Ms May originally intended to write an exploration of how people endure winters in various cultures and climates, a book the research of which would require travel and interviews.
But then the cold set in. And one kind of wintering became another: her husband fell ill. Ms. May was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and quit her academic job. Their young son began to have emotional difficulties and needed time off for school. In circumstances she would never have chosen, she produced a book that serves as a guide for this moment none of us want to be in.
Having lived through several such painful seasons of life, Ms. May writes that she has learned to survive them in part by treating herself “like a favored child: with kindness and love”. It means patience and self-care – more sleep, more walks, nourishing foods, less pressure to produce and compete.
It also means recognizing the reality that it is incredibly difficult. There are children to care for and vulnerable family members to care for. Those lucky enough to still have a job feel like they are working harder than ever.
Of course, resilience matters. But given the lack of practical support, “we need to understand that emotional resilience might not be enough,” said Brian Hughes, professor at the National University of Ireland in Galway, specializing in stress and crisis psychology. . Evidence from past disasters suggests that people do not weaken psychologically because they do not have enough personal courage, but because they are under too much external pressure.
That the pandemic has forced us to stay apart when we need each other the most doesn’t help either.
“It upsets our instincts about what to do when life gets tough. Where we crave connection and contact, it forces us into isolation and distance, ”wrote journalist Rosie Spinks in a recent essay. “Where we want to keep a physical space for our collective experience, it forces us to deal with things on our own, to detach ourselves from the tangible world and how it helps us to integrate things – even sadness and sadness. loss.
In this space of quiet reflection, the best gift we can give to ourselves or to those we connect with from afar is honesty, writes Ms May: “We need people who recognize that we cannot. always hang on. That sometimes everything breaks. Apart from that, we have to perform those functions for ourselves: give ourselves a break when we need it and be kind. To find our own courage in our time. To remind us that even the coldest winters eventually melt.
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