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Let Me Be

What happens to us when we cannot “go out”? I wrote about this yesterday and woke up this morning with more thoughts in my head about this. I think back to many years of working in long-term Care Homes. I thought of the “problems” we have had with Elders – and decided to make a list;

The many Elders who do not want to take a shower, Those Elders who hoard stuff in their rooms, The Elders who do not want to eat their food but keep on snacking, The edgy, irritable Elder who picks a fight with everyone, The Grumpy Elders who nd it hard to smile, The couple in their tiny room who keep on fighting with one another, The “lazy” ones who do not want to get up in the morning, The Elders who refuse to participate in the activities we came up with, The Elders who wear the same clothes day in and day out, The Elders who take food from the dining room table to feed the pigeons.

The list continues, and I am sure many of you can add to the list.

Does this sound familiar to some of us now during lockdown? What is at the bottom of this reaction? And I deliberately use the word reaction. We often label this as “dif cult behaviour”. Are we all showing difficult behaviour? Or is this a distressed reaction? Semantics – some of you would say. I think we need to take a closer look at ourselves, and our own reactions, feelings, and emotions.

Maybe I have little self-discipline. Maybe I am still in a state of grief about my Father’s recent passing. Maybe I am depressed. Or maybe this reaction is normal. Maybe this isolation – in spite of Skype and Zoom and Facetime and Facebook – is eroding our sense of connectedness to the point where the above “behaviours” become a way of disengaging from our feelings of disconnection. Wow, it sounds serious! I think it is…

I want to take it a few steps further… This is not just about isolation and disconnection. I think it cuts to our very essence, our true Being-in-the-world. We are social Beings, we need close connections, we need to be held, to be heard, to be validated through our relationships. These are not sustainable through the internet. We cannot feel, hold, or Be through a cell phone or a computer. We need to be in the presence of each other, literally and figuratively speaking. We smell. We observe a twitch or the way that arms are crossed, breathing….

This COVID-19 reality is our teacher. I am learning two things (so far):

To be even more mindful than ever before about the reactions of Elders to being locked down. And yes, they are locked down permanently, to a greater or lesser degree. To be with me. As Sylvia Plath so poignantly said in The Waves: “How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table.

How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake?

Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”

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