Today is my grandson’s birthday. He is 6. This is the first birthday I haven’t been with him. Usually I stay at their house overnight and surprise him in the morning when he wakes up. I’m usually helping out at his party. A photo on Facebook reminds me of the joy we felt at his party last year.
I’ve been managing quite well in the lockdown. But today I feel quite emotional that I’m not able to see my grandson.
I miss all the days I usually spend with my grandson having fun, being in the moment, in the woods, at the park, at the zoo or wherever we fancy. I miss this little, seemingly wise and mindful child who makes me laugh and reminds me constantly to be mindful and to be present.
My mind starts going off on its journey of thinking. I notice that thinking has a domino effect – one thought leads to another and another – setting off a chain reaction.
I feel tightness in my heart and I cry. And I realise this is the first time I have cried since the lockdown and that I have been carrying on, best I can, being busy and bottling up my emotions.
My daughter was seriously ill in hospital and I wasn’t able to see her because of the virus. I didn’t cry then. I was consumed by worry, and I notice that sometimes worry prevents me from crying. She was discharged from hospital the day of the lockdown.
I didn’t even cry when, 6 days before the agreed date to move into my dream cottage by the sea, the lockdown prevented me completing the purchase. This is after 6 months of the usual, frustrating legal process which seems to accompany buying a house.
At the time of such sudden enforced change, there was so much to process all at once.
I’ve avoided reading too much news. I check the headlines but don’t read the detail. It’s too much.
We have to trust the government to be doing the right thing. I notice that I compare the UK’s progress with the virus with other countries by checking the statistics. Somehow, I feel we should be doing better. But we are not. It reminds me of checking the league table during the Olympics where they display how many medals each country has won. Now I am counting sickness and loss of life.
So many sad stories in the news of loss and separation. Too much to take in and too much to bear.
At the Mindfulness Association we are offering a free daily practice, now twice a day. Sometimes I guide these and sometimes I join in when others are leading the practice. This is my only real contact with people outside the isolating bubble I find myself in, apart from regular calls to my family and weekly trips to the supermarket.
By interacting with the participants on the practice sessions I get a closer sense of how others are feeling in the world. There is so much suffering and loneliness. The participants report that the mindfulness practices are helping them. The sense of connection with others is very important to them.
My own practice has supported me through the crisis so far, but I hadn’t spotted the emotion building inside me like a pressure cooker. In our mindfulness training we learn how we feel about the gap between what we want and reality. The gap seems massive right now.
Today I use my practice to really feel how I am and pause for a self-compassion break. I take myself through each stage slowly and with deliberation. Yes, I am noticing this is a very challenging and difficult time. Whilst I am in quite a privileged position right now, in that I am fairly protected and safe, the suffering in the world is overwhelming.
The warmth of my hand on my heart begins to soothe me and I can feel the tears melting away. I focus on my breath, deepening it slightly and I’m aware of my thudding heart starting to calm.
My mind extends to everyone in the world also in this challenging time. Yes, just like me, others are suffering in the world. We all know how it feels to be affected by this lockdown. We all feel the seemingly random impact of the virus that threatens our health, wellbeing, relationships, finances and freedom.
The practice takes effect as I move into the last stage and make an intention to be kind to myself today. In doing so I recognise that I have a fear of not knowing the future and the fear that things might never be the same. The life I knew has changed, my routine has changed, and I am in limbo.
Today would also have been my mother’s birthday. That is a sobering thought and I reflect on her stories of how life was for her in the war. Another reminder of impermanence and acceptance.
It seems like my mind needs to go on a rampage a bit today – and that’s ok. At least, thanks to the gift of my mindfulness practice, I am noticing it and can be gentle with myself for the duration. Accepting the situation and how I am feeling seems the kindest act I can do for myself right now.
We are all in limbo together. May we all be kind to ourselves while we are enduring this crisis. This too will pass.
I invite you to pause and check in with how you are feeling right now. This week’s challenge is to be notice how you feeling and be kind to yourself.
You can find the audio of the short self-compassion break practice here.
Last week I guided a longer self-compassion break in the daily practice sessions. The recording is here if you want to give it a try.
Wishing you all to be well, safe and kind to yourselves.
Jacky will be co-teaching on the Level 2 – Responding with Compassion with Heather Regan-Addis in the Summer.
We’d love to see you there.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.