We can’t pretend everything is normal

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Because it isn’t.

This week I made my way to East Sussex College to finish off a barista course I had started before 2020 came charging in like a big disruptive rhinoceros.

We wore face masks and stood far apart as I steamed the milk to the proper temperature and frothiness. And, as the milk steamer was screaming away, it really hit me that this is what life is like now.

Ginny completing her barista course at East Sussex College in EastbourneGinny completing her barista course at East Sussex College in Eastbourne
Ginny completing her barista course at East Sussex College in Eastbourne
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This really odd, in-between state of not quite being safe but not quite being in danger. Trying to get on with our lives but living with a perpetual, low level of – well – dread.

Or at least a hum of anxiety, that feeling that the milk is inevitably going to separate from the foam and the latte is going to be a dreary mess.

Does everyone else feel this way?

We need to acknowledge we are living in strange times and, every day we manage to get by, give ourselves some credit.

It’s like that famous photo of a man playing golf while a gargantuan forest fire rages in the background.

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We can’t pretend everything is normal, because it isn’t. Of course this does not mean we should panic, that’s really not going to help.

But acknowledging we’re in the Darkest Timeline/Upside Down I think can help give us some perspective.

On Facebook this week we asked everyone what had been the biggest change in their lives since covid. The answers surprised us.

Many were moving, some were tragic, others uplifting – and a few were, shall we say, sarcastic.

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Fiona Parkinson wrote something that reminded me of the communal optimism which took root in lockdown.

She said, “Getting to know my neighbours, supporting each other, weekly garden quizzes, bingo, evening cups of tea, we have all pulled together to help each other out, plus keeping an eye on older neighbours.”

Maggie Macdonald said she takes more notice of the wildlife around her now. It’s true, the slower pace of life has given us more time to appreciate our surroundings.

And Keri Ripley shared some wonderful news, “Giving birth to my beautiful baby girl.”

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But it has not all been sweetness and light, of course. People shared things which have changed or been exacerbated by the pandemic – not being able to hug loved ones, unstable employment, missing key milestones like weddings and birthdays.

Naomi Norris shared the fact she had lost her grandmother to covid-19. Heartbreakingly, she couldn’t say goodbye or visit her in hospital.

This is something I’m sure many have also been through, and it is a reminder of the cruelty of this virus.

Benedict Burbridge wrote, “Comments on here are genuinely moving. Amazing that everyone has managed to keep going and find a way through this. MASSIVE RESPECT TO YOU ALL.” I couldn’t put it better myself.

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It has been a seismic shift, almost a collective trauma that has affected each and every one of us in one way or another.

Some in much more difficult ways than others, yes. But everyone’s experience is valid.

So where do we go from here? It’s time to be honest and have a conversation about what we want life to be like, moving forwards.

Because we can’t go back.

We asked these big questions in The Big Conversation survey. Here are the results.