LIKE numerous citizens, I feel utter bewilderment at the continued repression, the restrictions, the despair of our coronavirus world. Our own global Truman Show, where politicians toy with our lives, preventing us from seeking the truth and claiming our freedom. We are urged to stay home, to be safe. Relentlessly.
Safe. Such an anathema to liberty.
When I joined the ambulance service many years ago, I lived for the high-speed, blue-light adrenaline rides, daring rescues, and the triumph of saving life. In short, I was full of optimism, full of ambition, and, clearly, full of myself. A young person with all that being young gloriously brings with it – joy, curiosity, camaraderie, daring.
Eventually the early mornings, the interminably long nights and the sheer occasional grimness began to weigh; the tragedies I witnessed began to hurt; the fear began to creep; the reality started to bite. By the time I became pregnant with my first child, I found I was unable to prevent myself repeatedly washing my hands, unable to say anything without compulsively and repetitively counting numbers in my head, and, ultimately, almost unable to leave the house.
My husband, who had become hardened to my self-pity and bored with my paralysing fear, issued me an ultimatum. Our child needed to experience life, to be taken to new places, to be allowed to be all that she could be. And he wanted his adventurous and happy wife back.
I told my husband of the horrific car accidents I had attended. He sympathised, but countered with the statistics of dying in a road accident (very small). My job had thrust me towards trauma, but the reality was not this grim, nor this inevitable. I began to read travel magazines and saw gorgeous coastlines, tempting holiday cottages and Cotswolds tearooms that we could visit. I started driving, exploring, and truly feeling the benefits of being out and about. I looked better. I trusted myself again.
I told him of the haunting sight of a patient hideously injured by a pack of dogs. We ended up re-homing a greyhound, encouraging our daughter to cuddle up to my parents’ various mutts and orphaned animals. She learned to pick up spiders, to ride a horse, to marvel at deer running over the field.
I was continuously cursed with nightmares of an awful drowning I had attended, where I had been unable to save anyone. I would wake my husband crying. My husband enrolled our child into swimming lessons: before her tenth birthday she was headhunted for county level, such was her ability. I marvel at her, and what she can do.
I started living my life fully again, and placing the risk firmly, and proportionately, into the package that enabled me to do all this. Everyone I loved benefited. I went back to the job I adored, knowing that it was a job, and not my everyday life. My husband and I were blessed with more children, and they all now swim, fight, laugh, seek adventure, sleep out in the garden on their own and embrace outdoor, and indoor, pursuits aplenty.
You must know where this morality tale is going. No, I don’t walk in Boris Johnson’s shoes, and I don’t walk in anyone’s shoes who has suffered or lost someone with Covid. But I do walk in mine. I have been fortunate to have listened to people who truly have a grip of what is important in life. In the last five years I have also learnt to swim, to row, to kayak, and even to ski (all badly, admittedly).
I take sensible precautions but I am determined that I will not let fear curb my life again, or curb my children’s lives. I have therefore not been scared since the beginning of lockdown. I do not need to revisit that dark place again anytime soon.
I also do not wish to read any more desperate stories of care home residents locked in their isolated torture, of young people dying for lack of cancer care, of kids never coming back to education, and of students killing themselves from despair. This inhumanity needs to stop. I struggle with the West’s continuing reaction to the pandemic. To have been in the grip of fear is understandable, maybe inevitable. Many governments got scared, retreated, but they should have regrouped when they learned more. Instead they have doubled down on the doom and they have encouraged fear to run through the population.
Once, I thought that car accidents, trauma and heart attacks were the normal course of normal life. But it was a false perception of normality. I learned this. We, as a country, now urgently need to get a grip of the statistics; to learn from the destructiveness of the fear and the narrow focus of our efforts. Our brilliantly clever immune systems will, collectively, learn to cope with this virus, as they have coped through time immemorial with other diseases. The world population are not all going to die from it. The world, rather, needs a huge dose of my husband’s pragmatism. Fear exists for us to first appreciate, then to learn from, and finally, to overcome. We must do this before it truly is too late, and fear consumes all democracy, all joy, all adventure, all compassion, all point. And then what will our children be left with?