Losing Mom (cont’d)

This post might get a little personal, just so you’re warned.

First, let me start by saying I fucking hate Alzheimer’s. I mean: as design flaws go, it’s a pretty big one. So, of course, are dementia, Huntingdon’s, ALS, you know: destructive, degenerative shit like that. Not cool.

As you may know from previous posts, my mother suffers from Alzheimer’s and has recently been admitted to a care facility because taking care of her at home became impossible. Trust me, it’s one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to take in our lives. We didn’t want to give her care and living situation over to someone else, but we had to.

So now I visit my mother at her care home, and as much as the Alzheimer’s is already taking her away from us, this seems to have removed her just one step further. She is now entering the stage where her recognizing me is a rare occurrence, and conversation with her has become nearly impossible. She sees a person sitting with her, but speaks to me on the basis of what is going on inside her head, which has some link to reality, but not much. My being there might trigger a memory, or an emotion, but it’s not me she’s talking to.

My mother’s residing in a care home has done something else besides make us miss her more than we already did – and missing someone who is still with you is incredibly hard and disorienting and a bit of a mind fuck. Now that she doesn’t live at home with my dad anymore, I am suddenly being hit hard with anticipatory grief. It’s like this step has pushed me over the threshold into a stage of processing that I think I probably should have already been in.

Usually, I deal with difficult things by learning as much about what’s going on as possible. I’ve tried doing that here too. Turns out, that doesn’t quite work as advertised in the case of watching someone in rapid mental decline. I try to understand what mom is going through, how things must be for her, and my head is spinning. It’s not just that I can’t – how could I with my (ostensibly) healthy brain? It’s that the emotional charge that comes with not only trying to understand her but also coming to grips with everything that now follows as she heads into these last stages of her disease is pulling the rug out from underneath me. I literally can’t pull this process apart into separate pieces for analysis. It’s all tied up together, and every so often I feel like I’ll be buried underneath it all.

Then, when I’ve almost drowned in it all, I’m forced to accept that I can’t do anything about what’s happening to her, and I can only go and see her and know that I love her, even if she can’t know anymore that I do. I can try to be there for my dad, who is going through the same thing but probably more so. I can try to be there for my sister, and for all the people who care about my mom and who hate this disease that is taking her from us, in little bits and sometimes in massive chunks, ejecting shards that cut us all with tiny painful jabs and lacerations.

In light of all this, I write when I can – or rather, when I must – and I hope that somehow my putting this on the page will help other people in similar circumstances know they are not alone, however much that may help, and I truly hope it does.

First and Last

If you really think about it life is a series of firsts and lasts. More firsts at the beginning, more lasts as you go further along. Not all firsts are good and not all lasts are bad but on the whole, it’s the lasts that have been grabbing me by the throat lately.

The problem with lasts is that they’re far more likely to go unnoticed than the firsts. Makes sense, because we can’t see into the future to determine in real time whether some event was, in fact, the last time it happened.

Would it help to know, I wonder? Would I have attached more importance, remembered in more detail, the last time I had a long, meandering yet coherent conversation with my mother about everything that happened to occur to us while we were chatting on the phone now so many years ago? Did I even notice that it was in fact the last such conversation that I had with her? Alzheimer’s works slowly, so while subsequent conversations would not have been as logical, would have contained more questions asked several times over, more statements repeated, the conversations would still have been as rewarding, as valuable to me, if just a little “off”.

And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when was the first time that something was “off”? Why didn’t I register that it was when it was?

Back to lasts, however, because, as I said: it’s the lasts that are biting me in the ass right now. Last Christmas marked the last Christmas I will have spent with both my parents together at either of our houses. My mom’s last birthday: ditto. Last dinner together, last walk, last vacation, last you name it.

There’s a limit to how consciously you can experience your life, and the moments in it. If you spent every moment of every day in the full realization that something could be a first or a last something (and not the kind we do pay attention to and celebrate or mourn because we know) you’d both exhaust yourself and drive yourself mad all at the same time. Also, you’d be living your life through the lens of anticipatory grief, which removes you from truly just experiencing your life in the moment.

