In what seems like a lifetime ago – March, we were preparing for what we anticipated would be a very challenging year. Anne was scheduled to undergo a significant, though not life threatening, operation. I would have to take time off to look after her and we weren’t entirely sure how ‘things’ were going to be.
The operation did not proceed as planned. In fact nothing proceeded as planned from that day to this for us and for the rest of the world. So much so that we must wonder whether, in the UK at least, there was any plan at all at times. Life, in so many ways and for so many people, changed a lot.
We thought it would just be us, cocooned in our little bubble of isolation. The word ‘Isolation’ would be used in a metaphorical sense, we never dreamed that we would be actually cut off from everyone. We adjusted though. We were disappointed that we couldn’t do the things we would normally have been doing but we found other things to do. We set a different pace to our lives as we set about tasks that we had previously perpetually postponed, preferring instead, more perfunctory pursuits. We established a new normal and began to relish the opportunities it presented. Our Friday video calls with the children instead of the pub. Our Saturday evening homemade ‘takeaways’ and film streaming instead of a restaurant meal and the cinema. We started to look forward to some time off when we could take on larger projects – the front garden, the tiles in the porch, decorating, deep cleaning, the list was long – it always has been – but we were finally ticking things off.
Last week we heard that Anne’s operation is back on. We had put it out of our minds and yet here we are isolating again. We are preparing again to spend time in hospital only this time without the bunch of grapes, without the flowers and the stories of how we are coping without her. We are contemplating a lengthy recuperation but not one punctuated by visits from friends and loved ones dropping in to see how she is doing and wishing her well.
We are having to adjust to a new abnormal.
Of course we will do so just like we did earlier in the year. Just like we have done throughout our lives together. We will adapt and we will change. We will seek new ways of doing things that reflect the different circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I have seen a number of articles and posts recently that have attempted to understand how the world might be changed as a result of both the global pandemic of Covid-19 and, more recently, the unprecedented level of public anger and outrage over the specific killing of George Floyd and the more widespread, endemic and systemic, racist ill-treatment of black, asian and people of other minority ethnicity, not just in America but across the western world. How will society be different? How will we adapt to a socially distanced way of life? How can we establish systemic societal change to reflect the different races and cultural makeup of the communities in which we live?
I have no idea how we might do any of that and I would be highly sceptical if any one person claimed they did. I am fairly sure though that a number of people together might have a good stab at it.
Change is an interesting thing in relation to the ways in which we live our lives. We require a degree of change in order for us to feel like we are in control and we exert this control in order to manage the change. This paradoxical delusion ensures that things largely stay the same. Very rarely, events happen that alter this. Anne’s operation, Covid-19 and George Floyd are 3 such events. Yes we could see that they might happen and I daresay some people predicted that they would but not when and no one could have predicted the global impact the last two would have had.
There will be many voices that urge us to ‘get back to normal’ as we emerge from all of this. On a personal level, I have always maintained that you cannot go back and that you must keep moving (though not necessarily forwards, this is not binary) but there were times since Anne’s diagnosis that I have sorely wished for things go back to the way they were, back to the time before we knew. That was never an option for us and is is not one that is available to the world. The people that wish for the status quo to be maintained are usual those that benefit most from that being the case. These people believed that not only could they control their own lives but that they could also control all of ours. If we are honest, we also believed that too, perhaps not that they controlled us but that they were somehow in control of something. I am sure I recall someone was going to take it back from someone or something else. Seems that was not the case.
If we let them try to take us back to how things were, whatever adjustments that people have made to their lives – cycling more, working from home, appreciation of the people who previously might have been taken for granted – as a result of the pandemic will be swept away along with calls for greater representation in the upper echelons of the organisations that govern our lives by people who are not straight white men in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. We cannot let that happen.
If we wait for those ‘straight white men’ to change things then we will be waiting a very long time. So if you found you can work from home and wish to, press your employer to allow you to do so. If you want to cycle more then get out and do it – if there is one thing that might change the way in which our roads are organised it will be because we use them differently. Appreciate one another efforts, say thank you, wait patiently and try to understand that there might be greater priorities at work than your own. Tear down the statues that celebrate the exploits of dead straight white men of the past who took the control of peoples lives to grotesque and abhorrent levels of cruelty, suffering and pain. I can only assume that they are referred to as exploits due to the exploitation involved.
However isolated you might feel right now you are not alone. However socially distanced we are encouraged to be, on some level, we are more connected than we have been in a very long time. We have had decades of being told that we are all individuals with our own needs and wants that we are encouraged to indulge and yet, I, like you, want nothing more right now than to hug the nearest stranger and to affirm our connected, communal, commitment to one another.
We need to open up our box of tricks
Giving love a chance to rise like a phoenix
Sublime to ridiculous and then back
Stacking the spice of life upon the spice rack
Till joy flows unchecked
And we can laugh at our troubles in retrospect
Here and now and by the same token
The old routine has got to be brokenSongwriters: Miles / Booth / Erb
Break From the Old Routine lyrics © Mechanical Copyright Protection Society Ltd