Project 365 – Day 64 – A Day of National Reflection

Photo by Debbie Walker – Reflections

My Project-365 blog is about using a photo a day to inspire and to record my journey in improving my health over 365 days.   I therefore felt it appropriate to share my own thoughts and reflections today based upon our collective experience of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. After all, this has had the biggest effect on all of our health (physical, mental and emotional), during this past year.

Here in the UK it is being officially classed as a day of National Reflection, as it is one year to the day since we went into National Lockdown for the first time. At noon, a minute’s silence was observed, in order to remember those who have lost their life caused by this virus. In the UK alone, our Government report that we have lost over 126,000 lives. And that’s not taking into account the people who have had delays in their ongoing medical treatment, or new lifesaving and life-changing diagnosis of terminal or critical illnesses.   Shocking is too small a word. The ripple of devastation travels through so many families, friends, colleagues, acquaintances.  Worldwide, the figures reflecting our loss of humanity are in numbers that I struggle to comprehend.   

We have seen today on our TVs how individuals and communities have been using yellow ribbons as a memorial marker for lost loved ones. Tonight, National Landmarks were illuminated in yellow and we were urged to stand on our doorsteps at 8pm with a light source to create a joint “beacon of remembrance”. All of this, as our country mourns together. Acknowledging the additional pain of losing loved ones during a time of restricted social interaction, physical presence and support of those that we would normally seek it from.

Everyone will have their  story of this past year. Everyone will have suffered, whether that be directly or indirectly. From the most devastating loss; that of life, to loss of relationships, short and long term health, and loss of work causing a loss in earnings. Although loss of earnings can have no comparison to the loss of a loved one, it can still have crippling and long lasting negative and most difficult impact upon families, placing great stress and worry for the immediate and the future ability to feed, clothe and house themselves.  

I have suffered much personal loss during this past year, and whilst my heart aches for my own loved ones, I also feel for all those who have also experienced the same, in this past year especially. When I lost my mum, suddenly in late December 2019 I had no idea what was to follow. None of us did. We were just beginning to hear the first mentions of Covid-19 but we weren’t aware of the devastation it was about to wreak across our planet and humanity. We held mum’s funeral in January 2020 and at the time, I was grateful to the approximately 100 or more people who attended; who were with me, supporting me by their presence and their love. Receiving and giving hugs whilst sharing tearful memories and even sharing some theraputic and healing laughs together. The following month I attended my dear Aunty’s funeral. She too left us unexpectedly and being there, attending her funeral gave me chance to say my goodbyes to her in a way I couldn’t have done from a distance. I was able to give and to receive support from my cousins, and our other family members and friends. Yes, I appreciated having people around and with me, for both funerals … but little did I know how I would look back upon those two days and feel fortunate. Fortunate is not a word I’d ever have associated with attending my Mum and my Aunty’s funeral.

However, what we all came to witness were funerals with limited attendance, and at times with no attendance whatsoever. I feel so much for the bereaved who had that added stress, difficulty and pain to endure. I lost a friend and my Uncle later in the year. Due to travel restrictions, we were unable to visit before hand, and were unable to attend their funerals in person. Our friend’s was shared online, which was incredibly difficult knowing that we couldn’t offer the family the same level of support on the day that we’d received ourselves, earlier in the year, yet this offered a sense of participating, which was helpful. I didn’t get to see my Uncle, to say goodbye or to be with our family throughout the whole time.

 Yes, this past year has been a trying time. For so many, and it continues on. However, I also like to think that for every experience we encounter in life, that there is a learning to be made. Something which we can take and use to make our future better … or our future selves, better in some way. I hope that at the least I can learn something from these difficult days.  

So, off the cuff, right now would I say that I have learnt?

Live in the moment.   Don’t plan as much and stick to what is real and appropriate for right now. Value what and whom I have. Appreciate the smaller things. Enjoy moments rather than looking for the next big thing.  I’ve always been this way and taken pleasure in the little things. but in modern life it’s easy to get swept along and focus too much on time and fitting everything in…often to the detriment of  seeing what is right there already. 

I’ve actually appreciated quieter times. Times when I felt that the world had stopped just as my own personal one had come to an abrupt halt; giving me a moment to catch my breath, and to learn how to look up and to breathe again, following the shocking and devastating loss(es) of my own. In that way, time slowed down and enabled me to find my way, in my own time. This is something that I found helpful.

I have enjoyed the extra time with my immediate family. I have appreciated the lunches together with our son that we’d have not had if he were working from the office every day as usual. And perhaps we’d not have played our games of chess (which I’m still trying to beat him at!). The emotional resilience-building talks and walks with our daughter as we were allowed, during altered restrictions.  And my dog has loved having me home with her all the time, and going for walks in daylight rather than evenings in the dark.  

I’ve enjoyed how people make time to speak and nod in passing, even from behind their mask.  Yes we found it hard at first and people stopped acknowledging one another…hiding behind their masks, but now I see people making efforts to connect despite the difficulties. This warms me. I have hope for a better social future.  

I have seen Communities pull together, watched how people show kindness to one another, taking care of elderly or lonely neighbours …in a way reminiscent of days in my childhood, that was somehow lost in recent years and everyone became so busy and the work-life balance tipped too much away from our general well-being. 

I have learnt how it may feel to live with “face masking” (a symptom of Parkinson’s Disease, amongst others) Face masking is where a person cannot change their facial expression due to muscle freezing.  I had learnt  of this beforehand, but then wearing a mask myself, and realising how people responded to me differently at first – until we all became more familiar with them, made me think of how it must be for a person unable to change their expression and for no-one else to even realise that about them. I discovered how people actually stopped trying to connect and simply looked away -what’s the point if you can’t see each others mouth smile?  How eyes are averted due to feeling slightly awkward. Efforts are altered.  Subtle, many unintentional, unaware even.  But I watched it happen. I experienced it.  I then considered how it would feel to not be able to smile beyond my eyes (which many people will miss seeing). How isolated I begin to feel.  I feel that I’ve had a brief insight to something that I’d never have known before. And I have learnt from it. Learnt to look closer when someone is communicating with me. Seek for the more subtle not just the obvious signs of expression. Perhaps many of us will learn to do this more and there will be people out there that will benefit from this learning.

Of course I have missed much. I miss seeing my family and friends. I miss the feeling a simple hug can convey. The look in a friend’s eye as we catch each other’s glance and realise we’re both thinking the same thing at the same time, and burst into spontaneous laughter.  I have missed attending funerals of loved ones who live in areas I’m not allowed to travel to. I miss comforting those I love and know are in need. I miss receiving that same comfort myself in my own moments of need.  I miss my work and my colleagues. I miss my mum, my Aunt and my Uncle and have often wondered what they’d have made of it all. I don’t miss how worried I’d have been about their own safety from Covid. I have missed going to the pub, enjoying an evening at the theatre and travelling; visiting warmer climates or the thrill of a new adventure in a place I’ve not yet been to.

I have missed much. I will continue to miss lost loved ones. I have learnt much.  I hope that I can use this learning (more of which that I’ve not mentioned here) and try to let it help me, as I continue through life.   

This Daily Post is part of my own 365 Project where I aim to make lifestyle changes every day for a year, using a photo a day that I will take to inspire my focus of change, or to reflect the implementation of that change. An overview of my project is available to read via my home page. Thank you for joining me, and if I inspire you please do ‘like’ my updates and encourage me on my journey. Or, if you have constructive tips to share, please do add a comment.

Could I also ask that if you share any of my ideas / blog content, or photos, that you cite me as the author.

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