The other day we had a phone call from a very dear friend from university days. She grew up a churchgoer but these days describes herself as ‘agnostic’. She told us she was angry about people stockpiling and that she was refusing to panic buy. Then she said, ‘I don’t know if I’m being a ‘foolish virgin’ or a ‘flower of the field’. With amazing clarity, she summarized this double movement of spirit, the push and pull, the inner weighing up of us all in this ‘CoronaTime’. Is it stockpiling or careful management? And she used terms she would have learned in Sunday School to describe the push and pull of different values.
We heard in mid-week about an acquaintance volunteering for work in an Intensive Care ward. We can only admire and be grateful for her courage. At the same time, we can imagine that both she and her family must be dealing with deep feelings of fearfulness for her safety. Different values to balance. Turbulent emotional currents for all concerned.
Late one evening this week we found a notelet on the front-door mat. It was from a couple we know a few doors up from us. They’re a bit younger than we are – but not much! They wrote that if there was anything we needed we should just let them know. They supplied full contact details. The next day another younger neighbour made the same offer in a ‘physically-distanced’ conversation outside our house. Then an email from a third neighbour offering to run any errands for shopping that we might need. All very heart-warming. We may well take them up on their offers at some point. But we were slightly taken aback that they had all clearly identified us as ‘vulnerable’ people in the 70+ category. It’s true of course! But with various family members and friends to look after, we still tend to think of ourselves as the carers rather than the cared for! Delighted that there is someone ‘there for us’ but rueful about being reminded of the inevitable march of time in our lives!
The current crisis is likely to leave each of us with questions about the various challenges we are facing and how to face them. We are all in unexplored territory facing new decisions and revisiting old values whose reliability we may sometimes question. It is hardly surprising if we feel that we are losing our hold on a way of life we have long taken for granted. There are bound to be mixed emotions. A friend sent us an article suggesting it is a kind of mourning.
Let’s give ourselves permission not to beat ourselves up about our anxieties and fears. It’s important for our personal and common humanity that we acknowledge and name a degree of inner uncertainty. It is valuable to admit our hopes and fears to ourselves and share them where we can with people we trust. As our neighbours have reminded us, this is clearly a time for the two of us to relinquish something of our own sense of adequacy for a greater spirit of interdependence. We might actually learn a lot. We might come to see where our own security really lies.
We’ve been glad to stay in touch with so many friends during this time! Stay well and continue to keep in touch.