This photo was taken on a beautiful day which I blog about here. It seems like a lifetime ago now, before the pandemic that has changed our lives beyond recognition.
This picture speaks of joy, of togetherness, of spiritual nourishment, of quality time with my mum, a circle of strong women who uplift one another. It also speaks of rest, of reflection, and of surrender.
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the world and on the way people relate to one another. I am a people-person, I thrive off relationships, interactions, being with my friends and family as much as possible. I love quiet time alone to think and replenish, but I was made to be around people.
The initial 8 weeks of ‘lockdown’ where spent throwing myself into work, only seeing my husband, and a weekly trip to my 78 year old mum to drop supplies off. It was such a peculiar 8 weeks. The world as we knew it had stopped. For those of use who socialise daily and always have plans and personal commitments, it was so alien. Resuming ‘socially distanced’ dog walks with friends, then eating outside, to the ‘new normal’ we have now, has been a welcome change.
I am currently on my final and 5th week of annual leave. I have taught from the first day of my new job that started September 2019, and worked like an ox to get things tied up before leave. I needed this. I am not ashamed to say I need rest, but it is more than that. My need to be with loved ones is a deep spiritual pull. I needed to nourish myself. I have slowed down, I have eaten well, had massive walks with my dogs, done a lot of yoga, tried to catch up with as many people as possible whilst also having downtime to read for pleasure and just hang out. I have had days out, and found joy in the simple things like paddling in the sea and eating chips on the prom with friends. Do I have lots of work to do? Sure, but it can wait until I am back at work. I am deliberately hyper-organized because I recognise the importance of rest for my heath. Self care is not a choice for me.
I feel refreshed and renewed. For me, only a good period of leave can provide this. I have already booked my leave for next summer.
I was at the Metropolitan Cathedral on Sunday with my friend Joanne (photo taken by me last year). The second reading was Romans 11:33-36 and the following sermon very much spoke to me. We were asked to consider not only ‘Who is God?’ but also ‘Who am I?’. Other people’s actions will never fail to amaze us and sometimes disappoint us. We will never fully know or understand other people, but we will also never fully know ourselves. Far from being disheartened by this, we were told to look around mass and take comfort in the fact that our brothers and sisters are on this journey with us.
Whether you are a person of faith or not, most of us need fellowship of some kind. We need a deep connection to others, and through those connections we learn about ourselves.
Through this virus there has been an aggressive mantra of “stay the f**k home” from many, as if we can all squirrel ourselves indoors for the likely years of a pandemic. As if having food and wifi is enough. But most of us need other nourishment. We have ignored mental and emotional health at our peril, it is has been dismissed as a bolt-on concern and separated from public health. So much focus has been on ‘the virus’ that the physical implications of isolation and poor mental health have been silenced. We were made to be together. We may have to do this at a distance of 2 metres, wearing a mask and sanitizing our hands, but the need for physical contact with our tribe is real. I don’t want to live in a Black Mirror world of Zooming my friends. I want to lay on my sofa with them eating pizza and watching trash. I want to sit with them after a long dog walk and put the world to rights over coffee. I want to play in the waves with them like we are kids again.
I hope everyone has had chance to have a rest over the summer. Certainly don’t feel guilty for it. We earn our leave like we earn our wages, only time is much more precious.
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