Still, those lasts with my mom … I would have liked to have been prepared for some of those, and probably should have been. I wasn’t – maybe I was optimistic, maybe stupid, maybe just not ready and so opted to ignore it – and it’s going to take some time to come to terms with that.

Clash of the ADHDs

I’ve not written a post in two weeks for various reasons, and in this post I will address one of them.

As I’ve previously mentioned, we live in a house with one diagnosed ADHD person (my eldest), one undiagnosed but certainly ADHD person (myself), and one person who most likely has ADHD (my youngest). My brave husband is, as far as we know, mostly if not completely neurotypical.

Just in regular circumstances, we have to work decently hard at keeping the discipline to get things done in such a way that everyone can feel comfortable in our shared spaces. It’s a struggle on occasion to keep everyone on task: emotional dysregulation stemming from both ADHD and teenaging/pre-teening tend to get in the way when reminding folks of chores needing to be done and routines needing to be maintained. As for myself, I’m occasionally just effing bored with being a housekeeper, if I’m allowed to oversimplify for a moment (which I am; it’s my blog).

Added to this is the fact that a pretty prominent feature of ADHD is the absence of a filter for incoming (sensory) information (also for outgoing information) which makes processing in real time near impossible sometimes.

Now, no two people with ADHD are exactly the same, though there are certainly similarities in the ways ADHD expresses itself in people. In our house we have three distinctly different ways of dealing with what comes at us in a day. The eldest likes to either go inline skating or – more often – dive into their phone for entertainment or contained conversation with friends in various parts of the world. The youngest likes to jump around, hum, sing, talk (a lot), make noise and want to engage with his sibling, who is just looking to disengage for a while. Clash number one.

I just need to escape into a book or a movie, or do some physical exercise, or really engage in anything I need to focus on (focus is hard) without being interrupted by either directed remarks or questions, or a barrage of sound. Against a backdrop of vocal expression and arguments by the eldest that they need to not be disrupted by the youngest, that’s clash number two.

Now, all the above is just in regular circumstances. This past week, we’ve had extraordinary circumstances, because the only reasonably normal person (I use the term tongue-in-cheek because what the hell is normal?) is laid up and isolated with COVID. Leaving ADHD senior in charge of ADHD junior nos 1 and 2. The being in charge part isn’t the problem, that I can handle. I know what needs doing and I will get the essentials done, but having to manage the clash of the ADHDs on top of that has been a challenge for me because the overload is off the charts at the moment, and so I’ve found this week to be particularly challenging.

Keeping a handle on the household has been an, uhm, interesting exercise. Not because I can’t tidy up a space or do dishes or laundry, but because the junior ADHD (for both the preteen and the teen) also brings with it an enormous amount or unregulated chaos, since keeping organized is notoriously difficult for even well-regimented ADHD folks.

[Thought: there has to be a market for tidying shows like Marie Kondo and The Home Edit geared specifically to people with ADHD. Anyone?]

So I’ve been spending my time trying to figure out how to get a handle on things in the house while my husband recovers from COVID. For now, the only solution I can come up with is more discipline, and directing each of the kids towards their own spaces in which they can process their overload in their own way, away from the shared spaces.

To what extent is my solution realistic? No idea. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck. 😏

Schedules and Boundaries

Just a brief post today to follow up on my post about schedules from a few weeks ago.

After a few weeks of trying to keep ourselves organized as agreed, I have learned that no schedule works without boundaries. And boundaries don’t set themselves; we have to do that.

When we crafted our schedule, we were careful to include in it not only the things that needed doing, but also the things that each of us wanted to do. Now, a little over four weeks into it, it turns out that the parts of the schedule we don’t meticulously stick to are exactly the personal preferences we made sure to fit in.

