“I’ve started this and stopped this, and then started it again. I’m not sure I know how to speak to what I feel, what I need, when I’m still in the welter of this strange time. Or is that an excuse? Do I just need to accept that this is the way it is now, this is how we live, and make the effort to grapple with it?
I’ve been thinking a lot, about my own privilege and about my luck. Those two things overlap heavily of course; a lot of privilege is luck, but luck can exist despite a lack of privilege. I’m making more effort to disentangle them. I read in a book that people who actively practice gratitude are the ones who experience the most joy – not the other way around. It’s been easy to feel that joy has been hard to come by at points during the last year (and before!), but reminding myself of the many things I’m grateful for has helped. I also read once that the one thing that distinguishes lucky people from unlucky ones is that the former believe they are lucky. That’s a reduction, clearly, of the complex forces that make up our life experiences, but it’s sometimes helpful to me to search out the ways in which I’m lucky, in any situation. When the pandemic hit where I live, it suddenly felt to me that every decision I’d made in the previous year and half – every change of direction I’d taken, every step – no matter how painful or joyful it was at the time – was precisely the correct one. I found myself, in every sense, exactly where I needed to be to survive this as best I could.
Do I mean survival? Has my survival ever been in question? It feels strange to use the word, although I know a lot of people are trying to do just that. And then I remember that I said to a friend on the phone the other day, because they were apologising for finding things hard when they thought other people must be dealing with even harder situations – we’re not in the pain olympics. Life isn’t about about how much you can tolerate before your pain is legitimate. Pain is pain. We never know how much another person is suffering, what it takes for them to reach their capacity.
Giving advice is easy.
I have privileges. I own a flat, with a garden. I’ve got stability, privacy, comfort, an outdoor space of my own – all things I never thought would be as important as they’ve turned out to be. We set up a tent in the garden, in the first lockdown, and slept outside.
I have good luck. I started dating someone shortly before the pandemic kicked off, and we’d been dating for exactly long enough that it felt comfortable and right for her to come stay with me when lockdown started. We both agree that had it perhaps been a few weeks sooner it might have been different. I’m lucky not to be spending these lockdowns alone. I’m lucky to know mutual joy. Sometimes I miss solitude. That’s a privilege too.
Some of what sustains me has been… I don’t know what to call it. I could say, I’ve been reaping the benefits of the 11 plus years of investment I’ve put into living in this place. It was rarely a conscious investment, of course – a lot of it was just me in my thirties feeling lost and wondering if I had a community anywhere, but also following my interests and connections with others. And it turns out I do have a community, and it gives back to me at the most unexpected moments.
Does this all sound too positive? I don’t want to wash everything with a rosy glow. I have a community, I am fortunate. Others are not; they fall through the cracks and many of us let them fall.
I am starting to feel grounded – that’s no small thing.
There’s work that needs to be done. That’s no small thing.”
– 13th Feb