Hi, we’re Beatrix and Becky, back with week 4 of Lockdown Lamentations. This week’s theme is forgiveness, and when discussing it we realised that the people we find hardest to forgive are ourselves. We therefore want to encourage everyone to go easy on themselves, and not hold themselves to an impossibly high standard.
Lockdown is a particularly pertinent time to think about this. During lockdown 1, I (Becky) found myself feeling guilty when I was finding it hard – how could my experience compare to that of someone who lost their job, was living with an abusive partner or worked in intensive care? I decided to give myself a break. I allowed myself to find the change and uncertainty difficult, while understanding that others had things far worse.
We started this newsletter saying we would do one every week during lockdown. We hope you have enjoyed them – we have really appreciated hearing from people who have. For the rest of the winter covid season, we will be doing newsletters as inspiration takes us. Say tuned!
Places I Don’t Belong
The theme of forgiveness was inspired by Rebecca’s novel, which she published during lockdown. It’s free as an ebook and an audiobook, and is the story of a mother whose son is accused of rape.
Thank you very much to everyone who has read or listened. If you like it, please let your friends know (and me too!).
Research for Places I Don’t Belong took me in fascinating directions. I looked at the ways different diseases changed the brain and behaviour, which raised questions about how culpable any sufferers are for their actions.
I read fascinating and disturbing case studies, from the experiences of someone with Lewy Body Disease to the famous case of railroad worker Phineas Gage whose character was changed when a tamping rod shot right through his brain and skull.
I’ve written a summary of a lot of my research, and wanted to share one the videos that I link to. It’s specifically relevant to the theme of forgiveness as it is a joint talk by a man who committed rape and his victim.
Thoughts on forgiveness from Dorothy Nesbit
I still tear up when I think of a story of forgiveness told by Dominic Barter, certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication (or NVC). In a mediation in Brazil, a baker met the man who had killed his son. He learned that the man, desperate for food, had gone into the bakery in the hope of stealing a loaf of bread. Terrified of the consequences when he was caught, he shot the baker’s son. The baker, seeing his evident distress and understanding the pernicious impact of poverty, decided to offer his son’s killer a job. In this way, some good came from his son’s death.
Some might call this “healing”, such is the power of forgiveness. For the person who forgives, this can be true regardless of the remorse (or lack of) shown by the person (or persons) who has done them wrong. Instead of anger or simmering resentment, forgiveness can free us from the distress we feel. For the person who has “done wrong” – and we are all, at times, the person who has done wrong – owning our missteps and their impact on others, and seeking ways to put something right is also a path to healing. In the “advanced class” of forgiveness, we understand that we are sometimes the “sinner” and sometimes the “sinned against”. No wonder, then, that forgiveness is a common theme in many religions, identified as a way to release suffering.
At the same time, a sense of obligation to forgive others can lead us to acts of self-violence. Marshall Rosenberg, the originator of Nonviolent Communication, highlights that, if we tune into our anger at another’s actions, we can identify needs we have that are not met. This valuable source of information can lead us to identify ways to better meet our needs. Sometimes, a conversation – with ourselves or with the other person – can help us to identify minor changes that make a major difference to our wellbeing. We stop saying yes to coffee with the person who is always late, for example. Sometimes, we make major decisions as a consequence of such self-reflection – leaving a toxic work environment or an abusive relationship. We may understand that others, like us, are doing the best they know how. At the same time, in the words of a friend, “Just because I forgive someone, it doesn’t mean I want to go to lunch with them.”
So far, I have focused on forgiveness as something that is the realm of the individual but, in truth, we see the full healing potential of forgiveness when we take a wider view. Human history is a catalogue of missteps on a grand scale – wars, genocides, enslavement, oppression. Recently, a friend in the US expressed concern about President Elect Biden’s messages of reconciliation. Why would she seek to reconcile with people who have beaten up her friends when they were peacefully campaigning for racial justice or to forgive those whose actions have greatly increased the spread of Covid-19? Another friend, from South Africa, flagged that the famous Truth and Reconciliation process had left scars in her country, placing pressure on people to understand and forgive the actions of people who have shown no remorse and who still live alongside them.
Perhaps healing is complete when there is forgiveness on the part of the “wronged”, yes, but also remorse and reparation on the part of the “wrong-doer”.
We’ll be constantly adding to our list of lockdown activities, and welcome all suggestions.
Featured activities this week:
1. Orienteering (from Beatrix)
In the Nordics, orienteering is popular sport for all ages and abilities. I’ve found it a great way to explore the countryside with purpose. Here in the UK, there’s a range of permanent courses all over the country. Most courses will be suitable for beginners and families, so if there’s one close by and give it a try and let us know how you got on!
For some inspiration, here are some clips you can watch of elite competitors.
2019 World Cup Men’s Round 3 Sprint Highlights with 2 British orienteers,
2019 World Cup Women’s Round 3 Sprint Highlights, with 10-time world champion Tove Alexandersson,
WOC 2014 Sprint in Venice, the commentator in this video explains what happens during a competition, and explains the map, the controls and the strategies used by competitors.
World Cup 2019 Finland, classic forest orienteering with commentary explaining the map, route choices.
2. Online courses
Universities now have an incredible diversity of courses that you can access for free. Whether you want to improve your Excel skills, learn about COVID contact tracing, or try your hand at graphic design, then Coursera has something to offer. In fact just browsing their options is an inspiring hobby in itself!
Other platforms include FutureLearn, SDG Academy and Open Yale Courses (Roman Architecture anyone?).
I have just downloaded DuoLingo to practice a bit of French. It’s free and simple, and has a huge range of languages.
Invite to walk virtually with Beatrix
Sometimes it feels difficult to get motivated and brave the chilly weather to for a walk. Using an activity tracker has helped me stay motivated through lockdown. Logging walks and sharing with friends has helped me cross the threshold of the front door which is often the hardest step.
If anyone would like to connect as a way of support, encouragement or even a cheeky weekly step challenge I would love to hear from you.
It’s fairly simple to connect: sign into Garmin Connect and click on Connections. Using the search icon type in Beatrix and my profile should appear.
Zoom Lover by Betty Pulls a Fast One
In response to our newsletter on love in the time of coronavirus, the keyboard player from Betty Pulls a Fast One (Jon Kudlick) sent me their song Zoom Lover.
Merry Christmas from Rover, Penny, Cora and Ria!
Art and craft
Here are some amazing kitchen creations: a rainbow pinata cake by Catherine, and a classic tiramisu by Ferdusi.
With only a few weeks until Christmas, this is the perfect time to start making some decorations to fill our homes with some festive atmosphere. Here is a video for inspiration and we look forward to seeing your creations!
Latin riddles in the time of coronavirus
Events to join online
The Challenge of Learning – the event of the year for Becky and her colleagues
COVID-19 Live Q&A #5 on vaccines
Trussel Trust – Stop UK Hunger – this worthy charity provides help for the many people who are struggling with the cost of food.
If things are too much…
Most people have had low moments during 2020, and when we don’t see people it can be much harder to tell when someone is in need of support. We therefore hope you will feel able to reach out to friends (whether or not they are us) to help you through. Sometimes, however, the solution may be different, so we have put together some links that might help.
Mind – offers mental health information & support, and a helpline.
CALM – offers accredited, confidential and free support to men anywhere in the UK through a helpline or webchat service.
agenda – a charity supporting women’s mental health, with a particular focus on vulnerable women.
Young Minds – run a free confidential helpline for parents / carers if they are worried about a child or young person.
time to change – a charity working to end mental health discrimination. It has some valuable tips for checking in on people, which is so important while we are apart.