We all, but specifically my husband and I, have shown a tendency to set aside our personal wants for the general needs. While on some level that makes sense – what must happen must happen, after all – there is one very important level on which it makes absolutely no sense at all: taking time for the wants keeps us charged up for the needs. It’s pure self care, and self care is important.

What we need to remember is that the schedule was set up to accommodate both business and pleasure, for lack of better terminology. If there are times when something has to give, what gives needn’t always be the pleasure. Sometimes the business can be put on hold.

So in order for us to get the most out of this schedule of ours, each of us needs to set boundaries and protect them, because it is all too easy to step over our own interests and preferences. We should remember that everything we’ve created space and time for is there because we felt it is important, and act accordingly regardless of the nature of the task.

Did I HAVE To Say That?

I’d like to talk about something I’ve been struggling with lately: social awkwardness. It’s an issue that doesn’t just affect me, who displays it, but also the people who have to deal with me.

My social awkwardness is conversational and stems, I’m pretty sure, from my (suspected) ADHD. I have no filter for things going in, but I also have no filter for things coming out. What makes it worse is that I’m actually pretty sensitive to situations, emotions and context, and my verbal expression sometimes feels almost involuntary.

Painful example: this morning I was at a shop that I regularly visit, and there’s a lady that works there that has tics. We are quite familiar with tics in various forms – we know someone with Intermittent Tic Disorder (also known as Transient Tic Disorder), we know someone with Tourette’s – and for some reason I mentioned it to her. God knows why, to be honest, because it clearly embarrassed her, and I felt awful right away about that.

I suppose on some level I wanted to mention it because I hate how little understanding there is of and for these disorders, and so I think that actually talking about it would help a great deal. But that’s my feeling about it, and I shouldn’t foist that on others.

On a related note: I should probably considering shopping somewhere else from now on.

These kinds of things – the awkward interactions – have been happening more regularly of late, as the (suspected) ADHD has become less controllable for me and I hate it. I’m really hoping that an ADHD diagnosis and treatment will help bring this (and various other things) under control.

All this is to say, I suppose, that a) maybe I should just not speak when in public, b) I am going to feel horrible about this for the rest of the day and possibly longer, and c) the sooner I get my diagnosis and hopefully medication and psycho-education the better.

Losing Mom

Imagine this:

You wake up in the morning and initially don’t recognize where you are though your surroundings feel familiar. For instance: you can walk straight to the bathroom, and you can find your way to the kitchen, but you’re not sure you know how. It’s probably muscle memory, but that’s not a concept your mind will offer up to you.

You see the person next to you and he, too, is familiar but his precise relationship to you is just off the tip of your brain right now. You do have a relationship with him, and a close one; you feel that you do.

This person lives with you and helps you do the normal, daily things – getting dressed, eating breakfast – though why you would need help with them is anyone’s guess; you don’t realize that if he doesn’t help you, these things don’t get done.

Throughout the day, things are more and less familiar to you at any given time, and sometimes you are convinced you are somewhere you’re not and you can’t bring your surroundings in line with what your mind tells you they should be. Or someone drops by and you know their name but you don’t know how you know it; you just do. But you don’t want to ask who they are exactly, or who they are to you because you don’t want to let on you don’t know. It upsets you, because you feel like you’re being gaslighted. Or you are being asked or told to do something and it infuriates you because you are not a child and you don’t want to be told what to do. It’s disrespectful and you’re a damn adult!

Now you’re angry, because you’re frightened and confused, and you just want out. You want to go back to a place where you know where you are, and where you know who other people are, and where you know who you are, and where you know you can trust your own mind.

Eventually, the anger burns itself out, and when you’ve calmed down you feel tired and a little weak, and you’re happy that your person – who you sometimes know is your husband and who is sometimes just the man who helps you and takes care of you – is here with you. You’re safe here in this house in which you intuitively know your way around.

This is how I imagine my mother feels every day. My mother has Alzheimer’s and she’s headed towards the late stage of this (pardon my French) motherfucker of a disease. She is still able to live at home, in the house she and my father bought over 40 years ago.

