I started the day on a high, a warm glow left-over from last week when my back door wouldn’t open because the lock was seized. I had it sorted with a calm and insouciant air and a squirt of WD 40. I amazed myself. I was still floating on my cloud of self-satisfaction when I opened that same fully functional door this morning to let the dogs out. Smooth action lock! Satisfying clicketty-click ratchet sound. Hmmm. Delightful and all my own work. I drew Percy’s attention to it, but he just pushed past rather rudely.
When I walked back into the bedroom my bedside lamp was flickering and had been for days (I was going to say ‘on and off’ but I suppose the word ‘flicker’ tells you all you need to know) and even before I had my first coffee I’d taken it apart, put it back together again, sworn a bit, rolled my eyes, had another go, added some superglue to the lampshade, had another go at dismantling the push-me pull-you bit and then SUCCESS! I now have a fully functional lamp to read my blinkin’ ‘Serenity and Sanctuary’ book. It’s not called that, but come onnnn…. do you really think I’m going to get up and walk all the way to the bedroom to check on it?
And then… and then…. talk about a hat trick! My printer has been refusing to work for a couple of days and (obviously) on the first day of lockdown the most important part of my daily round is printing off The Times Crossword (the easy one, not the cryptic jobbie) and I know you can fill in the clues on the screen, but it’s not the same. I needed that printed sheet. I read up everything I could about absent printers and set about sorting it; first I cleared any sign of the printer off my Mac (‘cleared it off’ being a technical term) and then I downloaded a new printer driver from the manufacturer, installed it, double clicked, wondered if it was OK to take a prayer about that to God (and decided it was) waited a fidgety five minutes…. and then…. BINGO! Success.
A small round of applause would be appreciated. I thank yew! Lock, lamp and printer. I rock.
And now, at last, the first day of lockdown is nearly done, I’ve watched the rugby (Yo! Ireland!) the fire is on, all is cosy, the dogs are snoring and I haven’t spoken to anyone since 8.05. Not that I’m counting.
I am. I’m very deffo counting. 15 days to go.
Here in Wales the regulations say that if you live alone you can form a family unit with one more household. I have Scrabble chums who I hope will pop in sometime this week and already I’m looking forward to seeing them. Is that a bit pathetic? Hard cheddar. I think you have to be alone in this sort of circumstance to understand the huge difference between being isolated with someone and being truly isolated all on your tod. So, this is not about you partnered people, it’s a shout-out to singletons, and it’s a prayer for singletons, while I’m at it. There are some who airily declare that they are introverts so this time is ‘fine’ or even ‘welcome’ . Oh, do give it a rest. If you are partnered your experience is very very different from that of a singleton. You have your own stress points, I’m sure, but living with a.n.other is not the same as waking up to 4 silent walls.
So, my singleton friends; I’m thinking particularly of the frail single person (I am hale and hearty) and the person who is recently bereaved and still adjusting to the single state, and I’m thinking of all who are coping with mental health problems. This is a time of real hardship for you, real loneliness. Standing in the middle of a desert, battling with feelings of loss and sorrow and depression. This is a hard time for you. I get it.
The rest of us, it’s not good, but it’s no big deal. Many of us are used to being alone – some for many years – so the enforced distancing may make it worse but it isn’t going to defeat us. So, that being self-evident, why aren’t we more active? Each and every single one of us? Don’t we care about other people? Do we think that because our doors are closed our hearts can be, too?
Oh. I don’t want to degenerate into a rant, but come on, if friendship, caring, church, community means anything at all, it has to start with the small things. We’re the small things. It starts with us. I know we’re not all the same, we don’t all like the same things, some of us really are introverts, but this is the time to step into another person’s shoes, to go one step further than you usually might, to stop chuntering on about brotherly love and actually show it. That’s what church is. What community is. Family, society, culture.
We can make it easier for each other. Yes, there are tears about separations, and financial worries, dreams have been put on hold or broken, businesses are going down the pan, yes, there is anxiety and uncertainty and I don’t dismiss any of those things, but they shouldn’t stop us from caring for others and reaching out to those who just need contact, company. It’s that simple. We need to look towards each other, care for each other, in the small ways, tiny ways, because every time we make contact with another human being we are showing love. “Love one another”
Our lives are already good here in the West, we are so very blessed in what we have, in our shelter and comfort and security but humans are complicated beings with complicated histories and deep problems. Our mental health can be fragile. If we look to our neighbours, really look to them care about them…. if do more than say we are friends…. if we try to walk in each other’s shoes… if we meet every day with a sense of perspective and humour, if we care enough to phone or email or text, we can support those who are struggling.
And maybe we can even learn all sorts of new stuff in this strange time. If any of you have lock problems, or snicketty lamps, or stubborn printers…. you know where to come.