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Sunday, 11 April 2021

Kitting myself up as an extreme athlete. Preparing for the Macmillan Mighty Hike.

 

Not really me, but very much an extreme athlete. Click bait. Sorry. 

I am having a great time kitting myself out as an extreme athlete.  I just bought myself a peacock blue, tiny, all weather, all singing and dancing rucksack; the man wearing it in the advert was on a bike and meant business with his stern face and lantern jaw, with his muscly legs and aerodynamic cycling helmet.  His rucksack was black, and streamlined, and I imagined he could get his lunch and a flask of tea and a change of socks in there without compromising his aerodynamics.  That's just like me, I thought, and I must have that rucksack.  When I went to investigate it online, I saw that there was a bright blue one.  Oh!  I thought, I will look so good in that.

So much about exercise is in the mind.  I remember in 2003, when I was training to run (wobble) the London Marathon in Spring 2004, being told that my only question on waking each morning while training should be, "How far am I running today."  Only when that was sorted could I look after the children, paint my paintings and have my breakfast.  I remember those long months of running, whatever the weather, and feeling like giving up at least five times a day.  But I didn't give up and I learned what a subtle thing the mind is and how, at the drop of a hat, it will turn you round from your training, and make you go to the ice cream shop and then on home to bed.  You have to resist.  Oh boy, it was tough.  But the actual marathon was truly an amazing experience, and I did complete it after about six hours.  I was beaten to the finishing line by a womble, three hippos, a teddy bear and a birthday cake.  And a famous Indian marathon runner in his seventies who zipped past me on the final stretch.  Most people zipped past me on the final stretch.

I have chosen to walk twenty six miles on June 5 this year for Macmillan Cancer.  It is called The Mighty Hike and when I signed up a year ago, I thought I had plenty of time.  I did have plenty of time, then, but now as the date looms ever nearer, I don't have much time any more.  So I am channeling the extreme athlete I once was in 2004 and making myself walk on the Downs every few days.  I am joking, I never was an extreme athlete.  Calling myself this is all part of the mind games I play to get myself out there and moving.  

The South Coast Mighty Hike 2021.
 

On the 5 June about 500 of us will walk along the South Downs from Brighton to Eastbourne. There will be coaches to drive us back to Brighton where I, at least, will try and drive in a straight line back to Bognor Regis.  It is possible I will have worn myself down from 5'9" to 4'10" but at least I will have done it. And for such a good cause too.

Walking like this is a serious business.  I have invested in proper walking boots and I have bought some fancy new insoles that tell me I will feel I am walking on air.  I realise that socks are very important, and so have found some that are great for ladies, for the summer, and for fairly flat feet.  And, oh bliss!  I just ordered for myself that peacock blue tiny rucksack for serious and super focused walkers.  I am that thing, I say to myself, so I need this bag.

Yesterday I walked ten miles.  I planned an extra hilly route on the South Downs, packed my (large) rucksack with tissues, a pooh bag (wet wipes, loo roll, nappy bags, spare pants etc for all those stops behind bushes), sandwiches, a flask of hot soup, water, mobile phone, bluetooth ear phones, mobile battery charger and the hat that Gill, my dear friend, knitted for me.  I planned a very early walk just after the mists of dawn have faded and the early morning bird song was at its newest and loudest.  Striding across the South Downs, I would have proved how strong my mind is now, for my second marathon training event. 

I was still on the sofa in my pyjamas at 9.30am.  The longer you wait to go out training, the harder it becomes.  I remember this so well.  Oh not today! your mind says, perhaps tomorrow.  Planning is one thing, doing is another.  But I have in my memory the line up in the early morning of the London Marathon all those years ago, and the gruelling training that I had had to do suddenly became a life saver.  I was used to running long distances, in that I had done so for this event, and now I was glad.  Alongside me were all manner of people, all shapes and sizes, all ages.  I was told to notice anyone with brand new trainers, as they would not last long on the run.  There were plenty.  You have to wear your trainers in, to get past blisters and get used to how they feel, in order for them to serve you on a long run.  The pros turned up with old, well worn running trainers and a fierce look in their eye.  Twenty six miles of anything is serious. You need all the help you can get.  And so, I changed out of my pyjamas yesterday morning, told the sofa I would see it again soon, and to wait for me, and drove to Bury Hill here in West Sussex, to begin my walk. 

Something wonderful happens once I am on the Downs.  I feel my spirits raise, I feel my head clear, and my energy expand.  It is, whatever the weather, beautiful.  Even in the pouring rain, even in heavy fog, I am in a place beyond myself where nature just is. I love the colours in the chalk paths, all the shades of white with touches of brown and yellow, I love the way the brown barren fields and mud filled paths are suddenly filling with new green shoots.  What the shoots are, I don't know, but they are popping up everywhere, small and delicate, out of what seems such hard, lifeless brown old earth.  It is true, nature is a mystery, and relentless, and a wonder.  The silence is wonderful, and I realise it is really only silence from people.  The birds are not just singing, they are shouting.  The wind blows around me and the new greenery, and the old trees, rustle and make their own sounds.  And then there is the sound of my own feet tramping along the path.  The sound of my (state of the art) anorak swishing as I move my feet, and when there is no wind, and the birds are having a quick glass of water after yelling so loudly, I can hear my own breathing as I walk.

This uphill bit is so beautiful you can forgive it for being uphill.

 Yesterday I chose a route with loads of hills.  The Mighty Hike, I am told, involves hills.  I had better get used to them.  Oh the Downs has hills, it has hills like a forest has trees.  But this particular walk has two intense climbs up on the way out (nicely down hill on the way back) and one mile long descent (blimmin uphill on the way back).  There is a nice little tree stump in some woods just at the beginning of the long climb up on the way back where I planned my lunch, and all will be well.  When I get there I will be so pleased with myself for coming that far, and I will need my egg sandwiches to give me the impetus to walk this mile uphill so I can be ruler of the world when I get to the top.

I think on these walks.  Or rather, all the voices, conversations, thoughts, plans, worries, speculations, observations and stuff that is in my head, go AWOL while I try to get a word in edgeways.  Problems do get solved on these walks.  Things do become clearer.  I feel my focus shift, and new perspectives and ideas come through.  I am surprised at how little any of it matters when I am so far from anyone else, and from home, and from any emergency services should I be attacked by bears.  (No bears on the South Downs.)  

