Writing in a time of crisis

It’s safe to say that we are living in a time that most of us have never experienced anything like. The fear, the confusion, the information overload are all things we may’ve read about in history class but never lived through. Is it any wonder many of us feel overwhelmed and helpless? Not to mention scared about what’s to come and where it might end.

I’ve always made an effort to remember that every person experiences the same situation in a unique way. For example, the actions of a colleague may rub some people up the wrong way, others may be fine with it, and still others completely oblivious. It’s these differences that make the world go around. And it’s worth remembering now.

As we try to buy our weekly shop and face unprecedented crowds and shortages, it’s important to remember that we’re all feeling unfamiliar things, and trying to deal with them. Just like children, some adults are better at managing strong emotions than others. For some people these feelings may manifest as a ‘killer instinct’ – ‘I need this and everyone else be damned.’ For others it may be indifference – ‘The world’s gone mad. This is just a flu, everyone needs to calm down.’ Some people automatically think only of others – ‘I’ve got extra loo roll that I can share with anyone who needs it.’

The science seems compelling that we need to self-isolate in order to stop the spread of the virus. This is the only way to give the hospitals and medical staff a fighting chance of dealing with the pressure. I’ve heard people say, and seen posts online, that this is an over reaction and for most of us, if infected, we’ll be fine. But really, I don’t think it’s about ‘us’. Not ‘us’ reasonably healthy, under 70 year olds anyway. It’s about the vulnerable people in our society; the elderly, the newborns, those already ill. And, on top of that, it’s about what our hospital system can cope with. It certainly cannot cope with thousands of critically ill people at the same time.

I found this proverb on the weekend and it seems apt here:

Good advice is often annoying,

Bad advice never is.

French proverb

So yes. While all the cancellations, uncertainty, and self-isolating is incredibly annoying, it’s because it makes sense. Without these measures things could end up a whole lot worse.

So, since we’re all (or soon to be) stuck inside, now is the perfect time to reconnect with our creative passions. If, like me, your passion is writing, then I have the perfect place for you to start. I did this with my grade 6 kids today at school as well as their teachers.

Take your writer’s notebook, and if you don’t yet have one grab any spare notebook you can, and write how you feel right now. Write about the state of the world, the behaviours of people. Write about the little details. Bumping elbows with students instead of high fives. Write it all down. Not just so you can look back on it in your twilight years, but so we have many accounts of what is certainly a very unusual time across world.

One of the grade 6 teachers came to me after this exercise and said, ‘This was such an important activity. It was so cathartic I cried.’

Here’s a snippet of what I wrote with the kids this morning:

Sitting on the asphalt of the basketball court, failing to find a comfortable position as tiny stones imprint my palm, I watch as over 90 students sit 1.5 metres apart and write about this bizarre and frightening time.

The sun is blazing in a bright blue sky and warms up one side of my body. It’s hard to believe we are in the middle of worldwide panic with weather this perfect.

But we are.

Students bow their heads and write quietly. There’s no joking now about hand sanitizer or the apocalypse. Just their quiet thoughts. I wonder what details they’ve noticed about the pandemic? Certainly the fighting over toilet paper has captured their attention. They think it’s crazy, as do many adults. I think it shows how scared people are.

Do they see any fear in the teachers? We are all doing our best to show none at all. Just run of the mill hygiene reminders and some extra powerpoints about personal space. But do they see us covertly checking the news to see if our school will be shut tomorrow?

I wonder…

I hope you take a moment to record how you’re feeling at the moment. It’s not only an excellent way of documenting this unprecedented time, but also useful for your mental health. Better out than in, as they say.

Stay safe and well my friends, and have a cup of tea xx

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