The New Birth
Over the past several months, since entering lockdown with restrictions in place on social gatherings, there have been many times when the temptation has been there to give in to anxiety and fear. Even now, with the news that we are on the brink of a possible vaccine breakthrough, joy is countered with the acknowledgment that many will still die or be left suffering from the disease for an as-yet undetermined period of time before such a resource becomes widely available. How is it possible then to allow oneself to feel positive when there is still so much despair being felt in communities all around the world?
It all can feel a bit hopeless. But one way that I find strength in these challenging times is to seek places that allow for peace and reflection. I do not live alone, but somehow I am able to work into my day twenty minutes for contemplative spiritual prayer, as I do in person at Christ Church Cathedral when I am in Oxford. While in lockdown, this ritual comes in the saying of the morning office or, if in the evening, the order of compline. I was delighted this week, as I sat up in bed - counting down the final hours until midnight and preparing to ring in the official launch of my novel in the UK – to find a whole range of worship services and recitals available through the Choir of New College’s youtube channel. Tuning in, watching, waiting, it all felt comforting and familiar to me. We are now on the cusp of the season of Advent. The first Sunday of Advent will be 29 November this year. We are indeed almost to the start of the season of darkness and waiting in the church’s calendar. And yet how wonderful to have found a resource for witnessing the communal worship I have long enjoyed in person in the Oxford college chapel where my trilogy is set. Seeing the faces of those in the choir whom I know and have worked with on my book and album project was restorative. Reading the positive comments left by others who were watching the services live from the comfort of their homes around the world was a reminder of just how connected we can all still be, even when socially distanced and unable to travel abroad.
This week, and the run-up to it, has been several decades in the making for me. It feels as though I have given birth again, this time to my first literary child, which in some ways, is a most accurate description for the range of feelings and emotions I have experienced, and anticipate will continue for the rest of my life. The trilogy, now safely in the hands of my publisher Duckworth in London, will survive the latest lockdown in the UK which has made in-person browsing and the in-store purchasing of books impossible. Yet somehow the trilogy and I have made it this far; together we survived our literary birth in a pandemic, sheltered and away from our family and friends. And we have quite a journey still to come. One day at a time. One. Day. At. A. Time.
So, take each day as it is before you. Allow yourself time to grieve, but also time to reflect on what brings you and your loved ones joy. Never give up hope, no matter how bad your situation becomes. And maybe, just maybe, that vaccine will become available sooner than you thought it would. Will you be prepared for what lies ahead in your life when it does?
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Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Early morning before the service of Morning Eucharist.