The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Adjust to reality in calm before the storm
Sitting in my garden on what apparently is the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures reaching around 17C, I can easily be lulled into a false sense of security that all is good with the world.
The birds are singing and I can’t hear a single car passing. There is a lovely tranquil feeling, with the noise of a lawnmower in the distance and the faint buzzing of a bumble bee.
The frightening thing is that among our darkest thoughts, we could never have imagined the reality of what is going on worldwide just now.
This quiet time, when our streets are empty and we are forced to stay at home, is the eerie calm before the frightening storm that has been forecast – that our hospitals are going to be overrun with patients affected by Covid-19.
And the most terrifying thing about this forecast is that we have no way of knowing where the storm will hit first. There is no safe place to flee. Quiet rural spots seem so much less dangerous than huge built-up areas such as London, but with fewer hospital beds per head in countryside locations, are they really any safer in the long run?
Right now, though, I would rather be anywhere but London, as the rate of infection there is most definitely growing faster than the rest of the country.
My fears aren’t for myself. I, of course, don’t want to get ill, and having had pneumonia previously and being middle-aged, I’m not exactly off the hook.
However, like most people, it’s my loved ones I’m scared for.
We can’t see this virus. I wish somehow it dyed our hands purple like in the adverts as soon as we touched it so we could see the contamination points immediately and scrub it all away. We can’t though. It stealthily and silently passes between us like an invisible man playing a deadly game of tag.
So how can we cope mentally with this growing fear in our midst?
Well, the answer is, we have no choice but to find ways of dealing with it and find strengths within ourselves we didn’t know we possessed.
Firstly, we need to adjust to our new normal.
Our way of life and sense of routine has been rudely pulled from under our feet and we have to replace it quickly with a new routine and a new normal.
Those people who have to cope with working from home and home schooling their children, plus keeping up with the chores, and feeding their family, have most definitely got their work cut out for them. People who work in supermarkets, or food distribution of any sort, are pushed to the limit. Above all, the NHS workers who risk their lives every day to look after us must often be at breaking point while it seems like the rest of us are sitting in the sun doing nothing.
Every day I see the same NHS staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where Gordon is having his radiotherapy treatment, showing kindness and compassion to every patient and working with their usual zest for life, which helps their patients feel less anxious at a time when things are so unprecedented.
We have to somehow muster the strength to help ourselves
This week, I have done my best to do just that.
I created timetables for myself. Setting time aside for exercise and for cooking, cleaning, relaxing and trying to be disciplined with myself.
Gradually I now know how to fill my days. I’ve pushed myself to do online lessons with my singers, which is something I didn’t enjoy before because I’m not the best with technology, but I’m learning. I’m using this time positively rather than negatively. There are new skills we can all learn. Or for those of us who need a rest from commuting or from a 9 to 5 job, you have the time to focus on yourselves a bit more.
I have been posting an online video every day of a singing warm-up ready for Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus, which he coaches online daily at 5.30pm on Decca Records’ YouTube channel. Gareth and I were going to do the warm-ups together, but the technology got in the way.
The reality is that we cannot get bored of staying at home. We cannot be complacent and start venturing out. We cannot visit people or talk to people at close quarters. We have to instead get used to what might be our new way of life for weeks or months to come.
I just pray that no one visits my aunties, and that if they do they speak to them from outside the window or door or they phone them instead. I pray that no one in your families flaunts the rules and puts you at risk. I especially pray that people will respect the NHS workers enough to stay at home and not make their job any harder than it already is.
It’s tough being asked to stay at home, but it’s not as tough as struggling to breathe.
We can do this everyone. Let’s enjoy the sunshine, listen to the birds, read a book, write a letter or paint a picture, and count our blessings while we can. Stay safe, everyone.