At the end of the walk yesterday I found that I had only done ten miles. I thought I had done much more than that.  Oh dear.  No wonder I was not that tired, next time I must do more, what went wrong?  And then I thought, I must be making progress - at what point in my life have I ever been disappointed that I had walked merely ten miles?  A paltry ten miles! So in a way, great progress was made in my mind yesterday.  Apart from loving it once I got going, I am making progress.  Yesterday's route felt like more than ten miles because so much of it involved walking up hills that felt like mountains. To put this into context, there are always cyclists on the Downs, who actually ride up these hills.  I may think I rule the world when I get to the top of one, but these cyclists actually do rule the world.  They would easily outdo any bears for speed and strength.  

Today, the day after, I am resting.  My new blue rucksack arrives this afternoon, and I am washing my new, special, ladies with flat feet, summer weather walking socks from yesterday, and noticing that my recovery time from this walk is much improved.  Today, my mind works, my body is not too tired, and I cannot wait (in theory) to get back out for my next walk.

To sponsor me for this walk, please go here, to my Just Giving page 

Margaret, on her ninetieth birthday
Macmillan Cancer support are just wonderful.  I was a Macmillan Buddy for two years, befriending
people struggling with their cancer.  I saw at first hand how much Macmillan do for their clients, and how dedicated and helpful they are for all those who turned to them for help, advice and solid support.  I am walking this Mighty Hike in memory of my first buddy, Margaret Winstone, who became such a close friend despite over thirty years age difference between us.  Margaret, a vicar's wife from Yorkshire, was a mathematics and music teacher.  Sometimes, in her late eighties, she would sing me folk songs from her youth, with such loveliness that brought tears to my eyes. I supported Margaret right up to the day she died.  Margaret didn't believe in giving up.  "Don't fuss!" she would say with a lovely laugh, and so I won't fuss, I will do this walk for her.  

All sponsorship money goes directly to Macmillan, who do such a good job. Thank you all. 

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Saturday, 27 March 2021

Observing addiction.

Addicts And Those Who Love Them.  Behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them. 

 

It's their own damn fault.
 

Addicts have only themselves to blame.  It is their own fault, they knew what they were getting into.  Addicts need a good long jail sentence, keep them off the streets and teach them a lesson.  If we are tough enough with them, they will learn. 

I changed my mind about this a few years ago when waiting in a methadone clinic for the person I was accompanying to receive their script. I sat in a shabby waiting area watching people come in for one of their twice daily dose, some sitting in the seats available, some standing, some talking loudly to each other.  All trying to be normal. As time went by, those who had not yet been seen became agitated, began to shake, get angry, and walk about with increasing anxiety.  One or two began to shout and then apologise, and shout again.  It was very unsettling to be sitting there, people not seen quickly enough were unraveling.  It felt dangerous despite the very prominent and bored security staff standing around.

Some time before, watching them drift into the clinic, it seemed many were trying to act normal as if it gets you seen quickly and out of there.  They were so obviously not normal.  Methadone is a legal heroin substitute given to addicts to keep them from buying illegal drugs.  The amount given is scrupulously administered by doctors and chemists by appointment only after having been assessed, documented and accepted onto the programme.  If you miss your appointment, you are back to square one.  Start again.  What I have seen of addicts is that keeping appointments, being in any way regular, playing the game and ticking boxes, is as easy for them as going to the moon.  They are chaotic, utterly driven by their addictions, unbalanced, and completely unreliable.  But when they need their next dose of whatever it is they need, acting normal is very hard, and they are not very nice.  This is how some turn up for their next methadone appointments.  And many use methadone and heroin and whatever else is going, so the withdrawals they are experiencing when they come for their next script may be from much more than the methadone they are wanting now. 

As with many of these clinics, on the day I was accompanying someone, there was much waiting around, appointments delayed without notice, and frustrations with communications.  I watched one man lose his cool and shout that he needed his stuff now.  He swore and shook and looked as if he would punch anyone who came too close.  He needs his methadone, I thought, then he will be OK.  Others began to argue with the receptionist, with each other, and claimed medical emergencies, needing attention now.  Those that got their script took it with staff watching in a side room set up with protective plastic paneling to protect the person measuring out the bright green methadone into little medicine pots, to be taken there and then.  There were, it seemed at least twice the amount of people turning up for their doses than were appointments.  It was probably true, people suffering withdrawals knew that methadone was being given out here, and addicts will do and try anything to get some stuff. 

I thought, no one cares.  This is not good.  No one cares.

What I think now. 

What can anyone do?

 

Just another overdose.

The staff at that clinic were doing their best and had to deal with deeply unbalanced, violent, mentally unstable and physically dependent people all day every day.  The tidal wave of addiction is left to a few professionals who struggle without resources and often give up.  Programmes set up to help addicts wither away through lack of funding and interest and disappear.  No one wants to deal with it, it is an insane problem, and drugs and alcohol are too easy to get hold of.  The culture around using and drinking is too seductive and the sad truth is that so many take drugs to self medicate due to intolerable mental health conditions, and appalling lives.  Drugs and alcohol work.  They make the pain go away, they make you invincible and feel great, until they don't any more.  Even then, when they don't make the pain go away like they used to, they still do enough and the physical and mental dependence is so staggeringly powerful that it is next to impossible to stop.  And if an addict does manage to stop, what in their lives will fill the void that drink and drugs has left?  Life and reality is just too hard.  Getting clean and sober is only a small part of the journey.  Once done, the rest of an addicts life and existence is overshadowed by the craving to go back to the certainty of what they knew worked.  Even if an addict wants and needs to recover from active addiction, it may take many tries, many failures and much despair.  It also takes a huge amount of support, patience and understanding from other people who understand what it is like.  Mostly, you and I could not support alone if someone we knew wanted to get clean and sober.  We need the help of other addicts in recovery and professionals who can help with the pain of the journey, especially in the early stages of recovery, and afterwards too. 

An addict told me once that a big part of his using experience was planning to get his fix.  Making the call, going to get it, holding it, anticipating the preparation and finally the consumption.  His life was narrowed down to using, tracking down the next fix, anticipating it and using again.  And so on.  There is a video of Russell Brand watching a video of himself shooting up many years before he managed to go into recovery and become clean.  He was shown the video as a reminder of how far he has come, but his reaction was of envy for that feeling, that experience, and how the video of himself shooting up made him long to do it again.  He wanted to be that old version of himself at that moment, despite knowing all that he had to go through to become clean.  Needless to say, Russell Brand understood this reaction, it did not harm him at all.

 What I think now is that addiction is as much a scourge as ever.  An addict is manipulative, cunning, and vicious, taking no responsibility at all for anything.  They are liars, thieves, cheats and without conscience. 

