Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

Today we found out that three of the most important figures in the government’s response to the crisis have tested positive for COVID-19: PM Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Prof. Chris Whitty. Apparently, Dominic Cummings was seen hurrying away from Downing St. Feels like the rats are leaving the sinking ship.

BoJo has reassured us that he will still be able to commandeer the nation in his habitual spiffing fashion, thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

This crisis is highlighting the importance of optics and perception. Our world leaders are divided in their attitude and behaviour. Our PM stands at the lectern flanked by his advisors who are less than 6ft away. Donald Trump is surrounded by his usual gaggle of fawning sycophants (and the strangely unmovable Mike Pence), all of them within breathing distance of the Donald.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her wonderful book “on death and dying” identified that the first stage we often go through when confronted with death is denial. That is where BoJo and Trump are.

On the other hand, there is Justin Trudeau, who is at home doing the childcare because his wife is down with Coronavirus. And then there’s the wonderful Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa who is both compassionate and empathetic whilst being assertive and firm in the face of selfishness and lack of care by some European countries.

I like to pick up on something which Costa said: “Spain didn’t create the virus, Spain didn’t import the virus”. We are all affected by it and we need to stand together if we stand a chance to have a good recovery from this global ordeal.

I have been following news stories and social media feeds from my friends and family in Spain, where they have been in quarantine for a couple of weeks. The first few days, I observed a sense of togetherness and solidarity. It was Spain who led the way in applauding the emergency services every evening. People were singing on windows, playing bingo across courtyards and having Zoom parties.

But in the last couple of days, cracks have started to appear. As the reality of the situation starts to sink in and more and more people are dying, people are starting to move into another stage of the grieving process: anger and blame. I have noticed a degree of frustration and reproach on social media feeds, often blaming others: government, political parties, those who they don’t agree with, etc.

I remember when both my parents died. I wanted to have someone or something to blame. Because it felt easier, because anger gave me an anchor, without it I felt powerless.

I imagine that all the people in Spain must be feeling incredibly powerless. Stuck in their houses, observing friends and loved ones dying every 2 minutes. It must be horrific and I understand that they want to feel in control. Anger gives you a false sense of control over deeper emotions.

The great Irvin Yalom says that death is one of the great sources of existential angst, because we don’t really have an ultimate answer for it. Yalom speaks about embracing and understanding death. If we accept that we are going to die one day, we can live more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

I am not saying that we should all roll over and let one the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride over us or that we should accept our fate as given. What I am saying is that we are all going to die eventually but it is the manner in which we choose to live our lives which will determine whether our life has been worth living.

These are uncertain times in which we feel death coming closer and closer. It might take us or one of our loved ones, or a friend, or someone in our community. That is scary indeed but, if we allow ourselves to embrace the meaningful connections and relationships that we have in our live now, if we make the most of the moment that we have, we will feel more alive, and death will lose some of its power over us.

I used to have a fantasy that, on the day of my death, my whole life would flash in front of my eyes and it would be filled with all the highlights and happy memories. When my mother died two years ago, it was one of the more painful experiences of my entire life. But it was also one where I felt incredible close and connected with my mum and with family and friends. It was a real pivotal moment of my life despite the sadness and pain. I have since come to accept that pain and sorrow are a part of life. I don’t need to run away from pain like I used to. I can embrace it and feel its intensity. I felt pain because I loved my mum and it hurt when the cruel cancer took her away from me. But it was real and important and meaningful, just like these times we live in are, if I choose to see it that way.

In the wonderful words of Kate Tempest:

So hold your own
Breathe deep on a freezing beach
Taste the salt of friendship
Notice the movement of a stranger
Hold your own
And let it be

Good night all

OneLove OneHeart

Tonight’s choice of music is by Kate Tempest: Hold Your Own (Live at Glastonbury Festival)

World-wide confirmed cases: 586,140

World-wide deaths: 26,865

World-wide recovered: 130,858

UK confirmed cases: 14,743

UK deaths: 759

UK recovered: 135


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