Are You Falling Down the Covid-19 Rabbit Hole?
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
We are all in new territory during this time of Covid-19, trying to find our feet on a carpet that keeps getting pulled from beneath us.
Reflection becomes so important during times of great stress. Somehow finding a way to carve out some space for yourself, to nourish your soul, find some energy, perspective and peace is vital; to feel the sun on your face, listen to the sounds around you and have the opportunity to bring yourself into the present moment. This is my rational, wise owl self speaking of course. My other anxious worrier role in me decided a different course however, and jumped into the very dark and endless rabbit hole.
We are all in new territory during this time of Covid-19, trying to find our feet on a carpet that keeps getting pulled from beneath us. It is anxiety provoking. Panic and fear can set in so easily, especially when that is what is being portrayed in the media. Add to that, the fact that new roles are being required of us when it comes to isolation. Kids need us in new ways, including embarking on home schooling.
Infographic courtesy of Brain mom therapist.
We cannot shop as often, and may not have the money to buy much as our work may have suddenly stopped. Cooking from scratch and being organised in the kitchen becomes paramount, especially when there are suddenly three starving students who just can't wait even one moment longer. It feels like the roles of a parent have just quadrupled in minutes.
Let's face it, most of us want to present ourselves with our best foot forward, our house, as though it is an art gallery, and ourselves as though we have patience on tap, and yet here we are, helping our kids chat to their teachers and classmates online, still in PJ's in a room that has suddenly become a student study retreat for three children, who still don't know how to pick a book or toy up off the floor, with the washing drying in the corner, the toast cold in the toaster as it popped 15 minutes ago, on devices they have barely used, one of which is so old, I'm amazed it even still turns on let alone runs the right programs, and all the while trying to stay calm when all 3 children ask you how to do something at exactly the same time, as though you miraculously know the answer and can be in the three places all at once!!
However, as one school principal recently said, our children have the opportunity to experience learning in a new way, and could be the first generation of students in a long time en mass to learn as a whole in such a holistic and informal way. In fact our children will learn in the very ways that I wrote about in my recent paper for the UN SDG4. Parents perhaps have lamented for a long time that school is very rigid and inflexible, I am one fo those parents, and suddenly here we are, here I am, and I'm not quite as ready for it as I thought.
Children have the opportunity to learn so much more than what could be provided in a school. Isn’t that amazing? They are so lucky. In fact we are all so lucky. And yet, many of us don't feel lucky at all. In fact, we feel quite the opposite. Perhaps how we imagined our kids getting our education isn’t happening in a way that any of us expected. Some families, have literally lost all of their work overnight. Others are still trying to maintain a job at home whilst all the pressures mount up of all living under one roof, and then others have found themselves in a business that is suddenly in ridiculous high demand, and they are struggling to stay on top of it all, maintaining social distancing protocol and running on skeleton staff.
There is no easy way through all of this. Not to mention the fact I have worn my PJ's more throughout the day than I think I did as a teenager, and not only that, but I'm allowing the outside world in to witness that first hand, as I try to solve one of my child's many technical issues in their online learning. I mean honestly, where did any of the information mention that along with your children learning from home, you would also lose any sense of care or dignity as to how you look, when your child gets stuck logging on for their morning meeting? Let's face it, most of us want to present ourselves with our best foot forward; our house, as though it is an art gallery, and ourselves as though we have patience on tap, and yet here we are, helping our kids chat to their teachers and classmates online, still in PJ's in a room that has suddenly become a student study retreat for three children, who still don't know how to pick a book or toy up off the floor, with the washing drying in the corner, the toast cold in the toaster as it popped 15 minutes ago, on devices they have barely used, one of which is so old, I'm amazed it even still turns on let alone runs the right programs, and all the while trying to stay calm as all 3 children ask you how to do something at the exact same time, as though I miraculously know the answer and can be in three places all at once!!!! There's multitasking and then there's just plain pandemonium. I used to have pride, and in one swift slap, that has disappeared down the same rabbit hole my sense of self fell down. Oh yes, there's more!
It feels almost impossible at times to imagine how this ultimate state of learning and living can be achieved harmoniously when there are so many variables, expectations or unknowns at play.
However, we as parents must be part of the process. We are suddenly thrown into our children’s education whether we like it or not, whether our circumstances allow for it or not. As parents we need to be prepared and able to go along that journey with our kids. In order for our kids to discover this new informal way of learning, we also need to be present and ready to embrace it. However, how do we manage all of this whilst under the same roof with all of our own challenges and anxieties? It feels almost impossible at times to imagine how this ultimate state of learning and living can be achieved harmoniously when there are so many variables, expectations or unknowns at play. If your work is not secure, or even if it incredibly important right now, then it becomes paramount that time for that can be addressed. From great trauma and upheaval, can come great possibilities and innovation. We are in an incredible time where new and healthier ways
of being and living are emerging before our every eyes. It is exciting. Our capacity for compassion, empathy, patience, collaboration, problem solving and creativity are front and centre. How wonderful. But the very things we want more of in our children are being asked of us. Can we rise to the occasion? Is it fair to ask that of us when we are also facing our own uncertainty? How do we come to a place of acceptance and understanding in all this?