And, they are lost, still themselves, regretful, ashamed, vulnerable, overwhelmed and traumatised.  Whatever made them become addicts in the first place is very possibly pain, abuse, poor mental health, isolation and more pain.  The addict that I accompanied on that afternoon to the clinic to get his methadone is all of the crazy things, the bad things, but is also clever, compassionate, funny and longs to be free of all this.  But at the moment, he does not long for it enough.  He can be wonderful with other suffering addicts, and can listen with great kindness to people who are in deep distress with mental health problems.  I once observed him listening to and comforting a frightened young man who was hearing terrible voices, keeping him from running off to do himself harm.  

Addicts And Those Who Love Them

Ian. Has a degree, runs relapse prevention programmes to help others after thirty years of addiction.

I am someone who loves an addict.  I do not like the addict nor the addiction, but I love the addict.  It has been a long hard journey which has not ended and we, I, have no idea how far along the road we are.  I have had to find a way to accept that it may end badly, and though the addict is not too bothered about it, I am.  However, one thing I know about being alongside addiction is that it is not my journey.  Two things that spring to mind from the Alcoholics Anonymous model which I think are vital for survival are, that I am powerless over anyone else's addiction, and that I must detach with love. The detaching with love part comes with the following advice - that we should not cause a crisis but we should also not get in the way of one if it is naturally occurring. How difficult is that.  We have to remember that we cannot rescue, and if we do, we enable.  Hard stuff. We also have to remember that if our addict wants to recover, that we support and do what we can, remembering our boundaries and never giving up hope.  After all, despite all the trauma, crime, destruction and abuse with and from our addicts, who they once were is still in there somewhere.  I carry an image in my head that an addict is only small in size compared to their addiction which towers over them, more than four times their size, and is very much in control.  It often does not end well, though there are enough for whom there is recovery of sorts, and a new chance for us to keep hoping.

I am currently creating Addicts And Those Who Love Them, an exhibition of portraits and words. (Ian pictured above is part of it). Behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them.  Parents, siblings, friends, lovers, spouses and children, all caught up in the cycle of destruction and despair and learning how to survive. I wanted to find people affected by a loved one's addiction and ask them, how do you feel?  What do you want to say about this?  I have painted portraits of people in active addiction, people in recovery and people behind the addict who despite all the madness, the destruction and the lies, still love them.  This does not necessarily mean they allow them in their homes, does not mean they can help them, it may mean instead that they have nothing to do with them in order to survive.  I have met other people in my situation, heard stories of sadness, of loss of hope and loss of life;  stories of redemption, of recovery and stories of ups and downs and the constant not knowing how things will end from both addict and the people that love them.  I have written their words on the portraits. I wanted to do something about the things I have seen and experienced with addiction, and what I do is create art.  I want to show the faces of people living through addiction, and write what that they say about it.

The Addicts And Those Who Love Them exhibition will open on Monday 7 June as part of the Brighton Fringe.  It will be held at the Fishing Quarter Gallery along the seafront, and run until the Sunday 13 June.  Entrance is free.  You are all so welcome.  If you have a story to tell of addiction - yours or someone you love, feel free to contact me.  If it is appropriate for me to use it in the exhibition, with your permission, I will do so.

Angel Addict.  
Addicts have only themselves to blame.  It is their own fault, they knew what they were getting into.  Addicts need a good long jail sentence, keep them off the streets and teach them a lesson.  If we are tough enough with them, they will learn.  Not quite.  Most of us have never seen the suffering of withdrawal  The physical and mental torment of an addict who needs a fix and cannot get one.  We judge from the comfort of our lives where we have no conception of how it feels.  If an addict asks me in the street for money, I give it.  I do not care that it will be spent on a fix.  I have seen the madness of helpless withdrawal and it is not, in my opinion, for me to pass by saying no.   

I once knew a young nurse of great compassion, who put a small bottle of alcohol in the hands of a tramp who was fitting through withdrawal, because she knew he would probably die.  She had seen how people like him fare in A&E, and so made this decision.  I would paint her, if I could find her. 

I will be creating a crowd funding page to help with the costs of this exhibition.  I do not charge for this work, costs are covered through donations. I will launch a Go Fund Me page in early April, watch out for it. 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, 14 March 2021

A day in my glorious life.

Where the day ends and begins. 

I would love to chose a fascinating, action packed day, but in the interests of truth, I rarely have them.  My days, and I imagine your days, are an equal mixture of doing things and thinking of doing things.  And, I can lose whole sections of the day in just thinking alone. In the olden days, when I belonged in the world, I would whizz about in my car seeing people, doing things, juggling my phone and my calendar and having tea parties here in my home.  I'd say, "Oh  I can book you in for ten minutes next month.  Will that do?" to friends and family, and I would feel both important and a little frazzled

I could make a day up - no one would ever know.  But I won't.  Let's begin.  Here is my day today.

Morning. 

I wake often in the night, see that it is still dark outside, and wish it were not.  I love the dawn, and the birds starting their early morning songs, and the feeling of newness that it all brings. I can't wait for the light to come back, I am excited that eventually it will be daytime. During the night, in between sleeps, I anticipate getting up at daybreak, at the official end the night time, to make myself tea. Where shall I drink my tea?  I ask myself, and fall back asleep. When dawn does come, I am so excited that I pass out completely and stay that way until I wake with a start, much later, and can't imagine what made me think it necessary in the night to get up and make tea in the morning.  My bed is so delicious, I don't feel nearly so excited about the day ahead and I wonder if, just for today, I could get away with spending it in bed.  Who would know, I think to myself, who would know?  But then, I tell everyone everything, so everyone would know. Damn.

This morning though, I have a plan.  In the night, the plan was so exciting - I was to get up very early, make a flask of tea and some delicious sandwiches and go on a ten mile walk.  As I drifted off, I saw myself on the Downs walking in the early morning mist, strong and determined, with a litre and a half of stong tea and some doorstep sandwiches made from a loaf of fresh brown bread.  There I go, I saw in my mind's eye, striding like a land girl of old, robust and glowing and covering the miles like a pro.  But when I come to again, long after dawn, in my fabulous bed with the memory foam mattress, I change my mind.  I know, I say to myself, I will have tea here, in bed, and go on the walk later.  I will take sandwiches for my lunch, not breakfast, and that is a much better idea. 

On the 5 June, I am doing a 26 mile Mighty Hike for Macmillan, the cancer support charity, and so it is essential that I get myself ready to do this long walk.  Over the last year I have moved less and less and now I am like a cartoon fat cat that can't get off the sofa, it just has to fall off.  So, a wonderful charity, a wonderful walk, and a real challenge.  This is why I am planning a 10 mile walk today.  I have done 8 miles a few times, so today I am upping the ante.  This is all very well, I say to myself still in my ridiculously comforting bed, but the ante is very much ahead of me, and yet to be upped.  It's all about discipline, I tell myself, and turn over for another five minutes.

