I’ve always said I could never home-school my kids and yet, like many other people right now, coronavirus is confronting me with my most strongly-held beliefs. We’re being shaken awake from the confusion of who we think we are and how we think life should be. Here’s what I noticed when frustration arose this past week…
Friday: school closes. The kids are tumbling in a whirlpool of excitement and fear. Confused by the strength and mix of emotions.
Weekend: standard. Just a bit more at home than usual. Quite nice not running around to sports clubs.
Monday: high hopes. School have set up their work online. I have my normal work schedule of clients and desk work (thankfully my work with clients had already moved online before all this!). We can all work happily, we each have a separate workspace, we can come together for breaks and lunch. We took up an idea we’d seen online to choose our snacks for the day to avoid too much grazing.
Then BAM! The beginning of life trying to wake me up from my dream.
School’s online system is down. 500,000 kids from across the UK are trying to access it at the same time and it can’t cope.
With a — thankfully — quiet work morning I move from child to child trying to help them find something else and trying to maintain our previously-agreed rule that these were school days so no phones, no YouTube, …that didn’t last long for child #2! While child #1 becomes increasingly frustrated that he can’t do his work as he’d hoped. (Like me, he’d also set out in an imagined dream world of normal timetable, available teachers for chat/email, seamless tech.)
Then I have work calls. Admittedly ones I could have cancelled but they were with fellow coaches who I value and wanted to spend time with and — I wanted the respite!
I’d forgotten what it was like to have two people calling ‘mummeeee’ all day. I’d forgotten my resistance to it, that I now remember from their pre-school days, where I’d be off in my imagination of ‘I should be getting to do my stuff’ and life trying to wake me up from that in the form of kids with demands.
4.30pm — screens are allowed again! (Who made up that rule??) Phew! I get some work done.
Tuesday: a bit better. Still system problems. Teachers are now emailing or messaging work to child #1, some more successfully than others. Systems are slow. Other kids are spamming the subject chat rooms so it’s hard to see the work for the jokes, and some teachers seem AWOL when it’s their lesson time. More frustration from child #1 and fear. A high achiever he’s scared of falling behind, of being in trouble for not being good enough — this is a belief held in imagination and life’s inviting him to wake up from it, thank you virus, but in that moment I don’t see that. I just see frustrated child and feel frustrated mum.
My clients, in their own tumbles of all this, go from a full-day of sessions to an hour in the afternoon. So Dad, who was on children-duty, is back on work and me on kids, while dotting in and out of my emails or other work.
Child #2 mostly works on FaceTime with a friend who’d managed to get some work downloaded on Monday night. Woop! Hooray for that friend!
Child #1 does a bit of work, a bit of upset and wrangling.
We call work off for child #1 after lunch. Take the rest of the day off! I email school to ask for clarity of expectations and roles and responsibilities — my old work head going on!
I take the change in client plans as a chance to pop out to Costco, music playing. I happily enjoy the freedom — it seems like I’m OK when I have independence. I know it’s not true in the absolute sense of the word, it just looks that way, but I enjoy the nice feeling all the same.
I get to the shop. No purse! I’ll have to go home. But they might not have what I need. Maybe they’ll let me in to check stock levels then I can go home and get my purse. But Apple Pay…I’ve never set that up. I wonder if they take it. I ask if I can go in. Woop! I can get a temporary membership card. I get that and — yay — they take Apple Pay. I set that up and I’m into the aisles.
I notice how amazing the mind is when it’s not tangled up in imagined stories and it’s allowed to run free! Bringing ideas exactly as needed when they’re needed.
We hit a tennis ball between us (badly) in the garden for a bit, they do the daily art challenge their cousin is sending them.
I have my client call. Respite again! I sink into the brilliance of the conversation of my work, brought back to this moment now, marveling at the shifts my client has noticed. Gorgeous!
There are nice moments. I’m mostly not noticing them. Still getting lost in dream land — this isn’t how it was meant to be. Psychologically tired from the inner battle of how I think it all should be vs how it is. Experiencing frustration like I’ve not experienced in a looooong time. A tiny part of me knowing that it will pass. A tiny part of me knowing I’m lost in the confusion of imagination. A tiny part of me knowing that frustration has just appeared and the mind is attaching it’s familiar stories to it to make it look like a convincing plot line — and that doesn’t make it stop. Why should it?
