One gift of this latest national lockdown (spoken like a true coach – always looking for the gift in adversity) has been my discovery of the BBC Sounds podcast. I’ve never been one for audio: at school, I hated being read out loud to – preferring to be the one doing the reading – and ‘audiobook’ is a dirty word to me. However, I’ve since discovered some real gems on this podcast over the past few weeks, and when I’m not writing, working with clients or watching pre-pandemic reruns of the series, Cruising with Jane McDonald, on Channel 5, I’ll tune in to the occasional episode: it’s a meditative experience, and a way of absorbing information without sitting in front of a screen.
One particular episode that has really struck a chord is psychotherapist Susie Orbach on our experiences of this latest lockdown.1 She speaks of ‘a deadening funk… an echo chamber of blah’ and of the low-level depressive thoughts and feelings that have accompanied lockdown three. She also speaks of how, as we limp slowly towards the light at the end of the tunnel, we must continue to psychologically juggle severe restrictions with ‘a sense of an opening’. We all have our own unique vocabulary for our particular experience of this pandemic and its impact upon us, but – echoing what I and others have written previously in these pages – sometimes ‘the words are not there – there’s too little and too much to say’.
I write this on the eve of International Women’s Day, and of a meeting (via Zoom, natch) with my team of fellow coaches who are currently working to support young women. Top of the meeting agenda is how we can best support ourselves as practitioners, and this has inspired me to reflect on what I have been doing for self-care lately that might possibly help or inspire my colleagues. What, I wonder, can I bring to the virtual coaching table tomorrow? I realise that – apart from enjoying the daily vicarious thrill of watching a former cruise ship singer from Wakefield knocking back cocktails in Cuba – what has really helped me throughout this pandemic has been learning to be uncompromising with the truth and to find and exercise my ‘no’ on a regular basis. I have been confronted with my pre-pandemic habit of saying ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’, when a firm ‘no’ would have been more helpful – and healthy. But exhaustion, overwhelm and lack of resources have since forced me to be more honest with myself and others, to set clearer, firmer boundaries and to speak my truth, even when it feels uncomfortable to do so. We are all more sensitive, vulnerable and irritable right now, and it takes courage to speak our truth and open up about how we are feeling. But, as the young women I work with are discovering, every ‘no’ we exercise, makes room for a resounding ‘yes’ to something else.
As we begin the slow, painful journey towards opening up – our schools, our businesses, our borders, our homes – and as we continue to find words to describe our experience, being able to maintain this sense of our own selves, our needs, our boundaries and edges, will help us as we begin to reconnect with the world and ease our way into a sense of an opening.
Diane Parker, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org