It takes some time, lying in my increasingly addictive bed, before I get myself out of it to go downstairs, make a pot of tea and carry it back upstairs.  All the while, I think, any minute now, I will get ready and do my walk.

 Suddenly, at about 10am, I have a burst of determination.  Dammit, I say, I am ready.  I put on my walking clothes, make a giant sandwich, fill a water bottle and get into the car.  This, I say, is the real me.  If only I had done this earlier.  

The world is older and wiser than we can ever be.
 

Soon, the car parked, my bag on my back, I am on my way to walk 10 miles.  As I walk, I feel optimism creeping into my heart, I feel a smile starting and I think, Oh!  How beautiful is this, how happy I am and how this walking is really the answer to all of life.  I walk at a steady pace through fields, woods, mud and chalk paths until I reach my lunch spot, just over 5 miles from the start.  Sitting on an old moss covered wooden stile, listening to the birds singing loudly in the trees, and gazing at the deep blueness of the sky, I feel that all really is well.  Whatever we worry about will pass away into nothing and somehow, the world will keep turning.  And right now, eating brown bread and butter sandwiches under the brightest of blue skies with both the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, the world I can see around me for miles in all directions, is very beautiful and far wiser and older than I can imagine.  The world holds me, right now, in this peace and natural beauty, I do not hold it.  I am very lucky to be here.

Afternoon  

In the car, much later, having completed the walk and gratefully sitting down, I check my phone and see that I have walked 11 miles.  Move over Paula Radcliffe, I say in my head, I'm coming up fast behind you.  Feeling very noble, I drive home through beautiful Sussex countryside that, having walked 11 miles through it just now, I feel I know very well.  For a short while, I identify with those people who live on the moors and wild open places, reading the stars and understanding what the weather will be by looking at moss, and cattle, and who think nothing of walking through the bracken following their inner compass born of a lifetime living close to nature.  When I get home, this feeling lessens a bit as I return to my very comfortable house to run a hot bath, make a huge pot of tea and some scrambled eggs.  Scrambled eggs are my ultimate comfort food.  I have three eggs. 

I have three eggs. I am an athlete.  No kidding.
 

Two hours pass in a haze of warm water, aching legs, scrambled eggs, and talking books.  Soon, I have to get out because at some point, everyone has to leave their bath.  Even the queen has to leave her bath, even Dolly Parton has to leave her bath.  So, slowly, I leave my bath.  It is now late afternoon and I still have things to do.  I have this blog to write, and I have a group video chat with my cousins.  But first, putting on my leopard print pyjamas and my late husband Alan's dressing gown, I go and sit in my bed with all the pillows I can find, and look at YouTube.  I know this could take over my life, but I have to do it.  The urge to fall down a YouTube black hole is always very strong.  Oh do it, I tell myself.  You're an athlete now.  You walked 11 miles.

More time passes.  At some point, I put on my unicorn slippers and find myself in the kitchen making veggie sausages, peas, mashed potatoes and gravy.  This is a good thing I tell myself.  Athletes need to eat.  

I will have to do my blog, I know it has to be done, but not just yet. 

Evening

Back on my bed, after my sausages and gravy, I have a moment of determination. I take up my laptop and begin to write. This is a good thing, it makes me feel like I know what I am doing. And then, the phone rings and it is my two cousins so I have to stop writing.  This is also a relief.  My two cousins are fab, and we have a long chat which I leave early because I have to write my blog.  I feel important.  My cousins probably think I have my finger on the pulse, and so I leave the conversation, say goodbye, tell them I am very busy, and leave them talking. And then, as is always the case, once I start to write, I remember how much I like it.  I love creating, I love making and painting and writing and talking, but mostly after I have finished doing it.  Before, when I am starting, I hate it and want to watch YouTube and distract myself, place myself a million miles from the here and now.  It is this way for lots of us, I believe.  I love having finished whatever it is I am doing.  But back in the here and now, I pick up the laptop, having impressed my cousins (I hope) and begin to write this blog.  I am not in the least bit hungry so there is no excuse to go and get a snack, I am not tired enough to close my eyes, I have had a bath so I am fragrant and wrapped up in fluffy pyjamas and dressing gowns - time to concentrate on writing.

And so I do.  I write, find I am enjoying it, as I knew I would, immensely.  After a while I stop to take a call from my son which leads to needing a bedtime snack, and that leads to finishing my YouTube documentary which ends up with putting away the laptop for the night.  Well, the blog is mostly done, I am delightfully weary, and my day has been good.  I am glad to have walked, I am glad to have written as much as I needed, and it was lovely to chat to family and to eat a lot because I had earned it due to that extra mile on the Downs. 

Night time

I will see you all in the morning.  I turn my phone off, turn the light off, and begin my night time thing of longing for dawn, planning early morning tea and knowing that once the light appears, even though I have slept happily on and off during the night and longed for the dawn, I will be out for the count as soon as it happens until the shouting of the birds outside my open window brings me back to the day.  Goodnight all. 

And this morning, with help from my unicorn slippers, I finish the blog. Amen.

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Sunday, 28 February 2021

Understanding Lockdown divisions via family dynamics in my past.

Left - Mum, Dad and me.  Right - the general public, anti Lockdown and Lockdown.

Part one.  The family divide.

 Years ago, I hated my father. I thought I had to.

My mother and he had parted, and I was bound to my mother and her anger and grief in such a way that there was no room for compromise.  My father was wrong and nothing could redeem him.  For many years, from my teens up until I was a young mother in my thirties, I scorned my father and tried to appease my mother.  It was hard work.  My mother could not be appeased, not for long, and her fury and pain would wash over us all threatening to drown us without mercy. 

I listened to my mother.  She was powerful, beautiful, wronged. How dare he? she would cry.  Her grief drove her mad, even before he left.  Her grief and something raw and frightening would overwhelm her, making her separate, and wild, and lost.  But when my father eventually did go, worn down by her rages and pain, all directed at him and laid at his feet as his fault, I stayed in the madness of my mother's version of events.  We all did. My three brothers and I, and we were at the mercy of her love and her violent scorn.  We listened to her, understood her, and were afraid to provoke her.  But the triggers were impossible to detect, and time and time again, the fury overtook her and her need to destroy made us frightened, confused and vulnerable. 

And so, I hated my father.  For years, I saw what he had done to her.  For years, I would not see him nor speak to him.  It was safer not to.  If my mother knew I had seem him, she would not let it rest and it would end in another storm of pain and anger.  The sadness of it was that I had always been so close to my father.  It must have been so dreadful for him too, but I listened to my mother and he, my father, had to go. 

