Tuesday, 17 March 2020

How are you doing?

So. How are you doing, in the midst of all this?

Are you self-isolating? Are you okay, or not really?

Please make this a place you can come and share how things are going.

In our little tribe, we have an interesting (probably fairly typical) mixture of the dangerous and the vulnerable! 

My mother is 92 and housebound, very frail, dependent on a carer coming in three times a day. Her carer is superb, meticulous about hygiene, and we have three phone numbers on standby in case anything goes wrong with that. Her situation is vulnerable indeed, but in this particular situation she's probably safer than she would be in a nursing home. We continue to visit and get her groceries as normal (except the shelves are a bit denuded in the food shops!)

We have several family members with respiratory red flags — two people in our household have a medical history that includes pneumonia and a third has had other respiratory challenges. Buzzfloyd (my daughter) and her daughter live just along the road from us, and both have asthma. She also has a son and a husband, and her husband is one of our dangerous people, because he has to go to work in a university in a big town on public transport every day. Disease vector writ large! Our other dangerous person is my firstborn, who also works in the university in the city and commutes daily by train. She lives in her own apartment, and is very cautious and sensible, so would self-isolate at the first sign of illness. My youngest daughter is coming back to roost, so we are all together and can look after each other as and when needed. Buzzfloyd's mother-in-law has fragile health and is wisely self-isolating in her little apartment. My own life is so simple, small and reclusive that I need to make very few changes to fulfil the criteria of caution. We are all of us grateful for the internet!

Our UK entry into virus territory has been somewhat muddly, as I'm sure you've read, but we are beginning to socially distance, gradually shutting down gatherings and schools etc. There seems to be division of opinion, and both regional and local inconsistency. People are doing their best — and what that is varies according to the information they have and how they construe it.

It feels bit like walking through a dream to me, this time — waiting to see who will (and will not) be alive this time next year!

A favourite quotation for me, by someone called Pam Brown, is: "For every person who has ever lived there has come, at last, a spring he will never see. Glory then in the springs that are yours."

I love that, and this glorious spring day full of sunlight and birdsong, the blossom coming out on the trees, I bear it in mind.

It seems to me that the uncertainty of these days, and where each of us will be this time next year, what impact it will all have had, holds out to us an opportunity to in every way set our house in order. This, as we are self-isolating or socially distancing or quarantining, is a time to sit quietly and make peace within our hearts, to lay aside any clinging grudges or resentment, to enter into the gladness of Jesus and embrace the joy of our salvation. It's a time to consider others — to ensure that our affairs are in order, our homes clean and tidy, our possessions pared down. Because here we have no abiding city and we never know when it will be our time to be called home, or when we shall be required to respond to someone else who needs our help.

This is a time for quietness, for reflection and prayer, a worldwide retreat. What a wonderful opportunity.

Please know that in these days I am praying for you — by name if I know your name, and just holding you in the light of God who surely does know your name if I do not.

I pray that the purposes of God will be fulfilled in your life, that you may choose wisely and walk peacefully, that you may be kind and brave and cheerful.

Bear in mind the words of Julian of Norwich, that "all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." I am one hundred per cent sure that is true, whatever each passing day may individually hold. 

God bless you today, dear friend. Put your hand in his. Feel it. Walk with him. There is sadness sometimes, but he is with you.


kat said...

Bless you Pen, I hope you and yours stay safe and healthy. It is a strange feeling isn't it? I wonder if it has some similarity to those first Christians who were feeling themselves in "the last days" - a sense of something coming but you don't know when and how and what your own results will be. N is in the "vulnerable" category, both "elderly" ie over 70 and not as fit or healthy as he might be, so I am more wary than some perhaps. We agreed yesterday though that we have a houseful of interesting activities to be getting on with and, of course, the garden to soothe our spirits.
Not sure my house will ever be "in order", I'm just not an "in order" type of person, but I just might try and tie up a few loose ends, plenty of stitching that needs finishing (and Mum's voice in my head - "finish that before you start something else")
Stay safe and happy xxx

Pen Wilcock said...

Waving from my hill to yours! xx

Elin said...

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones. Kindness and care for the person is what can get us through this. If we stay at home as much as we can, even those of us who are reasonably healthy and not as such a large risk we can get through this. I am working from home due to a slight cold so that I don't risk other people's health in case I through some miracle got corona virus (my area has very few cases). My daughter caught a stomach bug and we keep her brother at home too from preschool until they are healthy. Schools and preschools are not yet closed here but high schools and universities will switch to distance learning.

I have to say I long to go outside, I have not been outside since Friday. I hope I can go outside tomorrow but it is looking like I cannot get to work before Friday and it might be Monday too.

Pen Wilcock said...

