Shards of glass flew everywhere, surrounding my bare feet and covering the work surface with sparkling motes. The sun through the window lit the tiny fragments with incongruous rainbows. My hand, abused by a heavy day in my son’s garden, had refused to grip the slick surface. It was nothing much, a simple accident that would normally have passed by almost unremarked, save for the odd expletive. Instead, I could feel a knot tighten in my stomach, the pressure of tears demanding release behind my eyes as I ordered the dog to her bed to protect her paws. The mythical ‘stiff upper lip’ began to quiver and I felt about as steady on my feet as a jelly.
Even as the tears came, I could not help laughing at myself. It was ridiculous to get so upset over a broken glass.
As I started to clear up the mess, though, I realised that was not the true cause. Weeks of imposed tension had finally found a safe outlet and the floodgates opened as soon as the chance was offered. You cannot weep, moan and rage against necessity… rather like pulling a bad tooth, you have to get on with it, whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient or upsetting it may be. You squash those ‘negative’ feelings and remind yourself how much worse the situation is for so very many others… which adds a measure of guilt to the fermenting brew of emotions you try not to acknowledge.
But beyond the smile you wear, the humour with which you doggedly rise to each new challenge, or the surprising ‘silver linings’ that present themselves… like finding that ‘rush hour’ is just you on the road… life, at the moment, is not okay.
We are locked away from each other, being taught to fear human contact, unable to greet or comfort a friend with a hug, see our families or enjoy the spring weather. Many are fearful for the security of their homes, jobs and incomes, for their health and even their lives. There is a constant barrage of bad news that can be difficult to avoid. We do not know for sure if the ways in which our respective countries are dealing with the current crisis constitute the best way; even the official position is that history alone will tell us that. And what on earth is this ‘new normal’ we are going to have to accept? And when? It is not as if we are actually being told all that much, just in case we get complacent.
It is enough to get to anyone.
And that, I realised, is okay.
There is no reason we should be happy about the current global situation. Whether it is health, lack of human contact, economics or social restrictions that gets to us the most, there is enough in any one of those to leave us feeling worried, anxious or overwhelmed at times. And, let’s be fair, having a good cry over something as daft as a broken glass is a better way of ‘letting off steam’ than kicking the cat and healthier than some of the possible alternatives.
I know the idea of ‘letting off steam’ refers to engines, but on a domestic level, it can equally refer to pressure cookers… and unless the steam valve is vented, the pressure will mount and disasters occur.
Not everyone is able… or allowed… to go out into nature, walk or cycle for exercise. We cannot all ‘take it out’ on redecorating the house, cleaning the cupboards or digging for victory in our gardens. In fact, many of the things that we might embrace under normal circumstances are expressly forbidden. And the more the situation gets to us, the less we feel able to do those things we could be doing to help ease the tension.
It is important to allow ourselves to feel. We don’t have to dwell on it, but we can let feelings arise, acknowledging them for what they are, then move forward, step by step. It helps if you can talk to someone… even if it is only yourself. A journal is a perfect listener… and writing out your feelings can be both comforting and revealing, especially once you learn to trust the page. And whether we indulge in a good, old-fashioned cry, work off the emotions, or find our refuge and release in laughter, we all need a safety valve occasionally.
Mine cost me an empty glass… and ended in laughter. It was well worth the price.