Home, not alone: Snap back to reality

For our children and for us, reality has appeared to be constantly shifting during the pandemic, writes Ruairi O'Duil. Our challenge is to remember to find purpose and happiness in life as it actually is.

‘Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity,’ as Eminem once said, and once again we crash back to earth. Or at least enter the outer atmosphere once again.

The Dancer and The Teenager donned their uniforms on a recent morning for the first time since I literally can’t remember when. Weeks, months, whatever.

While recounting our Aussie school year experience to my brother back in Ireland, I tried to remember how much time they spent in a classroom in 2020 and the best I could do was, a couple of months at the start of the year, now, hopefully, a couple of months at the end of the year, and a couple of weeks somewhere in the middle.

For some, it’s been easier than for others. If you’re lucky enough to still have a job that you have been able to transfer to working from home, then reality only really shifted once for you. Certainly, you’ve had some major logistical struggles particularly if you have kids and especially small kids, God love you. But you’ve had a tether to keep you anchored.

But what if you’ve been restricted from working in the lockdowns?

Or you’ve been furloughed?

Or lost your job?

Or you are a school kid?

Or at least if you started the year as a school kid, as we understood that to be.

And then, boom, you have to be this newly invented, make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of school kid. Then, as soon as you adapt to an approximation of that, you’re returned back to being a school kid. But it’s not the same as it was before.

And then, the rug is whipped out from under your barely grounded feet and you’re not that anymore either, you’re back into a different version of the brave new world, with a bit more understanding but different all the same.

And now? … What now?

Back to reality?

That’s five different realities they’ve had to adjust to this year. How difficult is that?

What makes it difficult is that while Reality is reality and it’s always Real, all the time, we don’t adapt  to quantum changes in real time.

We lag.

We process. We resist. We accept.

Or we don’t accept.

And our Victorian kids have had to go through this process FIVE times.

From an holistic therapists’ point of view, dis-ease arises, fundamentally, from our inability or reluctance to accept or adapt to the reality in which we live.

It is difficult for us, in ‘normal’ times, to try not to live in a reality that is as we would like it to be: ‘when I am rich’, ‘when I am thin’, ‘when I am less busy’.

It requires many qualities, including self-awareness, discipline, humility, gratitude, patience among many others. Qualities that require time and effort to uncover.

Environmental stability is also helpful; I can reasonably predict what the world’s going to be tomorrow, so I have some chance of understanding it.

The pandemic has created a time when reality has been changed for everyone and everyone has had to adapt and change their priorities.

It has been particularly difficult for our schoolkids. They have barely had a chance to process one changed reality when a different version with a new set of rules, or an extended set, has been thrust on them that they have no choice but to accept.

We have handed over our freedom to make decisions for the benefit of the greater good, actions which most of us did willingly.

But the more rigid the restrictions, the fewer the decisions we get to make. If you can’t leave your house, you don’t even get to make the little decisions, like which restaurant to go to, or which pub, or who to meet or which shopping centre to visit or what shop to shop in.

The danger for us and our kids is that we slip out of decision making and like any skill that we neglect, we begin to doubt whether we can still do it.

And, with the mind-body balance equation, the body starts to over-react because it feels like ‘there’s no one in charge here’ and we begin to freak out and our anxiety about the future ramps up, or the kids melt down trying to adjust to the new in-school reality and we slip further into a cycle of powerlessness and incapability.

We have been challenged to examine and evaluate our priorities. To have the courage to remember that we are not passengers in this reality, that life will not begin again when this all goes away and we Return to Normal.

This is reality and we need to remember that we need to make and be responsible for the decisions of our lives; that we, our kids included, have agency in our own lives, and that we have the ability and the responsibility to find purpose, beauty, contentment and gratitude now, in this reality, as it actually is.

Those who are able to adjust themselves to be happy, to find satisfaction in these circumstances will gain a new life after this.

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About Ruairi O’Duil

Ruairi O’Duil is a Melbourne reflexologist and father who has been offering his insights into family life during the pandemic.