It was for mostly selfish reasons that, when I heard that schools would be closed for an extra two weeks after March break, part of my heart – through the worry – was full of joy. It wasn’t the joy of knowing that the closures are the right thing to do, even though that’s true. It was the joy of a borderline introvert with an extrovert job. It was the prospect of a situation I could happily envision, even before “social distancing” became part of the public lexicon.
Honestly, hanging out at home with my family is one of my favourite things to do, period. There has been no moment at which I’ve said to myself, “What are we going to DO with ourselves?” All four of us are well-suited to the current state of affairs. On a normal weekend day, if we don’t have plans, we tend to be quite contented.
The hard part on those lazy days – under normal circumstances – has sometimes been the Fear Of Missing Out, or the sense that I’m not giving my kids all the expected social stimuli that a good parent should, or that we’re shirking some kind of obligation. There’s a feeling that society thinks we should be out and about. Right now, I feel a sense of relief that social distancing is my obligation right now. DON’T BE OUT AND ABOUT. Everything is cancelled anyway. Zero FOMO!
All this being said… We’re a week in, and even for us, it’s not paradise. By now, the message has hit home that we don’t get to fill our time with play dates, and E and AB are bummed about that. (I have my social side too – I love visiting with friends and am sad that we won’t get to do that.) The kids are also absolutely off their routines, which makes all of us a little grumpy and aimless. We’ll be starting up a schedule tomorrow to get some structure back into our lives.
But what I notice is how many small things I can do, that I normally do rarely or not at all – both with the kids and without – because I am constantly saying “I don’t have time right now.” At the moment, I do! So I can bake with AB because we have time for her exacting slowness. We can play Streaking Kittens whenever the mood strikes, as opposed to saying “Maybe on the weekend…” I can mend or untangle or find those things I’d normally leave for the elusive “later.” There is no place we’re trying to get to on time. Nothing is pressing. (Other than hand washing.) It’s such a weird feeling – disorienting but also soothing. We spend SO MUCH TIME getting ready, rushing off, doing what’s immediately urgent, and having barely enough time to finish things.
There has never been a better opportunity to lean into those at-home activities that I love. Such as:
- making lots of lists 😉
- getting all my current marking done (okay, I don’t love this one, but it’s satisfying)
- cleaning things deeply in a way one so rarely has time for (ditto)
- actually getting out the messy crafts that we so often don’t do because it’s almost dinnertime or whatever
- taking family walks and hikes
- unpacking and organizing the contents of the boxes in our office which have never been dealt with since the Great Plumbing Repair of 2019 – this is already almost done!!
- wearing my comfy pants ALL THE TIME
- practicing dance
- reminding myself how to sprout some sprouts
- playing piano and ukulele
- watching movies
- engaging in some specific artistic endeavours I have been putting off for literally years
- doing a whole jigsaw puzzle – maybe two!!
I once started a blog post that, for whatever reason, was never finished or published. It was called “Happiness is a Jigsaw Puzzle.” When I stumbled upon the file, at first I thought I’d meant that happiness is like a kind of puzzle with lots of little bits that you have to fit into each other… but it was actually nothing that profound.
What I meant was, it’s a blissful luxury – to me – to have enough time to sit and just contemplate colour and shape. To piece together, very slowly, a big picture with lots of interesting details. To listen to music and just enjoy the mini-hits of dopamine when a piece finds home. It is a calming, comforting activity for me. But there have been years that go by where I don’t do any jigsaw puzzles, because there simply is not enough time – always a To Do list too long. The pleasure goes out of puzzles when there’s guilt involved. And when things are pressing, there’s always guilt. So… enter social distancing! The perfect excuse for puzzle-working!
(I did this one in about 3-4 hours, over the course of two days. It was a fun one! Charles Wysocki never disappoints.)
Of course to some people, sitting and working a jigsaw puzzle would be agony. I know this whole social distancing phenomenon is really hard for the true extroverts. I feel for those people – I know what it’s like to need a recharge that’s hard to get. And I’m claustrophobic, so I can imagine that being alone a lot would feel like the emotional equivalent of claustrophobia. The loneliness plus anxiety is a rough combination. Thankfully, it’s been heartwarming to see the extroverted survival guidance happening on our local Caremongering page.
As we all know, over the course of this week, the news has gotten more and more grim. I feel sure that it’s going to get much worse before it gets better. So here we are, at home, holding onto the personal status quo.
I have so many reasons to be grateful right now.
- There are so many different ways to stay in touch without touching!
- Sean had this week off, so there was lots of family time.
- My parents are relatively healthy and live in the woods.
- One set of parents-in-law are back from Florida early.
- My other father-in-law is no longer in hospital (which he recently was, recovering from a broken femur and then an infection).
- The various levels of government here have been prompt in taking measures to flatten the curve while (we hope) we still can.
- Sean and I are not yet having to go on EI.
- My kids are mostly really good at entertaining themselves – read-to-self is a favourite activity.
- They are both old enough (and have the attention span, mostly) to play strategic board games.
- I genuinely enjoy their company (when they’re not screeching at each other or me, or whining, or repeating strange sounds or random words over and over…).
- We have a good yard to play in, and a safe neighbourhood to walk in.
- The weather is warming up, slowly but surely (?) – and it’s finally technically spring!
- My home has wonderful woodburning fireplace (since you know winter will keep sticking its head back in, like “you’re SURE you don’t need any more of this?”).
- My city has so many people reaching out to help those in need.
- In our community, it really feels like everyone is sincerely trying their best to distance themselves properly.
- I’m grateful that we can still get groceries and mail and various other things – and grateful to the cashiers, bank tellers, postal workers, delivery people, garbage collectors, etc. etc. etc. who are doing their jobs as usual under these crazy circumstances.
- I’m also really, really grateful to all hospital/medical staff who work at ground zero and are not able to distance themselves. The worst of this, which looms ominously, is going to be theirs to deal with. They will save lives as usual, in spite of what must be astronomical stress.
I am especially, fervently grateful that this particular disease doesn’t seem to be dangerous to healthy children, and also that my children are not immunocompromised. My heart goes out to those parents who have children who are, and/or who are themselves, immunocompromised; they must be feeling enormous anxiety. I can only imagine how it must have been during widespread outbreaks of measles or whooping cough, diseases that killed children in large numbers… The fear would be overwhelming, engulfing, inescapable.
Basically, I am feeling thankful for all the things that resemble normalcy. Besides jigsaw puzzles, there have been quite a few games – Sean and I alone have played three games of Trivial Pursuit and seven games of Cribbage (of which I lost
seven I won’t say how many). We’ve watched several movies, including The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Frozen II, and live-action Beauty and the Beast. The kids are finally learning to experiment on the piano. We had a virtual family date with friends yesterday, and today we had an impromptu socially-distant sidewalk-chalking session on our street with Skye’s family. The other day, Sean got AB on the walkie-talkie and taught her some lingo. (We used the pegasus names AB gave us as our call signs and she got right into it: “Phoenixtail, this is Moonwing. What’s your twenty?” and “Ten-four, Midnightfrost, over.”)
I hope you are all managing so far, lovelies. What an extraordinary thing, to know that no matter who is reading this, and wherever you are, you are part of this with us. We send you love.