Calm and Chaos and Coronavirus

Knowing that I suffer from anxiety and depression I have had many kind friends contact me over recent days to make sure that I’m OK in these increasingly surreal circumstances (the UK, like many other countries is currently on lockdown). And the truth is, most of the time, I am.

The journalist Jon Ronson tweeted (I haven’t managed to stay off social media but have got it down to once a day) about this very thing, pondering whether he, as a fellow anxiety sufferer, was so calm because he’d been in training for this for so long with years of panic attacks. It made me smile while also wondering why it is that actually I am less anxious now than I was a year ago, when there was no Coronavirus and I was in a stable, lucrative job. A few things come to mind;

1) I have no control over this. Apart from washing my hands, social distancing and taking care of me and Rocco I cannot effect a global pandemic and that has somehow freed my mind. Were it something I felt responsible for I would no doubt be crippled with anxiety.

2) I am doing something I am in love with. Writing. The fact that I am on a creative roll and loving every minute of it means I get lost in the flow of the book and research which leaves me less time to worry about the end of the world as I’m too busy. I had a moment a couple of days ago of wondering if I am fiddling while Rome is burning but see point 1) what else would I be doing?

3) I am more connected to my people than I am usually. This is bizarre. I have FaceTimed, Zoomed, messaged, called and talked to friends and family more, and on a more connected level than I have for ages and am ironically way less isolated. Go figure?

4) I have a dog. I probably should have started with this one. A couple of years ago if you’d asked me if I would ever get a dog I would have said no, for 2 reasons; I couldn’t pick up poo and I’m too busy. Cut to today and Rocco makes me laugh so much, has such a big personality and so much love in his heart that he can bring me out of sadness (and also gets me out of bed!) and I can’t imagine life without him.

5) This one is more difficult to admit. It’s making me less self obsessed. I am truly concerned for my Mum, my sister, my wider family, my friends, the people who are suffering and am trying my best to give what I can when I can – today I ran a home school lesson via Zoom for my gorgeous Godchildren (thanks to my teacher friend for the lesson plan ideas) and it was so good to see them and laugh with them. I sent a care package to my friend in prison 2 days ago as she’s panicking at the lack of ways to combat the virus inside. For once it’s not all about me (I doubt that will last too long though!).

I don’t know if the calm will last, but what I do know, and this has proved this to me more than ever, that my state of mind is less reliant on outside circumstances than I think it is, and we have no idea what the future holds. That is somehow liberating right now. Keep well.

Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me (A.A. Just for today card)

These are strange times. On the 26th February this year I wrote a blog post called ‘The illusion of certainty’ which talks about how none of us know what will happen in the next 10 days let alone the next 10 years and that my drive to control everything and create ‘security’ can be counter productive. When I wrote that, there was no global pandemic, Spain, Italy and France hadn’t essentially closed down and the US borders were still open.

Like many others I am sure, I am alternating between being terrified (Twitter and newspapers help with that), making dark jokes (‘I have been getting ready to self isolate for YEARS’), being cross with world leaders (I won’t identify which ones on here) and worrying about/checking in on friends and family. I am one of the lucky ones; I live in a remote area, on my own (well, with Rocco) and my ‘job’ currently (writing) is at home, but that doesn’t stop me a) catastophising on behalf of those I love and b) thinking about the future as a variety of dystopian scenarios.

The truth is, as I so presciently put it 2 weeks ago, no one knows what will happen and in my case, I would be better to leave the scenario planning to others more qualified and less prone to dark thinking than I am. If I am going to put my energy anywhere it’s on today. The next 12 hours are really all I have much control over (and then less than I think) so I am going to make the most of those and do everything I can to take care of myself and to care for those I care about.

As someone who got sober in AA, it is at times like these that 12 step groups/ philosophies/sayings come into their own. The Just For Today card, part of which I have quoted in the title, starts with: ‘Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appal me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime’. Whether its handwashing 100 times a day, self isolating, eating store cupboard food instead of fresh food, not being able to see family, I can do that if I ‘keep life in the day’ (another AA mantra), and sometimes in the hour/minute. At the risk of descending into what a business journalist I was listening to this week called ‘yoga babble’ the only thing I can really be guided by right now is love and care for myself and others. Stay safe.