With the experience of COVID19 being an extended period of strange, I am noticing things blending that perhaps would not have previously met. Such as home and work. Children and colleagues. Priorities and leisure activities. Tele-video conferencing and unlimited screen time. The challenge is with the frequent chopping and changing to meet a chaotic stream of demands. The ongoing effect of an ongoing strange situation is that of feeling, irksome, bored and fatigued. Can all responsibilities be equally met realistically?
Currently I am working from home. I have not gone in to work since mid March. A warning from a friend who manages a number of hospitals was “if the virus gets in to a prison it will be like being on a cruise ship” she said. I took the cruise ships warning, to mean that if the virus got in to HMP X, it would run rampant and be unstoppable! Me with a compromised immune system and now as of mid May 2020, also being in the high risk category of being a Black Male I have relented and stayed home.
Regretfully having not returned to my duties at Prison a feeling of malaise is growing. Now at 10 weeks in to self isolation I note that working from home has a number of common/uncommon challenges.
Everyone is here! Dr CW and my two boys, are home. Where else would they be? I try to juggle a responsible role amongst making lunch, attending to squabbles between the 12 year old and 10 year old. I am also the unofficial teaching assistant (TA) for the boy’s learning. Dr CW is the qualified teacher, dedicating herself to managing the older one’s learning. I am grateful for her insights and perseverance through #Lockdown. I struggle with thoughts of ‘Am I doing this TA thing right?’ or ‘I don’t wanna ask her, but…’ and thoughts of doing not enough or too much.
I am also supporting my team that do go in to work at the prisons. I supervise remotely either by msn teams, Zoom or WhatsApp video call. Here too elements of guilt seep in to my awareness. Me at home, them there, putting themselves at risk and against the impossible task of welfare checks and keeping themselves safe in a prison! The thought of I should be there too, drags at me.
I have given up the hour long commute – a 3 month old distant memory. The leaving the house at 7 a.m. is no more. The wondering about what to have for lunch at work is absent. The many other trivialities of getting ready for work seem a faint consideration now.
The challenge for me currently is the blending of environments. Baffling and causing me to reminisce of the times had before the Lockdown. Work and home. Responsibilities of both now being mixed. Competing for dominance because they are both independently more important, urgent, and demanding of my 100% attention.
How were things before? They were in neat enough little boxes. Tidy. Distinct. Recognisable. Acknowledgeable for what each box contained. And I knew where those boxes were. And I knew how to open one and close another. There was an order, a schedule, a pattern.
Now it’s like all the boxes are open. Things are leaking from some boxes into others, some are neglected or forgotten. The reasons for the negligence is that there are fires raging in some and rain pouring against others. Soaking some and threatening to utterly destroy the collection. It is Monsoons and Volcanoes. The Cardboard boxes don’t stand a Chance!
Reflection for Understanding
I mentioned to 2 peer supervisees and to a friend that this time of ours in COVID19 Lockdown feels more stressful and anxiety provoking than anything I have lived through before. There have been other large seismic events that were as incredible as they were terrible. Tiananmen Square, the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster, September 11th, the Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls, the ongoing slaying of Black Women and Black Men in North America by police and security officers, Hurricane Katrina and the July 7 attacks in London all have pock marked my memory indelibly.
But this enforced captivity and forgive the crude analogy, is like being sentenced along with family to an IPP indeterminate sentence. With little information as to our possible release dates. Parole options remain hidden. Being able to work towards a release date with good behaviour with our probation officers is off the table. The analogy here looks at those responsible for the management of the Pandemic (Governments). The offence would be catching the disease and spreading it by not socially distancing or non observance of WHO guidelines. With the suspected crime being committed we are then to be summarily mass incarcerated at home: indefinitely.
I mentioned in an earlier post that this virus, so small, is like a mushroom fungi spore. Altering the biochemistry of it’s infected hosts turning them into cadavers for birds and other feeding creatures to spread the fungi’s spores as far and as wide as possible. This virus has changed our view/experience of our world in ways that are similarly inconceivable.
Maybe I am not alone in thinking I’ve had enough. My fill of Netflix and Prime is replete. Being with the family and Zoom calls with friends, colleagues and clients a depended must. Contact with family overseas was good wholesome and necessary in the beginning of the outbreak. Now seems as tiring as the push me – pull you antics of the UK government. The experience being a blend of missing the simple act of human to human connection and dislocation/dissociation/disruption from what is and what is not real.
Post COVID19’s tag line might read ‘Life Just got Tougher and Now Closer to the Impossible.’
If you contract the illness there is a fair chance you will survive but you might not be the same after you recover! It is probable that our world won’t be as well.
Demanding better futures and an honest retelling of our world history. Insisting on a closer, more informed and equally educated society, fearing less, eating healthily, thinking clearer and inclined to critical analysis and desiring to be ready to make meaningful change for our lives and for the lives of generations to follow. Perhaps with an idea of a sense of responsibility is a reason for fatigue?
There was something about those boxes (mentioned above) that gave a sense of knowing that also comforted and fatigued in a naturally expectant way. Life back then was manageably unpredictable. Now – exhaustively confusing. An old saying is –
‘Life is simple, it’s just not easy’.
Life is also tough but ultimately, it is an ongoing process of change adaptation and learning. I advise us to simply be open to what happens in the years to follow.
In answering the query at the top of this piece, all responsibilities are not equal and so cannot be prioritised equally or fairly or at times rationally.
Thrive – 20 things to do during lockdown for wellbeing.
The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism I thank EK for this resource. A true reflection of how it really is.
Couples Under Lockdown: Lagos, Nigeria from Where Should We Begin?
with Esther Perel.
After The Storm from The Moth Podcast 9th Ward Burnell Cotlon