There's a post it note on the door to our music room which has had a lot of use lately, inspired by Caroline Bowen’s recently posted picture on Twitter. Her sign is a bit more detailed than my effort which just says "I'm BUSY ask Dad!" but it does convey the same message to the children: I am attempting, and probably failing, to continue to work in something vaguely resembling a normal fashion. I know it’s weird for you and you don't understand what's happening, but I need you not to disturb me while I try to achieve a tiny fraction of what I would expect to do in a typical day! It's challenging to say the least, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge that. The difficulties of working (or not working) from home whilst attempting to parent* and home educate** as well, at times feel insurmountable.
As I mentioned in earlier blogs I am a part time Music Teacher as well as a Music Education Hub manager. The flexible working patterns of two jobs has always required some frenetic plate spinning but most of the time I manage to avoid everything crashing to floor in a spectacular cacophony of shattering crockery.. Now though, it feels like the plates are going a lot faster, and there's a full dinner set more of them, and we’re a heartbeat away from disaster. In my teaching role, as well as fulfilling my allocated allotment of school attendance, I'm also attempting to support my pupils with their online learning even though it's widely recognised that I have a Carrie-esque reaction to technology and my computer actively hates me.
During a recent Zoom meeting for the Hub, I had to excuse myself in order to deal with an epic meltdown from one of my children about a misunderstanding regarding a Geography assignment, and then placate the other about the injustice of my actually dealing with a situation that was well on the way to a murderous rampage. Following this slightly fraught exchange, I then returned to my online "workplace", fractious, distracted and tense, and attempted to carry on regardless. I'm not sure my contributions were particularly productive or constructive but my colleague was extremely gracious and we managed a constructive discussion about the launch of the brilliant new Online Learning area on #YMHShare.
Hand in hand with all of this, as we enter what feels like week 57,398 of lockdown-life, for me at least, the lethargy has set in. A friend recently posted a photo of herself on Facebook head down on the kitchen table basically power napping while waiting for the kettle to boil. I empathised utterly, as I permanently feel like I need a lie down in a darkened room. We 're clearly not alone in this the controllers of Radio 3 seem to be feeling the same. A couple of weeks ago they bravely took 8 hours out their broadcast schedule to give space to the epic work 'Sleep' by Max Richter. They shared with us his glorious 'lullaby for a frenetic world'. It is an extraordinary work, which has undoubtedly found its purpose in the current crisis.. When it was premiered in 2015, beds were provided and the audience was encouraged to sleep through the performance. The write up on BBC Sounds continues:
The work seeks to examine the relationship between music and the subconscious mind: instead of giving the music full concentration, listeners are encouraged to experience it in a state of sleep. The piece indeed provides an apt soundtrack for these times of lockdown – when hours seemingly stretch into the distance. Sleep offers a mindful way to forget everything going on around us and to enter another world.
There is no rule book for where we are now, and there are no protocols to guide us. I have tried to work out why everything feels so strange all the time and I think it was summed up perfectly in a podcast I heard recently where the presenter mooted that we're all suffering from a kind of 'grief'. Whilst openly acknowledging that this is not in anyway as bad a situation as living in any number of infinitely more horrific circumstances, but what's happening around us is hard nonetheless and we are grieving for the lost parts of our lives. We are mourning the lives we're not living and the things we're not doing.
Additionally, despite what Madonna might have us believe, this disease is not quite a 'great equalizer’ and we are not all in the same boat here. We're riding the same storm but in very different vessels with very different crew and no-one's experience is at all the same.
As I sit and type this, looking out to very sunny and spacious back garden, I am reminded about the blessings I ought to be counting. The luxury of being able to be outside when we want to be, and being together as a family whilst in our own space is something I don't take for granted and am grateful for daily. The fact that we all seem to like each other (most of the time) as well is something I'm also thankful for. I'm also blessed with technically competent friends and family whom most days I'm able to see, talk to and even learn from (still going with the crotchet). We need to remember the good moments I think, as often as we can whilst also acknowledging the much much less good ones too. Clearly writing my blog is not really work, and I'm interruptible because as I type, the ineffective Post It has been ignored as there is just not enough chaos in the world. I'm being summoned to solve a dispute whereby my youngest is trying to persuade my eldest that when she turns 13 next week, they should start their own Youtube Channel. God help us all.
* Let's be honest, mine are now practically feral. It's less 'parenting', and more 'survival' these days.
** See above - and replace 'parenting' with 'home educating'