It’s been a year now since that morning when, catching up on paperwork in my therapy room, I absorbed with a sense of unreality the Taoiseach’s announcement of the first Covid-19 lockdown. Making my way home shortly afterwards, I saw mounting queues outside the supermarkets as a worried public panic-bought their way to some sense of safety and security. Covid-19, at that time, carried a lot of the unknown about it. If we had known then what we know now – would it have made a difference?
One year on, I have friends who have been tragically and shockingly bereaved. I have friends struggling through the vicissitudes of long Covid, struggling for the breath and energy to get through the day. I know people for whom Covid has precipitated mental breakdown, relationship breakdown, questioning on a level that would have been unimaginable a year ago. And also, I have seen communities drawing together, people supporting each other, and resilience that might also not have been expected a year ago.
My practice at this point is completely online. This is something I hadn’t anticipated but which has enabled me to work with clients as they shifted locations due to their own lockdown circumstances. Initially, I pondered the pros and cons of seeing people in person but being unable to read their facial expressions due to a mask, as opposed to seeing their faces online but missing out on the clues of body language. Ultimately, perhaps it doesn’t matter that much. It is perfectly possible to do significant and meaningful therapeutic work online, to form relationships and journey together. On the other hand, there are also uncertain moments where I’m not entirely sure whether I’m participating in a meaningful silence or an internet freeze, but I try not to take them too seriously.
In a way, working online emphasises our shared humanity. At times I have had to leap up from the computer when the thump of footprints on the stairs heralded a potential invasion of little people looking for Mama to be referee. The same has happened to more than one client. I have taken calls from clients in their cars, home offices, kitchens – even a walk-in wardrobe. I’ve been introduced to pets and invited to admire DIY projects. I’ve gained an insight into clients’ lives that I never normally would have – though I do miss the serene silence of my office. On occasion, I’ve taken to bringing a cup of tea to sessions, which I would never normally do, and I’ve noticed that many clients do the same.
Tired and hopeful
We’ve all found our different ways of getting through the last year. We’ve all struggled, and coped, and on occasion failed to cope. But we’ve come through, we’re still here and the sun is shining and the daffodils are out again. And this time there’s a vaccination so we can hope with some justification that the end is in sight. There’s no denying it’s been a long haul though and I, like many others, am tired.
So, what do we do when we’re tired, and the end – although it may be in sight – still seems a long way off? For most of us, the question is no longer ‘why is this happening?’ but rather ‘how can I exist in it?’ Where can we find strength and solace in this hopefully final phase?
Solace in nature
At the moment, I find my solace in nature – in the green buds on the climbing hydrangea on my garden wall, in the joyful madcap flights of the two magpies that live behind my house, whom my daughter has christened for no particular reason Robbie and Erica. I breathe deep the biting spring air and bear witness to the lengthening evenings as we travel from Imbolc to equinox. I bring myself present to each moment through my breath, through the sensations of my body, and I remind myself, all of this is sacred. In the mundane exists the transcendent, and in the transcendent the mundane. Esther de Waal, the Celtic Christian scholar, says it similarly: “The Celtic approach… opens up a world in which nothing is too common to be exalted and nothing is so exalted that it cannot be made common.”
And so, it’s in the everyday exaltation of the magpies chasing each other that I find my strength, in the small kindness of a coffee brought to me at my computer desk, the observation of the breath and the startling beauty of that moment when the clouds part and the sun emerges warm and bright. It’s in the energy that grounds me when I stand with my back against an oak tree far older and more resilient than I, and it’s in the promise of spring heralded by the blackbirds.
This moment is enough
Just as in the old joke that asks the best way to eat an elephant, we can only take this one bite at a time. So, if you’re struggling today, don’t punish yourself for it. Reach out if you need to, rest if you need to, look around and ask yourself, where do you find your solace? Where do you find your strength? Just take it one moment at a time, and that moment, experienced in awareness, might just carry you through.
I’m reminded of a short poem by David Whyte, that despite (or because of?) its brevity, has a lot to say:
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
You are enough. This place where you find yourself right now is enough. Even if it’s not what you would have chosen, it’s still an opening to life – will you accept its invitation?
I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch if you need therapeutic support or simply some soul care, helping you to find your way into or through that deeper journey of soul and spirit. Contact me on email@example.com or by phone at (086) 739 7213. (And to the lovely lady who contacted me through my website contact form but entered my email address instead of her own – I’m sorry I couldn’t contact you, please do try again!)