We are all winging it

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My blog has been gathering cyber cobwebs for quite a while now. Life has been full-on and I’ve not been feeling very creative. As we are all in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, so what better time is there to write than now? Especially while we are all having to wing it through great uncertainty and drastic changes in our daily lives, we all need some outlet for ourselves. I love writing. It’s one of the only things I do that I get really absorbed in. What do you like to do for yourself when you get the chance?

We are all having to adjust to a new way of life that we have been suddenly hurtled into, with no preparation. Most parents are having to juggle parenting and working from home, literally at the same time. Many people are suddenly out of work or furloughed and worried about their finances. Some are even having to not see their children at all, except through video calls, because they are key workers on the front line and isolating from their families.

I watched a video on Facebook by writer Elizabeth Gilbert a few days ago. She reflected on the amazing ability that humans have for adapting to change. Although we are often afraid of change, she says, we are actually the most adaptable species on Earth. I’m not a biologist so I can’t verify whether this is true, but I did find the message uplifting. We all have within ourselves the strength to adapt and we get used to anything when we have to.

We are engaging more with our communities online because we want to connect to people around us now that we don’t see our work colleagues or other parents at the school gates everyday. I have been enjoying a lot more video calls than usual to keep in touch with family and friends. Many people are coming together to help each other by giving someone isolating a phone call, or by dropping off a bag of shopping at the door. Although it feels weird, we are practising social distancing when we go to the shops or go out for a walk. We use online resources for our children who are all having to learn at home. It makes us realise just how awesome all our children’s teachers and teaching assistants are.

I’m not attempting to “home school”. I have made a list of activities it would be great to do every day, but it doesn’t matter what order we do them in. It includes reading, writing, something creative, exercise, housework I can involve my son in, as well as free play. I was feeling very daunted by the prospect of having my son home 24/7 when it became apparent that schools might close. I had a crisis of confidence about my ability to cope. I suffer with chronic fatigue, pain and anxiety, and I was scared about how I would maintain my stamina and keep myself calm. It’s only the second week of ‘lockdown’, and I can admit that it has been a struggle to manage my irritability and anxiety, but I have coped far better than I expected at the beginning. I feel so much for people who are lonely, cooped up all by themselves, and those with children of all numbers and ages. I feel fortunate with my son that he has a sunny personality and is at an age where he hasn’t formed stable friendships like most older children. He is happy having lots of mummy time and is very demanding of my attention – which is exhausting. He is so imaginative and in wonder of everything that he can’t help but keep my spirits up.

I used to expect myself to have it all figured out and to be able to just “do it” when I tried something new. But I have reached my mid-thirties and all illusions are shattered. I realise now that none of us really has a clue about what we are doing most of the time, especially when it comes to the big stuff like parenting and relationships. This idea stopped me trying a lot of new things as I thought I needed to feel confident before the fact.

I know now that the only difference between so-called “successful” people and the rest of us is that the “successful” ones have the belief that whatever they do, they will somehow be able to handle it. They don’t know how – they just trust their own ability to deal with new challenges. This was a big aha moment for me and was highlighted vividly by the classic book “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, which I highly recommend. 

So, I thought… I don’t have to have a detailed plan… or know how to do what I want to attempt… I just have to believe that I CAN DO IT!

This mindset is really helping me to navigate through our current situation. I don’t put as much pressure on myself as I used to try to do everything perfectly. Like most of us with children at home right now, I am not a trained teacher, so all I can do is make it up as I go along and make the best of things.

I started learning to drive for the first time in my life last year. This was something that previously was on my list of “scary” things that I wasn’t sure I was capable of for various reasons going back a long time in my past. I made a decision to have a go, helped enormously by the motivation of having a young child that needs ferrying about. And you know what? It was fun! I actually enjoyed my first lesson and all the lessons that followed. By the end of my first experience behind the wheel, I had a confidence in myself that I will one day hold a driving licence. I have since had some setbacks with my health, finances and with my driving lessons (I was involved in a minor accident) but I am still proud of myself for getting started, and am determined to get back to it when I have the opportunity.

There are many ways in which this new mindset of ‘I can handle it’ has helped spur me on in my life, to keep going and trust in my own ability to just make stuff happen. A lot of the time, they are things that take time to develop and many of them that involve parenting will take years of patience and perseverance. I have persevered with my recovery from ME/CFS for many years, but my recovery journey will never end. I know now that there is no end destination where it will all be ‘fixed’, but it can be okay when I accept where I am right now. I’ll never be where I used to be, even if I’m faced with the same circumstances, because I’ll have the memory that whatever it was, I got through it.

Many days, parenting my 4-year-old – now at home with me all the time – I don’t exactly feel in control. I do the best that I can, in the moment, with what I know. What more can we all do than this? I remind myself that everyone feels overwhelmed by emotion or exhaustion sometimes. We all have to express it somehow, or just stop and accept we need a little break and hide in the loo/cupboard.

All parents are facing these same challenges. I remind myself: one day at a time. I try not to wish that everything would get back to ‘normal’, as I’m not sure our lives will ever be exactly the same as they were before we were hit by this pandemic, but maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe there are some things we need to change and we could take the opportunity from this crisis to reflect on what we need to let go of or do differently to improve our own situations.

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