My head is spinning. Pretty sure yours will be too, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve found it hard to concentrate on anything much this week, as an abstract health story from halfway around the world has now become the single most dominating and pressing story in possibly my entire life. What I’m finding most difficult to deal with is the “unknowability” of this – it’s sheer unprecedentedness means that we are walking into the dark, hoping that everything we know will still be the same when we walk out the other side, whenever that is. But I’m not here to scare you. Hopefully, together, we can support each other through all this.
Firstly, there is nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with comforts as we all work our way through this crisis. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but often, at times of stress, there’s a meme that circulates with a quote ascribed to Fred Rogers – “look for the helpers”, it says. Well, what we need to do is be that helper. We’ve managed to create lives that have moved away from that sense of immediate community, instead moving to online interactions that are one step removed from the immediate. Now, more than ever, is a great opportunity to reach out to your local community and see what you can do to help. I’ve certainly tried to make that effort, posting “can I help?” leaflets through letterboxes in my village. I’m seeing more and more instances of this from other people, and am taking huge comfort from seeing undoubted evidence that there are more good people in the world than bad. Please do tell me what other suggestions you’ve seen that might just make a difference, however small.
Secondly, I think we shouldn’t feel guilty about switching off from the incessant stress of the news. Turn your phone off. Try and do some exercise. Fall into a new book, or a new show, or listen to some music, or make some art. I have to admit that I’ve not done very much writing over the last few days, if at all, but I know that finding some solace in my usual routine will do me a lot of good. I’m also going to make sure that I give myself the opportunity to switch off from things and distract myself with a film or a favourite album, and, most importantly, ensure that I am able to enjoy just being around my family. So, over the next few weeks, you can expect to see me talk to you about some of those distractions, and maybe we can discuss them together. Just a little oasis for us as we all work through this.
Lastly, we are going to get through this. I have absolutely no doubt about this. It’s going to be rough for everyone, but if we all do what we can, I am convinced that we will beat this.
Take care. I’m grateful that you’re there.