It’s 6:30 on an October morning and it’s dark in Edinburgh. I’m walking the dog, wrapped up like it is already deep December: hat, scarf, jacket under rain coat. The rain beats down, the wind whistles along the Union Canal and the pup, whilst still wagging her tail, shakes the water off her back and looks at me like: “Run this whole “morning walk” idea past me again?”
I’m thinking the clocks haven’t changed yet.
I’m thinking it’s going to get darker and colder for a long time yet.
I’m thinking of the looming second wave of an invisible force and the impact it is already having and I’m wondering… how the hell do we do this?
How do we do this?
How do we look after ourselves, our loved ones, those around us who are anxious or skint or lonely or in peril right now and in the months ahead?
How do we hold on to our sanity, our goodness, our kindness, our humanity when we are knackered and disconnect and confused by changing rules? When there is so much uncertainty? When you wake up and the rules of social conduct are supposed to be different to yesterday? When so many people seem furious about everything and Social Media bubbles with outrage and accusations and half-truths…When Facebook or Insta isn’t awash with weddings, birthday celebrations, folk meeting up for concerts or festivals…..
Because we are in this for the long-haul, right? It’s not going to be “over” any time soon and when it is “over” (and that won’t be on a specific date.. there’s not going to be an annual CE (Covid End) Day celebration) the effects will be felt for a generation or maybe more.
So How? What is required right now?
The word that came up was endurance.
“the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time”
“the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina”
The obvious analogy for endurance is a marathon, not a sprint… but folk who run marathons typically train for hours, run for hundreds of miles… So what happens if we ask someone with little or no readiness to do the distance? What would they need to get through?
Maybe the right kit. Certainly food/sustenance. Mental & emotional support – People to cheer them on, support them, notice if they are falling behind. A focus on getting through, not on getting fast…
I can’t help thinking that there is a calling right now for those who have done emotional and mental marathons. Those who have done “the Work” and can already function and endure in this type of odd-liminal/ half-life where things are restricted, yet not. Where we are alone, together. Where things shift without due warning. Where there is so much fatigue and fear and fury…
They might be coaches, therapists, psychologists, scientists, people of faith, they might be people who have lived with long-term illness or deep personal pain or addiction and overcome it… it might be the very people who have been seen as being Hippy-tree-hugging-touchy-feely outsiders… but those who can articulate and sit in amongst all this confusion with a modicum of calm, patience, empathy and understanding…these are the very resources and leaders we need right now… because those who have run paths of long-term uncertainty and have sat with grief and loss and confusion… they have something in them.
Resource, wisdom…an antidote to fear and anxiety.
They are out there. They are in your life somewhere.
They may help us endure.
And, without intention of smugness or rightness, my endurance pledge to myself runs something like this & in no particular order
I will begin… or continue to begin.
I will get up every day, determined to make things better…Determined I can.
I will approach each conversation as if I can be helpful and useful.
I will call out BS kindly.
I’ll bring my view.
I will acknowledge my own fears and sadness, and commit not to infect others with them.
I will work with my negative stuff first – reflect, reconsider, adjust – and where I find myself struggling, I’ll ask for help with someone who can help me dissipate it effectively.
I will write, walk, run, meditate, stretch, drink water, look after the pup, tidy my house, pay my bills, try not to mainline chocolate or booze, be outside, pay attention to the weather and beauty where I find it… these things resource me, so I am available to resource others.
I will be thoughtful about what I post on Social Media.
I will shop locally or ethically and support someone’s income where I can.
I will try to laugh and make others too.
I will check in with my elderly neighbour who is fearful and frail.
I will text love to friends and call people.
I will endeavour to receive love and care back, with grace, when it’s offered.
I will sometimes make myself unavailable – I will rest up, get cozy, sleep, feed myself and find space to breathe – I will try to see this, not as an act of indulgence, but as an act of restoration and readiness.
When someone shows up knackered or vibrating with anxiety or overwhelm, I’ll endeavour to be present and be with them.