All structure is gone. Schools and kindergartens have closed, re-opening only after the Easter holidays. Music lessons have been called off. Sunday mass and religious ceremonies have been cancelled. Even the First Holy Communion has been postponed indefinitely. Those children will remember this year no doubt.
Last Wednesday afternoon the strangeness began. Alsace in France was declared a risk area. That’s 10km from us. A different country but viruses don’t know about borders.
On Thursday talk of school closures began, authorities skirting round the fact that many of us who live on or near the border may have been in that risk area in the days and hours before the declaration was made. On Friday, 35 minutes before school ended for the week the announcement was made. The schools are closing. Two weeks? Yes. No. Maybe. At 4:30pm the news came. 5 weeks. My boss laughed.
My phone was hopping. Speculations. Memes. Links, some helpful, some worrying, some needless. The children’s understandable joy at the thought of virus holidays irritated me. I steam cleaned the bathrooms as a substitite for venting. Eventually I snapped and shouted, leaving my throat scratchy and a loop in my head reminded me that a scratchy throat is a symptom. Nonsense because shouting was the cause. Shouting is not a symptom. Not of the virus anyway. Of anxiety perhaps or tension or stress. Or not being the best mother.
Tuning out helped. Putting the phone aside. Choosing to lay my world war 2 soldier’s autobiography to one side and begin a lighter book. Tired and mentally worn out, I went to bed. Tired and yet sleep would not come. Information, plans, work, juggling, struggling, home schooling occupied my mind like an 8-hour long infomercial.
Today was better. A long, hot shower, a walk, hours of work in the garden helped. A few short texts to friends helped. Not listening to the radio, watching TV or reading the news helped. Dropping picture books to the neighbour I barely know but who is at home with three under 6s helped. Asking my elderly, widowed neighbour to let me know if she wants groceries helped. Getting an e-mail from one of the teachers to let us know the plan of action for Monday’s lessons helped. Snuggling the kids on the sofa helped.
Getting back to normal language helped. “How are you?” without the “coping” tacked on. “Family time”, not “self-isolating”. “Staying home”, not “avoiding social contact”.
We are free to create a new way forward for the coming weeks. All structure is gone.