So sang Nina Simone in 1965. 2021 should be feeling good like that. But we’re not there yet. Finding silver linings when we’ve all been hammered is a difficult one. That we are still here at all is a start.
There are historical references to pandemics and enormous criticism of governments at the time, just as there has been during ours. How you get out of them and return to living a normal life is a measure not just of the nation but of our own personal strength.
Whilst the virus has been rampant, getting seen for other ailments has been sidelined. I was asked to give a blood test recently and was told to stand outside my surgery as the waiting room was out of bounds. So I stood in the cold for half an hour. I’ve an arthritic left hip but decided whinging was pointless so just hung onto the rail. A nurse then apologised before putting a needle in my arm.
We all deal with adversity differently and it’s not my place to tell you how you should deal with yours. But I could suggest ways to avoid more. What I do to pick myself up is revisit the good times to cope with the bad. I also ask myself how my parents would have dealt with any particular issue.
As children we are so influenced by Mum and Dad. We inherit their genes and build our worlds from their leadership and protection. Loving parental guidance is paramount. Those who cannot tap into that resource lose out, regrettably pass on the suffering and often can end up incarcerated or worse.
So how do we present a positive attitude in a winter of Covid?
I start by taking care of myself. I do what I need to make myself feel better. Light candles, make contact, cook proper meals and sort out my sock draw. There is something quite cathartic about throwing away old socks and underwear.
My garden is also very important to me and even when it’s covered in snow and ice, I’m out there covering my geraniums to protect them from frost, fixing the shed and feeding the birds that give me such pleasure as I watch them from my kitchen window.
For a couple of years I’ve been semi-retired and now my deteriorating health has directed I must give up being a Public Enquiries Officer with my local police force which will come to pass on the 5th April 2021, my 65th birthday.
I shall miss quite a lot of things. People come to me for all sorts. Quite often it’s not police related (what we call a civil matter) but they know we’re open when most are not and trust me to know better than they do. Plus it’s free. When I hear someone say to me “I’d like your opinion” I feel privileged.
Yesterday a man with wild hair burst through our entrance and just ranted incoherently for 30 seconds and then left. All our officers were out. I watched him walk off and wondered if that outburst made him feel better. I hope so.
Helpdesks are there to sort the problems of the public, officers, staff and management. What is more difficult to accept is budget cuts mean this service is fast becoming extinct.
Being able to share your concerns is something we should all have the opportunity to do. Not all of us have family or friends we want to do this with. Sometimes a stranger from a trusted organisation is the answer – like Relate, Citizens Advice or your local council social services. It’s the reaching out that’s the hard part.
I was told in training recently that for every woman in the UK who comes to the police for help after suffering violence and abuse it’s thought on average thirty do not. This figure can be higher depending on the area. There are no figures for men. Yet they are traditionally worse at flagging up their need than women.
Admitting to yourself you need help and then having the strength to go out there and get it is just the hardest thing. We all hate admitting we’ve failed.
Do you have the “Are you alright” conversation with your partner? You may not think you need to but it’s something I would seriously recommend.
You need to choose the time and place for this of course, phrase it in your own way and be prepared for the quizzical response. You’ll doubtless get the inevitable “Of course”, but it sows a seed you’re watching, caring and giving a damn. Then be a listening ear if you love them or even if you don’t. And, hopefully, they will ask the same question of you.
You can trace back the roots of many personal problems between couples and families to misunderstandings brought about by a lack proper communication. Not something men, in particular, are traditionally very good at.
To quote Professor Stephen Hawking “It doesn’t need to be like this. All we need to do is keep on talking”.
I will miss the camaraderie of my team and my wider Police family. But perhaps the stranger coming to my front desk and opening the conversation with “I wonder if I could ask your advice” is what I will miss the most.
Read Grace’s suggestions on coping during lockdown