Waving to you, Elin! xx

Kathy said...

Thankyou, Pen. Such wisdom.

I'm suddenly aware of the groups of people I interact with, who I'm unlikely to see for a long time....the poetry group; the Quakers I lunch with; where I volunteer...and it's a real feeling of grief, each seeming to come on top of the other.

But, we can stay in touch, and, hopefully, find something to laugh at every day. In the meantime, forget the loo rolls...I'm stockpiling gin!!


Pen Wilcock said...

Uh-oh! Don't drink it all at once! x

Bean said...

Well, depends on the day, yesterday I was a complete stressed out bundle of nerves, today I feel at peace. I am just taking it day by day, we are truly in uncharted waters, and I think it the uncertainty of it all that is most stressful. I am working on doing more meditation and taking five minute breaks with deep breathing if I start feeling very stressed. We are indeed living in strange times. Oh, and as a mainly raw vegan, I worry about not having access to fresh produce, and have to keep reminding myself that in the big scheme of things this is a silly worry.

I agree with Kathy, there is a bit of a mourning process regarding our pre Covid 19 lives. Sunday all the kids and grandkids were over, we had a meal, a nice walk on a sunny day, and then on Monday with all of the lock downs, in our state no gatherings over 10 people, I realized that was the last Sunday family get together for a while. It isn't like we really went anywhere, work, church, grocery shopping, very occasionally out to eat, it is now life is truly limited to home, and my part time job. We can't go to mass, I really want to avoid the grocery store and crowds, our world has suddenly closed in. I worry about how long this "new normal" will last. I am truly thankful for social media, at least with blogs, FB, text, email, etc. we can continue to interact with others and know what is going on in other parts of the world. I am in contact with my parents and sisters daily via a messenger group, we all live far apart, me in Indiana, parents in Florida, one sister in Colorado, the other in Arizona, and I again use messenger to keep in contact with a number of relatives in England. Across the board we are all stressed, but it helps to share the burden, and when one is down another is up, so we keep each other buoyed.
Stay safe,


Pen Wilcock said...

God bless you, Bean. May you be able to source the food you need, may you stay centred and peaceful no matter what, may you hold your light steady. Thinking of you. x

greta said...

good to hear your 'voice', pen. i've been worried by your silence and praying that all was well with you and your family. much like bean above, it just depends on the day or even the hour. and i do worry about fresh fruits and veggies but, so far, those have been available. as my husband and i are both in the high risk category, we are limiting out excursions to only going to the grocery store. our local library is closed but we can still drop off items there and, if a book we've requested comes in, we can make an appointment to pick it up. they'll pass it to us through a barely opened door! thankfully we have walking trails and a pond so that we can take walks, enjoy the sunshine and the return of birds. here in the states the response to the virus has been much too slow so we are still bracing for tough days ahead. one daughter and her family are in the bay area of california where there is now a 'shelter in place' order. the other daughter in florida reports that they are staying home as much as possible but her husband is military so that increases exposure. i agree with bean's recommendations for more meditation time, deep breathing and LOTS of prayer. sending love and support and blessings to all gathered here.

Pen Wilcock said...

Waving to you, Greta! I wonder if, on your walking trails, there's any wild garlic, or young dandelions? They make excellent salad ingredients. x

greta said...

too cold here yet. it will be awhile before those dandelions return. it snowed all day on saturday and will probably snow at least once again. life in iowa!

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah! Here they have been through for a while — about a month.

Anonymous said...

This is such a helpful post, Pen.

My husband has several serious health issues, including a history of sepsis, pneumonia & aggressive prostate cancer within the last four years. So we're minimising social contact already. We put a note on our front door advising any delivery drivers to basically leave the parcel and "Knock and run"!
We're both disabled and both suffering from chronic pain. My main concerns about coping in self-isolation are a) depression and b) keeping our home clean. Pain makes everything so very difficult and for the past few years we've had a lovely lady who has come to clean for us every week. I shall have to learn to break down the necessities into steps that I can complete over the day.

Our home does have quite a few ornaments and things around that I really enjoy seeing here, but as the weeks go on I can see me putting lots of them away to make cleaning easier. But it won't be forever and then we may have changed how we feel about such things.
The depression is something that's harder to cope with. I've been on Sertraline for the last twenty years and it has helped oh so very much. But the thought of not being able to hug my children, grandchildren and aged parents for goodness knows how long?!! My father is ninety and not in good health. I saw him earlier this month, but will that be the last time I hug him? It hurts even typing this. And my mum is not doing well either.

We're going to use Zoom for video chats with family, friends and housegroup.
I do believe some good will come out of this situation - God doesn't waste anything. Personally, I've been thinking a lot about head-covering but haven't had the confidence to try it. Now is the perfect time, because I'm sure my husband won't mind me trying this at home.

