One of the effects for me of our Collective Great Isolation is that I’ve lost my well-honed sense of time. Before Covid, if I lost the plot, I could easily refer to the calendar in my head for advice and didn’t even need to look at my trusty little iPhone to tell me what I was supposed to do.
I’m so confused, I wake up in the mornings wondering what day of the week it is and generally find my bearings by switching on the radio and having a helpful BBC announcer fill me in. Or looking outside to see if the neighbour has put her green bin out which means it’s Wednesday. I even sent birthday greetings to a friend the other day, only to have her reply that she was touched by my enthusiasm, but I was a month early.
To sum up – I feel lost.
I could do with an internal sat nav to tell me where I’m going. One of those helpful little bits of kit we all take on car journeys now. We’ve all come to rely on them. Nowadays we just tap directions into our phones, but ten years ago, we marvelled at this new technology which meant we never had to consult a map book again. ‘Jane’ who issued instructions in our car back in the day had a sexy, silky, seductive kind of voice as she cooed that we had reached our destination. I must confess to feeling a tad jealous as my husband drooled over her commands. But she was usually right.
I could do with a ‘Jane’ in my mind right now.
My lostness seeps into all areas of life. In church where we can’t sing and have to practically have a shower before we can take communion. In the Third Order where I should be noviced this weekend, and am marooned in a permanent postulancy for the foreseeable. We even tried a few days holiday the other week to smell the sea air and feel the sand between our toes. Our destination, as Jane would have murmured was only eighty miles from home – it was hardly trekking through the Outback or up the Appalachians but I felt displaced and homesick the whole time we were there and was glad to be back in my own four walls.
What’s all that about?
I have an active imagination at the best of times and a global pandemic is not what you might call the best of times. And whereas creativity can be a blessing if you call yourself a writer, if it takes off in doomsday visions of new variants and more winter lockdowns, it’s not so helpful. I need to curb it, says my priest-friend. I need to disbelieve it and put it in its place.
Ranulph Fiennes apparently climbed mountains suffering from vertigo by way of reining in certain parts of his imagination. Those parts in his mind’s eye which saw him tumbling hundreds of metres into a crevasse. I need to do the same. Just don’t go there. Don’t think about what could happen, what might happen, but focus instead on what is happening. One foot forward. Breathe. Then the next. Breathe. And again.
One of my very favourite writers, Nadia Bolz-Weber says in her brilliant book, ‘Accidental Saints’ that, ‘the holy things we need for healing and sustenance are almost always the same as the ordinary things right in front of us.’
Oh, I do like that.
The things right in front of me.
I feel healed by singing, by putting Spotify onto shuffle and belting out my favourites. I feel healed by curling up on the sofa under a blanket with a restorative cup of tea and a good book. I feel healed by taking a walk along the footpath behind our house and marvelling at how the lush green vegetation has ballooned in all this rain and sun. I feel healed by reading my three-year-old grandson’s nursery report (more detailed than the feedback for my Creative Writing degree) and seeing that he is a ‘very friendly and loving little boy.’ I feel healed by climbing into my comfortable bed and sinking into deep sleep. I feel healed by sitting with my husband over a meal and sharing our day.
The things right in front of me.
And as my internal sat-nav registers these landmarks and tells me that I have been here before, I begin to knit together the fragmented bits of me which doesn’t know what day it is or wonders if I locked the front door.
It’s all about anchoring myself in the ordinary things.
And most of all, I feel healed by sitting on my beanbag in front of my icon of the Trinity and knowing I am welcome at that table.
So ordinary and yet so amazing.
God reaching into my lostness, taking my hand and drawing me in to be found.
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