Stuck in the Middle with myself.

I don’t know how I’m doing lately. It’s been a really good but terrible week. Things are definitely getting better and worse. I can see 10 clear steps ahead and after that, I can’t see a thing.

Let’s take the last week. ‘I’ had a good week. I went to the pub with friends and it was lovely. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and we sat in the pub garden, having a drink and many laughs. It felt normal, and extraordinary because it was normal.

I went to the theatre for the first time in a year. I used to go every month. It was wonderful. The magic of a live performance still sent a thrill through me. I can’t wait to go again. I am reconnecting with parts of myself that have been dormant far too long. I calmed the social anxiety that has been plaguing me lately and stepped out. It was a good week and I felt good in it.

On the other hand, let’s take the last week. The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in the wake of the US withdrawal has been stunning and frightening to watch. While the Taliban leaders go on tv and say nothing will change, a woman on the street is told by a Taliban soldier to cover her face and get off the street. Women are disappearing from the streets of Kabul as their rights to exist are curtailed by the new regime. Whatever the leaders may have said, the soldier with an AK47 speaks much louder and with more authority. Also, how do you pump a billion dollars a month into a country for 20 years and still have it be the poorest country on earth? My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan, and I am left feeling helpless to aid them and vulnerable, wondering if my rights to exist here could be taken away as swiftly.

Here in the UK, I’m seeing trends that, while not as tragic, are extremely worrying. At the grocery stores, there are more and more empty shelves. I noticed they were extremely low on painkillers and eggs, and the pasta and rice aisle was almost empty. Stock is concentrated on the middle shelves, with signs on the upper and lower ones reading ‘Please be patient with us, we are experiencing high demand’. I assume these signs are recycled from the beginning of the pandemic, because they aren’t experiencing high demand right now. People aren’t panic buying or hoarding. They are experiencing low supply, due to a shortage of lorry drivers.

It’s not just the supermarkets either. Restaurant chains like Nandos and KFC have had to close branches, or offer a reduced menu due to the shortage of chicken. Many McDonalds have had to stop serving milkshakes and bottled drinks because they can’t get hold of them. Somehow, I find that even more chilling than the supermarket shortages. If McDonalds can’t solve a supply problem by throwing money at it, what hope do the rest of us have?

So things are better, and things are worse, and then there’s the middle. The uncertain, confusing, waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop middle. Covid numbers in the UK have plateaued at between 30,000 and 35,000 per day for a couple of weeks now. The numbers aren’t getting better, but they aren’t getting worse either. The problem is, August is an interlude month. Everyone takes a break. Schools are out, government is not in session, people go on holiday. We won’t know until September if this plateau is stable; have vaccinations and previous infections gotten us to a new normal? Or will we let down our guard too soon and see another spike in the Autumn?

FYI, in case it’s not clear, I hate uncertainty. If I know things are bad, I can take all the precautions and protect myself. If I know things are good, I can shed those precautions and not worry. But it’s hard to ‘not worry.’ Especially when my actions can have consequences for more than just me.

So here in the middle, what can we do? We can’t just sit and wait; because the doom might never come, and by sitting and waiting, we might never experience the good stuff, the stuff you have to seek out. I don’t know the answer, except to be both optimist and pessimist at the same time. Acknowledge the bad and look for the good.

Keep going.

Keep an eye on the ground ahead to watch for the pitfalls.

Stop every few steps to look up at the stars.

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