This has been a waffling reply, but I hope you get the gist.

I believe this is World War III - but this time the whole world is on the same side against an invisible enemy. Instead of soldiers on the frontline we will be relying on nurses, doctors, carers & scientists.

Kay, Cornwall

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you for sharing, Kay. May you be strengthened, may you be blessed. In this time that you are separated from loved ones, may you every day be surprised by how close you feel to the love and power of God. I bless you with the love of the Lord. x

Anonymous said...

Thank you and may the LORD bless and keep you, Pen. x

Pen Wilcock said...



Sandra Ann said...

So pleased to see a post from you. It's been a strange mix of laughter and some tears. Both Ben and Pip are finding it hard as three of us are in the vulnerable group so ' isolating' for at least 12 weeks. We are relying on online grocery delivery and Dave had a bit of a do booking slots from our usual Sainsbury so we switched to Asda. I wish folk would quit their seige and hoard mentality it is selfish and unhelpful. I have seen washable cloth as an alternative to loo roll and we are ordering wood for raised beds as well as seeds and compost to grow an edible garden. Trying to think of positive and sustainable ways to cope during this time of uncertainty. Thanking God for the Internet, online friends, and an online community. I read somewhere that this is a chance for communities and big organisations to be radical and I am sure something good and lasting will come from this. Thank you for sharing the quotes I will write them and pin the up! Sending love to you and yours xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello San! Waving to you! Yes, our household has a mix of vulnerable (Tony, lungs and age) and not at all vulnerable (me, fit as a flea), then then there's Alice and Hebe who both have respiratory issues, but work in a place where those who run it can't see what all the fuss is about and won't close. Luckily our house is a big old Victorian villa with lots of space and more than one bathroom, so we can socially distance within our own home — which feels very odd. May you stay well, may this be a sabbath time and a creative adventure; may good come from it all. x

Suzan said...

As others have written I have been concerned for you.

We are pretty much going into lock down. Mum has been staying home but I have been shopping almost every day because things are so crazy around here and I had deliberately let our supplies run down as food was going out of date. Despite being careful mum is currently coughing and spluttering away. Some groups of the population are hiring minivans and driving out to the country towns and depleting the stores out there. I am maddened by this. After drought and bushfires, why should those who are struggling in rural areas be subject to this inhumanity?

On the plus side we have food, spare water, a proper water tank, books to read, television, computers and internet, lots of fabric to play with and yarn to knit for many years.

God bless.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hiring minivans! Jeepers! What are people like?!
We're finding the fresh food (milk, veg, meat) are in the stores as normal, I suppose because they're harder to stock up at home. So, for days long-life milk has been as rare as hens' teeth, but there's plenty of fresh milk available. Some of our household members life almost entirely on fresh food, so they've been a bit worried because in the nature of it they had nothing put by, but I think they'll be okay. They panic-buying is its own separate issue from the virus!
Strength and peace to you as you look after your mother and get started on all that knitting! x

Anonymous said...

Hi Penelope,
Hope you and yours (and those who join here) are and stay well!
I have literally gone underground. I've been staying in a friend's basement since divorce started, and remain as I work towards relocation, for 4 months now. Things are shutting down rapidly here in the US all around me. Out of state daughter just got laid off from her job, and I am now working from "home." Loaded up on groceries, (there is no bread or toilet paper on the shelves) as I will be seeing my client's online and praying that forum doesn't crash. My friend upstairs just got the flu (not the virus), and I have been using their kitchen, so yesterday I went out and bought a microwave and a little indoor grill thingie (Do they have George Foreman grills there, we tend to just call them the George Foreman)? so I don't have to go upstairs to cook (it is a very nice basement with bathroom). I also have an electric kettle, toaster, and mini crockpot so I can be inventive in feeding myself. Amazon is still going so I ordered a book to read. I can of course do yoga, you don't need much for that. Part of me knows I will be ok, but lots of things I can 't really talk about here have me beyond agitated. DMW

Rachel Hassler said...

So glad to see this post from you-- I'd been thinking about you. You're on my daily prayer list as well, with some other online friends-- people I haven't met but who have touched my life regardless.

We homeschool our son, my husband is working on his degree online from home, and I work largely from home, so our life is naturally home-centered and our daily routine hasn't changed much, though we are unable to attend liturgical services at our small Orthodox parish in town. We are staying home 100% because my 84 year-old grandmother and my brother's family with three young children live across the road from us-- my sister in law has stage four breast cancer. I must stay well to care for my elder/immuno-compromised family if needed.

