I’m sure Jesus would have listened to both the young and the old and all those in between without judgement or condemnation. Shall we give it a go?
2020 they said was the going to be the year of perfect vision – Twenty twenty vision! Then they panicked because suddenly we were all locked inside, unless we were key workers. Suddenly they were talking about how this lockdown/pandemic had been predicted before. Lots of prophecies bouncing out. But not once, at least on the ones I listened to, did I hear anything about this 20/20 vision.
Let me list the things I think this year of 2020 is revealing: (&these are in no particular order so apologies if some look like they are of more importance. That is not my intention)
who the key workers really are. Not just health and care workers but delivery drivers, both food and parcels, those who empty the bins, not just our household ones but the ones in the parks and streets, the takeaway food and coffee workers, those who work in food producing factories. I’m sure I’ve missed some.
the fragility of the world economy
poverty and how people teeter on the edge and losing 20% of their wages pushes them over the edge
the huge one that is causing riots and protests across the world – including social media infiltrations via K-Pop fans – is racism. Not just slurs and comments but institutionalised racism.
But this is also showing how connected the world is and how people don’t agree with all that is going on and will speak out, will do something. And perhaps it is because so many are at home and have time to do something about it. I am seeing websites starting gathering info, people doing things they would not have had the time or energy to do.
Not forgetting climate change
Child abuse – interesting how during this time Police say they may have found the real abductor of Madeline McCann which happened so many years ago. Things coming into the light, things being truly seen
mental health issues
the fragility and incompetence of our government and other governments around the world
the strange system in the USA where one man speaks for all no matter how sound he is
But you know what? All these issues have been raised before. It seems not so long ago another middle aged black man was crying out “I can’t breath” but things did not explode like they have done. It did not become a worldwide thing. Why now? Some say it is because people have less to do, but I would like to raise the issue of 20/20 vision, the prediction that this year we would see things clearly.
It looks too like I might not be the only one thinking this. Here is this great poem by Leslie Dwight going around which says
“What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw —
that it finally forces us to grow,”
“A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.”
“A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other further apart.
2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather
the most important year of them all.”
What if we can look back on 2020 and say that things really did change, that we would not settle for what was again. I must say I am so proud of my daughter and others being brave and going out there and protesting. That takes courage. But they aren’t just doing that. They are reading, they are learning, they are looking, really looking with their eyes wide open.
Interesting times we are living in when many in the neighbourhood go out on their doorsteps at the same time every week to clap people who are not there. I’m not knocking those who do it but for me it is strange. I think the NHS are doing an amazing job and I worry about people I know who are having to be in there dealing with it all; friends, family and acquaintances. A sister-in-law, an NHS worker, has caught Covid-19, though thankfully only mildly and as yet none of her family are exhibiting signs. A friend’s cousin, also an NHS worker, had it mildly but then her husband caught it and is in intensive care. So yes I think they are doing a great job and should be respected and applauded. So I send them messages, tell them I am thinking about them, etc. But I do not go out and do the clapping. But that is because I don’t get it. But then I also do get many of these grand public outpourings.
But what got to me most of all was a local historic castle has very publicly put blue lights on its façade when the clapping was going on, made sure it was on all their social media that they had done things, emailed all their supporters. The emails had a donations button at the end but this was for the monument’s fund raising not the NHS raising. But also this place has made sure all its parklands are locked so no one can walk through them. Thankfully there are lots of other places to walk but I just wondered if a good public gesture would have been to open its parklands to give people more space to walk. Some who might even be those NHS workers who they are illuminating their building to support.
But this got me thinking about how we, and I include myself in this, make big open public gestures but don’t do the little things that will help. So how many people clapping, or even giving to the amazing people like Captain Tom to raise money to support the NHS, will be willing to have their taxes increased to support not just an improvement in the NHS but also to support all those who are on furlough, to improve our schools, our bin services, etc, etc etc. How many people who are in management in these sectors find it easier to clap than to take a pay cut so those below them could have a pay rise? How many are finding time to support local business? Not just now when we’re thinking about it but after this is over?
