Reflections of a Shopkeeper - 9 April 2020

Posted by Louise Humpington on

From the outstanding introduction of Newsnight by presenter Emily Maitlis (https://bit.ly/2x4iZEl) calling out the absurdity of the language tainting covid-19 analysis, to suggestions like engaging in a bit of hen rearing if you don't have the space for goats (https://bit.ly/39WL51E), so far much of April has felt as though it was a kind of groundhog day rendition of April Fools day. You couldn't make it up, and you wonder sometimes if it's all a big (albeit inappropriate) joke.

It beggers believe really that privilege and status is being used in the way that it is to criticise, judge and condemn. Are you finding it hard to stay within the confines of your home and garden? Imagine a whole family sharing only one room with no garden. Are you frustrated by not being able to get yeast and white pasta? Imagine not having any food because the local food bank doesn't have capacity to deal with the increased number of vulnerable clients or the volunteer staff to run it.

I have always hated the perverse narrative that pits individuals against illnesses or diseases that they can do absolutely nothing about. Creating a battleground where we wage war against unseen pathogens that are utterly indiscriminate in who they attack, but where we can apparently do something about the outcome by fighting harder. It's nonsense. And dangerous. If those who with medical support come through it are winners, does that makes those who don't survive losers? As Emily so eloquently puts it: “You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Minister’s colleagues will tell us,". Nor is there a level playing field in who is affected. It has already become very clear that this virus most badly affects the vulnerable and the poorest. Whether that is because of their physical health, or because they are required to do a job which puts them at greater risk, or for countless other reasons.

Crisis situations like this bring out both the best and the worst of humanity. They also bring to the forefront heroes that we hadn't recognised as such previously, and push others to the brink of their capacity to cope. The mere suggestion that we must all be cracking on with expanding our language portfolio, or redesigning our gardens in a kind of enforced fun version of 'Garden Rescue', just smacks of the kind of neurotypical privileged nonsense that it is.

Yes there are some who will thrive in this kind of situation. They are rare. There are others who will use their time to work on business development or upskilling or who excel at homeschooling. They exist. But there are probably many more who won't. Not because they don't have the capacity to learn or do those things but because they are unable to at present. And that is OK. Getting through each day and surviving it is actually all that is required, and that will take different forms for different people.

Some will need to keep busy to stop themselves lapsing back into addictive behaviours triggered by this collective stress. Some will need to learn something new because it's what keeps them sane. Others will need to hide under a duvet and eat whatever they have to hand. Not all that we do during this period will be the best that we can do or be. But to be honest now is not necessarily the time to try unless it is how you thrive.

Please don't put pressure on yourself. This is not a competition. You don't need to keep up with the family next door who could give the Von Trapps a run for their money with their cheery harmonies and enthusiastic back yard science experiments. You don't need to come out of this feeling that you should have used your time more productively. You don't need to feel guilty about not being OK.

We wrote previously about the collective grief that we would go through in dealing with this situation. (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=218256276186493&id=106935493985239). And we are now, more keenly that ever, seeing manifestations of those stages of grief. Different people will go through different feelings at different times. All of them are OK. Please don't judge. You don't know their background or their circumstances. Please try to be kind. Please offer support where and if you can. But also don't take on the stress of the world. Look after yourself in whatever way you need to get through this. It's not a competition. It's an exercise in survival. Stay home and stay safe.

Wishing you wellness and positivity.


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