Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other….Walter Elliot
Today my Grade 8 boy has gone back to boarding school. Looking a little like a Star Wars character with his long fringe and mask on but nevertheless, he’s on his way. A month ago, I didn’t ever think this moment would come, but it has. When I read the quote above, it made me think about this time we find ourselves in during Covid-19…for me it’s had moments of being a real waiting game, waiting for news, waiting to hear what the next step might be and often having the goal moved again and again, having to pick myself up again and carry on knowing that I’m not sure how long I have to do this for. It’s hard. I’m tired.
I picture the sea during this time of waiting for news and then responding…it’s like the waves rolling in and then going out again and then rolling in again and going out again…James leaving for school now has felt like we’re in another wave… like swimming against an underlying current of uncertainty and fear, trying to grab onto some sort of normal. I remember going for a swim in the sea on the north coast in December. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a real Vaalie and a little scared of swimming in the sea, especially if the waves are huge – I find any waves huge! Anyway, nothing prepared me for ‘this.’ When my husband shouted ‘now,’ I hesitated and then decided I’d better run into the sea and just hope for the best. Well what happened next was a complete and utter washing machine experience with me being flung around 360 degrees a few times and then landing up on the beach flat on my back with my legs straight up in the air. Not a pretty sight! Try recovering from that when you have the next wave hurtling straight towards you for round 2. Not this time I thought as I stood up, making sure I hadn’t lost any essential part of my costume and headed straight back into the next wave, only to pop out like a cork on the other side of the monstrous wave.
I’d done it! The sense of achievement was huge. And so was the laughter. I was able to float on my back over the gentle swells which reminded me so much of what my Gran loved doing, with her shower cap on her head. These little moments of joy gave me the boost I needed to head back onto the beach again which was also not glamorous, but there was only one way back to the beach and that was the way I’d come in. I smiled when I got home to Jo’burg and found sand trapped inside the mesh part of my costume…I really did bring a little bit of the beach home with me that day, and a few more grains of resilience.
Right now, it feels as though I’m swimming in the Sea of Covid-19, waves coming at me one after the other in all shapes and sizes. The waves just keep coming. Some waves take up more of my strength and energy than others. Some waves allow me to just go with the motion, but others require more strength and energy and being ready for the next one. It feels as though we’ve got huge amounts of information washing over us every day, keeping us on high alert and filled with a feeling of continuous anticipation…but something we don’t have a lot of yet is knowledge and wisdom about – that’ll come in time, and with it, it’ll bring us rest but for the moment I need to choose what I’m going to allow in and focus my attention on choosing facts that are helpful and sustaining during this time. Easier said than done I know. I don’t know what the next wave is going to bring…I don’t know what the next 10 waves are going to be like, all I know is this wave I’m in right now…
To continue facing these waves I need to ask myself, ‘Am I okay?’ I need to be honest with myself, brutally honest and knowing that sometimes not being okay is okay. It’s okay to ask for help, even though it can feel SO hard to do. It’s okay to feel vulnerable. If you’re feeling isolated, unloved, lonely, overwhelmed by day to day things, even desperate, unable to see the wood from the trees, sense of failure, allow yourself to reach out for help. I wish I’d done that 10 years ago when I experienced my breakdown. My load got too heavy. The signs were there but I’d tell myself I didn’t need any support, I didn’t want to show any kind of weakness, everyone else can handle it why can’t I, I need to be everything to everyone, I don’t have time for myself, I’m exhausted but yes of course I’ll do that…so worried by the sense of failure I’d feel and what others would think.
Now I know it’s not about others, they’re on their very own journey and I’m on mine. I need to show up for me because my relationship with me is priority and looking after me means that I then have more to give to others as we face the next wave together…It’s about the moments of kindness to yourself. Moments of reflection. Moments with loved ones. Moments of nourishment. Moments of me time. Moments of not watching the news. Moments of disconnecting from social media. Moments of eating chocolate cake. Moments outdoors. Moments of quiet. Moments with your pet. Moments of connection. Did I mention moments of NOT watching the news? Moments of walking with a friend. Moments of phoning a friend. It’s all about the moments. This is what sustains us for the next wave… these little moments of connection are all within our control right now as we find ourselves in unchartered territory and not sure what lies ahead…what’s happening right now is what counts, and this is what is going to make tomorrow that much easier is that you’ve taken care of yourself today.