My father takes care of her and he does it well. He makes sure she still sees people, that she gets out, that she gets the diversion and stimulation she needs at a daytime activity centre that she really enjoys going to. He makes sure she eats, even though she does that less and less. That’s partly diminished hunger, and partly not always being able to swallow food after chewing, which also explains her preference for soup over all other things. And she has a sweet tooth – something she didn’t used to have – so cookies she will eat.

Having Alzheimer’s must be sheer hell, especially for a woman who has always been extremely intellectually inclined. Alzheimer’s is hell for all its sufferers because everyone needs the certainty of knowing where they are and who the people around them are. How do you know you’re home? How do you know you can trust someone if you can’t remember them, or know how you feel about them, or what your history with them is? What’s even worse is that you can’t fill in what you don’t know because your brain doesn’t let you. And all the while, you want to know, you feel like you should know all these things, these basic things.

Alzheimer’s is hard on caregivers, too, and my dad is no exception: he has to watch her decline, deal with her moods, has constant worry, is on call 24 hours a day, has an increased workload in the house, and has to guard against my mom’s impulses (which she can’t do anything about).

Caregiving is so severely underrated it is hard to even put into words, but I can say there is no one I admire more than my dad at this point.

When my mother first got diagnosed, I started reading up on Alzheimer’s like my life depended on it. I read about beta-amyloids and Aβ plaques, I read about medicines with the potential to slow its progress (there aren’t any, and apparently we’ve been barking up the wrong tree for decades), I read about the stages of Alzheimer’s, I read about the behavioral shifts and diminished capacity as the disease progresses, I read up on how I could explain it to my children. I went to information meetings to get practical advice: who to talk to about care at home, about daytime activity centers, how to approach a case manager who can help with paperwork and getting the necessary Long Term Care Act (Wet Langdurige Zorg) statements required for admission to care facilities when the time comes, how long, how very long those waiting lists are and how you should register for a care home in plenty of time.

But what I couldn’t read up on was how emotionally hard it is to watch my mother go through this illness. With everything I’ve learned about this disease, the sheer brute impact of it is something I couldn’t prepare for. There are trainings to help you understand the patient’s paranoia, there are information sessions to prepare you for the signs and symptoms sufferers can have – hallucinations, wandering, insomnia, incontinence, mood swings – but there is nothing to really, truly prepare you for how devastating it feels to watch it happen to someone you love and know that there is nothing you can do to stop or reverse it. To know that my mom isn’t my mom anymore and Alzheimer’s is stripping her away piece by piece.

The only things I can do now are love, support and help care for my mother, and love and support my father while he is by her side as she goes through this. I know that there is nothing more. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

Alzheimer resources in the Netherlands:

Alzheimer Nederland

Hersenstichting

Dementie.nl

CIZ (Wet Langdurige Zorg)

Is It Too Early for Halloween? 👻

We love Halloween! Seriously, in our house Christmas may last a little longer, but there is nothing like the feeling of an approaching Halloween for us. Once October 1st rolls around we are ready to go and we have to hold ourselves down until the 15th (completely arbitrary date, incidentally) to start decorating, which we do fairly low-key for all our love of the holiday. We’ll put up a dark wreath on the front door, witches will fly outside our front window, slightly spooky lanterns suddenly pop up in the living room and sometimes even in the bathroom (what is a bath if not a more pleasant smelling witch’s brew, really…), and our black cat is suddenly not just a pet but also a lovely real-life Halloween decoration.

Our Ichabod: suitably named for Halloween, he is our year-round interactive spooky beast.

And so, as the end of August and the start of September approach, it is time to start planning for our annual Halloween party. (This might be a good time to tell you that I’m not necessarily known for doing things at the appropriate time always, while we’re on the subject. For example: I will happily watch Christmas movies in May – seriously: not a problem for me. At all.)

The party itself is not a massive shindig, if I’m honest. It’s not a full-on come-to-our-haunted-house-in-full-fancy-dress type thing: it’s really more of a chance for the English speaking kids that our kids have befriended over the years to get together, catch up, and do some light Halloween celebrating, Anglo-American style.

