Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: ANONYMOUS #7

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from a friend of ours, who has been working as a counsellor through the pandemic, helping ease those addled minds. We’re still open for stories, so if it’s taken you a while to put it together, it’s all good with us – please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown. 


“Oh zoom, you chased the day away
High noon, the moon and stars came out to play……”.    Zoom 1982
“Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video conferencing “.    Zoom 2020

“A brand of carbonated soft drink produced in South Wales”.  Corona 1982
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing infectious diseases”. Corona 2020

In 1982, I was training to be a teacher and living in London.
In 2020, I had been a counsellor for thirty three years and was living in Cardiff.

I had spent the whole of my career meeting with people face to face in a variety of different rooms and settings and feeling enormously privileged to be able to do so.

Then … the world changed! Along came a global pandemic, forcing most of us to make changes to how we work and live. Many of these were eloquently described in “Letters from Lockdown “ which I really enjoyed reading last year.

I was also forced into finding other ways of being able to continue my counselling work and support my existing clients as well as offering a service to new ones.

Zoom was installed on my laptop and a new phase of my counselling work began, not without some trepidation. I worried about connections, both emotional and technological. What would be achievable working this way and would it be good enough?

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to access the counselling rooms I normally share with my two colleagues throughout this time.

Their situations and distance from our base have meant them working entirely from home so I’ve had the place to myself, which has felt very strange and rather lonely. A laptop stand and a comfy office chair were installed in one of the counselling rooms and my work online began.

I’ve been out of the house five days a week, dressed in my normal clothes and smelling of perfume (I feel weird without it) and garlic.

I realised early on that I didn’t have to limit my intake, as I usually do – an unexpected benefit!

So … same clothes, same hours, same rooms, just – no clients in the rooms!

All on screens or on the phone.

They see me in my usual working environment but I see them in very different surroundings – in their homes, their offices, their cars, their sheds. I see them in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms.

I’ve seen a few people in their beds!

People in their pyjamas. Men without shirts. Lots of lounge wear.

I’ve seen peoples’ partners, children, pets. Lots of pets. Cats, dogs, geckos, snakes and a parrot ( all bringing comfort and companionship to their owners).

Delivery drivers have interrupted sessions on a regular basis.

I’ve travelled to other countries with people whose professional or personal lives have taken them far and wide. To Poland, the Balearic Islands, Turkey.

I’ve spoken with people in London and Edinburgh.

Previously, I would not have considered continuing to support people as they moved cities or countries and that already seems rather strange!

My clients have generally been marvellously adaptable, embracing Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp video with ease and we have made the most of it together. People are saying that they like the flexibility it will give them ongoing; they will be able to choose between attending in person (increasingly happening now) or from some other convenient location.

Some people will appreciate not having to travel, negotiating trains, buses or parking spaces. Most people however are missing being able to step out of their lives and into the safe space of the counselling room, with the physical presence of another.

At a time when lots of people have been struggling to feel connected to others, I have been enormously privileged to be so very connected to so many.

There’s been a new dimension to “seeing into peoples’ lives” as I have seen into their homes too!

I have also seen peoples’ goodness and kindness find new expression as they have shopped for their neighbours, shared their food, made donations to various causes and taken sunflower plants to a hostel for the homeless.

I have experienced , as always, peoples’ resilience, tested now in new ways.

I have learned that it’s possible to achieve a depth of connection online that I would not have thought possible previously, not only with people I have met in person but also with people I’ve only ever met onscreen.

My preferred way of working will always be “in the room” but much can be achieved online as people bravely work through the things that trouble them and trust me with their fears, anxieties, griefs and traumas. They share their achievements, their hopes and fears, their courage and humour just as they would in the room and as always, I have loved my work throughout.

On a very shallow level, I have learned how to apply a Zoom “improve my appearance “ filter.

This makes me a little concerned about meeting people in person. “My god,” they’ll think. “She’s aged. And she stinks of garlic”.

Want to write for Letters from Cardiff in lockdown? Find out how here…

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