I remember how this all came to a head.  In my early thirties, with a young child, he came to see us.  I would not look at him, and left him sitting alone on the sofa while I took a bath.  My husband looked after the baby, and I knew my father was sitting alone having come all this way to see me.  I did not care.  I knew it was rude, but he was the cause of my mother's madness, so she said, and even if I did want to see him, she would find out and I could not stand the rage she would unleash.  And so, after a while, he called through the bathroom door that if I did not want to see him, he would go. I did not bother to reply and he left.  I knew it was wrong, I knew I was beyond rude, and I knew I had finally hurt him as much as I possibly could.  I didn't like it, but it was this, or my mother's rage. And I think, underneath it all, I was frightened.  My father had behaved badly too, he had not been the best person for my mother in her distress.  She did have a point, but so did he.  These were my own parents and I did not know how to deal with it.  I took the path of least resistance in order to survive.  I did what I thought I had to do.

It was not long after this that I began to see a counselor. During one of the sessions I had an epiphany.  I was allowed to love my father.  

I was allowed to love him, and the realisation hit me like a bombshell.  Of course I could.  He was my father, had always loved me, and had done nothing so very wrong.  He was a victim of my mother's depressions as much as we, his children, were.  And as much as she, poor dear mother, was too.  Oh my goodness.  I did not have to do this rejection any more.  Everything changed that day.  I did not apologise to him, in fact we never mentioned this period of our lives ever, but the relief of it being possible to love him as I absolutely did, was wonderful.  He, gentle, and kind and clever, just welcomed me back.  The freedom to be with him, to enjoy his wit, his company, his eccentricities, made me see how afraid I had been to think for myself.  I really loved my father. 

But I did not let go of my mother.  I really loved her too.  She did not change, she remained as she was.  The difference was that I could see how her need to weave the story of my father's badness was not true for me.  It was true for her, but it was not rational, nor was it possible once we started to unpick it.  The evidence simply wasn't there.  Once when I met one of my mother's friends while visiting her, I was astonished at the friend's confusion when I said I had seen my father.  "You still see him?" she asked, "but how come?".  I remember wondering what story she had been told, and being shocked at their disapproval of my father, whom they did not know, and at how insanely wrong all this was. 

Part two.  Understanding the Lockdown divide

Here is what I think about the Lockdown and the virus. I worry about it, and I do not understand it, and I wish it were easier for me to make sense of all the difficulties with how we are all behaving and thinking.

There is a divide amongst us, and those that follow the rules believe in them.  Those that do not follow the rules do not believe in them.  Each side is certain they are right and each side is increasingly furious with the other side.  It has become personal, and those with opposing beliefs embody wrongness and are loaded with responsibilities for whatever failures are happening.  "If you didn't do that, then this would not happen!", or "  It's your behaviour that is ruining everything for us all!"

Being right, needing to be right and proved right, shuts down communication.  We can't all be right.  There are very good motivations and arguments on both sides of this current situation, but we are backed into corners, fighting our cause and blaming the other, because for some reason, we cannot bear to let go of what we have come to believe in case we spontaneously combust.  And here is where I saw a link between this problem and the experience of my mother and father.  Bear with me, I mean no harm, and you may not like it.  But this is the insight that made sense to me. 

My mother represents the Lockdown.  She is angry and afraid, she is triggered by loss and fear.  Nothing can reach her when she is at her worst, and most vocal and reactive.  But she is also loving, deeply intelligent and wonderful.  It is just that she has created a narrative that explains to her what the object of her fury and fears are.  Though her behaviour is hard to handle, it works for her and it gets her what she needs. But it exhausts her, and makes her feel lonely and isolated, because no one can save her, no one can help her, no one can take it away.  It only got better when she decided to get better, and the long slow process of coming to terms with her depressions and how it made her act, was deeply impressive.  She never got over her fears, but by the time she died, she understood them and tried hard to limit the harms she caused when they took over.  She was, incidentally, quite a magnificent woman.  Impressive, intelligent and loved. 

My father represents anti Lockdown.  He is an outsider, considered too eccentric to belong and he carries the burden of all the wrongs my mother could not explain.  He is the archetypal scapegoat.  It is not his way to follow the rules, he thinks outside the box and the response he gets from those who blame him for all manner of things he is unaware of, causes him great unhappiness. He means well, he is deeply educated, he reads and questions everything.  But he is different, and lonely, and eccentric.  He cannot see how his wife can believe the things she does believe, and he is astonished at how many people take her side and judge him harshly without even knowing him or talking to him.  He is considered beyond the pale without anyone asking him for his story.  My father's thinking was wide and free, but his life was lonely and his one marriage a disaster.  He never really understood why he was cast out into the darkness by so many, but by the end of his life, he had caused so many people to love and admire him, simply because he was himself.  And many of his insights proved right.  He and my mother were able to meet each other at family gatherings, where it became more and more obvious that he was not a baddie.

The Scapegoat.  Horns tied with red and sent out into the wilderness symbolically carrying all the sins of those who sent it out. Painting by William Holman Hunt.

 I represent the general public.  I do not know what to do for the best.  There is a narrative on the one hand that is compelling and frightening, and a narrative on the other that is different and contrary.  I, as the general public, cannot do both.  I take sides and the side I take is the one that I hope gives me a quiet life.  I take my mother's side.  Taking the other side, my father's side, casts me beyond the pale.  I am too afraid to do that and so I stick with my mother's side.  She is more powerful and louder than my father and if I do not stay with her, I will be against her and the consequences are more awful than not staying with my father.  So I try and destroy him.  It is part of the deal.  

There are those, it must be said, who support my father's story and are as vocal and punitive as my mother's faction.  His side of this story is not all gentle academic dreamers and thinkers who don't know why things are this way.  My father's side has also those who are just as furious and controlling as my mother's side.  And my mother's side also has those who quietly take her pain with a pinch of salt, and remember that there are two sides to every story.  There are times where I, as the general public in this little thought experiment, find on both sides not only righteousness, judgment and closed thinking, but also patience, moderation and the wish to understand.

Part three.  Conclusion, in so far as there can be one.

We are locked in a prison of right think and wrong think.  It feels, like my mother and father felt in their story, as if our whole being depends on maintaining our position for ourselves.  It has become, like the conflict between my parents, entrenched.  My mother as the lockdown, my father as the anti lockdown and me as the general public in between. There is life or death in this prison.  If I let go of what I think, if I let the other side in even for a second, then I am wiped out as a person.  My very being depends on keeping this going, I identify with it and if I lose control of it, I do not know who or what I am.  If I am, in my parents' story, the public, I have had to chose a side.  I choose the one that seems absolute but as time goes on, I see and feel there are inconsistencies.  It is not true that there is a total goodie and a total baddie.  How come my father became such a monster?  I hadn't noticed him change, I saw no evidence at all of his wrongness. I remember feeling very sorry for him at times and longing for him to stand up for himself.  But I stuck with the louder voice and stopped thinking for myself.  Until I did think for myself.

