Only a few months ago we were wondering what the new year would bring. At the time Australia was in the middle of an apocalyptic fire season. This was followed by floods. Now we are in the grip of the Corona Virus pandemic that is sweeping across the world, taking lives and dramatically changing the way we live. For the foreseeable future we are….
- Studying and working online
- Shopping online
- Socialising online
- Accessing medical services online
- maintaining social distance
- staying home
This is our new normal.
For the last few weeks Bec and I have been studying from home. USQ is now 100% online. I have studied online before so it is not such a major shift for me. I am quite familiar with listening to recorded lectures, accessing the library online and participating in student forums. The irony is that this semester I had decided to give studying on-campus a go and I was quite enjoying the tutorials with the other students. Well that lasted a total of four weeks, thanks to covid 19.
Studying online for Bec is a bit more of a challenge. She is studying music and one of her courses involved collaborating and playing music together with other students. A bit tricky to do online.
The major change has been for Dan. Due to the social distancing measures his day program at Yellow Bridge has been put on hold indefinitely. This means he is at home 24/7. Totally bored. Missing his friends. Driving us crazy.
We are trying to establish a routine at home where Dan can do some of his usual activities. On Wednesdays he used to go ten pin bowling. Now we go bowling up the hallway with a set of plastic pins or we go bowling on the Wii. On Tuesdays he used to go bushwalking. We can still go for a walk in our neighbourhood but bush walking is out. And on Thursdays he used to enjoy making pizzas. Well there will be plenty of opportunity to do some cooking at home. He can cook dinner anytime!
On the bright side Yellow Bridge is organising some online activities for their clients using Zoom. At least Dan will be able to see his mates. Perhaps they could even hold an online Disco. Dan would love that!
We are also taking this opportunity to help Dan continue developing his communication skills. We can still have speech therapy sessions, albeit via teleconferencing, and we are looking at all the ways we can incorporate opportunities for Dan to practise using his iPad at home. And there are plenty of other life skills we can work on too.
So apart from essential trips such as food shopping – although with rations and empty shelves even that is becoming a challenge – we are staying home. Fortunately for us our home here at The Last Stop is on a large block, so we have plenty of opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air. I really feel for people in a small house or apartment. It’s one thing to have to stay away from family and friends, but it’s even harder to be trapped within four close walls as well.
One of the most challenging things is the lack of physical contact with our family and friends. Our extended family either live in other cities and towns or interstate, so we don’t see them as often as we would like. Now we cannot visit them even if we wanted to. Of course we can still communicate by email and phone. But it is not the same. Just knowing that interstate visits are out of the question drives home the reality of social distancing.
We don’t realise how important social engagement is for our relationships and our own physical and mental well-being. We don’t realise how much we take for granted – a smile in the flesh, the feel of a handshake, a friend’s embracing hug. Just being able to meet for coffee, go out to a movie, have a picnic in the park or a BBQ in the backyard. These are all simple pleasures that are now off limits. And it’s hard. It causes emotional pain.
If it were just for a short time, a few days, a few weeks, we could probably do it. But these measures will likely be in place for months. We don’t even have an end in sight…yet. I wonder about the longterm impact on our mental, emotional and social health, especially for our elderly, who are being even more socially isolated as nursing homes effectively put lockdown procedures in place.
It seems an ironic thing in many ways, that we, as social beings, are being asked to isolate ourselves, keep our distance from each other, sacrifice our social activities, for the sake of our community. And it is a big sacrifice. It has cost jobs. It is impacting education. It has brought our society almost to a grinding halt. This virus has cost lives and will continue to do so. And who knows how much this will cost in terms of our mental health and overall wellbeing.
But it is the right thing to do. It is how we show our love for each other.
And we are not alone.
We are sharing the pain of this together, even if we cannot physically be together.
We will endure. Together. This will not last forever.
We will come out the other side, together, stronger than we were before, knowing what really matters.
And there is hope. Our brightest minds are working round the clock to develop a vaccine. Frontline workers are an inspiration as they willingly putting their own lives on the line to care for the sick and provide essential services. We are finding ways to connect, think outside the box and work creatively.
Hope always endures.
Take Care and Stay Safe