I do always look forward to it very much: it’s fun to see them all every year, another year older, some of them having gone off in different directions as they’ve gone on to different schools. The Halloween party is a chance to reconnect for them and us. It’s also quite a challenge to organize so I begin thinking about it already around this time of year with anticipatory glee. Since I’m in the Halloween-planning mood already, and you can never begin too early, for this blog post I thought I’d share some ideas for family-friendly Halloween get-togethers. Here goes.

Halloween Quiz Lots of people love celebrating Halloween, but how many know its origins, or its equivalents around the world with their accompanying traditions? There are dozens of fun factoids you can pour into this quiz. All you really need to do is read up on this holiday, maybe branch out a little into witches, ghouls and superstitions, and before you know it you’ll have a ton of questions to choose from. Of course, there are also a bunch of ready made quizzes available online; I just prefer to make them myself because, well: control freak, nerd, show-off – take your pick!

If there are younger kids at the party, do take care to keep the questions and answers accessible to all – or make some questions that are better answerable for the older kids, and some for the younger ones, then team up older and younger kids to give them even chances. Surprisingly, I found that some of the “younger” questions were actually quite challenging for the older kids as well.

Halloween Mad Libs It’s mad libs, Halloween style! There are plenty of mad libs templates you can find online for this, but if you’re feeling creative, you can come up with your own stories as well.

Halloween Creations There are a bunch of games that will allow kids to be creative and really run with their own ideas. It’s great fun to see what they come up with! Here are some options:

Witch’s Brew: have everyone come up with their own witch’s brew – what’s in it, how would it taste, what would it do, what spell goes with it?

Draw What You Hear: play some Halloween songs or haunting melodies and have the kids draw something that’s described in the song or how it makes them feel. Some good songs for this are Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Keepers, and Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley, or for more abstract pictures Erutan’s Transylvanian Lullaby, and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre.

If I Made a Movie: Have them think up a movie title for a Halloween movie they would, and have them explain what the story would be.

Or just play a game of Once Upon a Time… Give a (spooky) story prompt, then hand the tale off to the next person to add their few lines, then to the next person, and so on…

Who Are You? For this game, you ask everyone to answer 6 questions about themselves – questions like: favorite scary monster? favorite Halloween candy? etc – then collect the sheets. Without revealing the names, you read out the answers on each sheet and see if the others can guess whose sheet it is.

Fun food You can dress up a lot of easily made drinks and snacks as something else. Pink lemonade? Unicorn wee. Snack sausages? Severed fingers (just slice a little sliver off the top and tear the other end off, then leak some tomato ketchup out of the torn end). Lasagne: entrails and sinew with a layer of grilled ectoplasm (who knew you could grill that stuff?!) Cola? Witch’s brew: just pour it over into a lightly more ornate bottle and stick on a homemade label. Be sure to list the ingredients, like snail slime, eye of newt, you know – the usual.

If you have the time and you feel so inclined, you could of course also decide on some Halloween themed snacks of your own creation, such as cupcakes decorated with flying bats made out of fondant, monster shaped cookies, or mummified sausages (sausages wrapped in ribbons of puff pastry).

Home-made Halloween and fall themed gingerbread cookies.

One time, I actually made something that looked almost too disgusting to eat: I had carved a nauseated face in a pumpkin, and then put some risotto con fungi in a heap in front of it and some in the pumpkin’s mouth. It took a while before I could get anyone in the house to eat risotto again…

Of course, standard fall treats are always fun: roasting marshmallows over a fire, making smores, serving pumpkin spiced lattes and hot cider. To make them more Halloween-y, you can do these wearing a witch’s hat or a vampire cape, and possibly playing some eerie music in the background.

Gift bags or baskets We put together a little something for the guests to take home afterwards to extend the fun a little longer. I usually make a Halloween crossword, a word search, or a word scramble to put in the bag, with a cute pen or pencil. I’ll add a small bag of candy, or even a homemade decorated cupcake, and a spooky thank you card.

