Three weeks into #lockdown and counting. This somewhat forced cocooning, at least for those who have the privilege of not front lining, starts to be the new normal. Quiet skies, empty streets, vacant shops, stressful supermarket visits, daily excursions, keeping a distance, face masks, endless hand washing, seeing your loved ones on screens, seeing everyone on screens. This #strangesituation is now more and more familiar.
Today was a beautiful day; Glorious skies and gentle breeze were calling me out of the cocoon. It’s been a few days since I last left home, and I decided to exercise my once a day limit and went on a cycle. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and attracts millions of people every year to come and enjoy its architecture, history and quirky style. Indeed, I had uninterrupted audience with Princess street, Castle Street, Haymarket, where the beauty of its buildings was accentuated by the wonderful spring lighting. And we “should” focus on the positive, right? Count your blessing, says the daily feed.
And at the same time, the quiet and stillness at the heart of the city was a powerful confrontation – a sharp contrast to the scenes imprinted within me following years of daily commute, and the loss of familiarity was palpable. And from conversations I am having in both professional and private settings, I see a sense of loss emerging: either by the strangeness of going out, our inability to have physical contact with others, be it strangers, colleagues, friends, family. It is amalgamated by the loss of our routine, that same routine we have criticized, bashed and put down for so long. And for some, the loss is of loved ones…
At the beginning of the 70’s Psychologist Mary Ainsworth performed an experiment that shaped how we think about attachment today; It was called, the strange situation (1978). It looked at how babies respond to the sudden departure and subsequent return of their mother: most babies were eager to reunite with mother upon her return. however some were fearful of it, avoided contact altogether, or oscillate between these two.
That is to say, that when the baby losses contact with their prime caretaker, it goes into survival mode. If they are secure in their contact, they will respond in a way that invites contact in an open, straight forward way. If they are not, they will respond in a way that either invites contact in a way that is more difficult or push contact away.
When we are forced to stop, when our rhythm and flow is interrupted, we go out of balance, we might regress, as we are confronted with our past experience of loss, not just the present. And when we are confronted with loss, we are also confronted with our mortality, with the uncomfortable universal truth, that we are interim by default. This experience is familiar for those who experienced Trauma, or war. It is not a coincidence that the Queen referenced her memory of her first address to the nation with her sister speaking to displaced children during 2nd world war.
We are now experiencing a sense of collective #trauma. The scenes of empty streets is global, the daily MI of Covid-19 is displayed in all language, form and colour. If you are feeling hyper active, agitated, overwhelmed, exhausted, out of it – it is no surprise. Our nervous system is in survival mode, despite the daily walks, zoom calls, mediation and focus on positivity.
The empty streets of Edinburgh reminded me of another familiar scene. Ten days after the Jewish new Year, the day of Atonement begins, and all activity – stops. Traffic is prohibited and the always on, packed and noisy streets of Tel-Aviv are unusually serene. According to tradition, the day of atonement is a chance to evaluate where you are at, seeking forgiveness and making amendments where needed.
Whether you are secular, spiritual or religious, when you are forced to pause, you are also forced to evaluate: your survival strategy is calling for an update. Whether you are re-evaluating your business strategy, your relationships, your direction in life, know that you have a chance to forgive. Whether it is yourself or others, I hope that you make those amendments so when the hustle and bustle return, you invite contact in an open, straight forward way.