And then, with help from an outsider (a therapist), and over time, I became more detached and less believing.  I moved away from both stories, loved both parents and began to live and think for myself.  It was always hard, I had to find firm boundaries in order to survive, I had to go back to square one and ask myself what do I think, what do I feel, and what do I want to believe.  

I, as the general public in this story,  can chose to move away from the loudness of both sides, my mother's and my father's, the Lockdown believers and the Lockdown non-believers, and while respecting both, walk away and make up my own mind.  I wish I had had the courage sooner to say to my mother, " It feels real, but is it true?" and to my father, "Come back in from out there in the cold and stand up for yourself."  I never actually did say either, but I thought it.  

And in the end, like the hippie I really am, love is all there is.  If we can only remember it.

 

This is humanity riding off into the sunset with nothing but love.

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Sunday, 14 February 2021

I changed my mind. The Great Rethink


 Just wondering if any of you would like to change your minds too?  Yes?  No?

 Over the last year, I changed my mind.  There was not a sudden moment of clarity where I joined another side.  Rather a long, drawn out realisation that things were not as I had thought.  I saw that I had followed the story that I wanted to follow.  I had been immersed in right-think.  I had been in an echo chamber without realising it.  Perhaps even if I had realised it, I would have felt on the side of rightness and justice.  My echo chamber was the good one. I was with the superior set. From my viewpoint today though, I hesitate to use language that puts me on one side of something or another.  I feel detached from "sides" now and am looking at it all as if I had found a hidden door out of a very stuffy and noisy room full of people shouting and yelling at each other.  I am a little bewildered that I was ever in that room, and now that I am out of it, I wonder if other people know that they can leave.  They all look as if they are having so much fun in there, I can see them from out here and I don't imagine many of them are interested in following me.  It is as if I have left a huge, shouty, boozy, raucous party and am now standing looking in through the conservatory windows from the quiet of the garden. 

I was anti Brexit.  I voted to remain.  How dare the others all vote to leave.  How dare they!  Lucky for me, right was on my side and though the actual majority of votes were to leave, the true moral vote was definitely to stay.  Whoever the leavers were, they were not only wrong, they were bad people and I was not a bad person, thank goodness for that.  My outrage at the result made me and all those like me very depressed.  Who were these leave-voting short sighted people, these racists and nationalists?  Damn them all.  I was actually married to one at the time, my late husband voted to leave but I loved and admired him immensely, and put the inconvenience that he was neither racist nor nationalist to the back of my mind.  He was an exception.  Oh, and some of my friends voted to leave.  They are jolly nice people too, but let's not think of that either.  

My rightness was soothed and pandered to by everything I heard on the radio and television.  "They are biased!" said my dear late husband angrily, and I guessed he may be right that his point of view was never discussed on the airwaves.  But that was the price to pay for being wrong.  He just had to accept it.  We, the correct army, would punish all those who voted wrong by ignoring them and carrying on as if we had had our way.  Brexit would never happen.  Somehow, we would all prevent it.  Everything I heard and read reinforced this and I was lulled into a world view that told me that we, the good people, would never have to deal with this leaving, and all the bad people would have to give way. Ha! We thought, it'll never happen, you'll see.

A new narrative arrived.

It did happen.  And along the road to leaving the EU a pandemic of biblical magnitude wafted in on the air, on people's clothes, their bags, cars, their handshakes and most of all from inside their bodies.  Brexit became a little story in the news, it could not compete with this astonishing and glorious new thing.  This new thing, this virus, was the new Armageddon.  It was going to get you.  You did not stand a chance and if you did stand a chance, it only left you able to pass it on to everyone else while you were not looking and thus actually killing them.  You did not know if you had or had not killed anyone, but erring on the side of caution, it was a given that you had.  And now the story around this virus began to be created, polished and told.  Those news makers and tellers that cushioned my anti Brexit certainties began to weave another tale and by this time, my dear late husband was actually late.  He had died and was not here to witness this apocalypse.  His was a voice of common sense and powerful reason. He was unafraid of facts, and made his mind up unapologetically.  I missed his take on the way I was obeying my radio, my neighbours, my newspapers and the telly.  Unused to being wrong, I was still in my good persons echo chamber, but I did wonder what he would have said about this new narrative. 

And then, I came up against the intransigence of the accepted narrative. We, my brothers, our father and I, became part of the collateral damage.  At the beginning of the summer last year, in his nursing home, our helpless, befuddled and gentle old father died.  For the three months before his death, in his nether world of Alzheimer's and Dementia, my brothers and I had been forbidden to go anywhere near him.  We had been barred at the beginning of the panic and shut downs.  He was to never, ever see us again. Hold on a minute, I thought when I was first told my Dad was hidden forever behind a disinfected plastic wall, he relies on my brothers and I visiting him.  Even before the iron curtain came down, he was sweet natured, eccentric, professorial and utterly bewildered by who he was and what was happening.  How could this help him?  There was no way of making him understand he had not been abandoned.  He, we, and I, were now lethal and so that was that.  I was barred from my own father, who was little more than a child in his mind, and there was no discussion.   I began to smell a rat. I have written about it here with great passion (as part of the Huunuu Virtual Literary Festival this February), and how we did get through to him despite all the protocal and madness, just as he died.  It was at the point of his death that I began to get angry.  Only minutes after he died, lovely and well meaning staff hugged my brothers and me.  Our aprons askew, our gloves on the floor and our masks and hats hanging from our ears, we were comforted with hugs and kind words and holding of our hands by staff equally unprotected.  (Never a bad word for these staff.  They were wonderful, doing the best they could, and were absolute angels.  They did not make the rules). If this virus thing is so lethal, if we have been kept from our childlike and terrified old father because of it, how come now that he is newly dead we are being comforted by the very things that we were not allowed to do to him when he was alive? WTF?

Our sweet natured, befuddled academic old Dad on the day he died.

And then I began to look closely at the story I was being told, the story I had willingly accepted, the narrative I had not questioned, the things I had agreed to do to save the world. My information came from the radio, the television, the newspapers and all things online.  It was all the same.  We are doomed and there is no hope.  I began to think - I am not seeing what I am told I am seeing, and so began the long slow process of changing my mind.  It was my father's death that brought me up short.  I noticed how we were not able, not encouraged, to think clearly about the threat we were supposed to be under.  I saw how gratefully we bought into our own fears, and how easily we dismissed each other in the name of safety.  Safety from what? From death? We were to consider each other, all those lovely grandchildren of ours, our brothers and sisters, our lovely mum and funny dad and all our friends, a bio hazard.  It became socially acceptable to be furious with each other if we were within yards of each other.  Furious meant shouting, insulting, accusing.  A good person would shop their friends and family to the police.  That was good behaviour. What happened to good old courtesy and good manners?  It was a sanctioned free for all.  With no touching.  

