As we move into the latest coronavirus lockdown restrictions easing tomorrow, Amanda Cassidy reflects on what she won't be so quick to let go of...
The best word to describe lockdown is that it has been intense — the highs, the lows, the anxiety, the small joys, the new updates, the WFH and homeschool hell. It has all been an intense adventure that we are all ready to move on from.
And as we get used to face-mask life and summer camps returning, there is the hope that we will remember all the things we vowed we would take from this. The new appreciation for nature, the return to days of socialising in the park instead of in a shopping centre at weekends, the slower pace of life, the togetherness we have discovered.
But as we discuss plans for life post-COVID-19, there are those still stuck in that nightmare. A mum at school lost her father to the virus two weeks ago. Today she said goodbye to her mother too. "They are at peace now, together," she says to me, fighting back tears — a reminder that for many this hasn't just been an extended holiday stuck at home.
Our memories will be good but that doesn't mean it wasn't terrible too.
New perspectives have begun — the green shoots of life after Covid. There are talks of new cycle tracks and new staggered workdays, creative ways of doing the same things we've always done, only better this time. We've been inspired.
But will we actually learn from this experience? Will we continue to commute for hours everyday, pay vast sums of money for creches, always measuring our worth by our salary? Will the world restructure its attitude to nature now we've seen how it could be without so many cars or people stripping it bare all the time?
My children gained a new freedom while sheltering from the coronavirus storm — freedom to be children without the constraints of school (mostly) and activities. They roamed barefoot in the garden making grassy bases and sticky mud kitchens, eating too-hot sausages from the BBQ. Our memories will be good but that doesn't mean it wasn't terrible too.
There was a freedom in feeling completely dizzy — a curiosity to see in which direction I'd land.
The day the schools closed in March my daughter's Montessori teacher cried. "It's only two weeks," one of the other mums laughed nervously. But deep down we knew there was something more serious coming. We all felt that end-of-the-world anxiety.
I felt it most on our walks — a deep loneliness for the way life was, as we navigated the paths around our fellow humans, holding our breath and nodding in understanding as they did the same.
Like for many, the lockdown was a renaissance of sorts — a new way of plotting the course of our lives, now that we had so much time to sit and think and think and think (in between preparing all the snacks for the feral children in the back garden).
One friend has decided to go back to studying. Another lost her job. A third decided to spend more time at home with her children. "Anyone need a childminder?" the WhatsApp lights up. Again. No longer able to afford childcare, this coronavirus has blown up many women's lives when it comes to that precarious juggle between career and family. In some areas, there is deep regression too.
As the news thrummed on about the daily deaths and fraying economy, I let it spin me in all directions. There was a freedom in feeling completely dizzy — a curiosity to see in which direction I'd land.
I've learned that saying no to things I just don't want to do is wonderful — a real revelation for this people-pleaser.
I know myself more now. I've seen my family in a crisis and we did ok. There is a confidence about us — that we managed to get through all of this relatively unscathed (despite a sick parent, a flailing business and financial worries).
We have discovered a new belief in ourselves as a unit. I'm less inclined now to look over at someone else's life and want anything from it. We took stock of our lot and found it was pretty good.
The children feel proud that they made it to today — the last day of homeschool, even though we practically limped over the finish line. I've learned that saying no to things I just don't want to do is wonderful — a real revelation for this people-pleaser.
We have lost a business and reinvented another. It is one thing to imagine you have a strong and flexible mind and marriage. It is another to have it confirmed during a crisis.
The next challenge is grasping at that thread of normality, dragging it down over us like a comfort blanket once more. The schools need to go back full-time. I need to work and the children need their socialisation with peers.
Travel needs to resume so that our economy can chug forward. The threat of coronavirus will hang over us for a long time. We have a responsibility to be sensible but also realistic.
Let's not forget the lessons we have learned along the way. I didn't write a book or read half of those I'd planned to, but I have uncovered a new masterpiece of sorts — an inner grit that I'm not letting go of now.
What will you miss about the lockdown? I asked the children over dinner last night. "Not Zoom" one shouts. "Not having to do things," says middle child. "Being with you all the time," the youngest adds sweetly.
There is a lot we won't miss as we forge our way back into the new normal but the freedom to think, really think about what we are doing and where we are going, to me, has been a luxury.
The truth is that all of us, in some way, have changed irrevocably. Things will never be the same again. And that's ok too.
Image via Unsplash.com
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