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Life in a time of covid-19 - part 9: storytelling

When you're a parent you do anything, absolutely anything, to help and nurture and protect your children. This is seldom easy. Currently, it's even harder and we are left dreaming of the seldom easy days.

I just read the lyrics to Paul Simon's song, Bridge Over Troubled Water and yes - that; all those words. That is exactly who I am. Those words, written 1969, encapsulate what I aspire to be, today, as a parent with every atom of my being. This is me - I will dry your tears; I will comfort you; I am there when you need a friend.

I don't want to breach copyright law so I thought it best not to print the whole song. It's easy to find on the internet though - search for it, read it, and see if you weep like I did. These days tears seem to be closer - lingering always nearby - ready to run at the smallest trigger. I observe a collective erosion of resilience in those around me at work, online and at home and in response, a steady growth of mindfulness, yoga and mental health apps. And I mean to investigate them ... I must practice my own medicine ... soon.

We all have trigger songs, don't we? In addition to the above, I also weep at Coldplay's Fix You and Bryan Adam's (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. Both would be on my Desert Island Discs and I would blub.

I'm the sort of mother who cries at school concerts; and graduations; and when my son performed at the Edinburgh Fringe; and at a recent mention of my daughter's journalism in the acknowledgements of a book; and at birthdays; and small life-affirming victories; and when a child leaves to go to university or now that they're adults (some of them) when they leave after a visit to return to their new homes. I'll cry if they get engaged and at their weddings - they know that already, so this is hardly a warning. I'll cry because I do; I'm one of those people who in normal times 'wears their heart on their sleeve.'

A global pandemic is not a normal time. It rips away our ability to be the parents we want to be. And rams that heart normally lodged on my sleeve firmly down my gullet where it wells up giving me an almost daily 'lump in my throat.'

I suspect I'm not alone. To some extent I embrace the tears. They remind me of what I miss. If I can't quite meet my normal parenting aspirations perhaps I can adapt. I can try. You can try too.

Trying takes different forms -

When mine were little, I would tell them stories. There was nothing special about these stories - they just weren't from books. Instead, snuggled up together on a bed or in a chair, I'd ask for ideas - what do you want the story to be about? Is there an animal in it - if so, what animal? What names do you want me to use? Is it to be funny or sad or a big adventure?
When they were very little - the stories were usually adventures about their soft toys or a favourite animal; later, the characters would be naughty, or sometimes would be more like them and more anchored in the real world. Pooh and Piglet were never far from our early stories and we'd visit the Hundred Acre Wood making up our own adventures hunting Heffalumps and eating picnics.

On Monday last week, my son sent me this -

and I replied with this -

and then, him with this -

So, later in the week, I continued (... still spelling Gatawny wrong!) -

And was told

Happy memories. And tears!

Storytelling is escapism. We tell ourselves stories every day. We imagine lives for the people we see. And the people we can't see. We plan our future. We dream. In this time of coronavirus, it's ok to dream; it's ok to escape into stories.

Terry Pratchett said, 'The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything's got a story in it. Change the story. Change the world.'

... we can try.

Finally, I recognise that the ramble above is my way of being mindful and helping myself, but if you need help here are some suggestions -

papyrus - for under 35s -
silverline  - for  over 55s -


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