Many have offered advice, shared wisdom and provided practical tips for survival in the personal and professional realms during the time of COVID-19.
The reality however, has been that, in spite of attempting to embrace the imposed change in as positive a way as possible and consciously choosing to enjoy the benefits of our global inter-connectedness, I have come up against an unexpected tidal wave of anger.
There have been moments of incredible fury; stretching across a spectrum of rage at the devastating impact of the loss of life and livelihoods, through to wanting to scream at the virus because it put a stop to a long awaited family holiday.
But perhaps of greatest surprise has been my experience of increased irritation in the midst of the apparent need of others to point out how ‘lucky’ and ‘fortunate’ some of us are in the global situation, compared to those less fortunate. Of course this more advantageous positioning is true. But there was no need for any global pandemic to remind me of my heartfelt gratitude for these things, for it flows through my veins every bit as much as blood.
What I have learned – again – is that the attempted method of glossing over a negative feeling in order to focus on the up-side of our circumstances is not helpful.
What is needed in moments of powerful emotion is for others to listen, acknowledge and accept that the feelings are real. They need air, if not literally in speaking and sharing, then at least in self-recognition and pause to manage the pain. One ought to avoid the attempt to suppress what has been referred to as symptoms of grief by numerous experts, via attempting to cover up painful emotions with a layer of gratitude. Both require time and space.
My own analysis is that the anger felt is not so much misplaced, as misunderstood. I have come to appreciate that it emanates from a feeling of impotence – the inability to engage in the immediate future as planned and visualised. It is a kind of helplessness, flowing from the awareness that the future has not only been put on hold, but is more uncertain than ever, with little means of personal steerage.
In recent weeks I have been reminded of how I felt when my daughter was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 4 months. Although she was in the excellent professional and caring hands of top medical specialists and there was an estimated 80% success rate for the treatment protocol followed at the time, I remember feeling utterly helpless in the realisation that there was nothing I could practically; personally and or professionally do to change the situation.
All I could do was love, trust and hold on to faith as we negotiated our way through the storm. It wasn’t easy and it took years to overcome the immense anxiety and fear related to a great deal around loss, in spite of the successful treatment of my beautiful baby girl.
This feels similar. And just as survival grew out of living one day at time all those years ago, so the same methodology applies in the present.
Whilst the anger has not necessarily disappeared as the weeks have progressed, it has found its rightful place. As has the acceptance that the future will unfold as it does. There is only so much within my personal grasp that I can positively influence. And that is okay.