After the storm

How do you feel, after the storm? Be as kind as is possible to yourself and to others, today and tomorrow.

Storm Eunice brought devastatingly high winds to much of the UK earlier this month. The storm caused widespread destruction and took lives. In my part of Sussex, the winds were frighteningly powerful. Yet the overall impact here was, mercifully, at the milder end. The forest the day after the storm only seemed to have lost a few branches. All was quiet.

TheForestAfterTheStorm19Feb2022

All went quiet for me during the storm. In the mid-morning, we experienced a 10-minute powercut. This was followed an hour later by its bigger sibling, a total power outage lasting three hours. In the blink of an eye, I was cut off from the online world. An enforced, extended pause in my day working from home. Too dangerous to go out. With all electronic distractions suddenly snatched away, my wife and I sat down and chatted for three hours. We were free just to talk, and to follow the conversation wherever it took us. It was a blissful chat, an unexpected and lovely gift to be able to step outside the everyday and regain some much-needed perspective on life.

This surprise conversational pause was a reminder that while the online world gives us so much, it comes at a price.

We spend so much more time than we might realise, locked in to those rectangles that connect us to the world. And the conscious or the unconscious mind often spends a great deal more time preoccupied with or raking over what the rectangles feed us.

These are perhaps not the most original observations on modern life. Indeed, I wrote about exactly this topic in a post entitled Away from the rectangles, way back in August 2014 (it is still there for you to read today, in the archives of MJCarty.com). Reading it again in 2022, I am surprised at how little has changed in the addictive and all-consuming nature of online connectivity. Yet our general level of dependency on those rectangles that connect us to the world is no doubt greater than ever.

It is also tempting at first to look back on the world in August 2014 as a halcyon and carefree time of lost innocence – at least when compared with the world as we know it now. But of course it was nothing of the sort. I am struck by Stefan Stern’s words, which I quoted in my original post. Writing in 2014, Stern said:

“This is a paradox of early 21st-century life. We seem to be better connected and better informed than ever before. And yet as individuals we can feel almost powerless to do anything about the impossibly difficult situations that are constantly viewable on our amazing array of gadgets.”

Stern thought then that many of us were probably a lot more run down than we knew:

“Exhaustion, whether physical or emotional, is a natural consequence of the past few years of economic turbulence.”

This warning of physical or emotional exhaustion as “a natural consequence” of modern life feels all the more pertinent to today.

How has the storm of the last 10 years left you? Do we even have an idea of the physical and emotional exhaustion so many of us are now carrying all the time, after a decade of AusterityBrexitTrumpBorisPandemicUkraine (and so much more besides)? How do we cope? How are we keeping going?

Eunice_2022-02-17_0822

I read concerning news this past week that we face a so-called “second pandemic” of pent-up mental health issues. NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor warned that “for a worrying number of people, the virus is leaving a growing legacy of poor mental health that services are not equipped to deal with adequately at present”.  Taylor says:

“With projections showing that 10 million people in England, including 1.5 million children and teenagers, will need new or additional support for their mental health over the next three to five years it is no wonder that health leaders have dubbed this the second pandemic.”

If you have a spare few minutes today, please consider casting your mind back to the you that you were in August 2014. Think about all that has changed in your world and in you since then. Think about all that you have been through and all that you carry with you. How are you coping?

How do you feel, after the storm?

Be as kind as is possible to yourself and to others, today and tomorrow.

May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.

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