The morning sun is streaming through the upstairs window of my childhood home as I reflect over the past few months. It is hard to take stock of the range of disruptive change wrought by COVID-19. I hear the latest variational shifts in the global spread of the virus on the radio. I turn down the volume to reduce overwhelm and aid concentration.
When lockdown loomed large in mid-March, I took the decision to relocate to Ireland to become an anchor carer for my 92-year-old mother. I knew in my spirit where I needed to be. I travelled on the eve of shutdown through an eerily quiet airport to board a near empty plane.
My days have been busy – at times exhausting – as I balance remote working with caring responsibilities and necessary self-care.
I’ve had some special times: journeying down the memory lanes of childhood with siblings and old friends, decluttering cupboards and coming across exciting findings – like the half-torn plastic bag containing a diverse selection of my mother’s knitting patterns. I spent an evening with my mother poring over those precious patterns. We casted on row after row of fond and painful family memories, and marvelled that some of the sweaters she had knitted long ago now outlived their original wearers and were being lovingly passed on down the family.
Their survival reminds me of Boris Cyrulnik’s1 description of resilience as a ‘mesh’, not a substance. In times of crisis and trauma, we are forced to ‘knit’ ourselves a ‘sweater’ of resilience using the people and things we meet in our emotional, social and virtual environments. When this period of crisis is over, we may well reflect on our lives and appreciate from another perspective the things we have been through: how we survived, and even thrived, although the journey was not always easy.2 We will acknowledge the times when our resources were threadbare, stitches dropped, holes formed. Yet, the mesh of our lives will have been knitted together, stronger I hope, with new threads of resilience.
Sitting in the presence of my physically frail mother, whose spirit sings strong still, I am reminded of how vulnerability and resilience are constant life companions. The words of the psalmist come to mind: ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made’.3 I am flooded with gratitude for the gift of my life, through her, and this unanticipated gift of family-of-origin time.
Next in this issue
Developing inner resilience is integral to the formation of a robust identity, be it at individual, family, community or societal level. We need to nurture the ability to flourish under pressure, to withstand adverse conditions and manage dark times and failure. Sedmak4 reflects on the need to cultivate ‘inner resilience’, drawing on all the facets of a person’s interior life: thoughts and memories, hopes and desires, beliefs and convictions, concerns and emotions. I identify with his image of resilience as the ‘capacity to be displaced’ yet rooted and resourced in and through a spiritual dimension of being.5
It has been a privilege to support colleagues, supervisees and clients these past months and to share their slow emergence into a new normal. There is ongoing frustration with poor internet connections or at having to secure a confidential and suitable space for therapeutic work. Initial anxiety and awkwardness in being catapulted into remote working are now slowly subsiding as competence increases. Some speak with delight of the windfall of time and space in which to return to an unfinished research project or engage with the pile of unread books. Many speak of their struggle to juggle the demands of work, family and life commitments. Frontline workers and carers offload the accumulated anxiety they carry from daily exposure to risk and vulnerability. They are having to dig deep into their inner resilience resources to keep self and others safe and well.
Within the BACP Spirituality division, and the wider professional body of BACP, the emergent normal is bringing about new opportunities for alternative ways of relating. It is also enabling diverse communities of practice to grow and develop, not bound by local borders. We are anticipating that new spirituality network groups will spring up, inspired by what has been happening in the East Midlands.
We would love to hear about your lockdown experiences and learnings. Feel free to email me; or contact Amy, our editor, at email@example.com
1 Cyrulnik B. Resilience: how your inner strength can set you free from the past. London: Penguin; 2009
2 https://www.sohforum.org/2020/01/22/ what-is-resilience-interview-with-dr-boriscyrulnik/ (accessed 30 May 2020).
3 Psalm 139: 13–14 New International Bible. London: Hodder & Stoughton; 1978.
4 https://signsofthetimes.libsyn.com/findingresilience-in-the-era-of-covid-19-ft-clemenssedmak-phd (accessed 30 May 2020).
5 Sedmak C. The capacity to be displaced: resilience, mission and inner strength. Leiden: Brill; 2017.