I feel somewhat detached from the situation because of our isolation in the woods, a little like I imagine country people in war-time might have felt -- knowing about it, but not feeling very much a part of it. This is the early stages, though-- that feeling may change soon enough.

Peace to you.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello DMW — that sounds so organised and sensible. Well done! And well done for making your new start, despite the grief of losing so much, and now this to cope with. May you find a kind of Desert Mothers style peace in your little cell, with all you need around you. May your online client work prosper and flourish, may it strengthen and develop what you can offer people to help and heal them. God bless you, and may he steadily put his peace and healing into your heart. x

Hi Rachel — thank you so much for praying for me! As we pass through this challenging time, may things so unfold in your family that calm and kindness always prevail and each of you finds the rest and quietness your souls need as well as helping each other. x

Anonymous said...

thanks and blessings!

Rapunzel said...

Oh Pen, so glad to hear your tribe is well and adapting. I'd been checking to see. Here the university has closed for spring break, so I have a week and a half off from work. I had planned to attend the annual gathering of the SCA in Mississippi for Gulf Wars, but it was cancelled and the state was concerned about 3,000 people all in one place. So home it is. As my life is by choice solitary and home focused things are simply going on for me as usual.
Because I live alone I keep my larder well stocked. If I were I'll, or injured, or the car malfunctioned there is no one else to send on errands, so I just keep a good store of basic foods and supplies on hand. Consequently I've got no worries at this point about whether the grocery store is bought out of beans or rice or toilet paper. I went out the other day for cat food, and out of curiosity walked the aisles of the store. Beans, rice and pasta were almost entirely gone. Bread aisle was empty. Toilet paper and paper towel shelves were bare, soup shelves nearly so. It reminded me of a truck strike here when I was a child, which worried my parents not a bit because we had a well stocked larder. Intereatingly there was an abundance of fresh meat, veg and fruits, so perhaps a lot of people don't actually cook? A puzzlement.
With my vacation plans cancelled I contacted my boss to let him know I am in town and available if needed. He told me nothing is likely to happen until after spring break, and that I should enjoy the week off and work on my quilting and doll making and he'll see me when we both get back next week. So all is well here.
Spring break for the students has been extended a week, and afterwards they will go to online classes instead of face to face. Also most if the residence halls will close, so the students will be packing up and moving out a month early. We shall see how that goes.
Praying that everything continues to go smoothly for all.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello my friend! Waving to you! I am wondering if this might accelerate change in the way we structure learning, shopping and interacting altogether. Some of us interact wit the rest of humanity almost entirely online already, but many more will now. May you enjoy a space of peace and creativity in your home. x

Anonymous said...

I'm a weak, frightened, traumatised little person. God has been everything to me since I was very young, and I'd thought my faith was in pretty good shape. I'd already lost my family and friends, my youth and health, been through severe poverty (which can have a way of becoming a strength which stays with you for the lifetime), and so on.
But now that other things are threatened! I see what feelings of comfort and safety I had invested in having a little money, or of sure access to that banked money. I see how comfortable I made myself with the idea that clinics and hospitals would continue to be available for any serious need of my chronic conditions. I was quite restful in the feeling that I was living in a nice town in a good society and nation, hours from those 'city troubles'. Stores would have my food and pills, the internet would take my order and send its trucks to bring me a new pair of shoes when needed, and so on. I had conquered fear of death, while padding myself softly in the ideas of these other provisions for living.
I hope things with this virus turn around for the better very soon, but I do not hate how it places me more starkly again before the face of God.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah. I see the place you are in. God bless you, God find you, right where you are.

I hear you.

There are some strategies. Here are a few.

You know the bit in Psalm 84 that says, "How blessed are those who, going through the Valley of Baca, find it to be a place of springs"? This, right here, that you are walking through, is the Valley of Baca. So, like children on an Easter egg hunt, the daily task is to find the secret springs, the places of refreshment hiding in your day. I don't know where you will find yours, but here is where I have sometimes found the springs of grace:
> In fiction. Take refuge in a really good, positive, life-affirming novel with a happy ending.
> In movies, especially light-hearted ones with a lot of action; Oceans 11 / 12 does it for me.
> In nature. Look at the stars, at the sunrise, at the blossom coming out, at the moss.
> In movement. Take a walk if you can, or do any kind of exercise. It has cheerfulness inside.
> In human contact. Phone / FaceTime a friend.

Then, there are a couple of prayers. The best ones for your state of mind are little mantras to repeat over and over and over. These two are good:
A little prayer of Brennan Manning: "Abba, I belong to you".
From the Psalms: "Whenever I am most afraid, I put my trust in you."
Just keep saying them.

And I will pray for you. x

Anonymous said...

Thank you Pen for your kindness, and I will cling to these things. :)

Pen Wilcock said...