March 31, 2020
I like the word confinement to explain the weird reality we're living.
Language is always evolving and these days I find myself combining words in ways I've never done before. Shelter-in-place, self-isolation, social distancing (replaced by the more apt phrase "physical" distancing). Perhaps these have always been a thing but never part of my lexicon.
Other words and phrases have been part of my vocabulary for years but rarely used in everyday context: pandemic, quarantine, essential services, shutdown, lockdown.
I tend to refer to this time as a "crisis". I don't usually appreciate euphemisms. I'm more of a give-it-to-me-straight gal. But the word pandemic is big and scary and global. It implies, understandably, disease and death - the brutal reality of this crisis that feels very removed from my lived experience.
I'll go with "confinement" during this "crisis" to describe what our family is experiencing. Yes, we're physical distancing from the world at large, but not from each other - thank God! Yes, we're self-isolating, but we don't feel "isolated".
We're confined, circumscribed in our freedom.
We are in a very comfortable situation and beautiful location which I've detailed in my previous post, but as we moved through week two of school and social shutdowns my gang definitely started to feel the "confining" nature of this time. And definitely the "distancing" element.
And though the distancing is not unique to them, the disappointment, discouragement and stress of this experience are real. Even with all the comforts of Nana and Papa's house. Young adults are in a moving away from the nest phase and this crisis has grabbed them by the flight feathers and yanked them back.
learning to crochet
As a nature loving, family-focused, and middle aged ambivert I'm doing fine. More than fine. Extenuating circumstances aside, this is a dream opportunity for me. My closest kin in one place, no appointments or outside-the-family interests demanding our attention and time. It will get old for me, I'm sure, but it hasn't yet.
I appreciate and depend on a moderate amount of non-family, in-person community interactions for my well-being. That tank has been completely filled in recent months so I'm good drawing on those reserves during our confinement. And like I've already said, everyone I love most is right here.
my mom's office where Damien & I sleep (under a quilt my mom made) and where various people work throughout the day, depending who needs a desk.
My teens and young adults have their own needs and desires for social contact and connection. They want more than what is currently available and permissable.
The fact that everyone else their age is experiencing the same physical disconnect is only a partial balm to the discomfort. And as it is with mothering, their discomfort becomes my discomfort (and maybe my mom's discomfort also) because a mother's heart is always beating for her children's well-being.
I feel sad for my kids' losses. Lost income from part-time work, lost opportunities, connections, and experiences.
But I also know this won't last forever, nothing does. And this time presents a unique opportunity to be with my parents and simply enjoy each other, without the pull of outside agendas and schedules. This has never happened before in our family story and it probably will never happen again, especially since the kids are in launch phase. (I hope to God the pandemic and economic crisis part of this experience never does happen again.)
Even with the discomfort of being separated from friends and normal schedules everyone agrees we'd rather be here than in Montreal. What a gift to find Sanctuary during this time.
As much as I love all this cosy family nesting, I've been asking myself: What are some things I can get accomplished during this time? What are some goals I can work on?
I have a lot agency in my days. I may be confined but with grown kids who are largely independent and experienced with self-directed initiatives, I can choose how to structure and spend my time.
Our daily bread that mom makes on a near daily basis
video tutorial coming soon to IGTV & FB
Some things have to be taken care of: grocery shopping - which we are still doing in person with appropriate physical distancing; meal preparation - which is shared by myself, mom, and the kids; and general household tidy and keeping the kitchen reasonably clean which is also shared by that same set of individuals.
With five people working on these things, to varying degrees, and no childcare needed, the running of the house is pretty efficient.
Then there's my part-time job which is thankfully continuing in this crisis. Maybe someday I'll share more about that but the short story is that I'm working as a VA and content writer for Tailwind.
This job came into being just a few weeks before the crisis and my work with them continues. (People are still using Instagram and Pinterest.) A month and a bit into my job and I'm really liking this company, my co-workers and the incredible flexibility. This job is an absolute gift right now.
