As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
THERE’S a point where a realization hits and it changes everything. We are in this for the long haul. After the lockdown was initiated in March, I went through a number of phases with this pandemic; immediate compliance with the isolation, fear, my Step Mum contracting Covid 19, her eventual death, an online funeral, a stint in hospital, a creative period, grief, loss and the eventual joy at the easing of restrictions.
But I think the marathon that is a pandemic of this scale has only begun to sink in.
I’m not the only one realising that this shrunken world will be our lives for quite some time. All around me people are making big changes in their lives. It’s as if decisions that have been hanging around for years unmade, are finally being resolved. What’s the point in waiting, people are saying?
‘After waiting for so long, each of this couple have faced the music and are now turning their lives around. Separately, in the middle of a global crisis!’
A friend of mine in the UK, often used to describe her life, as living stuck in quicksand. She would permanently run a debate in her head. Stay or leave. Leave or stay. She had agonised for years. Enough already, do it, we had all told her. But everything seemed so complicated, she couldn’t bring herself to take that risk. Then, suddenly, in the middle of this pandemic, she decided it was time to leave her husband and her home of 20 years.
“I cannot stay locked into this marriage and this house,” she said. Lockdown had finished her off apparently. After waiting for so long, each of this couple have faced the music and are now turning their lives around. Separately, in the middle of a global crisis!
I had met a younger couple, earlier in the year. It was before the lockdown and he was supposed to be going abroad to a new job. Did she care, I wondered, would she miss him? “Not really,” she laughed, she would probably commute to London at weekends. “Flights are cheap,” she said. “Everyone is doing it. If it’s nice I might move there too? Right now there is simply too much about Dublin and my job that I would miss,” she said.
Six months later, they have moved to rural Wicklow together, and are now talking about buying a house there. Both are working from home. Even the flashy new Head Office in London are happy for him to work from any location. Dublin has faded as a favourite place to live.
“What’s the point when we can’t avail of any of its attractions? Our tiny flat was too small for two people to work from home. It was sink or swim time and when we weighed things up we knew it was time to take the leap.”
Something very similar seems to be going on in my own family amongst the next generation; sudden engagements, buying houses, moving in together, changing careers and locations. Realisations for us all about the importance of the simple things; family, friends, health and roof over our heads. Again, what’s the point in waiting?
The prospect of living with this marathon of a pandemic has accelerated things. Is it that we have all landed on earth, on solid ground and are faced with what kind of lives we can live in such extreme circumstances? Is it that the simplicity of daily life turns a spotlight on what we really want? Is it the fear that everything we have known could all be prematurely over?
My own realisations in this pandemic are all about mortality; that life is short, that quality of life is in fact a luxury. Who knew? There is less space for ambition, for adventure, for romance. More of our thoughts are about our basic survival; having a roof over our heads, a regular income or way to feed ourselves, a good healthcare system, a safe and secure environment, connections and community.
Are we in training for something even bigger than a marathon? How we will live with the eventual climate crisis for one thing? Is that what all this preparation could help us with?
It seems this simpler way of life might be good practice. Last week Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the EU, made a speech about Europe moving even faster towards reducing emissions and fossil fuels. A massive amount of the ice in Greenland has now disappeared forever. We can’t exactly ignore what is so obviously coming down the tracks.
So let’s continue to practice patience and care. We have few other options. This will be a new way of living. Be healthy and safe and get ready for the real marathon. This might just be the beginning of an even bigger and longer transformation.