Hard-Won ResilienceBy Emma Pearson
May 28, 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.
5 thoughts on “Hard-Won Resilience”
Thank you Emma, for your wise and heartfelt words. You stated that you thought this article might piss people off, but why would it? Anyone who has not walked your path has no right to judge what may or may not be the “right” way to feel or think about our current situation. Hopefully during this time we are gaining greater capacity to care, to love, and to send empathy and compassion for all who walk paths different from our own. I am humbled by your strength and your resilience!
Sending love from Minneapolis.
Dear Emma it was lovely to read your words. Thank you for your honesty and straight forward sharing, it was very insightful.
Wish you find confort, tenderness and purpose during the coming days, weeks, months.
At the end the only thing nobody can take from us are our values, feelings and dreams.
Looking forward to hear from you again soon.
HI Emma – I agree with Debby’s comments above and, frankly, if it pisses anyone off that is their problem. You may not remember me from PDI days (it was a while ago) but I’ve read all your posts and, good heavens, you’ve experienced far more than is your fair share and, indeed, I think you have more resilience than just about anyone I think I know. stay safe and keep writing – it’s raw and real and puts life and what’s truly important into perspective.
Hugs from Minnesota,
Hi Emma, I know and feel (quite a bit of) what you mean. It feels weird at times to realise that I am enjoying (some of) this experience. And yes, I see you for sure as a tenacious resilient woman. That is in no doubt.
Your writing really resonates, albeit that I haven’t experienced all of what you have gone through.
There are delicious moments that I am savouring and do not want or need to feel guilty for – watching and listening to the birds, staring at the sky and the clouds, choosing the pace and rhythm of my day. All these things still feel good no matter what sh*t has lead to this. And I am grateful, hugely grateful to all those people that are making that possible. And I hope and expect to be there for whomever needs it when its my turn to.
Emma – I understand the title of your post. I suspect it’s easy for some in these reactionary times to misinterpret your grateful spirit and resilience as lack of empathy for those that are going through so much tragedy and those for whom the future is very uncertain.
And yet, it’s that “bring it on” attitude that makes getting out of bed and getting on with our days, such as they are, not such a monumental task. This is no time for trite statements of optimism, and we all need a break from doom and gloom, from grief and sorrow. As others have said, your resilience is well-earned and there’s no need to apologize for it.
Thank you for your thoughtful post.