So, I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes crying about Iron Man (aka Robert Downey Junior) dying in Avengers: Endgame. It wasn’t just the odd tear trickle about a hero sacrificing his life for The Greater Good. Nor was it about watching his wife, Piper (Gwyneth Paltrow with great hair), and his little daughter grieve for him along with rest of The Avengers – their broad-muscled shoulders suited in black. This was a different kind of crying. The scared kind. But also (thankfully) the sort that leaves you feeling way better when it’s over.
I hadn’t realised how sad and stressed and scared I’d been feeling until I watched Robert Downey Junior die. His death gave me an excuse to cry. And heck did I need an excuse.
It also came with an instrumental soundtrack to set the mood and pretty actors (Paltrow) weeping but their eye makeup didn’t run. My eye makeup did run. Lines of black tracking down my cheeks. I’ve spent the last five minutes fixing my face.
Covid-19 has changed our world. Life for me, personally, is not too different. Yet. But I am braced for things to get worse before they get better. News from overseas tells us of the lockdown going on for weeks and the emergency panic buying (hello- toilet tissue tussles!) It also tells us about the deaths…
Ten days ago was my twenty ninth birthday. I started the day with yoga. I sipped tea while reading Emily Dickinson poetry. I went to work where I shared individually wrapped chocolate (hygiene awareness) for mutual celebration.
I met my father at The Botanic Gardens for lunch. He zombie walked towards me. I karate kicked at his zombie in a gesture of joke protection. This, these jokey, not-touching, ways of greeting each other are our new norm. Apparently, a tourist smiled at our antics. I’m glad I made someone smile that day. It feels like a small win for the world.
My father and I found a park bench on a crackly-yellow-water-starved piece of grass and watched the city below sparkle in the Indian summer sun. I drank tea from a unicorn patterned thermos. I ate a banana. My father said, unusually seriously, how he wished I didn’t have to live through This Time. Because things were going to get ‘pretty fucking grim.’ I cried inside at these words of care. Mainly because of the love in them. But also because of The Fear.
I know anxiety.I’m much better than I was, but some days I do feel pretty intensely what I term ‘the-butterfly-belly-beat’ of worry and anxiety and tension and just that feeling that something-really-bad-is-going-to-happen.
That Really Bad is happening. And I’m surviving it (so far.)
I am however surviving not thriving at the moment. But that’s the best most of us can do right now, I think. I’m better than I thought I’d be in a crisis especially as this crisis seems like it might last for many weeks… if not months. I refuse to think of it in terms of years.
It helps that I have been a philosophical ‘Prepper’ for a while. Don’t worry I’m not a full on ‘stock-for-the-apocalypse-prepper’ with their canned goods and guns and bomb shelters. I’m not quite as hard-core those found in some online corners, especially on fundamentalist Christian homemaking blogs.
But I do have a good personal library of grow-your-own-veggie gardening books. I know how to bake (badly) and cook (much better than I bake fortunately) and sew and knit and make compost and mend things. I know how to make do with the ‘Not Much’ of both dollars and material possessions.
And because of this knowledge of ‘Not Much’ I also know about how I (and I think many people) actually do need much less to thrive than they think they do.
Right now, for me anyway, to get back closer to equilibrium, it’s about rationing news so I’m not constantly barraged by pandemic information. It’s about me spending time outside with my plants. It’s about listening to music as well as news bulletins. It’s about journaling in my sketch-to-scribble notebooks.
And it’s about me watching movies that make me cry to help release some of the Fears and Scares. I’m not a very good crier normally. I usually release stuff in words and art. But sometimes I think we all need a good cry to feel better.
Sometimes strength is, I believe, showing a level of weakness. Not the kind of weakness that is bad because it leads to broken things. This is a different kind of weakness. One that is about acknowledging all our emotions and feeling able to express them when we need to in whatever way we are able.
So, cry and watch Robert Downey Junior die.
Laugh at cat videos on your newsfeed.
Listen to songs that make you want to move.
And I ask you to listen to that call to dance.
Dance into the next day with a compassionate heart for yourself, your whanau and your community. Do what you can to get by now. And help others do the same. Also have faith that there will be better days in The Bad. And that at some point The Better Days will outnumber those we class as Bad.