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In the most unexpected time you can feel liberated

By Irena Ioannou

As with everything, sooner or later the Covid-19 crisis will be over, and even though the days dragged at first, I can say that they are now flying. Time is a healer, and it allows us to gradually get used to every new lifestyle and every new ‘normal’. Now, towards the end of the staying-home period, and looking back, amidst all the painful measures, I cannot disregard the gratifying realizations that have managed to hit home and will hopefully inform our lives in the long run.

These last months, my family was taken by surprise by a number of things:

We live in a neighborhood.

With actual neighbors, whose door you can knock on when you are in trouble. Real people with children and dogs and smiles on their faces who are only too eager to strike up a conversation and share their problems and thoughts.

Until recently, anything outside the realms of our home, work, or school, had somehow escaped our notice. There was simply no time for anything beyond our microcosm. Hence, we failed to notice the number of families with kids my children’s age who live on our street. Or, the multitude of diverse mothers who also enjoy jogging in the morning.

We acquired new skills.

Skills that until recently were not our priorities. My younger children for instance, have learned to ride their bikes outside of our house. I have gotten into the habit of spending whole evenings making pancakes and more complex than pasta-with-cheese dinners, and my daughter experienced first-hand the brutality of aging on women. A parallel discovery was that it costs only two and a half euros to cover your grey hair when the dye is bought at the supermarket and your daughter is your hairdresser. The cost-effect result is also spectacular.

Everything we need is already at home. Or close to home.

Our family, in short. And perhaps a broadband connection to do we wish, whether it is to learn something new or lose something old. Like persistent pregnancy weight. The most groundbreaking discovery though was that the beach closest to home, the one that we had never walked on until now because it was too close to the city center, too tourist-packed, and who had the time anyway, is the perfect place for physical exercise or simply to welter in the sand. Much more comfortable than parks, gyms or playgrounds.

Education is not only about going to school.

As we were unexpectedly forced to relax a little, some of us came to accept that the break was long due. I, for instance, realized that deep down it doesn’t really matter if my children miss school for a couple of months. If they don’t do guitar or painting lessons or go to track and field practice. They also need to take a break from everything once in a while, if anything, to get a sense of their priorities. This can ultimately serve as a winnowing practice. There have been certain activities the children missed, and others they were relieved to get rid of. The latter are the ones that do not truly resonate with them and to which they won’t return.  

Discipline must be internal. 

It is tougher to set a schedule when you have ample time. It is equally challenging to set goals, hatch a plan to realize them, and follow through. Time off is a great opportunity to think about how you want to lead your life and what it would take for you to get there. Another valuable lesson is that everything comes at a cost too, and that there are not right or wrong choices as long as they are informed and stem from your heart.

A more relaxed life can do wonders.

Over the last months, the children couldn’t have been happier. It seems they have better coping mechanisms to adversities than adults and try to get the best out of difficult situations. Skipping school is certainly not a problem when there are books around and they have an appetite for learning. Uncertainties diminish when their parents are available and give their teenagers their full attention.

Likewise, for parents, time is ample when you don’t have to spend half your life in the car, waiting for a class, practice, or training to finish. When two hands are not enough to prepare the day’s dinner and wash the dishes while checking the kids’ homework. Or, when you try to think of the last time you had a meaningful discussion with your partner, and you can’t remember.

Observing your children growing up day after day doesn’t have to be a luxury. This has been a unique opportunity to be present in our family’s lives and not look back in a few years’ time with regret. This realization that you can tune out the background noise and live with less—which is in effect more—has been liberating.

Irena Ioannou writes from Crete, Greece and her work has recently appeared in Crannóg and Betty Fedora. She is currently working on her first novel. She is a mother of five.


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