The Fear of Shattering

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A big part of my daily reading, often the most enjoyable, is the work of a group of bloggers; some whose posts are delivered to my inbox through subscriptions and others come with the valuable recommendation of “Gleanings”. Intimate, highly personal details have been shared in many recent blog posts, revealing so much about the authors…

Many of those bloggers have, to this point, lead relatively charmed lives; they’ve grown up in Australia and North America, their homelands free from war and armed conflict. They’ve, mercifully, had no intimate experience with chronic or terminal illness. They’ve never felt threatened in their homes and communities.  For these writers, the coronavirus has become their most vulnerable moment.

The constant worrying, the fear, the unpredictability of our future and the act of keeping oneself and one’s family segregated, weigh heavily. Most folk are beginning week seven of social distancing, some in solitude, and already many are both mentally and bodily exhausted. 

In writing about the turmoil of their varied COVID-19 struggles what they are really doing is trying to measure and understand their reactions to this crisis and the emotional toll it is taking on them, their housemates, their relationships and their communities. Through the words in their posts, they are turning pandemic and isolation experiences and emotional responses to them over and over again in their minds, valiantly trying to dull their trauma and vulnerability.

Typically there is a marked difference in tone and subject matter from the female to the male bloggers but not latterly. Woven through tales of trying to carve out a workspace at home, of trying to work from home with its noises and distractions, of baking, homeschooling, spring cleaning, gardening, book reviews, etc., is the unmistakable dread of having to fight this virulent enemy in close quarters.  The fear of a loved one or themselves losing that war. Harrowing vulnerability. The fear of shattering.

“You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound. This is what I feel like: this sound of glass. I feel like the word shatter.”*

Evidence of their vulnerability runs through the fabric of these brave bloggers’ posts like a fine gold thread in a tapestry – unnoticeable at a quick glance but, upon closer inspection, unmistakeable, part of the pattern – repeated many times within the design, key to its central motif.

Also woven into these stories is an array of self doubts: Is my courage mightier than my fear? Is my resolve stronger than my aversion and reluctance? Are my coping skills adequate? Am I keeping in touch with everyone who needs to hear from me? Am I modelling the positivity and fortitude needed by my partner and my kiddos? Will I shatter under this enormous pressure?

At this threshold, in this, our most vulnerable moment yet, can we find in our heart, our soul the empathy, the compassion and the kindness that is needed so badly? 

The answer is hell yeah!  If the eloquent essays written by these bloggers are the barometer, we most definitely can! True that the past few weeks have been a crazy mix of learning, of anxiety, of coping by letting go of some habits and routines and establishing and embracing new ones. Many feel like the word shatter. The past six weeks have been excruciatingly momentous; pandemic terror and worry are reflected in their posts. But so too is gratitude, joy and love.  There are tales of uplifting songs, engrossing novels, amusing movies and newly discovered television shows. (Apparently, there is a lot of gleeful binge-watching on Netflix!!!) There is kindness in abundance; people helping neighbours, the elderly and shut-ins, impromptu birthday party parades, communities rallying behind front line workers and children drawing countless inspirational rainbows to adorn windows, doors and sidewalks. Blog posts have come alive with pictures celebrating emerging springtime. Bloggers, writers, authors all acutely aware, especially in these frantic times, that life is so very precious.

Be kind to one another.**

’Til next time, y’all…

*Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
** Ellen DeGeneres

In my grade thirteen CanLit class, our teacher, Mrs. Vincent (best English teacher, ever!) introduced me us to Margaret Atwood via her novel The Edible Woman – which I absolutely adored.  Ms. Atwood, I think, is polarizing – just as many people loathe as love her, or so it seems.  I fall into the latter category. Fast-forward to Christmas 1985, ten years later, and I received a signed copy of her “new” book The Handmaid’s Tale. Honestly, on my first reading I didn’t like it overmuch.  But in 1987 we went to Jamaica and for some reason I popped it in my suitcase.  This time, whilst relaxing beneath an umbrella on a beautiful beach, with the stunning Caribbean in front of me, the book took on a life of its own; I found myself completely immersed in the story and didn’t want it to end. It’s still not my favourite Atwood novel, but it is in the top few.  

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