The pandemic paradox
Last weekend, I read the newspaper from cover to cover, noticing the slimness of the sports and real estate sections and the absence of the travel section.
And I tidied up Mr 10’s bedroom while listening to a podcast and put a lamb shoulder in the slow cooker and found several vitally important pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and wrote a few notes for my novel, while listening to the rain.
By the time it was evening, the lamb smelt savoury and Miss 13 started making a rhubarb crumble and Mr 16 got ready for his evening supermarket shift, and I realised it had been a really good day. Wonderfully cosy to listen to the rain while good food cooked and there was the possibility of a movie or book after dinner.
And that’s the paradox of COVID-19, that I can have a good day while someone else makes funeral arrangements for a gathering of ten mourners and someone else showers off the remains of their hospital shift and someone does their budget for the 11th time and realises their life has shrunk even more and someone else curls up in a ball and sobs with anxiety because they’ve lost their job.
And while that is probably the case all the time – someone has a promotion, someone loses their job, someone has a new baby, someone buries a loved one, someone spends the night with 100 of their closest friends at a party and someone aches with loneliness – this pandemic has heightened all of the feelings.
In a recent podcast, Brene Brown spoke about comparative suffering. It’s okay to feel upset if you can’t go on an overseas trip you’ve planned for six months, while your neighbour is upset because she’s lost her job. It’s okay to feel upset because your kids are home with you all the time while your friend can’t go to her aunt’s funeral. It’s okay to feel upset because your golf club or hairdresser or favourite restaurant has shut while your neighbour is working long shifts at a hospital and is self-isolating so she can’t hug her small kids.
It’s okay to grieve for everything you’ve lost. And it’s also okay to take pleasure in a tidy cupboard or a completed jigsaw or a delicious meal. Because not taking pleasure in a walk on a sunny day doesn’t help your friend to get her job back.
Put it down to the pandemic paradox.
There’s a beautiful loving-kindness meditation I’ve been practising on Insight Timer, a free meditation app. It’s a repetition of a few phrases – the words below come from Sharon Salzberg’s meditation.
May I be safe
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I live with ease.
You begin with focusing on yourself, then think of someone you love, then someone you know, then someone you don’t know.
At the moment, I think this covers everyone – the busy, stressed essential workers, the ones who have lost their job, the grandparents and grandchildren missing each other, the kids who have lost their friends and sport and freedom, the bored ones at home and the policy-makers. Loving-kindness to us all, especially over this Easter weekend.