Today I am having one of these days that I am just fed up with social media and all the access I have got to information about Covid19. A few minutes I was about to throw my phone and laptap through the window and just go an dig a hole in our back yard and only come out when the air is clear. Yeah, the dark side is fully at work for the moment. By now I am so far that every single thing that my body communicates is already the doomesday scenario. Yes, I am very busy with all those things that I am strongely advised to do. My hands remind me rather of the ones my grandmother had when she was 80 something. My hands surely reflect the ongoing battle. All the handcream that has been collecting dust in my bathroom cabinets come now in handy. But still it are my hands that tell the story. They are the borderline where my live crosses over from the safe zone to the danger zone.
Hands....they can tell stories and in the middle of this pandemic they surely can fill up lots of non fictional ones. I refuse to give my handwashing up not matter what. Every time when I splash soap on them I have internal conversations with that tiny little virus. I squeeze all my energy in to my hands and keep rubbing the liquid into my skin and then let the hot water glide down on my skin and take a very deep breath. Relief washes then over my sould for a split second. For that one short moment I am then in nobody's land before I am forced to move back in to the dangerzone.
The dangerzone is for example a walk into a supermarket. It is then that I try to let those hands stay away from my face. 'Keep your hands down...down is the only place they can be...put them in your pocket and please do not touch an other package of cheese if you do not intend to buy it...oh where have they moved the mustard to...it was here last week...EGGS...there are are again eggs!!!...why did everyone needed to buy fried onions? Pfff... I am out and now get that alcohol gel out of your packet asap!' Yes, going to the supermarket is rather walking through a minefield that I only dare the face once a week. As a result I try very hard to explain to my teenage son that food raids will not be left unnoticed. 'If you think that I will run back to the Foodlion to get you an other package of crisps, then come gain8 NO WAY!!!', and my hands then go up in the air.
Hands that I usualy love to use & touch so many things that I love and care for. Momentarily there is a strong paradox at work that makes me wonder when we will ever be able to go back to normal. Not that I do think that normal will be the same even without all of this. Every year something that we consider normal changes and turns into the new normal. We face that reality already daily, weekly and yearly. The world keeps spinning around but the people that inhabit it make so many decissions on a daily basis that even without this viral rave party we are forced us to make certain changes. Some for the better and some for the worse. Still for the moment many are in shock and we can not even put our hands in front our eyes in order to hide from what is going on. Hands are now the one thing that keep us not that safe anymore...
Still, I would not be the person I am when I don't try to find something that helps me to stay grounded and sane. And yes, I use Jane Austen for that...that one author that understood so well the language of hands. Bodylanguage in her stories is to be find all over her novels. In Austen her stories health is also mentioned more than once. Darcy informs sincerly after the health of Lizzie her family when they meet at Pemberley. It is the turning point...it is when the male protagonist lifts up his dark veil and reaches out. It are those words that he uses to point out that he does care and not only about the person in front of him. It is the moment that I as a reader did think:'Hey, he wonders about even about the people he not fully agrees with and does not take a liking to. Something is changing within!' It made me feel hopefull and I did wonder if Lizzie had noticed it as well.
After all in the time of Jane Austen also many people fell ill and health care was surely not close to what we know now to be the normal health care package. So that one sentence makes a world of difference. Darcy reaches out with words but he stil not holding out his hand towards Lizzie. He still is holding back and does not cross the border. He keeps his hands next to his body because he is afraid that if he too moves into fast into the zone he might cause dissapointment and pain. Darcy keeps them close to his body but in a restful state. Just like now..the moment that my hands are relaxing they are perhaps the most effective place to hang out at.
Letter writing is an other moment that those hands come in action. Everytime that hands are used in a Jane Austen they are done purposefully and delicatedly. I have to say that I am for the moment turn off now and then my phone so that I can stay away from new information that has been typed against a social media wall....it mentaly tires me out. It does not keep me grounded...it makes my hands cross over the borderline between sanity and a place where I am about to get totaly lost. This is also the reason why I hardly blog anymore since a few years. Too much havoc going on and the hands that have been reaching out or have been communicating were sometimes sending out very confusing messages.
The moment that Darcy decides to write to Lizzie to clearify a few things is an other key moment in the book. Honestly Darcy did not seem the guy who woud quietly sit down, dip his feather in black ink and carefully select words to write a letter to the one woman who has already driven him to the borderline of his mental sanity. Austen depicts him as a man of not many words and you do wonder what is going on behind that face when he shows up in ballrooms and drawing rooms. That specific letter he writes is for him the ultimate way to tell Lizzie why acts the way does. Not that this letter solves every single issue...nope it does not. It even makes it worse in a sense...for all involved but it is a start...an new beginning. A letter can be a blessing in disguise....
A few weeks ago there was this one open letter showing up in our press that I do think has made the difference. No, it was not a fun letter to read...it made you wonder if it would ever work out and if we are up for the fight...the battle...if it will ever be enough... and yes that one letter was composed by a person who worries about the health of so many people. People he does not know.....and people he will never ever get to meet or needs to agree with. But he worried like hell about his sister, being a health care worker who would be facing the virus in the frontline and wondered if he was the only one out there with his concerns. Yes, I have to say that when I read it I did have shivers going down my spine but I already knew that it would be a one fo these letters that would stick with people and not only with me but so many others.
