“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
How different this weekend is from the one a week ago. And how much more different it is from the one two weeks ago (as the above photo clearly shows). Even though we had read about the Corona Virus in China and Italy for weeks, many of us had not anticipated all this: the social distancing, the working from home, home-schooling…and all that in the wink of an eye (not really or course, but so it feels).
For the first time in many months I felt lost for inspiration what to write about. There is a blogpost ready about the awesome Atlantic coast near Cascais, a really cool day trip from Lisbon. But who cares at the moment? Life has changed and we are adapting to that, learning to cope with new challenges.
I am sure many of you are, like me, looking for ways to deal with these new challenges in the best possible ways. That’s why I like to share my experiences with you, including my learnings.
The first week in a lockdown situation
Monday: On Friday it was announced that all schools are closed from Monday onwards, yet we have a live meeting today, with all the teachers in the school building. Mmm…Unlike previous meetings, where we sit quite orderly (I live in Switzerland, remember) we are now sitting in a creative, clumsy way: doing everything possible to make sure we are at a sensible distance from each other.
Back home I start working on creating lessons my pupils can do at home, making sure to have lessons ready for those who can work online and for those who have to work with paper-based versions. It’s a challenge I enjoy!
In the afternoon I decide to buy some plants for my garden, since I have the feeling I am going to spend a lot of time there in the foreseeable future. I buy some orange pansies to have a bit of Holland close to me now I can no longer go there. On my way back I hear on the radio that from midnight onwards all shops, apart from supermarkets, will be closed. Wow, that is a fast and drastic decision!
Tuesday: Everyone is at home, either working or studying, each of us in a different room. At 12 o’clock we have a delicious lunch on the terrace, enjoying each other’s company and an early spring day, sunny and warm. It feels like holidays and like being grounded at the same time. Weird!
Wednesday: We start the day early and sporty: doing yoga together. After breakfast we split up to do our respective work/studies. I love preparing different and creative lessons for my pupils. The day already seems to be more structured than the ones before.
We are in close contact with our family and friends in Holland and with the ones around the corner. So far everyone seems to be healthy and OK.
Thursday: Another sunny spring day, so we work and we go for a long walk, making sure to keep our distance and our faces turned away when we pass those few other walkers. This benaviour feels very anti-social on the one hand and the only wise thing to do on the other hand.
When I check my mail back home, I see that many of my pupils have already done all the work for the week ahead. Oh, oh…that probably means that either they are bored, or their parents have encouraged them to work, because then at least they are busy…
Friday: Grocery shopping has become a stressy affair. Not only are many products not available, but the fact that you are not alone in the supermarket and you know you have to keep your distance, makes me jumpy whenever another shopper seems to be getting closer to me. I feel paranoid! I go home with different products than I intended to buy and do some creative cooking.
Saturday: I get up extremely early to be the first one in the supermarket. Good choice, since it is quiet indeed and I can buy everything that is on my shopping list! My Saturday is extremely long this way, which is great. Time for sports, reading and some thorough spring cleaning. The whole family joins in, which is fun and very effective! Even after having already done a lot, I still have plenty of time to cook and enjoy an exquisite dinner. We spend the evening watching a film together.
So far, this first week in a lockdown situation hasn’t been so bad.
What has this first week taught me?
Quite a few things actually. Let me share 7 learnings with you:
- “Seize the day, whatever’s in it to seize.” – Lloyd Alexander. I have made something special from every day, even if it was only something small, like a delicious dessert for no reason at all. I think it is even more important to seize the day now that life is so much less normal and probably more challenging for many people.
- The positive power of social contact. Even when it’s only online, it does so good to talk with friends and family and I have done so more than I normally do. I am sure many of you have done and experienced the same. When you want to know why friendships are so valuable, please read this blogpost.
- Slowing down feels good. We sleep longer, we take more time for breakfast and lunch, we make a lot of time for social contacts with the outside world as well as for reading books (tips for good books to read here, here, here and here) and board games, out in the sunshine in the afternoon or cosy indoors in the evenings. Spending so much time together is very valuable and having so much more time on your hands feels like a luxury.
- Small things get more value. Do you feel the same? Gone are plans for holidays or evenings out, so a short walk in the sunshine feels very special right now, as does that phone call with my dad or the messages from my friends. These things are always appreciated, but even more so now.
- Be creative. I have to change the way I teach. I have to change the way I shop. I have to change the way I meet my friends. I have to change the way I manage the household. And you know what? It works! Differently, sure, but it works and that feels good. The saying that all roads lead to Rome is very true, even if we can’t take any road to Rome at the moment.
- Structure makes the days work better. Structure helps all of us, but I think when you have got small children, you will realise the importance of structure even more. It helps your children (and yourself) enormously when it is clear what is working time, what is free time, what is allowed when and what isn’t allowed at all!
- We are in it together. I feel this everywhere. At school I am blessed with a very warm and supportive team and I have felt this warmth and support enormously during the past week. We are in close contact, making sure everyone is fine and reaching out and helping each other where and when needed. The same happens at home and, from what I read, it happens everywhere. I hope you all experience the same and can support and feel supported.
This week has taught me above all that we cannot run away from the challenges that are coming our way. What we can do is adapt our behaviour and make the most of it!
Stay positive, stay creative, stay healthy and stay away from others!