There is no right way and no wrong way for us to respond to this situation. Everyone is lost in this maze. But there is a path through.
Most of us have never dealt with a situation like this. The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. The rug of everyday life pulled from under our feet with a jolt. It can so easily feel like you are all alone.
Where once there was bustle and life, now there is silence. Matt Haig captured this feeling in a haunting, poetic tweet:
“It is so eerie when I take the dog for her midnight walk. The streets a silence beyond silence. The sky so clear and close it feels touchable. A fox standing nonchalantly in the middle of the street. It’s like I am the only human in the cosmos.”
A silence beyond silence. The only human in the cosmos.
It is only natural to feel this way. There is no right way and no wrong way to respond to this situation. If you are lucky enough to find a perfect path through this maze, it will only be visible once you have made it through to the other side. But there is a path through.
We’re not the only ones
Last year, I had the honour to get to meet Steve Browne in person. Over a good many years, I’d come to know Steve via social media as a joyous and larger than life gent, infectiously positive and with time and inspiring words for everyone. It was a delight – but not a surprise – to learn that he is every bit as lovely in real life.
We all need a Steve Browne in times like this. Steve wrote a post last week about the emotional pressure that the coronavirus pandemic and social isolation are exerting on us all. He says:
“During this trying time, we need to take note that we’re not the only ones experiencing these heightened emotions. Everyone is. Everyone.”
In these times, Steve says, tears can be the best way to let go of the “level of stress, anxiety and fear we are experiencing personally”.
Two lovely souls
On Easter Sunday, I shed tears at the news that we had lost two lovely souls in a single day.
I never had the honour to meet Chris Fields in person. I only knew him via social media. But I know that he was a truly good soul. He was a lovely person in my every interaction with him. In the immediate wake of his passing, the huge outpouring of love for him from friends he had made in real life and via social media shows how many lives, how many souls he had touched. He made so many people’s live better. A true gentleman.
I reeled at the news that we’d lost Tim Brooke-Taylor, after he had contracted coronavirus. I used to love watching The Goodies when I was little.* Stephen Fry tweeted a beautiful mini-tribute to the great man:
“Just heard the devastating news of the death of Tim Brooke-Taylor. A hero for as long as I can remember, and –on a few golden occasions – a colleague and collaborator on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. Gentle, kind, funny, wise, warm, but piercingly witty when he chose to be. So sad”
I never had the honour to see Tim Brooke-Taylor in person. But I almost did. A few years ago, my wife and I saw John Cleese talk about his pre-Python work on At Last The 1948 Show, at the BFI in London. Cleese mentioned that his 1948 Show colleague Tim Brooke-Taylor wanted to be there that day, but couldn’t make it along due to filming obligations overseas. Cleese and the BFI’s Dick Fiddy made plans on stage that day to return for a day-long At Last The 1948 Show event at which all the existing episodes would be screened, and with both Cleese and Brooke-Taylor present. But alas, I do not believe that ever happened.
There is a path through this maze
I can’t believe that two such lovely souls were taken from us in a single day. I can’t believe so much of what is happening right now.
I’m sure that the situation is the same for you, gentle reader. It can feel overwhelming.
There is no right way and no wrong way to respond to this situation. Just keeping yourself functioning in these times can feel like an achievement. Here are some more lovely words from Matt Haig:
“You don’t need a new you. You don’t need to morph into a better person. If you can get through the day and shower and brush your teeth and eat something and not fall entirely apart then you are doing as well as can be expected.”
You don’t need a new you. There are so many things that can help each of us through. Acknowledging the emotional burden and letting it out. Knowing that you are not alone. No-one is. Everyone is going through what you are going through right now, or something very close to it.
We can help one another through this. We have the privilege of being able to help one another through this. There is a path through and out of this maze.
* A note for US readers (and anyone else who may not know that much of Mr Brooke-Taylor and his work): He was a Python-adjacent comedian who appeared in The Goodies – a wonderful 1970s children’s sitcom. You can get a little flavour of it here:
And for those who know The Goodies and their work, last year’s Goodies special on Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP) is a delightful treat. Here’s the good Mr Herring on his enduring love for The Goodies.
** While putting this post together, I was delighted to discover that the BFI has put out a small video snippet from this event with Mr Cleese.