Well, what extraordinarily unsettling times we are living through. As I write, Coronavirus is gripping the entire world in a web of fear, suspicion, information, misinformation, and – perhaps more than all of those – a profound uncertainty. Uncertainty of what will happen, when; of what plans will or won’t come to fruition; of what can be organised, or looked forward to; of “will I stay well?” and “will my loved ones stay well?”.
My practice in the last week has been quite an emotional roller-coaster – my patients and clients seem to have represented all positions in the spectrum of thoughts on the Covid-19 pandemic – from completely sanguine, to angry about overreaction, to angry about underreaction, to deep anxiety and profound fear. No-one can be neutral about such a global crisis, and each one of us has to find our own way of dealing with whatever each day brings to us. We are all living in an unfolding news story, and that isn’t comfortable.
My personal challenge is that, as a human being outside my relatively Zen position inside the treatment room, I am particularly attached to feeling that I have a handle on the direction my life is taking. I am at my happiest when mapping out my future, short- medium- and long-term – even though I really do know that the one truly certain thing in life is uncertainty. I just prefer to ignore that uncomfortable truth, and get planning and dreaming and – horrible word – visioning. And now that this huge thing is happening, planning is pretty much impossible, everything has to be contingent, provisional and accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. And to be honest I don’t think that anyone feels good, or happy, in such a void of specific expectations.
And that brings me on to the message of this piece. If you look back on my blog posts, you will see that however irregular they may be, I don’t miss writing one as winter moves into spring. Seasonal changes are hugely important to my kind of acupuncturist, Five Element, as each season brings with it particular qualities and strengths. And particular challenges if a person is struggling to access those qualities and strengths. And the transition from winter to spring is, in my experience, the seasonal shift that brings most hopes, and most hiccups (with the late summer to autumn shift coming a close second in potential drama). You see, just as nature wants to leap forward into new growth, new energy, new enthusiasm as the days grow longer and the light lasts longer, so too do we humans naturally want to start new ventures, sow new seeds and get planning in the spring. Stop-start weather can be very frustrating to a gardener who can’t be sure when the right time to put the spuds in the ground is. And every March I find myself giving seasonal adjustment acupuncture treatments to a significant proportion of my patients, who might be showing signs of stuckness or lack of enthusiasm when they would normally expect to be up and running.
But this year, oh my goodness, just as the soil is drying up and the spring is finally in full throttle, Coronavirus casts it net around us and encases us in stasis, in anxiety, in isolation, in something way bigger than each of our individual lives with their hopes, aspirations, and plans. I’m not going to say what the big message is in there – that is something that each individual is going to have to figure for themselves – but I’m hoping that for the many millions of people worldwide who will come through this pandemic in good health, that the Blackthorn flowers that are just bursting in the hedgerows will yield a fine crop of sloes in the autumn, and that something good can be distilled from them.
To all who read this message, I hope you manage to stay well, in good heart, and in kindness with yourself and others.