Driving home from Heathrow airport I sneeze into my coat sleeve. The cab driver is alarmed, he warns me that 'Each time you sneeze it’s like a mini bomb going off’. We have been visiting family in Florida and I am noticing a a higher level of tension and anxiety in the Uk.
Back home I soon realise that we only have one roll of toilet paper. Before going away I gave my son a shopping list and he has very kindly brought everything we need, except loo paper. His reason ‘I tried three shops and there wasn’t any’ seems rather unlikely. I go out in the evening and eventually find a large pack, it is the last one on the shelf.
The next few days
Countries all over the world are closing down. I am fascinated by the drama and the enormity of it all. The news is the only programme that interests me and the topic is always the same.
We are now in lockdown and all my counselling and supervision work is online and by phone. A few clients decide to wait until we can be face to face again.
Some people ask for telephone sessions and sit in their car for privacy. A number of supervisees have fewer clients and want to meet less frequently. To begin with I am uncertain about the future of my practice. Then I have a few new enquiries and it feels more secure.
Certain clients and supervisees are more technologically able than I am. Sometimes I need their help and feel as if our roles have been reversed. I learn to allow for extra time at the end of sessions in case starting up or crashing during the middle has eaten into somebody’s time.
Since we can no longer be in the same physical space it is important to acknowledge how this feels and to mention any concerns. Although we are physically distanced I hope that we can still feel emotionally connected.
The shadow of coronavirus is constantly present. We explore its effects and the surreal feelings that many of us are experiencing. There is a sense for me of us all being in this together.
I would like to find some meaning in all this, to understand in a spiritual way why is it happening, and why now? The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam which is about repairing the world makes the most sense to me. At this extraordinary time people are being kind and helpful, some are showing great courage in their efforts to save lives.
On social media I see many posts about a better future in terms of the environment and new ways of living. There are poems, and videos with beautiful scenery and music. I realise that these posts are supposed to be uplifting, but they bring tears to my eyes because the cost in lives is so high.
These are the first known symptoms of Coronavirus: sore throat, fever, cough, breathing difficulties and fatigue. For some weeks I have had all of these symptoms apart from the fever. Then I hear that one can have the virus without the fever. As the number of deaths escalate, my cough gets worse. I feel as if there is an iron bar pressing down on my chest.
The virus is spreading, it travels through the air and rests on surfaces. Apparently, it can live on plastic for weeks. There are discussions about the pros and cons of wearing a mask and we are given handwashing demonstrations.
When a family member is rushed to hospital my anxiety rises. She returns home the next day and recovers fully. However, my anxiety stays high and the bar on my chest presses harder.
On April 2nd I hear about the death of a Rabbi, I met him once and was impressed by his kindness and sensitivity. His funeral is shown on the news. After that I stop watching the news, I dread hearing about more deaths.
I think I have the virus, or a chest infection or maybe anxiety is causing all these symptoms. One evening I pack a small bag in case I need to be taken to hospital during the night. Then I wake up in the morning feeling better. This happens several times.
Whilst talking online with a friend about my anxiety I become more fully aware of my grief. I am so grateful that none of our family or friends have died, and at the same time I am grieving for the thousands of people who are no longer with us.
My grief feels overwhelming and I am tempted to push it away. However, I know that distracting myself only helps for a little while. So I stay with the emotions in a Focusing way which is gentle and accepting. I notice what I am feeling, and put a soothing hand on my chest where it hurts. Gradually my physical symptoms subside.
Life under Lockdown
I check my street from the window, it looks deserted and therefore safe, so I venture out for my daily exercise. A lady walks towards me from the opposite direction. The virus is very contageous and we must keep two metres apart. Our eyes meet. We both move to cross over the road. We stop and smile. I indicate that I will cross over. We wave and then continue walking on opposite sides of the street.
Each day I walk up the street or down the street, enjoying the sunshine and the flowers.
My son is outside in his car. I leave my granddaughter’s birthday presents on the step and close the front door. From a window I watch my son collect the presents, he places boxes of my favourite coffee pods on the step. I am longing for a hug. When he is safely back in the car, I open the front door. My granddaughter is shouting from the car ‘I love you’, I call back that I love her too. They drive away and I am heart-broken to see them go.
My four-year-old granddaughter in Florida calls me on Hangouts. We agree that every day is the same and give each other tours of our homes. We discuss the time difference and send each other stickers and photos. I treasure this time together, normally she would have been in school.
Whats App is ringing, I swipe, and there they all are, my son, daughter-in-law and little granddaughter with her beaming smile. We sing nursery rhymes and look at books.
There are many opportunities for learning online. To begin with I cannot think about starting something new. The future feels too uncertain and I am living day by day, I concentrate upon the safety of my family, and connecting with clients. I talk with family and friends and feel that we are supporting each other. That is enough.
Eventually I feel more safe and recognize that we can take care of ouselves by living in this strange bubble of physical isolation. I choose an online course and join some workshops. Attending to my professional development is grounding and gives me a sense of hope.
Thursday evenings at 8pm
It starts with a gentle tinkling that becomes a clinking and then an enormous clanking with fireworks whistling and banging and bursting into coloured lights. Sometimes we join in, knocking on our pots and pans, waving at neighbours and saying thank you to our wonderful NHS.