Another job of mine is managing our family finances: paying the bills, balancing the virtual checkbook, keeping our expenses within our budget - all that. (I use YNAB, highly recommend it.) That work continues here because thankfully we are still able to pay our bills and buy stuff.
In spite of their independence the kids still need me at various points in the day. I've been regularly going driving with Laurent and Brienne, being the licensed driver in the car while they practice their skills and gain competence and confidence with their newly minted learners' permits. Even without a stay-home order, the roads and traffic in Nova Scotia are way easier to navigate than a city like Montreal. But apparently Montreal roads are pretty quiet right now also.
Enjoying a weekend fire,
this was before open fires were banned to conserve possible emergency response teams
I run errands for my family, mostly to get craft and education-related supplies. Only essential services are open so the local fabric store is closed but the yarn section at Walmart is still open and accessible because Walmart is also a grocery store.
I have never appreciated Walmart quite as much as I do right now. We've been able to get much needed art and craft supplies, where we otherwise wouldn't.
I've been helping Brienne get her new school schedule into place. As a strong self-motivated and experienced homeschooler she's well prepared for a situation like this but most of her school time this term, before the crisis, was spent in a French language class. A place to go everyday with a solid routine set in place for her. Which is what she likes - out and about, lots of structure, and clear learning objectives.
After taking a week to just adjust to the change and chill a bit she started her "spring term" on week two of our confinement. She's continuing with her usual math and history programs, both of which she was already doing on Khan. Her Outschool English course finished just before the crisis hit and so now we've added an Outschool Forensics science course and we're trying out a subscription at Take Lessons, an online adult learning platform were she's accessing voice lessons and practicing her French with other language learners.
She's learning to crochet (hence the yarn runs to Walmart) and is working on a blanket, which I'm afraid will be finished long before this crisis ends. I can't afford to keep her in yarn at the pace she's going!
Without our usual out of the house appointments and activities "it feels" like there is more time in our days. Except for a few online gatherings, my calendar is empty, which gives a sense of expansiveness.
Inspired by that feeling of expansiveness, and also in a moment, early in week two, when I was feeling rather adrift, I made a list of things I can work on during this time: cleaning up computer files, getting on top of photo editing, promoting my Patreon and getting ahead of content creation with my podcast, working on my grad school application, and finishing Laurent's high school portfolio. (He's starting his online post-secondary program next week, which did not require a transcript or portfolio, so finishing this project is for our own records and posterity.)
But somehow with all the Facebook scrolling and meme sharing; Instagram reading, posting, and reposting; online newspaper reading and virtually connecting with friends; not to mention occasionally sleeping in, and at random moments of my day, sitting on my parents' comfy couches by the fire - there's not as much unscheduled time as I thought there'd be. Which is good I guess.
I'm not stressed. I'm the least stressed I've been in months (years?). But the days are full in a "just right" way.
Work at my desk? Or nap and crochet? Or a bit of both?
Inspired by Brienne's crochet project, I impulse bought a skien of yarn on our last trip to Walmart that I've started crocheting into a cowl. Puttering through that project in the interstices of my day feels way more enjoyable than working on my digital organizing tasks.
I have no guilt for the list that sits there, neglected in my journal, while pretty blue yarn or a long weekend ramble in the woods captures my time and attention.
The burgers my parents bought for supper one night to support local businesses, never mind the fact my parents rarely eat at restaurants normally.
My confinement life routine includes groceries, kitchen, and house work (shared with mom and others); availability for kids' needs including driving practice, school and project help for Brienne, and emotional support for everyone; some errands and miscellanea; managing family finances (thankful we have finances to manage); my part-time job and keeping up with my Patreon podcast; and of course my morning writing - which is producing this post.
When I write it all out, weekday life feels pretty full, even with a mostly empty calendar. Funny how that happens.
The mythical life with fewer commitments and a completed to-do list remains just that: a myth.
Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.
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