I feel like I’ve been picked up by a gust of Winter wind, flurried around with a thousand curling leaves, spun ‘til I’m dizzy and don’t know if I’m stuck in a weird version of what’s already happened or a facing into a future where nothing makes sense anymore…. My head is full of half-made plans I’m realising now look different. My heart is really heavy.
Apparently it’s International Stress Awareness week. It seems to me like people have never been more aware of their stress. This feels like a (mixed up) 2020 win – people are at last owning and naming their bafflement and unhappiness. These days also lead us to Remembrance Day, when the poignant absence of gathered older friends and relatives will fill our streets – hollow space at our memorials alongside wreaths for those lost at war. The plastic ghouls of last weekend are coming down and the pumpkins slowly softening, whilst bonfire night will wait in vain for it’s inky darkness to be beautifully blown-up by a thousand tiny lights. Nothing is as it should be, and we head into an uncertain Winter – world weary and disorientated.
Far be it from me to usually quote Michael Gove, but I noted his use of the word “malignancy” when referring to ‘the virus’ this weekend. It does feel to me, that without great care, there could be a great malignancy to this time. A malignancy invades what’s around it, putting pressure on surrounding tissue and then beginning to spread to different areas. With the looming lockdown, and growing realisation of all the knock-on realities for people, businesses, lives and families, perhaps the idea of a spreading malignancy is a warning-shot. A dark idea that will shudder and scare us into action. A wake-up call. Unlike actual, cellular malignancy, we have agency over the spread of hopelessness which threatens to seep through cities, neighbourhoods, nation… even our souls, if we do not watch and guard.
But how to stop this spread? This malignant, unifying exhaustion and dissatisfaction with the way the year has evolved? This nervous energy that spreads its fidgety fingers into an anxiously-imagined future….? I wonder if this week the world is gifting us the word ‘Remember’ as a mantra to repeat and explore. Remember….
“Remember, Remember the 5th of November….” will ring true for different reasons this year, and Remembrance Day will look very different for those who usually gather to honour the fallen. Remember…. It means to ‘call to mind’, or ‘to be mindful of’ something, or someone. I ask myself now, “what can I be mindful of to halt any spreading malignancy? To stop any lurking hopelessness caused by new restrictions to my freedom? What good practices do I have, and what can I call forth from within me to help me hold the feelings I feel as the death toll rises…?”
I need to dig deep because I need to remember. This requires me to breathe. To stop everything else, to breathe from my diaphragm, and to tune into what I know. To listen to the voice within that tells the old stories and points me to the light. It may be different for you – but perhaps there is a memory, a word, or a time that you can hold and breathe within. How does that feel….? There is also our collective memory as people who live on a changing Earth that nothing stays the same and the world keeps on changing. Nothing is ever ‘fixed’ for too long, no matter how bad it might feel in that moment.
In every long night we remember there is a new day coming. As we enter the drag of November, for some of us – as every year – the twinkle and glow of Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas (no matter how different they may look) glimmer ahead. Whilst Winter draws in, in my garden I plunge bulbs into the soil in remembrance that one day Spring will begin to nudge her way back through the cold and gloom. Maybe there is a deep memory in each of us that pulls us both back and forwards. Can you find some time this week, to stop, breathe deep and remember?