The Support of Personal Stories
Like so many of us, I am exhausted and scared. I am heavy with immense grief and light with tenderness. Asking myself how I am showing up to this shifting world we now find ourselves in.
For me personally, right now there is not a huge amount of difference in how I live my life, with ten years of M.E. under my belt, self isolation is something I am used to, maybe even comfortable with. And I realised that though it is relatively easy for me now to navigate, that doesn’t mean this is the case for the majority of people. It was also how I was able to reconcile a statement a friend made to me that was sitting most definitely not comfortably.
LW called me on WhatsApp and began firstly by apologising for being drunk and asking if I minded talking to him in this state. I mention this because I am grateful for the act of thoughtfulness shown (I don't drink alcohol), it felt to me, okay to speak. It could be argued he shouldn’t have drunk called but sometimes you know you just want to talk to a specific person and I was happy to chat, needed the connection myself. The other reason I mention this is because I’m not sure if the conversation would have quite been the same sober. He said exactly what I needed to hear even though it sat in me with some difficulty.
We of course discussed the coronavirus, the isolations, the lock-downs and he said:
“But isn’t this what you have been training for?”
I immediately spiralled.
When was that?
And if I haven’t have I just been f***ing around these last years?
Still now as I say the question, and our overall discussion about how we are showing up, are strong resonances within me.
“No, no, no,” I eventually replied vaguely some time later, “I’m for what comes next.” Was that the best I could come up with?
What did that even mean?
But then I sat with it some more and realised we were both right.
My personal story not the various workshops and courses was the training. Not just mine, but all of ours. Our personal stories are what can guide us, support us, comfort us and others. We can tap into those moment in our lives that have brought up familiar feelings in us. To help us understand that although nobody has a clue how anything right now will map out, we have weathered storms of uncertainty before, and, so important even if obvious to remember is we are here now. We made it to the other side. Maybe not unscarred but now with a lived experience, a lived training to lean into. To offer up as models of support for others to find inspiration in.
And friendship is a wonderful wonderful conduit for that.
I am lifted by the way JM is creating a really grounded care plan for herself, crafting companionship time in outdoor spaces reminds me how important human physical interaction is for my own well-being. And I play with the idea of finally I am able to pretend to be a covert spy, the swapping instead not of classified documents but stamps and biscuits with a dear friend slipped across a park bench. I am grateful for my creative spirit that it is able to lighten our current situation, not to dismiss or trivialise it but to make it easier to absorb and understand.
This is a part of it too, OUR current situation, it is a global shared experience and how we choose now to interact within this new paradigm may be vital for how we choose to move forward and sharing our vulnerabilities, I feel is a big part of this.
That is being mindful of not falling into ‘poor-me-victim’ archetype, which is so easy to do.
This is probably the most personal I have ever been publicly, but I come back to how am I showing up, how can I be of support to other humans at this time and maybe, just maybe a part of my personal story can be of help.
The crazy conversation with LW lead to further discomfort in myself. Which I love, by the way, I love LW dearly and love how he fires my brain in a chaotic charged manic and hugely inspired way (I want to just add a sentimental deep gratitude for VT and DD too, so glad you are in my life). I admitted out loud, which always somehow makes things so much more real than the flying fireworks of thought in my mind, that I am not one of the people that will be putting a flyer through their neighbour's door offering to do their shopping for them. It would be really easy to hide behind the fear of contracting coronavirus, to talk loudly – DIDN’T I MENTION MY TEN YEARS OF LIVING WITH M.E.? - hide behind being at slightly higher risk than normal and healthy people, but LW helped me speak of all that being exactly what it is, something to hide behind because the truth is I choose not to be that person.
It is not about I can’t but that I simply don’t want to….now, for me, this was and is a hugely uncomfortable thing to admit.
I thought on it some more. My personal story is one that quite possibly has always included this, that I am not the one you rely on for physical support when you need a prescription filling or a pack of sugar picking up or your dog walking. And the brutal fact of it is, I simply can’t be bothered, I’m too lazy and feel pinned into an obligation and forced into a course of action that I don’t want to take which has the knock on effect of feeding resentments into shape. Maybe in how the world used to be it didn’t matter, but now, when we perhaps need to be able to rely on each other, it feels a deeply shameful thing to admit and stokes an awkward guilt.
My sister has the incredible capacity to go the extra mile for people in this way, she will drive you for hours to visit that one place you absolutely have to go to and will quite happily sit in the car while you toddle off sightseeing, traits I admire greatly in her.
I remember my mum tired and worn out, driving into the city to fetch me a book I really wanted to read when I was first being diagnosed and was unwell and frightened.
I think of my friend KE who went out of her way to help me make sure my cat was safely on it’s holiday when I went away.
But that’s not me.
I am not that person and probably never have been or will be.
It’s horrible to realise that when it comes to crunch you are not one of the people that can be relied upon.
And it seemed to really matter to me. I really wanted to be able to offer support in some way.
“But haven’t you been training for this?”
Still it bubbled round in my mind.
Maybe….maybe...maybe...just as I have found routines to lean into from the personal stories of others, maybe my personal story can offer suggestions and tips too.
Maybe….maybe...my personal story is not so much how we can navigate now in these beginning places but further down the line when we step into the chronic and long term phases, because also I believe, sadly, if we don’t then nothing will change, it will be treated like a crazy holiday and we will revert back to living how we did before and that has to change.
Okay then, so what are my words of advice?
What great wisdom do I feel I am qualified to impart?
I was referred by my GP to a specialist team at the hospital and one of the questions on the form was what would you do if you had more energy? And I replied learn to Flamenco. I wasn’t being flippant, it was a how I felt. This is what impacted on me most, not being able to have fun, not being carefree, not following pleasurable pursuits.
My idea when I first started thinking about what to say for this upcoming new moon and Spring Equinox was a list of what has helped me over the years when I have been in self-isolation/housebound, things such as routine, and fresh air and eating healthily and watching for self-destructive behaviour and the three day rule of binging…
But what I’ve found in the last few days and the last few years is the importance of joy.
We underestimate it’s power but it is, I believe, a vital aspect of the human experience. For me, in part, this looks like singing and dancing and laughter - especially at myself, not in a ridiculing way but a tender-hearted love-filled way. The two sit very well together you see, or rather the three: love-joy-compassion.
I have a hula hoop – thanks again sis! I am spectacularly shit at hula hooping, but because I know I am shit at it, I can sink into just the pleasure of doing. Relish the joy of it.
I have songs on playlists that are silly and frivolous and lift my spirits for those very reasons (Move Your Feet by Junior Senior is one if of interest).
Then I had it.
Maybe I can be of service in this way, maybe I can share what gives me joy.
Maybe for just a moment I can help people stretch out of the space life is currently asking us to fill.