So… First of all, hello again! It has been so long since I’ve written any words on this little blog of mine, I feel I need to say that. Secondly, how have things been going for you? Aren’t these just the strangest of times we’ve been living through? There really isn’t anything I can say about it that all the memes on Instagram haven’t already said in a thousand different – much wittier – ways. But still, I feel like for prosperity’s sake, we should be recording for ourselves what our world has looked like during this strange slice of time – this experience that will very likely never be repeated in our lifetimes (well, we can only hope). So, dear reader, please forgive me if this post turns out to be a bit of a “Dear Diary” moment…
But who would have imagined that 2020 would be the year the world was put on hold?
I look back and laugh at myself when I think of the Christmas holidays. I worked from home and looked after the children in tandem while Mark went to the office. By the end of the two weeks I concluded it was a completely unfeasible arrangement. My words were: “Working from home and looking after children for two weeks is completely unrealistic – I will never do it again!” Ha. Ha. Ha.
If I could have fast forwarded to our future selves on Friday the 13th of March, when Swiss schools shut down for “the duration”, I would never have believed that what I felt was “unrealistic” for two weeks would become our new, albeit temporary, normal.
I won’t go into details about our daily routine during this very strange time of confinement and isolation, because I suspect my days have looked very much like yours: figuring out how to coexist in a small space with three other people and absolutely no alone-time, producing approximately 25 meals and snacks a day, fighting my way through homeschooling (in French!), taking Zoom calls with a four-year-old on my lap, attempting to limit screen time (HA!), and trying to keep from going mad, all while pushing aside my grief over lost things – all the plans we had for the year, all the visits with family and all the hopes which have evaporated into empty space and question marks.
I’m sure many of us are in the same boat.
I don’t want to minimise the seriousness of our situation, because I’m well aware that for most people this time has been at best rather “meh”, and at worst filled with worry and sadness. I’m fully aware that I speak from a position of extreme privilege when I say this, but when we finally get what we’ve all been wishing for and the normal service of life resumes, there are some things I know I will miss about this time – there have been some things I’ve really loved.
I wanted to write them down so I can be sure I don’t forget about them. And maybe you’ll recognise some of the things you have loved during this time too.
I’ve loved the sense of reflection that this isolation has inspired. For the first time ever, there has been a collective sense that the whole world is a burning building, and we need to grab the things we can’t live without and run (or in this case, stay put). The crystal clarity around what those things are has been universal and unmistakeable: loved ones – that is all that matters.
I’ve indulged the need to reach out to friends and family in a way I had neglected to do in all the busy-ness of life before. I’ve loved leaving and receiving voice notes – we’re all working hard to maintain the delicate balance in our domestic situations, so it hasn’t always been possible to set up actual conversations, but a voice note to listen to when quiet finally descends at night has been such a gift – especially at a time when many of the people we love can feel very far away.
I’ve loved that I have been writing in my gratitude journal again (because as we all know, Oprah taught us in the 90s that if we look for things to be grateful for we’ll find them). I’ve loved that I’ve started running again, and that I’m finding joy in cooking again, because we’re eating dinner together as a family of four for the first time ever (thank you, WFH).
I’ve loved being in it together – the world at large and, more specifically, us at home: planning our days together in the morning, noting who has work calls when, and covering each other when we shouldn’t be disturbed.
I’ve (secretly) loved having a legitimate excuse not to leave the house every morning (yes, even in week seven…), and I’ve loved my little corner office with a view in my bedroom. I’m so conscious of my accidental good fortune of having stumbled into a job where our boss advocated for flexible working long before COVID, and trusts us to manage our time in a way that makes sense to us as humans.
I’ve loved that the hamster wheel of life has stopped for a moment, allowing us to step away and take stock of where we are now and what life looks like. For me it looks like “PE with Joe” in the mornings and pyjamas until noon and noise and arts and crafts and refereeing fights (so many fights) and spontaneous meltdowns and spontaneous hugs and ice creams on a weekday and Monopoly and Uno tournaments and skipping challenges and rediscovering badminton on the lawn and bike rides and scooter rides and walks in the forest and schoolwork all over the kitchen table and occasionally locking myself in the bathroom for a moment’s peace. It looks like all the messy things that make up the days that keep ticking by regardless.
Lastly, I’m loving putting words on paper for the first time in too long, because this period of quarantine proves that life is too unpredictable to neglect our passions. Thank you for reading this, and for humouring me as I cast about for an opening back into a world where I’m a mum/wife/sister/daughter/friend/circus ringmaster, but also a writer.
So, dear reader, to you and your families I wish the best possible under the circumstances as we wait out the remainder of this strange experience. I know we will look back on it in years to come with mixed feelings. Our children will probably learn about it in their history lessons and by the time it’s all over it will no doubt have cost us in ways that would have been impossible to fathom at 00.00 on 01.01.2020. But still, I hope there are moments when you’ve been able to reflect on your own passions, the parts of your real life that you’re excited to return to. I hope that it leaves something behind even as it takes, and that you and your loved ones will stay sane, calm and – above all – healthy.