I write this column as I sit gazing out to sea, having left south-east London for a week’s respite with my family by the North Yorkshire coast.
For the past three days, I have not watched the news, read a newspaper or scrolled through the newsfeed on my phone. My out-of-office auto reply has been activated and I have cleared my schedule of clients for the next 10 days. Already, I can feel my pulse slowing, my breathing becoming deeper, my anxiety ebbing like the tide. War and pandemic feel far away here, though I carry within me the knowledge that this will all be waiting for me when I return home, along with rising rent and utility bills and the trepidation of an uncertain future. For how long will my current home remain my home? Can I afford to live there much longer? And how do I square the fact that my own anxieties seem trivial and petty when compared with the plight of those in Ukraine who have lost everything?
"I have found solace and inspiration in your words, and I have been privileged to hold space for your contributions"
I remember writing this column two years ago, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was tightening its grip on this country, and then – just as now – finding it hard to convey in words how I was feeling. My work as a group therapist supporting female survivors of sexual violence had been abruptly aborted as the country went into lockdown, and looking back on that time, I realise I went into what can only be described as a period of mourning. I felt loss, certainly, but also an overpowering sense of guilt at having abandoned the group when they most needed a space to process their own anxiety and grief.
Over the past two years, you have generously shared your own responses to the pandemic through your experiences, knowledge and reflections in the pages of this journal, for which I, as Editor, have been immensely grateful. I have found solace and inspiration in your words, and I have been privileged to hold space for your contributions. Today, as we emerge from the ‘corona crisis’ into a world that is rocked by war, economic instability and a growing climate emergency, I remain grateful for your continued contributions, for your unflagging determination and perseverance to write about your work, to offer your experiences and share your personal reflections as we navigate this together, along with our clients. By the time you read this, we will have held our first event dedicated to exploring how we coaches develop the social impact of our work with individuals and communities in this changing world; and, in advance of the event, Val Watson offers her own personal reflection.
In the meantime, I pause, breathe and connect with the stable core of calm amid the gathering storm clouds. I know it is all waiting for me on the other side. For now, I return to centre – to home, to family, to the sea in Whitby – and use this time of radical self-care to prepare myself for the year ahead. I know it will undoubtedly be a challenging one for us all, for different reasons. But I’ll allow myself to feel it all and do it anyway. I’ll play Roblox with my niece and do cartwheels on the beach and put the world to rights over a bottle of merlot with my sister, and just feel grateful that I can still do these things and have these moments of joy, when so many have had their world torn away from under them.
Until next time...