And so, we wait

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

This has felt like a longer week than last—the world has slowed down and we’ve all come to a rude halt.

The grief has begun—grief about our loss of choice, our loss of freedom, our loss of movement, our separation from those whom we love.

So many people that I’ve spoken with this week have reported feeling exceptionally tired: not necessarily symptoms of the coronavirus but that feeling when work ends and you suddenly catch up with yourself. Coupled with the constant stress, hiding indoors from an invisible predator that some Oxford academics believe half of the UK population may already have come into contact with. But it’s not worth the risk.

Every day we make decisions about risk. Do I really need more milk or bread? What do I have in the cupboards that I could use instead? Better to stay at home, protect the NHS. There are reports from some in Italy that the shops are the biggest hubs of transmission. Do I even risk going shopping at all?

In the supermarket I now shop more considerately. There are only two left, I’ll take one so someone else can have one. There’s only one of that, I don’t really need it. What if that’s all someone can afford—I’ll take the more expensive one. I now shop with my neighbours and the vulnerable in mind.

At home I have slowed down. I am making more of my own food from ingredients—soups and bread and lasagne. I am more mindful of what I am eating, and wasting less.

I am more in touch with myself, perhaps. Slowing down and living with more purpose. Let us not lose some of these good things once the restrictions lift—these connections with ourselves, our food, our surroundings, these feelings of thankfulness for what we have that not that long ago we took for granted.

And our connections with others. We are brought together online. Let us really value one another when we are eventually allowed to embrace again. And as we hold those who have lost family and friends to this virus and begin to rebuild our lives.

Our connections are global. In a year where many of us thought that Brexit was going to be the worst thing to happen—that awful decision to cut ourselves off from our European brothers and sisters… look how connected we all are. Not just to Europe but to the world.

I joke with friends online that I’m an introvert, that I’ve been training for this my whole life. But this is not the same. I sit with myself but the absence of other feels more intense. We are alone together.

The familiar feels strange. We don’t quite trust ourselves anymore and give neighbours a wide berth—two metres, remember, remembering to smile if we can. We wash our hands again and again like Lady Macbeth.

So much to remember.

Things that were once easy. Learning new dance moves at the supermarket:

  • The woman at the till nods me forward. A bow.
  • Three steps forward.
  • I bow as I lay my basket down.
  • Backwards, four steps.
  • She nods — a little bow again—steps forward and scans my items. “£16.45,” she tells me and steps back.
  • Four steps forward. I fill my shopping bag, hover my debit card above the reader. How many viruses are already on that device? Hover, don’t tap. I don’t want any transfer.
  • I decline a receipt, bow and leave the building doing an awkward dance with the man wanting to enter. We avoid one another. I smile. He looks at me suspiciously.
  • I return to the car. Sanitise my hand, the steering wheel, my keys.
  • At home I wash my hands again.

So much to remember.

I try to remember to not touch my face. I didn’t realise how many times I do it. I typed that and rubbed my eye, then scratched my stubble. Then washed my hands, even though nobody else has been in my house for two weeks.

And so, we wait.

The scriptures are full of waiting.

My soul waits for the Lord
more than those
who watch for the morning,
more than those
who watch for the morning.

I will wait for the Lord.
My soul waits,
and in His word
do I hope.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 48 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert, I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, write, draw and laugh… a lot. Scrum master at Vision Ltd, Dundee. Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and former warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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