Letters you write because they can go the distance...they evoke emotions, they can make people change their opinions...letters are the one ultimate tool that people can use in a crisis to make sure that they are noticed and that they get the attention they deserve. Needless to say that since that one individual wrote that one open letter that went virtual my nation is not the same anymore...and the person who wrote it admits that he did not know what effect it would have on people. That is the thing with letter writing...it is letting go...it is reaching out with your hands but not knowing if the person opposite you who reads your words will read what you wish them to read. Are they in the right place and mood to get it and to see the urgency of it all? Will they be able to filter out those things that you wish to stand out amongst all the lines you wrote. Reading a letter involves also empathetic skills and to be able to put everything in perspective. Lizzie Bennet did read Darcy his letter but she at that moment was not able yet to see it with clearity.
In the case of that one specific letter about the nearing Covid health crisis it seemed to be the case. One single letter ladies and gentlemen might be the trigger to make things that not seem to move as fast to suddenly make speed again. Next time when someone tells you that letter writing can not cause change then please walk away from these people. Many classic authors knew that one single letter can ignite a mind shift...for the better or the worse. And yes, nowdays we plant our hands on keyboards and let them glide over them and are even able to delete and rephrase what we wish to say. Jane Austen and many authors had not that luxery. Yes, they had drafts but still every single word their hands produced was a produce of hard labour and the love for language. No, most of them had not clue of if their stories would be bestsellers and even finding a publisher was in most cases mission impossible. They were flying blind and that is surely an other sensation we now experience as well.
Austen was one of these authors who had to go the distance and was rejected many times before she got noticed. She also was not able to use her talent and skills at full potential due to being a woman. In that time many women had their path set out by their fathers and also overbearing mothers. Their hands were the guiding ones who basically showed the way...a way that most them had been on themselves. If you refused to listen and take risks and follow your own path you did have to take into consideration a few things that made the life of others very unpleasant. The hands of your parents were the ones who you followed...you were reminded many times of that. In times of crisis we also look out to leading hands that dare to point in certain directions. And today we find out that most leaders seem not know where to hold out their hands. They point at different directions and some even tend to keep them in their pockets. Hard to follow such people whose hands seem to be paralysed and frozen due to fear.
In Pride and Prejudice hands are the most powerful in the ballroom and when out in the open. Dancing along with Lizzie and Darcy and listening into what they feel and think is finding out that there is certain disdain going on between them but for the sake of all they stick to the etiquette. Their hands touch but also push away! I even tempted to say that there is still some social distancing going on even when couples danced together in those days.
In times of Covid hands are rather pushing away everything. We seem not to be able to use them for what we use them the best and that is loving and caring! Our health care workers even have to pack them in many layers before they can take care of us! No skin on skin sensation...no warmth but outspoken clinical and sterile. It will add up to the coldness and the lonliness that this virus brings along. Not that our health care workers are not aware of this lack of sensation. It is heartbreaking in so many ways. Heart shattering and it makes them feel so helpless. It reminds me bit like those moments that Darcy in the most recent film adaptation shows his fists and seems not to be able to relax his hands. Fighting back to let his fences down....not opening up because he then might slip into a situation he does not have under control! That moment that we as viewers for the first time see him with relaxing hands that smoothly help Lizzie is very powerful! That simple act takes Lizzie by surprise...offering a hand is in the world of Jane Austen crossing a line makes a world of difference.
Helping hands are now the biggest challenge because the ones that need to use them at full capacity need enough time, protection and space to operate safely. They ask us to stay home to give them more time and to save a life! Mentaly that is tough and I do have moments that I even wonder if it will be enough... So of the time being we rather hide our hands and are not able to do with them what we usually do. And more than ever we do become aware that our hands are our most powerful tool we have to make the difference in the world. Jane Austen knew her world so well...
So please take good care of your hands, wash them (I know that message is already growing old but that virus detests soap that has not changed since the last scientific report that has been plastered against a social media wall) and let them speak in the ways you see it most fit in the circumstances you are. Yes, it will first get worse before it can get better but with your hands you can still make the difference. Not matter what...Darcy knew that and he won over the heart of that one person who had sworn she would never ever let him come closer.
PS: I did pick out a Dutch song that is perhaps a bit strange to pick out at times as this but I do think that this might be a song that will become very popular. It is earwurm and it is also a cover by an other Flemish artist Gene Thomas whose songs are very strong by being straight forward in language. One of our leading DJ by the name of Regi (and he also has this thing with hands!) did wonders with it and the title 'Kom maar dichterbij' means 'Come closer'. Momentarily not the best message to send out at times at this. Still, coming closer and reconnecting will be important the moment we will be allowed to reconnect. And the two scenes of Pride&Prejudice I picked out to illustrate what I mean by the language of hands. Plus honestly I look myself very much forward to that one moment to hold the hands of P back into my own hands. After all his hands were one those body features that caught my attention when we met for the very first time. I still love them and I miss them...ardently!