What I am discovering in myself however, as I struggle and wrestle with my own insecurity and vulnerability in who I am and what I bring and offer during this precarious time; is that I am grieving. I am grieving connection, I am grieving a sense of place and purpose given the work that I do. I am a performer. but I think the reason I feel even more grief is that I am a psychodramatist. I use action to explore the here and now. I help others become more self aware and connected to their authentic self so that they can gain new perspectives, discover a new way of being or seeing their place in the world. It is moments such as now that I feel I am a fraud. How can I help others when I am in such a state of sadness, uncertainty and anxiety? My own feelings overwhelm me and even though I know we are in an incredible position now to lead a more simple and fulfilling life with our kids, these yucky feelings can have a habit of sabotaging the positive when we let them. What can I offer others when I can’t even console myself? And why am I feeling such intense feelings of sorrow? How is this helpful to my kids? Where is my strength, trust and courage? Where has my joy and humour gone? How can I guide and teach my kids about strength of character if I don’t feel I have it in myself? However, these feelings are important and valid and very normal. Grief is important to acknowledge because only through that acknowledgment, and indeed acceptance, can we move through it.
Picture courtesy of Shin Ah Ma.
It is ok to feel a sense of loss. And we have lost something. Something magical and life affirming. The loss of the human spirit. No zoom conversation can replace the physical contact one has with another human being. The presence, the energy and unspoken but very real tele (as Moreno would call it) between two people. The immediacy and physical presence of another. I thrive on this. This is actually what makes me me. I love my quiet time. I crave it in fact. But being asked to pause indefinitely is incredibly difficult. However, we must do it. We must not meet, even though we are hardwired for connection, we must not. We must not touch. We must find other ways. So we soldier on, doing our thing, having socially awkward conversations with our friends and family, as we learn the new online etiquette, making the best of it all, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Time with self may be very important, to reflect, and take stock, but isolation is quite another.
I have my family I am incredibly thankful. I have land and space around me I am incredibly thankful. I have the capacity to grow, cook and eat food. I am incredibly thankful. But still I must pause from my natural way of being, and for this I find myself becoming resentful. And so yes, doing small things like turning off the news, social media, taking deep breaths, getting exercise can help, and does help, but there is still an elephant in the room. And that is, how long do we have to go on without a physical connection to our loved ones around us, without feeling our place in this world, making our stamp, and being a valuable member of society, with out being seen? This is how we understand our worth and how we fit in. Without that, all the little things I can do to quieten my mind, and nourish my heart will go unheard and unheeded. The positive affirmations and gentle reassurance messages such as these, will continue to feel superficial and empty, like they just don’t hit the mark. Why? Because for me, I feel they are still missing the point. Humans need each other. We as humans and we will continue to try and connect regardless of whether we are doing it in healthy ways or not. We will search, challenge, judge and critique and strive to be heard and seen because it is the essence of our existence. The person who truly has no need to connect in a meaningful way with another has reached either madness, or a state of nirvana.
No wonder artists are feeling unimportant and so important all at the same time. The Arts is what always leads people out of their melancholy, it is the perfect distraction from reality. A good joke, can soften the blow, a well written song lyric, can hold your sorrow or lift you up, or a photograph can take your breath away as it captures a moment and your whole being is transported there. And yet artists are so useless as well, for what are they in this moment really? Can we save lives, no? Can we change policy? Possibly, in time, but not in this moment. No. Are we an essential service? No. What is our purpose? In fact, it is interesting to notice that people without the opportunity to be creative in their normal line of work, are discovering they have the time and opportunity to reacquaint themselves with it, and as a result, this period of time, they may be finding quite a wonderful balance in their life. But flip the coin, and the very people who live their life creatively and earn money from this passion, are stuck. Completely and utterly lost. Many have or are falling down the very dark rabbit hole.
Picture courtesy of Shin Ah Ma.
So what can we do? Other than downing a bottle of gin, which will no doubt send us down the hole faster. It is about somehow finding patience, quiet and understanding for what the world needs right now. Having leaders who make difficult decisions in the best interest of their community is paramount. And it is about a beautiful thing called hope. We have a place, and that is to bring people together, and we will be paid for it again, when that time arrives again. It will happen, and we will be ready for that. This time will not last forever. But in the meantime, we must wrestle with our inner self to put ourselves out there for the sake of it, and give it all a rest for a bit. In order for me to take care of others I must also take care of myself, and if that means, crying and lamenting my loss of connection with my purpose and the outside world then that is what I must do. Only then, will I be able to give of myself again in a meaningful way when the time comes. My anxiety comes from the fact that I can't do what I normally would do, but rather than fight it, I must let it go, for the sake of my sanity and the cohesion of my family.
And so as I prepare for another week of schooling at home for my 3 children, dressed in my pj's with my cold toast, and all the roles that’ll be required of me, I remind myself that although the situation we find ourselves in is very new, playing multiple roles at home in my role as mum is certainly not. I will practice being kinder to myself so I can adapt as best I can with the unknown. That is all I can do. This time requires great spontaneity and creativity and I may not feel comfortable but being comfortable in the uncomfortable is something I am very used to. I will bring myself into the moment, in whatever capacity that moment unfolds and remind myself that I am enough. I am enough. We are all enough.