Nothing added up, I not only doubted the things I listened to and read from my news sources, I began to suspect them of actually fibbing.  This was mass collusion into a narrative about danger, threat, darkness and a fate worse than death itself that was not adding up in my family, my community, in any community.  I did not doubt that we were dealing with a virus but I did balk at the madness of the sledgehammer that was being used to crack the nut.  And I wondered at the madness of surrendering such common freedoms so happily, so readily, just because a stern man with a face mask on told us we were going to die.  Of course we are going to die.  Most of us though, won't die yet.  Get a grip, I wanted to say, get a grip.

Here then is where I began to change my mind.  This is what I began to put together. 

I belonged to a the part of the country that did not accept leaving the EU. Everything that I heard from the radio, television, newspapers and my friends supported me in this.  Not for one moment did I engage in any debate about it, I was living my life through the correct story, brought to me by all the media outlets.  Any dissenting voices were beyond contempt.  Don't listen to them!  They are racists, homophobes, little people with little minds.  They will never win.  And so, the story from my radio, which I preferred to papers or television, told me the leavers were wrong and the remainers were right, and to take comfort in this.  But we did leave.  Of course we left. The people telling me my story were wrong, they were actually completely wrong. The leavers won the vote, what was I thinking of?  I see now the narrative was utterly skewed. I began to remember my late husband's frustration with the news ("They're all biased!") .  It seemed to me that the same spinning of a political narrative was being spun around the new virus.  If, I began to ask myself, I do not accept the truth of what I hearing and seeing, how do I find another viewpoint? It became clear that I would have to look long and hard, and when I did find people that questioned the government and media narrative, I would have to keep quiet about it.  Other people, people who were where I was only a while ago in their right-think echo chamber, would not tolerate it.  Just as I would not tolerate any talk of Brexit.  

And now, I am out of the shouting and heaving party and in the garden looking back in.  I have changed my mind.  It is not so simple as now supporting Brexit, joining the other side, so to speak.  It is not so simple as refusing to accept how a new virus causes mayhem to those who are vulnerable to it.  It doesn't matter what I think about Brexit, or the virus, that is not the point.  What matters is that I have seen how complacent I have been.  How easily I have been led.  How I did not discern for myself what was happening, and how I liked the comfort of following orders because I agreed with them. How safe I was in my surety.  How happily I bought into what the radio told me.  How I colluded with my own sense of entitlement.  Now, I do not care about leaving the EU.  I take everything I hear about the virus with a pinch of salt.  I don't listen to the news, the radio, the papers.  I limit what I read about the news on all fronts.  I think they have an agenda that is not about news.  And I do not want to take sides any more, neither for or against Brexit, neither for total house arrest or total freedom, not even right or left in politics.  I feel extremely glad to have found my way out of that room of shouting people.  I am free out here in the garden looking in, and I can walk away and think my own thoughts now.

Real life image of me walking away to think for myself.

 

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Tuesday, 2 February 2021

A good citizen or a badass. How to chose.

 

A street party in Scotland in 2018 to celebrate a royal wedding.  How does this make you feel?  Uncomfortable?  Worried?  Shocked?  Nostalgic?

 Good citizens

It pays to be a good citizen. It is the glue that keeps us functioning together in our families, communities, societies and cultures. A good citizen will understand and agree to follow the rules laid down for them by their law makers and governments.  A good citizen will do so in the best interests of themselves and those around them.  A bad citizen won't follow the rules.  Sometimes a bad citizen can't follow the rules, for one reason or another (disabilities, dysfunction, stubbornness) and sometimes they won't follow the rules. That is called being a badass.  A disrupter.  And some way down the scale, a criminal.  There are so many rules to follow, there is a pecking order, and to be a good citizen you only need to do as much as is necessary to stay on the right side of functioning in a recognizable and cooperative way.  You may for example, pay for everything you buy, support local neighbourhood watch schemes to look after your community, and not drop litter.  But, even though you drive 40mph through a 30mph area, and so break the law, (not follow the rules), you may think very little of it.  If caught, you would get a fine and points on your license - "It's not as if I murdered anyone!" you may say in annoyance.  "It's not as if I stole your life savings!" 

Being a good citizen means we belong.  Yes, and there are many ways in which someone can seem to be a good citizen but are actually not, and the world is also full of those who wish to be good, play their part in society, and to do as they are told.  Quite right too, it is by being "all in this together" that we rub along in as much harmony as we can.  More or less.  My mother was all for law and order but would think nothing of sneaking bottles of gin into the country when coming back from a Lourdes pilgrimage.  She would hide them in the wheelchairs of the sick as they came off the special trains that took them to and from Lourdes in France.  Didn't give it a second thought.  

I am a good citizen.  I believe in law and order.  I believe in social responsibility, in kindness, in doing the right thing.  But I have had to think again recently about how good a citizen I really am, within the agreement to follow the rules, laws and guidelines set down for me by those who govern.  Am I a good citizen if I do not like what is laid out for me, and think the rules are actually bad? What do I do?  Do I go along with it and be the good citizen I have always been, or do I stop following those rules and discover that I am outside the norm, and am I comfortable there, and what makes me so right anyway?  

Here is what I am seeing.

I know a very good citizen.  He is doing all that is asked of him and would not dream of doing otherwise.  He is a single parent, has two children, and lots of health issues.  He is very young too.  He has not been outside his door for the last six months except once or twice with his boys, and then only when they thought they would not meet anyone.  By anyone I mean anyone. He is so frightened of breaking the rules that he and his boys will not leave their house, and will not even answer the door to anyone.  Stuck inside the house, his health deteriorating, his young sons becoming more and more frightened of the world and all of humanity outside their front door, he is becoming rigid in his beliefs that it is only by living in this way that he and his sons are safe.  He listens to the news, watches the television, mistrusts everyone and keeps his now abnormally distressed children close to him.

This man is following the rules.  He is a good citizen.  Far from anyone in his street wanting to save him, they all applaud him.  What an example he is giving!  Those that can leave food on his doorstep and when he sees they have gone, he collects it and washes it.  Well done!  Everyone seems to say, well done. 