One year, when I was feeling particularly inspired, I even spent quite a bit of time making stuffed Halloween monsters out of old socks and scarves. I placed them together in a big basket with a sign in front of it saying “Adopt a Monster”. (They all got adopted, even though they looked fairly awful and amateurish. I am NOT good at sewing. It’s the thought that counts, I guess.)

Honestly, I could probably keep listing and coming up with Halloween party suggestions, but seeing as how it’s still only August, I think I’ll leave it at this for now. Knowing myself, I’ll be writing a few more blog posts to do with Halloween in one way or another between now and 31 October. So if you love the season like I do, check back for more over the coming few weeks.

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Stick to It

Featured photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

Today school starts again for my youngest, and tomorrow the oldest also begins the new academic year. The youngest does not want to go. The oldest is actually kind of looking forward to it.

When I ask the youngest why he doesn’t like school, his answers are both true and hilarious: “It takes all day!” and “You have to work all the time!” (He’s really not going to like adulting.) When I ask the oldest what they like about school, it’s mostly the artistic and creative subjects and extracurriculars, and there are many of those – it’s one of the main reasons we chose this school.

But while my children have opposite feelings about being in school, what they have in common – and in common with us as well – is that the academic year brings both order and chaos for them. So yesterday we decided to try something that is new (well, to be fair, not actually new at all – we have tried this before, but this time FEELS different and therefore new) for us as a family: we made. A. Schedule.

That’s right: the household with three ADHD people and one seriously outnumbered neuronormative guy (who doesn’t really like schedules that much either) came up with a schedule.

Freedom in discipline, we hope.

The main goals for us are to not be driven nuts by either our activities, each other, or ourselves. Of course, for us to find out whether we’ve actually made a good schedule this time we have to do the most challenging thing of all, and where all previous attempts at organizing and structuring our household have failed. We have to … wait for it … *whispers* stick to it.

As I confessed earlier, we have tried to organize and streamline things many, many times before in this house, but for some reason making the plan and then sticking to it has proved unbelievably difficult for many different reason: unexpected events, low energy levels, hyperfocus, no focus, emotional responses to not quite being on schedule resulting in veering even more off schedule (it’s an ADHD thing, I’ve been told). You know: reasons.

But we keep trying. We spent a fair amount of time for this latest attempt making sure that the goals we’ve set ourselves are actually feasible, and that there is room for the unexpected. We’ve also built in repetition, and regularity for the things we want, not just for the things we need.

I think that might be where we’ve gone wrong in the past: we placed the emphasis only on the things that were needed, not on the things that make us feel good, happy, and creative. That’s different this time around – we made this schedule to meet our own needs as well as others’.

There will still be challenges, of course, but we also have one more thing that we didn’t have before and that is a better understanding of at least three out of four brains in our family (the ADHD ones). It means we can take each other and ourselves into account more, and that in turn means both more realistic plans and more reasonable expectations.

The academic year has just started so I have no idea how well or even if this time we’ve found the winning formula, but with everything we’ve learned the past year, and a new approach based on kindness and fulfillment as well as goals and achievements, I feel like this time we have a good chance at success.

Even over scholen

Ik ga nu even vloeken in de kerk.

Het OMT kondigde gisteren aan dat de scholen voorlopig open blijven, en daar word ik heel blij van. Niet omdat de kinderen dan overdag “onder de pannen zijn”, maar omdat tijdens eerdere schoolsluitingen is gebleken hoe hevig de emotionele en psychische gevolgen zijn voor kinderen als ze niet naar school kunnen. Afstandsonderwijs trekt een enorme wissel op leerlingen en docenten, en het gevoel van sociaal isolement is voor kinderen (en natuurlijk niet alleen voor kinderen) funest.

Maar.

