Hard-Won ResilienceBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
5th April 2020
One of my professional colleagues confessed, a few weeks ago, that “It feels awful to say this, but my, isn’t the Coronavirus beautiful?” I admit I did a double take. She added, “Not what the Coronavirus is causing, engendering, but the virus itself. The images we get of it are just beautiful. Stunning”. Yes – I could see that. Science under the microscope. The smallest things are beautiful.
I too have a confession.
I am enjoying this time of confinement. Yes, I know it is because I am privileged in the extreme. For example:
I have my two alive children home with me – normally they’d be away studying in the UK.
I have my pet sitter Karen who is great company – we are both stuck with each other at the moment as she cannot move on, and fortunately we are both fine with that.
The weather is stunning, has been stunning, and looks set to continue being stunning.
We have a big house and a small garden.
We live in an area where police checks are unlikely – at least if you slightly lengthen your 1km radius to a 2km radius, are up in the woods on the side of the Jura mountains on a run with the dog… I see fewer people up there than I would do if I kept my run to within a 1km radius, and I definitely don’t see policemen on the forest tracks.
I have fresh air, clean water, good food. Shops are full of the right stuff.
I have a dog and a cat to cuddle and stroke. They have rarely had it so good.
I have my musical instruments, plus kids who play their own too (I am barely missing concerts, I get so much good, live music from them).
My parents, while elderly, are in stonkingly good health, and other than their age, not “at risk”.
I have books and learning projects and to-dos that would keep me busy for four years. Yes – much is still death-admin which I hate and still cannot do, and some is taxes for last year, but there’s more enjoyable stuff too.
And while I have numerous friends either directly or indirectly affected by the virus and who have faced and are facing into scary or sad situations, I am well-skilled in not taking on their stress, and just trying to be as good a support as I can be.
Of course there are more challenging aspects.
My earning potential has been erased. Again.
A gazillion plans for the spring and summer have gone up in smoke, including three open-water swimming trips to Mallorca, Montenegro and the Bosphorus, to prepare for the 13km Lake Geneva crossing at the end of July.
Plans to see friends, including my bestie from Brussels days, have dissipated, as has our quinquennial school reunion planned for May.
I was going to attend some conferences – including one themed “Disruption” – haha – all of which have been cancelled or postponed.
The list goes on. But they are first world problems. I recognise that. Minor niggles.
As I’ve talked to some of my widbuds over the past weeks, I’ve noticed how many of us have a resigned, “Bring it on” attitude to the disruption at the moment. We’ve discussed, and I have reflected on, why we feel so unaffected, unperturbed. Is it that we just don’t care anymore about anything? Have we become jaded about life? Is it that we feel we have leaned into the worst already? Is it that we know “this too shall pass”? Is it that we have developed greater resilience?
It’s probably a bit of a mix, but I don’t think it’s about not caring. I think that we are just more resilient.
I don’t mind the Spatial Distancing. It’s what I have been living with anyway since my loved one(s) died. I am actually in better contact with people at the moment than I have been in the past years – perhaps because other people have more time to be in touch with me and we finally have a topic in common (loss, grief, disruption, fear).
I have had my ability to earn money violently stopped in its tracks now four times in under five years – when caring for Ed, when caring for and grieving Mike, when caring for and grieving Julia, and now Covid-19. I have yet to make money that resembles even what I made in my first year of being freelance.
I don’t mind not being able to make plans. Shit happens. Plans – and life – get disrupted. Stuff you want gets snatched away. Dreams. Projects. People. Spouses. Children. Siblings. Earning. Savings. A pension. A future. A past. If things are meant to happen, they will. I can be quite philosophical. I can absolutely live with each present breath. It’s what’s helped me survive many many many many days, weeks, months, and years now.
These times feel comfortable. Or at least familiar. Not being able to do what I want, whether because of time or money or energy. There is still so much I can do. I feel privileged. I feel safe. For sure I feel more at ease in enforced isolation that is collective and widespread than I have done in isolation that felt unique to me. Where I felt singled out.
Yes, there is death and illness around, but it’s not affecting me directly, and that is enough for me to feel grateful.
I have my two alive kids with me, and while their presence makes the absence of Mike and Julia all the more gut-wrenchingly painful and evident, I can hold the pain and the relief together, much of the time.
I am lucky. I am blessed. I really believe that.
And I am fucking resilient. It’s hard-earned resilience, for sure. But my experiences of being knocked down, having the rug pulled from under my feet, time and time again these past 4+ years have equipped me well for these times.
One breath at a time. One minute, hour, day at a time. And this too shall pass.