Time for a Collective Deep Breath

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all social-bubbled up together and longing to see our loved ones again. The fear of coronavirus left us restricted in a way that, pre-March 2020, we could never have imagined. 

After some false and unnerving starts, release slowly went ahead until now we are – almost – back to normal. Those most at risk are double-vaxxed and even boosters are on their way. 

We can mix and match pretty well as we like and it’s now up to us to work out sensibly how we can manage our own lives after this terrible and traumatic event. Isn’t that fantastic and exciting and cause for real celebration? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? At least I would. But that’s not what I’m observing.

I remember expecting there would be initial relief at the end of the fiercest restrictions and then I wondered if there might be a fair amount of anger because of the impositions. 

It’s rather like when you “mislay” a child in your care. First, there’s disbelief. This hasn’t happened, the child has not vanished. Then, there’s a growing sense of panic as you realise s/he is not there. There’s the search as you grow ever more frantic and then they are found – by you or someone else and you have this overwhelming sense of relief that they are safe.

If you’re the average parent/caretaker (or not, in this case) you are very likely to have a sense of fury against the little person who’s put you through all this. Fortunately, most of us react by a quick shout, possibly face up close (you shouldn’t but it happens) and then a tug on the arm as we ensure they remain firmly within our grasp.

The wisest among us remember that this a child; s/he did not do it on purpose and, in a perfect world, they would never have become separated from us. We draw a deep breath, reach down to reassure our little companion and suggest we need to look after each other better in future. Job done. Until the next time.

I’m hoping you’ll see where I’m heading. Of course, Covid’s not the child but the reaction to what’s happened is not dissimilar. Disbelief, fear, panic about the unknown and, later, fear about the known, followed by relief that all is going to be okay. And now I can get angry.

That seems to be where we are right now. Angry with everything and searching for somewhere to vent our fury. Last week, it was one thing (like many others, my memory and timeframe is not what it was before lockdown); this week it’s the HGV driver shortage and next week goodness knows what we’ll have found to worry us.

I was expecting anger but not at the rate it’s happened. It’s like a collective Mexican wave but not in a good way. Or maybe it’s as though all the trolls from social media have jumped out of their make-believe slots and into the real world. 

It is extraordinary. An oil company publicly reveals (why?) it’s restricting fuel supplies and suddenly everyone’s queuing for petrol at such a rate that the self-fulfilling prophecy comes true. Garages run out of petrol.

I watch this on the news and reflect on the strangeness of one group of people lying down on a motorway as they try to find ways of saving the planet while another – much larger – pushes out endless, unhealthy fumes as they queue to fill up their cars with petrol, just in case.

Just in case of what? I’m a little confused. Where is everyone going and whatever happened to the enthusiasm for working from home? I was under the impression that WFH was still the employment of choice, but I appear to be wrong. Now, we all want to be in our cars, dashing to and from work, meeting to meeting, school runs or gym appointments. Concerns about climate change are suddenly way down our radar.  

A Martian looking down on us might wonder at the madness of all of this. Eighteen months ago, we were talking about “being kind” to one another; clapping NHS workers and vowing that, if we got out of this, we’d be a much more caring and sharing society in the future. Now, we’re back to shouting at the authorities to do something and having punch ups in petrol queues. Doesn’t sound too kind to me.

I can certainly spot a fair few troubles on the horizon. It may be there will be fewer presents at Christmas (that’s also something to do with the huge container ship that was stuck in the Panama Canal for weeks, I believe) and turkeys which have not voted for Christmas may escape our dinner table because of the CO2 problem – ah yes, I remember now, that that was last week’s issue – but there we go. Maybe it’s a good time to consider whether less may be more after all. 

There are people who have suffered in this period and are suffering still. They deserve all the support we can give them and they have every right to be both angry and sad. 

But for those of us who are still healthy, still have their loved ones and have had a relatively easy ride during this very disturbing time, I’d suggest we take a moment to experience that relief at finding ourselves in a reasonably good place. Stay still, take a deep breath and, just for a second, be grateful.  

Photo 1: Timothy Elbery on Unsplash

Photo 2: Tai’s Captures on Unsplash