I’m just drifting along
As I sit, rubber-gloved, in the back garden, contents of the shopping delivery scattered around me on the grass, I disinfect a cucumber and reflect on how quickly this strange state of affairs has become the new ‘normal’.
Everything has changed.
Major shifts in my personal circumstances are coinciding with the global pandemic.
I left my family home around the beginning of lockdown, moving, with our two children, from one country to another, and leaving my partner of 20 years, on his own (if you don’t count the dog and a couple of cats). That part doesn’t feel good.
It was the best solution from a limited number of ‘not-so-great’ ones.
This isn’t the long-awaited fresh start I was planning with our move back to the UK. In the end, it was hastily effected and not a little bit messy. The past few months, years even, have been speckled with ‘will we, won’t we?’, half-promises broken and remade, just to be negated again.
Until suddenly, one day, here I am. In the UK with my kids. My partner, although I guess I need to start calling him my ‘ex-partner’, stayed behind.
We’re lodging with friends while we look for a place of our own. Except everything, including the housing market, has been put on hold.
We’re in lockdown.
In the midst of the media frenzy of ‘making the most of time spent at home with family’, I find myself homeless and partnerless.
And although less is not more, in many ways, these are, however, special times.
Since making these changes, I’ve felt a peculiar sense of calm. Of course, there are some days, some times, that I feel bad, sad, melancholy… and guilty. But on the whole, there’s a sense of peace.
I’ve been presented with an incredible opportunity to spend quality time with my children, to:
- connect more deeply with them
- help them through a transitional period of their lives
- reassure them it’s normal to miss their dad and remind them they’ll see him as soon as we can
- have some fun with them without responsibilites of school
- just ‘be’.
We were immediately thrown into what feels like a surreal bubble. We don’t venture further out than this garden, this small patch of green for which we give thanks every day. It has just enough room for a swingset, a swingball pole (remember those?)… and a trampoline. My kids have happy memories of their dad setting it up a lifetime, or was it just a few months, ago?
The children use this trampoline as a huge bouncey playpen.
Most precious moments so far
The best times I’ve had so far, where I’ve really laughed or just felt a smiley connection, have been while sharing simple pleasures:
- jumping on the trampoline with my children (one at a time!)
- creating cakes or pancakes or coming up with made-up recipes in the kitchen
- pencil-drawing my son while he draws his monster cartoons
- painting the wooden outdoor rickety table — it’s becoming an ever-changing washed-out masterpiece
- hugging my children and reminding them how much I love them.
Three unexpected lessons from lockdown
Three things, in particular, come to mind that I’m learning during this unchartered time.
Lesson 1: It’s all about engagement – what the kids crave most is some attention
I have to be honest. I find it hard to not keep checking my phone. But I really need to practice having fixed periods of time without my little screen.
I’m working on leading by example. As a better parent, I continue to be a work in progress.
This is a shining opportunity to talk to my kids, listen to their dreams, encourage their passions, hear their doubts and fears, and offer comfort.
Lesson 2. The small things that matter
So here I am in limbo, during the pandemic. Neither here nor there. Living out of a suitcase and sleeping on a sofa. Our little girl’s Lego took up most of the room in the car.
When my friend asked what furniture I’d like to bring into our new home, there really isn’t much. I can take or leave most of it, but I’d surely bring the dark wooden set of drawers that were my Nana’s.
What makes a home a ‘home’?
It’s the little things. I’d like my special bowl. My coffee cup and my tea cup. My four beautiful Portmeirion Botanical plates.
Recognising this, my friend has allotted the kids each their own special plate. My son’s been given the same dish my friend used at her own grandma’s, when she was a child. She’s also insisted I use her favourite mug for my morning coffee. And it makes a difference to how I feel!
This cup is for you, while you’re here.
It takes me back to a childhood memory of a book called Matilda’s Own Special Plate by Modwena Sedgwick. Does anyone out there remember that book too?
Lesson 3. Enjoy the simple pleasures
This pandemic has hit so many people hard. I’m deepy saddened for those who are ill, losing loved ones, struggling and living through its devastating consequences.
My personal circumstances are in no way meant to disrespect the suffering of so many that the virus has created and is still causing.
And I’m worried too… Of course I am.
On a purely personal level, I feel very lucky for many reasons, not least as I’ve been handed an opportunity to take a long pause. Just when I need it the most.
- I’m not using the time to clean our house from top to bottom.
- I’m not doing all those things I’d put off until tomorrow.
- I’m not arranging my drawers.
- I’m not organising my photographs.
Yes, I’m in limbo. But that means the pressure is off. The sun is shining and (when I’m not disinfecting cucumbers) I can sit in the garden and watch the kids laugh and act out their extraordinarily imaginative role play zombie games.
I can take the time to cook up dinners from scratch, lie in a lavendar-scented bath every single day, check in with my family on the phone, and talk to friends.
There’s no rush to start everything afresh. Our new life. We can rest first. Just be.
My three lessons
- Engagement is key
- Delight is in the detail
- Enjoy the simple pleasures
I hope the sun keeps blessing us with its rays.
Disinfecting cucumbers in the garden would be a bit of a chore in the pouring rain!
If you’re a bit stuck for ideas of what to do next with the kids (or with yourself), you might find inspiration with these four ideas to build connection and feed your creativity.
I also post on Medium, if you’d like to read some more. (Contact me for a ‘friend’ link if you’re not a member and would like to read more than your three allotted pieces per month.)
Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing.
Sending love – Stay well. xxx
© 2020, Images and text: Eilidh Horder