Monday, 13 April 2020

19 Good Things

How you’re doing these days, amidst panic and pandemic? How’s the Passover-Easter week in confinement? 

Found on Internet
Our quarantine started early, having been exposed to someone who tested positive on March 8th. With two booked spring trips cancelled and a major, exciting travel project indefinitely postponed, I am finding it hard, really, really hard to be upset. You read that right. It’s hard for me to feel upset at all. 

In fact, I am happy, likely, happiest I’ve been in years. 

And no, it’s not because I grew up as a child of line-ups, rations and shortages: from gas, to flour and sugar, to electricity. It’s also not because just 10 days before I became a first-time parent, I became a single parent, in a country with a raging Civil war and the impending NATO intervention (21 years ago today, bombs were still falling on my hometown of Belgrade, Serbia). It’s also not because having been a new-immigrant in Canada, for the first couple of years I couldn’t afford to do the Pharmacy Board licensing exam, so I’ve built my career on the corporate side of healthcare, which these days leaves me with a calling that can be done from home, deeming me unqualified to be on the healthcare’s frontline and therefore—safe. 

I wondered, myself, where is this surge of joyfulness coming from—not to be mistaken for the lack of concern for everyone that is and could be affected by COVID-19—and there is not one reason. I actually, counted 19: 

1. “No.” If anything, Coronavirus taught me in its early days to say “no”, not feel guilty and not try to justify it. Dinner out? No. Visit? No. Playdate? No. Bat Mitzvah? No. Feel the relief.

2. No wasting food. It’s been 5 weeks that we’ve finished every last bit of food purchased and prepared. The craziness of the waste finally sank in. It feels so good to be food conscious.

3. Partnership. The artist previously known as a single-mother, is doing her first crisis with a responsible, willing and capable spouse: I’m appreciating my skilled hunter-gatherer husband, who—in olden days—never went food shopping (because I didn’t let him!). Now, he dresses up, accepts the gloves, antibacterial wipes and layered bandanas, gets the 4 shopping lists: us + 3 seniors, and off he goes, while me and our boys safely stay behind. This kind of chivalry is kind of hot!

4. Home-schooling subject: resilience. Our school is amazing and organized: as of Isolation Day 1, they had moved on to Zoom and complete on-line curriculum, which leaves us to teach the most important subject—how do you react in crisis, which promises to be prolonged and riddled with losses of all kinds. Kids are watching and listening as we follow the news, the deaths and the prognosis. Finding a balance between empathy for the world, while keeping our own oasis engaged and upbeat has been a privilege many generations of parents never had. It’s “Life is Beautiful” COVID-19 style. 

Leek & rice pie
5. Conscious decluttering: room by room, drawer by drawer, remove everything we no longer need—baby books, art supplies, previously loved clothes, dishes we never used. Bring it to the donation bin or post it on Facebook Marketplace and donate. Sell high end items at a below reasonable price. It’s an energy exchange at it’s best!

6. Cooking from scratch, baking like a mad woman. I am channeling my great-grandmothers, Milena and Ljubica, and women in our family that came after them, that lived through wars and calamities. It gives me joy to invent, combine and improvise so that our pantry is getting emptied while keeping recipes healthy and delicious. A Quarantine Cookbook already in the making! 

7. Kids in the kitchen—no longer strapped for time between my last work phone call and their math/piano/gym I let our boys make mess and mistakes and eat them too. Our oldest graduated from University, found a job and moved away. He cooks for himself—after swimming, it’s the next must have skill. 

8. Silence diet. I am working from home now. Unlike my past life of the back to back meetings, traffic, phone calls and multitasking, it’s time for silence—on—demand. I close the doors to my office and listen to silence. I am focused, I get the work done. Have I only been a situational extrovert? 
One home office slaying mama

9. The end of multitasking: night one of isolation, I happily yapped with my girlfriend while chopping rutabaga for my famous coleslaw, when… horror scene involving a Chef’s knife. Luckily, I keep a fresh stock of first aid and the cut, although vicious, did not need stitching. Lesson learned: one task at the time, forever, not just during the pandemic. Keep the ER for things that can’t be avoided. 

10. This is “one day”. The one day when the conditions are ideal for wearing my favourite clothes. For the last squirt of treasured perfume. For projects such as scanning photos from an old album. For reading the pile of saved articles that sounded promising. Everything I like the most, today. 

11. Play with kids the games we played as kids: scattegories, Yahtzee, battleship, rummy, charades—we team up or we play solo, we compete, taunt and torment and suddenly, I’m 11 again! Kids are shocked how mean this mama can be or from my point of view: “I respect you too much to let you win.”

12. Kids play their instruments for pleasure. This happened exactly never since they each chose their instrument. The first few notes of either piano or the guitar are my cue to drop everything and unassumingly approach our dining room table where one of the puzzles is spread out to be solved. This is my new therapy and for some reason, they play, and play, and play. 

"Me" time
13. The art of self care. Yoga at home followed by a hot, hot bath with essential oils, lit candles and my Korean Skincare routine. I used to rush all of this, in&out of shower, rarely taking the time. It’s a weekly home-spa-me-time-sanctuary now: early evening, carefully selected items that replenish my skin and soothe my soul. And the heavenly sleep afterwards…

14. Sleep. The 9h are the new normal. I dream every night. I am sane again.

15. Watching my kids watch our favourite movies: School of Rock. Top Gun. Fish Called Wanda. When my husband gets too serious about school assignments, we now call him Mr.Shneebly; both our boys cried when Goose died, and when I teased my youngest one the other day, he replied: K,k,k,Ken is c,c,c,coming to k,k,k,kill you! And that’s p,p,p,priceless. 

16. Kindness, anonymous. I am a recovering “gift with purchase” cosmetics junkie. It’s all finally being used now—the fancy toners, hair masks, and eyebrow brushes. All the fancy sachets filled with essentials are dropped off at the women’s shelter. 

17. Closure. Pandemic is a great time for a truth check—are those dismissed from your life still dismissal-worthy? Could a threat bigger than all of us, perhaps mend severed ties? Here is how to check: do something kind for the estranged person, from calling/texting to check on them to physically doing something kind. Wait for the response. Chances are, distance and fear created enough humble energy on both sides for a healthy do-over. It’s always worth a try, especially if it’s a dear friend or a family member. The worst that can happen—a solid closure. Here is my own 4 year do-over attempt. Siri, what is closure? When a loss is no longer a loss. 

18. New skills: I can do 3 perfect male haircuts, using trimmer and scissors. Kids say they’ll never enter a salon again! 

19. “I don’t know.” COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to come clean and say it out loud - we don’t have the answers. When is school going to reopen? Are we going to Florida? When are we going to visit family in Serbia and Israel again? Will we ever go to Ninjaz obstacle course? It is wonderful to practice not being all knowing, giving permission to our kids to be free not to be know-it-alls. Instead, we all just wing it, the best we can, one day at a time. 

What I do know however, is that Mother Earth is speaking and we all, while down on our knees, must pay attention. The only way back up and to our feet might be by reaching out and holding hands with our fellow humans until we learn to truly support one another. We might be given a chance to make the first wobbly steps again in a much better world than the one we had before. 

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