How do we navigate the personal responsibility minefield?

Last weekend, as some of you may know, I was poorly. I had caught a head cold from my father the previous week which had given me a very runny nose, a husky voice and a bit of a cough.

Being responsible I had double-checked on the NHS website to confirm my thoughts and as my father had been hospitalised in May with C19 I was confident in my diagnosis.

On Friday evening as I began to sound like my old self I started to cough a bit more. Positive and direct action resulted in honey and lemon, cough medicine, cough sweets and the humidifier on repeat.

Bags were packed ready for the weekend, I was reading at the LizianEvents Market at Newark Showground.

Alarm set I went to bed dosed up with cough and cold remedy to be ready for the morning. But sadly there was no good night’s sleep, there was no waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The coughing got worse and worse and worse. I barely slept at all.

I knew at about 2 am in the morning that I wouldn’t be going anywhere the next day. But I kept telling myself ‘it might be gone by the morning, have another dose of cough medicine’, but I was kidding myself.

As it got light reality struck, I wasn’t going anywhere. In reality how could I? How unfair to every other reader, therapist, trader and organisers to sit there coughing and spluttering.

I must admit I cried, I cried for myself, for missing out on the whole show weekend experience, catching up with friends and colleagues, absorbing the positive energy that these events always produce and meeting clients old and new.

I cried for other disappointments; the holiday we had to miss, I cried for my daughter’s cancelled wedding in November, I cried for all the sadness and unfairness, not just mine but of all the people I know who have gone through similar and much worse.

I have to tell you that having a good cry does not always make you feel better, I sulked and coughed in equal measure all day. The poorly blanket couldn’t help nor could endless cups of tea or the kind words of friends and family.

I knew I had done the right thing, I knew it was for the best, for the greater good but still it didn’t make it feel any better.

So skip forward a week and I’ve thankfully made a full recovery, my poor old dad though was not so lucky. The infection travelled down into his lungs and he’s back in the hospital with a nasty chest infection on oxygen and antibiotics.

I was able to visit him yesterday, there are twelve visitor slots for a thirty-bed ward, so some people would be disappointed. Only one nominated visitor, provide contact details, wear a mask, time limit one hour. I was grateful to be able to go as the last three times he has been in visiting was not allowed at all. 

I hate lifts but I confess I baulked at using the stairs up to the eleventh floor in case they took my temperature, but they weren’t busy despite being restricted to only four people (usually about 30).

My dad was as pleased to see me as I was to see him. We didn’t really talk about much, just comfortable chit chat, that connection with the outside world for him and reassurance for me.

So where am I going with this you may be asking, well here’s the thing. Two decisions, two separate weekends, two lots of personal responsibility. I was in control, I made the decisions about my health and the health and well being of those around me.

I am hoping that everyone I know and come into contact with is operating on the same level of consideration and courtesy because how can we effectively police each other if we cannot show the same high standards for ourselves.

This is not a debate about the existence of the virus, I know it exists and the damage it can do. Nor is it a critique of the Test and Trace app. Of course, this will not be perfect, nothing rolled out on such a scale could be. However, if standing in a queue in Morrisons next to someone who has the virus means I have to self-isolate, that’s fine but what happens the next time, and the next. 

What about all those people, like my dad, who has recovered. Do they need to self-isolate? I am in my dad’s bubble, just me, what happens then if repeatedly I can’t go and see him because I may or may not have been near a random person who goes on to test positive.

I know that for my dad the isolation, not being allowed out, attending his two-day centre clubs that have been being cancelled since March, other family members not being able to visit is far, far worse than anything else. He has masks and sanitiser for when he goes to the shops but nobody wants to chat, nobody wants to have a laugh and a joke as they scurry about in fear.

If this all sounds a bit doom and gloom, I’m sorry. It was not meant to. I just want to point out that this will end, we will get through this. Some will fare better than others, but that is always the case. But it’s how we behave whilst we are in the midst of it that is becoming more difficult to navigate for many.

The important thing to remember is that our own power is within us. We can all take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. How we think and how we feel. What we choose to believe and what we choose to ignore.

I do not have all the answers but nor does anyone else; not you, not governments, scientists, journalists, businesses, no one. All we can do is our best for ourselves and for each other and our families, friends and communities to ensure that when all this disruption and madness ends and we reflect back on our actions that we can hold our heads up without shame or guilt in the knowledge that we did our best to do what we believed to be right.

Heather Wood:

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