My opinions and preferences about how life should be don’t actually change how life is.
And a tiny part of me knowing frustration doesn’t need to stop to be OK. Hearing my own coach’s voice — peace is right here in this moment, including when there is anger or frustration.
We get to 4.30. Phew! Again.
And bedtime — I tell child #1 he’s expecting too much of himself and others. That if he can just cut himself some slack and be patient with himself and his teachers he’d find it much easier.
Wednesday: I start work early before everyone else was up — thankful I no longer have a 5am boy so I can have this peace.
Child #1 gets up. I share a realisation that my conversation with him last night was really me talking to myself as much as to him. We laugh. This isn’t the first time I’ve realised this!
We ‘start school’ and the system’s still not working! It was offline to get sorted overnight, it should have been fixed by now. The imagination has kicked in again — fighting internally with the reality that it hasn’t been fixed.
Child #2 joins me in my office, feeling sad. She finds an old video on her iPad from a school project where they had to capture their journey to school. We watch it and cry together. We miss it. She misses her friends. We cry and hug. We decide on a virtual party for her on Friday night and she makes invitations.
I don’t remember much else of that morning. More dotting around. More tech problems I think. Cookies need deleting but child #1 doesn’t want to, he thinks he’ll lose his saved passwords, I don’t know enough to help. We leave it.
I have a mastermind group call at 12 — you guessed it — respite! It was amazing! I come off feeling settled. The knots in my stomach and solar plexus have gone. I feel normal again!
Then. Oh! The bearded dragon’s delivery — new bulbs for his viv. Where is it? Email says it should have been delivered. No parcel. Use tracking number to check. System bot misunderstands one of my responses and (I can’t believe I’m doing this) but I’m arguing via text with a bot that keeps spewing the same question back at me on loop no matter how many times I type I DO NOT HAVE A DELIVERY CARD!
Not at the time, but as I write this, I remember that ‘sure sign of madness’ quote— doing the same thing and expecting different results? Yes. That was me in that moment. I was momentarily insane.
I moved off the tracker to the main site FAQs— ‘the sender needs to contact us’. OMG so I’ve wasted all that time (notice the imagination again! — battling how time should have been used vs how it was) and now, after all that, it’s them who need to get in touch!! I contact the sender.
Child #2 has sport on a Wednesday afternoon so the three of us decide to cycle to the pharmacy to collect prescriptions. But my brakes haven’t been fixed yet. SERIOUSLY! Another thing??
In hindsight I see the brilliance of the design. Life desperately trying to wake me up to all the fixed, limited stories being believed. Trying to shake me awake from my stupour by reflecting difficult and sticky-treacle experiences back at me. It didn’t work at that point.
I strop at the husband as he drops the seat on his bike so I can use it. “You have no idea what it’s been like juggling all this the last 3 days!!”. I know the strop is really nothing to do with him, I know it’s all about the imagination I keep getting lost in. I say that. I have no idea if it changes anything.
We cycle off. It’s nice. The sun’s shining. The kids have fun cycling round the car park while I wait in the 2m-between-customers queue. Oh! My purse! I forgot it again!! (No, I couldn’t believe it either!) But now, Apple Pay! Call husband, get card details for other card that pharmacy will take, add the card. Sorted.
We get home. The kids do some work, with ease.
It’s 4.30. Things seem OK. The veil has lifted. Frustration has passed. The inner sunshine that never went anywhere can be seen and felt again.
Until clouds come again. And they will. We don’t choose or control that. And we don’t need to control them leaving either.
Each time the clouds and storms appear they’re giving us the chance to see through an imagined belief being held as true. Each time we do that we step a little bit further into freedom. Drop a little bit further into who we really are. Wake a little bit more from imagination. This seems to be what we’re here to do.
Thursday, Friday: Still some tech problems. Still disgruntled kids struggling with the new way of working. And yet clarity and OK-ness to stay present with it all. Hear it all. See it all. Work with it all. The battle of imagination dispersed.
This virus is a gift.
With love, Helen
I work with people who want a quieter mind and a more fulfilling life. They’re smart, passionate people who are curious about there being a better way. They’ve worked hard to get to here and yet something’s still missing: ‘is this it?’. In our work we explore and reconnect to innate brilliance so they rediscover a quieter mind, fulfillment and balance. Find out more here.