Aan de andere kant blijkt uit de besmettingscijfers (in de link naar beneden scrollen voor positieve testen per leeftijdsgroep) dat de meeste besmettingen plaatsvinden in de laagste leeftijdsgroepen. Door dus de scholen open te houden – de plek waar deze leeftijdsgroepen min of meer onbeperkt met elkaar in contact komen en het virus vrijelijk overdragen – gaan we deze golf nauwelijks afremmen.

En hier komt dan mijn onvertogen woord. We moeten de winst afwegen tegen het verlies: scholen niet sluiten = waarschijnlijk een onverminderd aanhouden van hoge besmettingscijfers; scholen sluiten = psychische schade bij kinderen. En dan eens kijken of er niet iets in het midden ligt.

Dus … wat als we ons eens aanpassen aan de realiteit waarin we ons nu bevinden, en eenvoudig besluiten de druk te verlagen op docenten en leerlingen? Dat kunnen we bijvoorbeeld doen door eens te bekijken welke standaarden we aanleggen voor wat betreft de prestaties en doelen in het onderwijs. Die standaarden zijn namelijk gestoeld op wat haalbaar was in een tijd waarin we ongehinderd door een pandemie konden leven en leren, en er dus hogere doelen gesteld konden worden zonder dat er mensen aan kapot gingen. De vraag die wij onszelf nu misschien wel eens kunnen stellen is: hoe realistisch is het om dezelfde prestaties te verwachten in de huidige situatie die voorheen werden verwacht in een SARS-CoV-2-vrije wereld?

Even een uitstapje: mijn moeder groeide op in de Tweede Wereld oorlog, en wij hoorden thuis regelmatig hoe het er toen aan toe ging en wat er daarna bij kwam kijken om alles weer op gang te krijgen. Het onderwijs ondervond in die tijd ook wel degelijk beperkingen, en dus deed men wat kon, maar werden er geen doelen gesteld die niet haalbaar waren. Je móest je wel aanpassen, want de realiteit was onomstotelijk wat hij was.

Natuurlijk: wij krijgen nu geen bommen op ons hoofd, of fascisten en moordenaars aan onze deur (nee, complotmarmot: mensen die je vragen om iets bij te dragen aan de publieke gezondheid zijn geen fascisten en moordenaars), maar wat we wel hebben, is een gezondheidszorg die vanwege de constante en aanzienlijke toestroom van ernstig zieke mensen door toedoen van één bepaald virus op alle fronten vastloopt. Dat betekent dus dat niet alleen COVID-patiënten te lijden zullen hebben hieronder, maar dat álle patiënten te lijden hebben onder het voortduren van deze enorme besmettingsgolf.

En dan hebben we het nog niet eens over de mensen die (blijvende) schade aan onder andere hart en longen, en long COVID overhouden aan een doorgemaakte infectie. De nasleep hiervan gaat nog een behoorlijke klap opleveren, niet alleen aan de maatschappij, maar ook aan ons heilige koetje: de economie.

Maar goed, dit toepassend op onze situatie nu: wij leven in een wereld waar dit virus aanwezig is en blijft, en waar we blijkbaar eerst nog hardere lessen moeten leren voor we begrijpen dat het ongehinderd laten losgaan van dit virus niet leidt tot oplossingen, maar alleen nog maar tot meer problemen. En we zullen realistischer moeten gaan worden over wat we van mensen vragen.

Mijn vraag specifiek voor het onderwijs is dit: hoeveel kwaad kan het als de doelen iets lager worden gesteld? Als je ruimte creëert voor docenten en leerlingen om om te gaan met de situatie waarin we ons nu bevinden zonder op schoolniveau te moeten blijven presteren alsof er niets aan de hand is? Ik ben er niet van overtuigd dat we er slechter van worden als de werkdruk over een schooljaar iets verlaagd wordt, en we iedereen wat meer tijd geven om te leren én te leven op een veilige manier. De druk die er nu ligt op iedereen in het onderwijs, aan de kant van zowel aanbod als vraag, is krankzinnig in het licht van wat er momenteel gaande is.

