Let anyone who is acquainted with what multitudes of people get their daily bread in this city by their labour, whether artificers or mere workmen. I say let any man consider what be the miserable condition of this town if, on a sudden, they should all be turned out of employment, that labour should cease. and wages for work be no more.
This was the case with us at that time; and had not the sums of money contributed in charity by well disposed people of every kind, as well as abroad as at home, been prodigiously great, it had not been in the power of the Lord Mayor and sheriffs to have kept public peace. (Journal of the Plague Year)
I woke up looking forward to speaking to the first person of the day as we only speak fortnightly. I was aware that ‘they’ always noticed historically not how I dressed but what my clothes ‘spoke’ to them. I gave additional thought to my wardrobe. Then, I remembered that ‘they’ insist on a telephone call, which leaves me feeling deprived of their ‘physicality’ whatever the limitations of Zoom. Later in the day, entering into everyone else’s homes, I realised my sense of deprivation was aggravated by the fact that I had had no exposure to their location. The question of Zoom taking me inside of people’s habitats and what that means to both of us, belongs to my more exacting work in progress analysis.
A second session involved talking to someone who was still in bed. I couldn’t decide, and didn’t want to interrogate them as whether or not they had risen and then returned to bed, or had not yet got up … their location became immaterial as we entered the geology of their emotional life , to which I feel privileged to be admitted.
A third session involved talking to someone – again in their bedroom – but in this case I was attracted like a moth to the light by the backdrop of their bed which was exquisitely made. Their house is shared by their gang of unruly boys ranging from primary school age to GCSE year and yet their bedroom looks like it should be in House and Gardens. The gang happened to be in the garden from whence a healthy and reassuring hullabaloo could be heard. No COVID obsessional compulsive disorder in this household. But such immaculate ‘hospital corners’ with the pillows and cushions puffed and ‘propre’ in a way mine refuse to obey.
The fourth session was so dynamic from start to finish to the extent that we both had positively raised blood pressure by the end. They reported inappropriately losing their temper with a random stranger from the building industry but also returning later to apologise profusely, which gave me a warm rush of affection … I knew they would because people do change their skins in the course of their work in therapy.
The fifth session was with another passionate dog lover and we swopped dog photos. They confessed to and at the same time chided me for not picking up on a recurring ‘habit’. One of the most frequent phrases in any therapy that I am part to is: ‘ But, Jane, I’ve told you all about that.’ What actually happens is that clues have been dropped which I haven’t been smart enough to follow. I remonstrated hitherto they made it sound like it was only a teenage thing …
They also recommended two books which I immediately ordered. Their taste is immaculate.
The sixth session happens to be the literal sixth session, by which time I had been forced to direct some of my energy into not letting my headache eclipse me. Successfully too. However, as soon as they emerged from the ethereal into embodiment they took one glance at me and said, without the least inflection of an accusation or disappointment but only with kindness: ‘Jane you look like a lighthouse where one of the windows has been closed.’ I almost jumped out of my skin. It was a jump for joy that they could be so attuned to my energy, but which may also be a burden. What an incredible gift they own which they can adapt to transfer into the professional world in which they operate that happens to be both aesthetic and cut-throat. To be able to read the body language of another is a gift hard won, which the children of abusive parents often become ‘gifted’ at doing. Yet, it can provide the owner with so much information … not only about their therapist but also professional colleagues, competitors, friends and lovers too.
THESE ACCOUNTS ARE ALL PUBLISHED WITH THE CONTRIBUTORS’ PERMISSIONS.
In the course of today three people have asked and requested that I watch the BBC programme Normal People. Because they think I will enjoy it but also because they think it will tell me something about them. As a result of these Zooms I am also now compelled to download as my nighttime Audible: Watching the Wheels, the autobiography of Damon Hill, whose life I have been made aware has encompassed extraordinary survival over multiple tragedies; and depressive illness. And the documentary, Circus of Books.
My life may be in lockdown but it is also beautiful and privileged. I forget, I also received the wonderful Yiddish definition of Zoom, LOL, which I have used as my header.
I quite forgot that in one Zoom I was ‘outed’ to be found wearing my kitchen apron.
20.44 We have just watched the first episode of Normal People. Exquisite. I also quite forgot, it must be the migraine that everyone who spoke to me about it today and who were as observed also speaking about themselves, referred to the tragedy of mis-communication. In spite of us mortals being given the angelic gift of speech, we so often fail to communicate ourselves. Not only do we wear surgical masks to quasi-protect from the ‘pestilence’; we also incline to mask our inner selves from the pain of rejection. I hope to write more from a clinical aspect about the consequences and conditions of Zoom, I also want to find the time to write at large about the phenomena of masks and the persona.