OPINION: It's fine to be hesitant as we stand at the doorway to freedom
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All of a sudden normality – that which we have strived and hoped for for so long – is a bit strange isn’t it?
Indeed, rather like the first period of house arrest last year there’s something of a novelty to the change in circumstances. And in fact, I’m fairly sure I sense something of a reluctance to re-engage with communal life, we seem to have lost a little bit of collective confidence.
This is comes, perhaps, as no surprise. So indoctrinated into the obeisance of rules we have become, it is initially tricky to behave again in a way contrary to them.
We will, of course, quickly overcome this hurdle and step back into the known with renewed confidence and self-assurance. And despite Voltaire’s cautionary maxim “Common sense is not so common,” I suspect it will, whatever it actually is, prevail and we will re-emerge blinking into the post-pandemic world.
But for the moment I think we are what we might call a liminal space – a moment between times, a time betwixt markers of time, a dividing line, an instant between two states of being. Life is made up of many of these moments, we are always on the threshold of something else and we are always taking the next step.
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On Monday we were allowed to hug again and go inside for a coffee, and later in June restrictions, we hope, will be lifted further. We are again on a collective threshold, a liminal space between times.
And in our own individual lives I suspect we can all look back at a variety and almost never ending series of dividing lines we have faced and crossed and continue to face and cross. Death of a loved one, marriage, graduation, job loss, job gain, the birth of a child, you know the sorts of things.
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We might well want to hold on fast to the recent past – for fear we might re-ignite confusion, uncertainty, and change – perhaps explaining the fear and trepidation surrounding the so-called Indian variant, perhaps a final ramping up of fear in a collective attempt to find a reason to stay in and stay at home where all is safe and secure when really we’ve got to get on with it and live with a new reality.
So deeply have we turned in on ourselves, and I think I am not alone in not realising, until now, how much we have been affected by the last 14 months or so, that introspection has become the normality. Too much naval gazing isn’t always a good thing – no wonder there’s a mental health pandemic hot on the heels of coronacoaster.
In the liminal I suspect we might feel an eeriness, a sense of apprehension, even nostalgia for what has gone before. This might sound all a bit “new age” and “hippy” but in fact, as my work as a priest I can sense some of the trepidation felt in the community where I serve.
Last week I spoke to you about the restoration of freedoms. This includes, I believe the freedom to feel our feelings and accept them as they are. Over the last year or so, if I cast my eye over my journalistic output I have expressed a mixture of excitement, shock, anger, annoyance, disbelief, melancholy, reluctance, and, in the end some sort of acceptance – a direct reflection of how I have felt.
It might be hard to say so out loud, and seem almost somehow ungrateful, but I don’t think there is any harm in taking one’s time, exercising patience with oneself and with others, and recognising this liminal space for what it is, a barrier, a threshold, a moment we have to get through individually and together before we feel anything like normal.
Are you feeling nervous or anxious? What do you think? Is James right to sense trepidation as we emerge into communal life? Write to him at email@example.com