Another good citizen I know is frightened of dying and though her husband drives her mad, she is frightened of him dying too.  Both are not in good health, are past sixty and the husband is now past seventy.  He has dementia too.  What she has done for exercise for the last however long is to walk around their little house in circuits, helping him to stagger with her as he is a bit doddery, and sometimes if they are brave they go into the garden, through the garage and back into the house.  It is a bigger circuit.  It breaks the monotony. This good citizen is a child of the outdoors.  She does not like to be inside, she longs for wide open spaces, trees and the wind in her hair.  Even during her illnesses a couple of years ago, she went for whatever walks she could on her own in the forests and Downs nearby.  Her husband and she are, were, great cyclists, and spent all their time out doors.  So her indoor and outdoor circuits are not helping her soul right now.  It is hard for her to find much motivation or hope in her life but she is doing as she is told.  She did not die when she had a really serious illness, despite thinking she would, and now that she is well, she is told that to leave her home risks her and her husband's death.  And she does not know where this death is coming from because no one can see it, only that it will find her and her husband should they not do what they are told to do.  So, being deeply fearful and obedient, erring totally on the side of caution because why would she take such risks and not err on the side of caution, she has become depressed, lonely, burdened with the care of her husband, and utterly mistrustful of everyone.  She sees no one.

She and the young father with health issues are very good citizens indeed.  They see less good citizens from their windows, walking around too close to each other, sometimes laughing, often chatting.  This worries them greatly.  Part of them wants to tell them off, to tell them that all of us should be inside and frightened like they are.  Another part of them wants to stop it all and go out and join them and remember what it was like to be normal.  Both are lonely and very scared, but have lost touch with what it is they are most afraid of.  Death, perhaps.  I asked the young man on a zoom call whether it was the virus or the social reaction from other people that worried him most.  After some thought, he said, much to his own surprise, that it was the social reaction from other people.  Well, he said.  How about that.

There are so many stories of endurance and fortitude at the moment.  Law abiding and honest people just getting by alone and without support.  So many of us are doing the best we can.  Stuck with the people we live with or stuck all on our own, terrified to ask for help because there is none out there, and if there was, who would deliver it but another person and people, we are told, are dangerous.  Best say nothing at all and if we die of something else, at least it is not this terrible disease that we cannot see, hear, sense or know.  Everything outside is gone, closed, shut down in case, inadvertently, everyone dies.  And then what.  Best never go out or see anyone. The bottom line is that as good citizens we are doing what we are asked to do, and we understand that if we don't, there will be terrible consequences.  And it will all be our fault. Your fault. Good citizens, we who are doing the best that we can, can report each other to the police for being outside.  Or hugging someone.  And the good thing is we remain anonymous so it is easy to do.  And satisfying.  Perhaps like the young father, those who report are torn between outrage that the rules are being broken and a furious resentment that they are enjoying themselves.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps the anger feels normal now and rules are rules. 

What I think

I think we are being tested greatly.  Most of us want the best for each other.  We are social creatures, we thrive in communities, we are proud of our families and love that we have a circle of friends.  We like the approval of those around us, we like belonging to the group, and until recently we were secure in what we knew around us.  All these things, we took for granted.  But now contact with people we love, know and are related to is forbidden.  Hugs, chats around the kitchen table, popping in to see how an older person is, being kind to those in despair and playing with children in the park - the good citizen must not do any of these at all despite the collateral damage (despair, alcoholism, mental illness, untreated disease, social dysfunction and so on) growing visibly. Being a good citizen is becoming counter intuitive.

Are we good citizens if we obey the laws and rules set by the governing bodies that do us harm? Well yes, we are.  We are being obedient and doing what we are told to do, from which comes order in society.  Our law makers would call us good, because we are obeying.  What I question is the correctness, the goodness perhaps, of the rules and laws themselves.  I worry that the good people following bad rules are creating divisions, difficulties and losses that will be hard to put right later.  I am a good citizen.  I have never been in trouble with the law, and I am nice, polite and kind.  I give money to beggars.  If I am given too much change in a shop, I give it back.  I give others the benefit of the doubt and do not argue if possible - I do what my cousin Maddy says, loveliness.  I do loveliness.

But I am now becoming a not-good citizen.  There seems to be a "good" as in doing the correct thing because of a rule, and "good" as in a moral and compassionate action.  I have begun to do the latter.  In doing so I have been breaking the rules and have become a bad citizen.  A badass.  A disrupter.  I really hope I am not a criminal.  I hugged a young man who was crying in the street because he had nothing to live for.  I sat with and next to a lady who needed someone to listen to her.  I listened to a young girl who was frightened of everything but especially that her mother would find out that she had a boyfriend and he was not from her culture.  I bought her a cup of tea, the girl, so we could talk and she could sort out her fears.  Another time, a sad and lonely young person that I know in passing, asked if he could speak to me as he was hearing voices and thought cars in the street were talking to him.  I asked if he had told anyone else.  No, he said. This young man needed time and attention, and so I gave it.  I shouldn't have done.  I broke the rules.  I am so glad I did.  He let me call his mum.  She had been worried and wanted to help him, tell him to come home, she said.  It was obvious this young man needed proper psychiatric care.  That ended well but we had to step outside the new rules to do it.  (I have since heard he is safe and with his mum).

Badasses.

And so -

Am I a good or a bad citizen? I am certainly a concerned one.  It is now normal for us to consider each other as a bio hazard.  How will that pan out?  As I walked through the town centre today, with people swerving out of my way, with all the shops and businesses boarded up, and a lady wearing two masks, gloves and a business suit, fussing over all the customers lining up outside the local bank, ceaselessly  bossing them around and making sure they were all in order, I thought that we had given all our energies and power to this one virus.  We have made it the scapegoat for everything we fear.  We have given something that does not merit it, all of our attention, and made it into a monster that has given us purpose in our fear, has given us a new community to belong to.  We have created such a bogey man that it has overpowered us and we are in thrall to it.  I remember reading of a treatment for the plague in 1615, where a pigeon is cut in two and laid on the feet of the sufferer.  Pigeons were considered potent in healing for centuries.  It couldn't happen now though.  If someone proposed laying a freshly halved pigeon on your feet to make you better, you would probably have them arrested. But for many years people believed in it completely.  Just for the record, the virus is real - very real - but I do not like the methods in place to deal with it.  They, many of the methods, are like the pigeon halves.

I do not know where this will lead, and I watch this all with concern. I repeat, everyone is doing the best they can with the information that they have.  People, most of us, only want the best for each other and at heart our caring and compassionate spirits are very much intact.  Anyone suffering from this virus needs all the love and care they can get, and those that die either with or from it, leave such sadness behind.  We cannot dispute any of that.  My worry is that how we are learning to behave with a single virus and the idea of death from this one thing only, has caused us to lose our perspective to such a degree that all of our power, fear, projection and energy been offered up on the altar of one single thing. How do we come down from this?  I don't know.  I hear pigeons are very effective. 


I'm full of surprises.

 

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