Updated: Apr 30
While some of us have actually been in strict quarantine, most of us have been working to comply with stay at home orders. This has been a brave new world for us all. Time at home has been driven by a multitude of things. For some of us, work has followed us home. If we didn't already have them, we have carved out spaces to dedicate as an office. For any kind of social interaction we have installed video conferencing on our computers or tablets. We have intensified our use of social media. The latter, a never ending connection to our friends and acquaintances has become a daily scroll of what's happening in the world. Friends share posts of people doing interesting and amazing things. As is the habit with social media, we are want to compare what we're doing with this time with what others are doing - despite how curated and engineered it might be.
We see posts of people learning a new language or maybe two. There are posts of people picking up a new instrument. Some have turned their attention to culinary pursuits and are churning out Instagram-worthy dishes of Duck Confit and Beef Bourguignon. Some parents have been posting daily Pinterest-worthy crafts with their children and not a fail among them. Then, of course, we all have our fitness minded friends who not only post their work outs but post pictures and discuss how lean they're getting and how much they are able to exercise. Then there is the rest of us.
For some of us work has been a challenge - if we're even lucky enough to still be able to work. For me, I started down a new business path just as the pandemic hit. That has brought with it a myriad of challenges. For some of you, you have been able to work but as your workplace has shifted from real time to virtual you've had to deal with the challenges of telephone and video conferences. The idea of being "camera ready" has a whole new meaning and for some of us brings an added level of stress and anxiety. Not only do we have to battle the normal challenges of bringing our best to the table, we have to contend with insecurities that the camera has suddenly reminded us of. So we struggle to manage and coordinate work meant for an office and translate that into virtual tasks that can be done on flexible schedules and in desperate locations. While not impossible these efforts are usually done over time. We were thrust into this situation overnight.
Having children at home has added yet another dimension to the struggle. The schools, a petri dish on their best days, became high risk environments for our new enemy. To protect our children we have brought them home. Knowing that technology was available, it was decided they could learn from home under the guidance of their parents who would be home anyway unless they were essential. Teachers with varying levels of technical skill took to 37 different platforms to provide parents with curricula designed for the classroom all shoe-horned into portals with names we can't pronounce or don't understand how to navigate. Obviously different grade levels respond to independent distance learning differently. The amount of parental involvement it may take from a parent for a high schooler has differed from the almost constant supervision required for a kindergartener. Many of us have had to juggle Zoom meetings around our child's activities or skip a child's assignments all together so that we could work. Much of my work is talking to people to coach them or writing. Both of these activities take presence and focus. Instead, I hear my name being called every 10 minutes to check an assignment or to play tech support for my children. All the while we worry that we've missed something they need or the one thing they don't turn in will be the one that counts. Layer on top of all of this the normal routines of dinner, housekeeping, laundry, and basic parenting and you have a recipe to be overwhelmed.
In the great buffet of life, we all have a plate that looks different. Some of us have been able to pick and choose what goes on our plate, some of us have been over-served. None of us chose an extra helping of COVID-19. That bulky, unpalatable serving has pushed everything else on our plates together and intensified anything we were already dealing with. So, if you've pushed back from the table for a little bit during all of this instead of adding a dessert, I can't blame you. So you didn't learn that language, or finish that extra degree while we were all trapped at home. Big deal. And if it helps you, I don't care. As we begin to come out of all of this and face what is being called the "New Normal," what is going to matter is that we made it. What is going to matter is that we have some idea of how we'll go forward and navigate the world we find ourselves in. Yes, some of will have have learned to write a poem in Portuguese. Some of us will have done good to make it to the shower every day. But we're making it. We're making it.
The world is still a dangerous place. We've lost loved ones. We're dealing with fear and what we'll find as we attempt to emerge from our homes. The last thing we need to do is hold ourselves or others to some unrealistic expectation of what should have happened while we were all stuck at home. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to other humans. Kindness and empathy are what we need and that should be the new normal.