I have not been doing so well with my response to the outbreak of the corona virus. I didn’t want it to be true so spent some time, along with the government, in denial. I told myself either that this wasn’t real, that somehow it didn’t apply to me or that I would just get it, be ill and get it over with.
This last one was actually quite a dangerous and irresponsible thought. I was born with a congenital heart defect, thankfully fixed well with only a minor murmur left, and I have asthma. Allowing myself to risk getting ill could leave me with serious illness, in intensive care or, potentially dying.
This would then have consequences for my children, my husband and my parents, my brothers and sisters and my wider community of family and friends. My irresponsibility could leave them worrying and praying for me or having to mourn my loss.
I still struggled. You see I don’t like limitations. And many times in my life my habit of fighting limitations has paid off really well. I didn’t want to accept that as a heart baby I was going to have a smaller life than other people, that I couldn’t be physically as capable as others. So I fought it. My fight has made me stronger. I do strength training, lifting up heavy things and putting them down again, sometimes very heavy things. I practice yoga. I walk up mountains. I love to ski.
My determination not to accept what I was told or encouraged by those who wanted to keep me safe has given me a fuller life than I would have had if fear had guided those decisions. But this situation asks me for something different.
I still don’t want fear to guide my choices, I want love to be my motivation. So what does that look like? Knowing about the virulent spread of this disease; understanding that I am more vulnerable than some; caring about my family and my life, what can I choose instead?
I can choose to surrender to the situation I find myself in. I don’t particularly relish the idea of being sequestered in my home for many weeks. I love my freedom, freedom I have taken for granted in many ways, that will taste even sweeter when it returns.
And this has not been an easy thing for me to do. It has involved a fair bit of messy crying and complaining, like a child having a tantrum when they are told they can’t do whatever they want. For me, a lot of prayer, to the God who loves us all and suffers with us all, has helped me to make peace with this loss of liberty.
Because it will return. History shows that these situations don’t last forever. For every Winter there is a Spring, for every death a rebirth, for every exhale a new inhale. Nature loves balance. It is out of balance at the moment, perhaps partly because of our collective human behaviour, but it will find its way back if we give it time.
Gift of Time
Time is also what the scientists and healthcare workers need. Time to find treatments, time to develop a vaccine, time to care for those already infected. Time is the greatest gift we can give them. It is also the greatest gift we can give to our loved ones and ourselves. In the final analysis the time we have on this earth, the precious moments we have to spend, are our most precious commodity.
This we have the chance to learn, not on an intellectual or logical level, but at its heart, in its fullness. We are being shown that death is a reality, for all of us, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable. We all walk in the valley of the shadow of death.
We have the choice to then believe this means all of our interaction is inherently meaningless and we live in a lonely universe bereft of hope. But this is not the case. The mythical Pandora’s box has been opened. This virus is now with us. What I didn’t realise though was that the last thing to exit Pandora’s box was hope. Opening the box may have unleashed all sorts of ills but it also gave us hope.
Hope is what will see us through. And there is plenty of it. Hope also makes us creative. To my mind creativity is love in action, working from our strengths to make the world a little bit better than it was, working in faith and hope that we will find a solution. That love is in action every day from those called to care, treat and research.
Creativity in Action
Already scientists are testing vaccines and drugs that may either protect us all or relieve the symptoms of the suffering. Doctors are trying out ways to use ventilators for more than one patient at a time. Carers who have had the illness and recovered are begging to return to work.
Teachers are designing online programmes for our children. Gym trainers are designing and presenting workouts at home for people at all levels of fitness. Churches are giving online services. People are finding a way.
Our world is full of love. The sacrifices of time, energy and patience given by doctors and nurses every day is a testament to that. We are each blessed with it ourselves.
Our world is full of suffering and fear right now. How can we use the love we have to alleviate that and make it a little better, even if only for one person.
So what action can we take? We can stay at home. We can do as we have been asked. For myself, I am luckier than most, I can work as I have done for years on audiobook narration in my lovely home studio. I am intensely fortunate in this as I know many actors and artists are struggling. This takes care of my immediate world.
But there is more. There is always more we can give. We are limitless. You are limitless. For now I am recording requests for poems, prayers and prose that lift you up and give you something joyful. Please listen, enjoy and send me your requests.
Here is the link so far: https://soundcloud.com/estherwane/sets/poems-prayers-and-passages
Please also keep an eye out for what I move on to next. There is more to come.