Isolating, but at what cost …
There is no denying, we are in a time of darkness. To ignore the global suffering would be to ignore reality. To deny the emotions created by this suffering would be called ‘toxic positivity,’ what the Macquarie Dictionary blog listed as a word to watch in April and is to force oneself “into a happy mood regardless of the situation, to the point of denying your real emotions.”
For many Australians this darkness became most pronounced with the drought, then the fires in December/January and now with COVID-19. But for others, it is a reality they live with every day in one form or another, whether through abuse, addiction, persecution, isolation, poverty, illness, grief … the list goes on.
So how do we, as individuals and families, make sense of the pain and suffering that is so evident in the midst of this global pandemic? We are so aware of the suffering that is everywhere – for the nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who must care for the sick each day while risking their own lives and those of their family; for the millions of people living in poverty, whose living conditions are so poor that social distancing is impossible; for the workers abused by shoppers and those who can’t buy the most basic goods; for those whose isolation before lockdown has been taken to a whole new level; for those who suffer from mental or physical illness, who are unemployed, who fear for their children’s or their own health and future, who die horrific or lonely deaths; and for those who grieve the loss of loved ones.
It seems there is nowhere this darkness hasn’t touched.
And even if our current personal situation simply involves having to make the choice to stay at home to protect our family and the most vulnerable in our society – our sick and elderly – this too, has come with a price tag for many.
Rebecca Davies, husband Rod and their two daughters, Madeleine, 14, and Charlotte,12, describe this time of self-isolation as one of mixed blessings. Being required to self-isolate has unfortunately meant that Rod was stood down from his job at the end of April. Rebecca is thankful for her continued part time employment as an English teacher though, and she’s thankful that their daughters’ school has managed their remote learning incredibly well.
But by far, the greatest impact on their family has been the isolation and helplessness they felt when Rebecca’s sister got caught in lockdown in America in early April and delivered her second baby three weeks early. Only hours after delivery, Rebecca’s niece stopped breathing. “She had fluid on her lungs, a collapsed lung and infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome,” Rebecca said.
“My sister was on her own, in another country and in lockdown. It was a frightening and disastrous set of circumstances. We were hopeless and useless all at once.” Thankfully, baby Darcey has recovered, but it has been a stressful ordeal made so much worse due to the pandemic.
Monica Mogan and her husband Paul, along with their four children, Andrew, 13, Daniel, 11, Laura, 9, and Amy, 5, are normally an extremely active and sporty family, juggling their children’s soccer, netball, softball, swimming, piano, jazz and ballet commitments. Paul works as a high school teacher and Monica works part-time as an aged care occupational therapist.
The nature of Monica’s work has changed. She now often works from home; she makes home visits where possible and provides phone consultations when family members decline home visits due to the pandemic.
But for Monica, the greatest challenge since lockdown has been juggling her part-time work and the housework, along with home schooling her four children. “My kindergarten child requires one-on-one attention for all tasks,” Monica said. “This usually takes approximately 3 hours each day. The other children have been mostly left to their own devices with me checking in on them from time to time.
“My 11-year-old has a friend who he has been working with us daily. His friend is an only child. I usually complete schooling by 2pm and then do a few hours of my own work each afternoon. I feel the pressure of trying to be a teacher, parent, home-maker and employee all at the same time.”
Monica realises how many things they took for granted, like school, catching up with friends, playing sports, going on holidays, and receiving the Eucharist. Like many Catholics, Monica and her family tune in to their local parish live stream Mass each Sunday. But while they miss their parish community and having the freedom to connect with others in person, their parish’s live stream Mass has become a source of hope and connection at this time.
As Christians, in our variety of situations we try to hold onto our hope in God who is with us in the midst of this darkness. We reflected most recently at Easter on this light conquering darkness, of where the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion gave way to the resurrection. So, for me, it’s remembering that even in my worst moments – and there have been some significant ones – God was with me there and got me through them. This isn’t ‘toxic positivity.’ This is real.
For Rebecca and Rod, they found hope in the prayers so many offered for baby Darcey and Rebecca’s sister. They experience it when they keep in touch with family and friends online, when they stay active with their girls in the garden or fishing on a local waterway. Importantly, they also experience hope when they steer clear of media that promotes hype and instead, connect with informative sites that provide factual information. This helps them to stay grounded and realistic.
A friend asked me recently how I’m coping with having our children home and juggling everything at the same time. My answer was honest. There are only a few things I can do – I can look after my family and keep them healthy; I can stay home to protect the sick and elderly, including some of our extended family members who are particularly vulnerable to illness, and I can pray. The rest I leave for God.
So, my prayer at this time is simple. I pray that in the midst of this global pandemic, God will find a way to show each person, in a way they personally recognise and understand, that God is with them lighting the way through the darkness.
 Macquarie Dictionary Blog. ‘Words to Watch in April’. April 1, 2020, https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/blog/article/685/