We are family!
It’s a family affair
We are with the ones we love but can we love the one’s we’re with? Nothing tests relationships more than when they have to endure stressful situations. The usual stressors like money worries, job changes, moving house, or losing a loved one, usually push the limits and combinations of these often break people and relationships. I think I’m better off knowing that–forewarned is forearmed. It’s also good to have lived through several multiples of them; not that I would wish that on anyone. But, what has that taught us?
Laughter can break many a sour mood or grotty situation, though too much laughter makes some people wonder if you’ve lost your mind. I usually have an ability to see something funny in many situations; sometimes, it doesn’t hit the right notes for everyone else, but it’s my way. It used to be how I defused my own tension, but it’s often a good way to break out of any tension. I’m not good with jokes—-remembering them is not one of my strengths, but I’m a great punster.
Embracing change is often something that causes people anxiety. The current pandemic has forced changes of many kinds–travel plans, study plans, social plans, eating plans (‘we’ll come back to that), work plans, life-goal plans…almost every plan that was in the making. How disruptive the changes have been is personal and circumstantial.
My daughter’s felt badly about her hopes for the spring school term: she had hoped to start softball (a new sport for her) and done training and team bonding in Florida and visit Disney World–lots of excitement. Now, she has only her jerseys to wear to signify that she could have been a softball player. As a 16 year-old it’s not a trivial gap in her sporting profile, but I try to tell her it’s not necessarily critical. She had in her mind being a varsity team member, and that has impact on her transcript. But, she does her team workouts at home in her room. We had a bit of fun this week with some football/soccer, and an hour or so with my trying to show her how to juggle and kick better. I’m a licenced coach, but haven’t coached her personally for over five years. It was a fun break in the afternoon, and one of the rare times she’s exercised in public.
The grands (mother-in-law and her sister, in their 80s, visiting from The Bahamas) are most uncomfortable with all that’s going on, not least because they’re not at home, though happy to be with us–it’s mango season, so that’s a big plus. But, the home- and family-centred lives they lead, bolstered by their church, means they’re now a bit unanchored. They pray and hope their prayers will bring solutions. Fortunately, it’s not their first visit to Jamaica and their ‘hotel’ is pretty good 🙂 They exercise a little but are not as nimble as before, and they have their routines, including their favourite TV shows. They nap mid-morning and like to cool out as the day ends and the heat subsides. They’ve now accepted that–as Easter has passed–the water is warm enough to venture into the pool. But, will they join me in water aerobics?
Mind games and mental exercises are more than just ways of keeping the brain chugging along–but not the negative interpersonal ones–‘time to stop that shit’, some would say. I spent most of my days thinking and trying to solve problems in my mind; it’s my way of coping with all the nonsense I see around me. If I ‘crack’ the puzzle I see, I’m usually content; I can know that my argument is well-thought through and am then happy to tackle anyone. I don’t back down readily and have happily pounded ideas with others. If we agree to disagree, so be it, but don’t expect me to just say yes or no because you’ve said it. I’ll sometimes engage the household in some deep thinking–it’s kind of didactic–simply because I believe and know that most things in life are simple. The challenge isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but let’s try to see other options. My wife is often on the other side of the exchange, partly because we often don’t agree but also because she sometimes has a bureaucrat’s tendency to hit what strike me as ‘sound bites’ and then I bite back. She said the other day that “We had gone back to basics”, so I asked “What basics have we gone back to?” It was a good hour of discussion.
Keeping things in perspective is not what many people do, especially when they forget context and history; memories are short and they tend to exaggerate. Panic or thinking of extreme outcomes rarely helps in solving a problem: I’ve never seen any onrushing train stopped because of screams and waving arms.
