Home, but not alone: Missing stuff that’s just our own, and accepting our new lives

As reality sets in, we're missing the stuff that makes our lives our own, writes Ruairi O'Duil. But the start of school from home is the chance to accept our new world.

I miss the gym. I miss Magic Mark and his Suicidal Spin class. I miss endorphins and sweat and pushing my limits. I miss the routine, that little bit of life that I had carved out as mine. It is a surprise to me that the gym of all things would be my point of mourning for my old life. But there it is.

I miss my connection to my little tribe of shift workers and self employed, students and mums and semi-retired whose work and lives allowed us to go to the gym at 9 in the morning.

I didn’t even realise they were my little tribe.

I’ve been asking about the things people are missing and they seem to fall into two, often overlapping, categories: things that connect us to others, and things that are just our own. The Teenager is mourning the loss of the lacrosse season, the Dancer, play-dates. And dancing, obviously. And the Worker, is really missing her myotherapist.

Isolating has taken away many of the things that we use to feed ourselves the food that we need to be ourselves. Our passions, our indulgences, our own little things that make up our own individuality. The things that are ours. Our own space. Our own lives.

Sure, we’ve all had to adjust to the new normal. Working form home. Or not working. New paradigm parenting. New family dynamics. We’re all living in each other’s pockets. And I’m lucky that the kids in this house are old enough to be independent. I can’t even begin to imagine the pressure of having small kids hanging out of you all day as you try to keep them constructively engaged.

And a daily walk doesn’t really cut it.

I’m grieving for the loss of my stuff. The life I used to have.

I think we all are.

I miss the gym. I miss Magic Mark and his Suicidal Spin class. I miss endorphins and sweat and pushing my limits. I miss the routine, that little bit of life that I had carved out as mine. It is a surprise to me that the gym of all things would be my point of mourning for my old life. But there it is.

I miss my connection to my little tribe of shift workers and self employed, students and mums and semi-retired whose work and lives allowed us to go to the gym at 9 in the morning.

I didn’t even realise they were my little tribe.

I’ve been asking about the things people are missing and they seem to fall into two, often overlapping, categories: things that connect us to others, and things that are just our own. The Teenager is mourning the loss of the lacrosse season, the Dancer, play-dates. And dancing, obviously. And the Worker, is really missing her myotherapist.

Isolating has taken away many of the things that we use to feed ourselves the food that we need to be ourselves. Our passions, our indulgences, our own little things that make up our own individuality. The things that are ours. Our own space. Our own lives.

Sure, we’ve all had to adjust to the new normal. Working form home. Or not working. New paradigm parenting. New family dynamics. We’re all living in each other’s pockets. And I’m lucky that the kids in this house are old enough to be independent. I can’t even begin to imagine the pressure of having small kids hanging out of you all day as you try to keep them constructively engaged.

And a daily walk doesn’t really cut it.

I’m grieving for the loss of my stuff. The life I used to have.

I think we all are.

This week, the kids started school again. The holidays are over. This week, we get back to normal after the Easter break. The timing of isolating has been fortunate for us Victorians. My Irish family had a hard crash into home schooling. They locked down on 13 March and have only just started their ‘holidays’. We’ve had three weeks where we could pretend for a bit.

But now we know. Stage 3 till May 11. We’re here for another month, at the very least.

Back to reality. Oops, there goes gravity.

Acceptance, according to Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief, is about accepting the fact that a new reality cannot be changed, where you learn to accept the loss and integrate it into your life. The return to school gives us, as it usually does, a platform and framework to shape our lives around and this time we can use it as the framework to hang our acceptance on.

In truth, I think my kids are looking forward to the structure of school. Those words have obviously not passed their lips, but they, too, need a way to integrate the new normal into the normal. There is a sharpening of the sense of the loss of connection; ‘It won’t be the same without seeing my friends’, but none of us are ever far from that one.

What is hopeful is that there is no fear. There is no resistance from them to the technology, to the channels of delivery, to the complete reinvention of such a sizeable portion of their lives. There’s a curiosity as to how it will work but they don’t doubt that they can adapt to the delivery.

We’ve been talking about compassion and softness. We don’t know how learning at home will work, but we’re trying to remember that everyone is doing their very best.

And that there are no expectations. Except that we try to grow a bit and learn some new things.

And that we be kind to ourselves, and to everyone else.

Ruairi O’Duil has parked his reflexology business during the pandemic, and is contributing regularly to The Parents’ Website, offering his insights into family well-being.