So I do applaud those who go outside to applaud the NHS, but I also applaud those who are key workers in other areas, but also those who are sticking to the rules and staying at home. But I do wonder what things will change when this is all over or will we just want it all to go back to normal without having to pay for it, make changes, or even look at what is wrong in this world to have brought things to this point. And by this point I don’t just mean this pandemic but a struggling NHS, an overly polluted planet, etc, etc etc.
Is it just me or when you go out or look through your window or read Facebook or Instagram does the thought pass through your head of whether those people are obeying lockdown rules?
Maybe it is just me 🙂 But I know when I’m out walking my dog with my daughter I look at groups of people and ask myself “are you all part of the same family and living in the same house?” When I watch cars driving past I often think “is that journey necessary?” When I see all the cars in Tesco carpark I ask myself “how often have you been there this week?” All the time I’m judging people. And actually not in a good way.
What if those people walking together are from different families is it for me to judge? If people are walking for 2-3 hours rather than the one allotted for exercise, or going out 2-3 times a day instead of one, is that for me to judge?
Is it for me to judge? No it is not. I must follow the rules and guidelines as I have interpreted them but not judge others who see it differently. Yes they might get sick – but I must not say “serves the right”. They might die and that would be sad. They could stretch the NHS and that would not be good. But all in all it is their choice, as it is mine, how to interpret this whole situation that we have never been through before.
But it got me thinking of how much I judge others but the things I see them doing. And this can be good or bad, better or worse than me. Do they go to church more/less than me? So are they are better/worse Christian than me? Do they spend more/less time writing than me? Are they a better/worse writer than me? Etc, etc. Who am I to judge???
If nothing else lockdown has taught me how much I judge others by what I see and what I want to see. So today when I look at photos on Instagram or see people walking together outside or driving their cars I will just let it go and continue doing what I do. And trying not to judge myself!!
I have been reading through headlines like I have never done in a very long time. Every morning I check what the latest death toll is, what the latest report says, what is going on in the world. What has struck me through all of this is – there are a lot of people there with opinions but no one is willing to say “I don’t know”
Journalists and opposing political parties and people in general are asking questions – why do we have no PPE for our staff? why no testing? how did it get like this? who is to blame?
What I would really love to hear is someone high up in politics answer these questions but saying – I don’t know how it started, why it got this far, why we didn’t see it coming, but you know what? We’re in this together so lets stop blaming and try and work toward a solution.
Yes I know lots of people are volunteering, helping, doing what they are told and staying home. But actually we all want answers and we all want someone to blame. For me I would say a lot of the problem in our country is that we have continually voted for a government that cuts taxes. Unfortunately cutting taxes leads to services not being able to stock pile things ‘just in case’. If last year the government had stockpiled PPE ‘just in case’ the press would have been running them down for wasting money, wasting storage space, causing a panic.
Scientists are working hard to find out how it all started, why it started and what to do about it. Chinese food markets seem to be taking the brunt of it which could be where it all started, but why now? Why this year? What changed?
I think all governments from China on through were slow to react but I do wonder if that was because they didn’t believe it would get that big. We had a couple of health care professionals staying at our house in February/March and until around 5/6th March they were saying not to worry, that it was going to be like SARS, which though bad didn’t effect this many people even without lockdown. If in February our government had ordered a lockdown then people would have been screaming ‘Police state’. Actually our government did try to get people to be adult about it but what did they do? Rushed to local beauty spots to walk, climb, hang out. I wonder if people had stayed home that weekend and behaved like adults whether things would have been different and there would have been things closed by no lockdown.
I think we like to get ‘authority figures’ to give us answers because we are all scared children in a big world we don’t get understand. If someone in charge gives us an answer and it is wrong then we can cry out like the children we are. We do not take any responsibility. The cause of this could be you and me wanting cheap food, to pay less taxes, to be able to travel the world, etc, etc. But we would not accept that answer very well.
For me I would vote for the next person who says “I don’t know but we’re working with what we have and we’re learning all the time” and “Our political party will raise taxes to pay for this, to support WHO and overseas relief, to pay our NHS and teachers.” And I will be willing to pay more for my beer, my wine, my meals out so that those hospitality staff earn a decent wage.