“Stay Apart to Pull Together”

This is a very different piece to my normal posts.

But nothing is normal at the moment and like everyone else I’ve been watching the developments of the Covid 19 pandemic with increasing levels of alarm, dismay and, at times, horror. The speed at which world and societal order, norms and expectations have been turned on their head, has been shocking to say the least.

The tagline Stay Apart to Pull Together has become synonymous with Ireland’s fight against the current pandemic. An evolving series of business and leisure restrictions have been introduced to ease pressures on the health service and ultimately save lives. People have become very familiar with a whole new vocabulary which includes the terms “community transmission” and “social distancing”.

But while we must now of necessity cede control of so many aspects of our lives and personal liberties that we take for granted it’s just as important to feel in control of as much as is possible. Our thoughts for starters. Accept that this situation is what it is, reframe your perspective and things will get a lot easier. Anxiety will go down and you will find yourself making the best of the situation.

I’ve also found myself thinking about how this period of enforced downtime may reap some benefits or give rise to new (and better) ways of doing things or have longer-term implications as yet not clear. Some of my thoughts and observations below:

  • Life can be distilled to some pretty elemental basics – eating and drinking, taking care of immediate family, simple forms of exercise, work/study and at-home socialising and entertainment.
  • No more FOMO; everyone is staying in.
  • The mundane will become magnificent. Earlier this week, we spent 20 minutes admiring the teamwork of some bluetits eating bird seed from the dispenser in our garden.
  • A single tier health system in Ireland is possible.
  • Embrace your inner grey because, in just a few short weeks, your real hair colour will be revealed to the world.
  • The expressions “my personal space” and “giving someone a wide berth” will take on a whole new meaning.
  • It’s a great time to learn a new skill/hobby or revisit a lapsed one. We are gardening, baking, practicing our musical instruments, reading and exploring new ways to self-entertain. I’ve dusted down a pair of knitting needles and am midway through scarf number one, with wool ordered for a second. It’s very possible I’ll have scarves knitted for everyone in the family by the time this is over.
  • Many many things can be done remotely or online, with a bit of creativity. We are not just “moving” online, we are “living” online and virtualising our entire lives. I’ve spent much of the past week arranging digital playdates for my children via platforms such as Google Hangouts, Zoom and WhatsApp.
  • Life’s very small pleasures will fill you with delight. Seeing my preferred brand of toilet paper on the shelves of Tesco during my most recent visit (previously unavailable for reasons everyone will be aware of) practically put a skip in my step.
  • With all meetings and business engagement moving out of offices and into people’s homes, it feels weirdly intrusive and distracting to be seeing inside people’s domestic spaces while on calls.
  • Can the world function without cash? Very likely, given the wholescale acceptance of contactless during this crisis.
  • Our children will build resilience, knowing that world crises happen, that humankind adapts to cope and survive and – eventually – moves on.
  • Some of the new ways of doing things may actually be better than the old ones. Compare a 30 minute music lesson by Skype in the comfort of one’s own home with spending 45 minutes travelling to and from a music school in the city’s worst rush hour traffic, arriving late, frazzled and harried.
  • All the things you have bought in the middle aisle of Lidl will finally come in useful (eg the hair cutting kit).
  • Your children will become (ahem) aware of your academic and sporting limitations.
  • Subscriptions will become a lifeline. Without realising it at the time, taking out a Beano subscription for the older child a month or two ago was probably one of the best decisions I made this year. We will now have no fear of going without (whew).
  • With work the only distraction from domestic life for many employees working from home, employers could well see enormous productivity gains in the coming months.
  • If your job/income has been unaffected by the pandemic, you will probably save money in the short term (nothing to spend it on bar essentials).
  • When this is over, many businesses may have a wholescale rethink about their need for bricks and mortar premises.
  • There’s been some clever marketing. The other day a well known fashion brand emailed me a style edit for “self-quarantining track days”. Without question, fitted clothing may feel slightly uncomfortable following a prolonged period of leisure wear.
  • The vast majority of people will be wonderful. So far, we have seen a statesmanlike Taoiseach, temporarily out of work chefs preparing food for the elderly and well known – and not so well known – people and businesses sharing their knowledge, skills and services for free (Audible, Joe Wickes, NowTV, the entire GAA community to name a few). This will be remembered.
  • For the small minority who haven’t been so wonderful, a new term has been coined. No comment.IMG-20200322-WA0004 (002)
  • Above all, amidst all this awfulness, humour – some of it dark – will prevail. As people attempt to make sense of the insensible and come to terms with a few months of life a little less lived, sharing a joke to lighten the mood can feel therapeutic and helps to maintain connectivity with friends and family. (Just don’t forget to send me the best ones.)

Coming to the end of our second week of housebound-ness, we have now settled into  our new pared back daily routine. Making the most of the new normal has taken some adjustment but we are aiming to enjoy it as much as possible within the confines of our environment. When we emerge from this, we at least hope to feel rested, a little more educated and very much appreciative of all that regular life has to offer.

Stay positive; stay healthy.

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