Time controls are one of life’s persistent problem, often in the negative as we often work at the whim or directions of others about how we use our time–in the workplace or at school, or with anything else to which one is committed. On the positive side, we know about things like ‘10,000 hours’ or ’10 years’–the amount of time it takes to master a skill. Most people are good at what they spend time doing, and in work and school that can show up with positive or negative results (I’m not going now into poor work environments or poor schooling, but getting out what you put in can often be seen in people’s lives, even if they want to pass blame onto others for results they don’t like).
Being at home is usually associated with doing things ‘in our time’. But, working at home compromises that notion, as pressure from other demands now intrude. We all now have to adjust to the simple demonstrations of that: we overhear my wife’s teleconferences and plead with her to either close the landing door (lucky we have that) or use the headphones. It took a while but we got her to understand, and now we have to deal with her also walking around with her mobile phone and earphones in as if she’s listening to music or a podcast. My daughter’s school day starts at 8.30am and we see her before as we urge her to have breakfast, which is not a problem as she’s good about eating. But, then she has to hunker down and we may not see her till classes end at 12.30pm now (it was 2.30 for the first 2 weeks of virtual school). She may have breaks in her school day but she may chill in her bedroom and not mix with us. I try to check in with her periodically, as that’s a privilege not available usually, and I think the real contact is important. She often takes a nap or grabs some good downtime after class: she got some paintings on her floor that she’s doing. We usually get her full attention close to when we have dinner (about 5.30/6) and she’ll hang till it’s time for ‘study hall’ and homework, about 7.30pm our time for a couple of hours. It’s a long day.
Days at home tend to merge and people often have problems distinguishing where they are in the week, and the other routines of life help us to tell the difference between Sunday through Monday. It’s doing other things that often give a week its structure: Monday is washing day, etc. Now, things don’t have to follow those patterns, and that can throw some people off, especially when they’ve hardly ever had the need or opportunities to do otherwise. I’ve been a stay-home person for years, and know that when I decide to do things can make all the difference.
One little trick I have is to decide when the weekend starts; this week it was Thursday and I just approach my use of time differently. Given that writing is my main activity that others get to see, that means I approach it a bit differently. In normal times, the weekend involves sports for many people, and what is now possible is to have sports any day, so this ‘weekend’ I started my sports consumption on Thursday. 🙂 However, my mother-in-law will not be moving her Sunday for anyone. We’re lucky in the Tropics as our days don’t change length that much; we tend to have 12 hours of daylight all the time, with dawn getting a little earlier as we head into summer and dusk a little later, but not the extremes of dark and light that one gets in the northern hemisphere. That’s a major stabiliser as you can plan your days well, though the bigger issue is heat (and maybe humidity). We are as interested in the weather as anyone, especially when we don’t get rain, as now.
Reprioritising is something that many are doing for the first time is a long while, apart from when they make ‘resolutions’ at new year. Some are doing some long-overdue re-evaluation of life and what is really important.
Staying informed might not have been what some thought important but more now want to know at least where has the pandemic reached in their national or local space. I’ve not said much about the change in the spread of the virus in Jamaica, partly because the facts can be found elsewhere. However, the family mood is connected to the spread of the virus, with anxieties shifting as news comes in about infections, deaths, recoveries, plans to restrict movements, arrivals of protective clothing etc. For many, it may seem that they are in some kind of apocalyptic movie but without any script to follow. We take a lot from how the political leaders and medical experts present themselves. There’s danger in information overload, but it’s a delicate balance between getting too much information and not enough (especially of what matters to you). We’ve been lucky so far in Jamaica to have seen that aspect well done, but there are signs in recent days that smooth PR and good planning are not the same and logistical mistakes and information snafus are appearing as curfews and lockdowns and need to repatriate citizens come into play. I may take a look at that, specifically, later.
Being in Jamaica, it would be easy to say that one way of getting through this–and we have to hold onto the idea that we will get through this–is to say ‘Don’t worry, about a thing. Because every little thing’s going to be all right.’ It’s not going to be that simple for most of us, but it’s perhaps not a bad mindset to have.
Let’s reflect on that positive message from Bob Marley awhile.