En waar ik dus eigenlijk voor wil pleiten is dat er een tussenvorm bestaat tussen scholen helemaal dicht en scholen volledig open. Pas de onderwijsdoelen aan naar een haalbaarder niveau, en creëer daarmee ruimte om de scholen in een tussenvorm open te houden, bijvoorbeeld met halve klassen waardoor afstand houden veel beter mogelijk is. Verhoog dan niet de hoeveelheid huiswerk en thuiswerk, maar laat in plaats daarvan gelegenheid bestaan voor leerlingen om sociaal isolement te voorkomen door iets meer vrije tijd waarin kinderen eventueel op afstand of anders buiten of in COVID-veilige ruimten op een veilige manier tijd met elkaar kunnen doorbrengen.

En voordat er nu meteen hard wordt geroepen dat die kinderen dat echt niet veilig gaan doen, moet ik opmerken dat het overgrote deel van de tieners zich wel degelijk bewust is van de gevaren en daar ook naar handelt. Natuurlijk zijn er de rellende tieners, maar die zijn veruit in de minderheid, al halen die natuurlijk het nieuws, en de kinderen die zich wel normaal gedragen en zich aan de basismaatregelen houden niet. Dat is natuurlijk niet spannend, en het adagium is “blood sells”.

Ik denk dat met een tussenoplossing dus een hoop bereikt kan worden – het terugdringen van de besmettingen én het voorkomen van ernstige psychische gevolgen voor kinderen – en dat het gezien de omstandigheden de moeite waard is om eens te kijken of er aanpassingen gemaakt kunnen worden om die doelen te bereiken en de scholen en docenten, én de gezondheidszorg, én de kinderen heel te houden.

En dan ook nog even een ander verzoek: zouden we nu eindelijk, éindelijk eens kunnen investeren in goede ventilatie in scholen? Daar hebben we niet alleen nu wat aan, maar ook in toekomstige epidemieën van door de lucht verspreide ziekten.

Het is maar een idee.

Random Thoughts on a Monday Morning

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been developing some pretty unhealthy holding patterns since this pandemic started, despite my best intentions. At the start of the first lockdown, the husband and I thought we’d try to set up some good habits, like lunchtime walks, time spent with the whole family at the end of the afternoon – you know, stuff like that. It lasted for all of two weeks, and even then only off and on, depending on the demands of his job and our children.

It’s not only that it’s too easy for these resolutions to make way to daily demands, though. It’s also that the increase in mental load has put extra pressure on things: what is going on with this virus, how do I manage the risk assessment, how do I keep everyone safe yet not turn us all into peculiar hermits?

I notice a pattern in that the resolutions I’ve tossed out the window the most easily have been the ones to do with self care. There is so much other care that seems to take priority that the time left for self care became more about just sitting down and doing something mindless than, say, getting some exercise, meditating, even studying (which is something that I actually really enjoy – don’t @ me).

But now that schools have started again here (I spent the better part of an hour lying awake last night wondering how long before COVID clusters will shut down our schools again, what with inadequate measures and poor ventilation in most school buildings; then I finally fell asleep and dreamed about COVID clusters in schools, so yeah, that was a good night’s rest 🙄), I have a better chance of establishing a more healthy routine again for myself, and beginning to restore my energy levels. Because I finally have some time again.

With that intention, I practiced yoga again this morning for the first time in a long, LONG time, and it felt great! There I was, on my mat, just doing what I had been doing for years on end and somehow had suddenly stopped doing – injuries, lack of energy, lack of time, general lacklusterness – and I enjoyed it so much!

I selected a Yoga with Adriene video – if you want a good start to your day, find yourself a YwA video and go for it, trust me on this! – and as I was stretching, relaxing, focusing and applying myself to alignment and awareness, I noticed some things (in no particular order):

  • I am pretty flexible still for not having done yoga for such a long time.
  • My thighs aren’t nearly as fat as I imagine (I guess Baz Luhrmann was right).
  • I don’t need to always be perfect at everything all the time.
  • I really, really want to learn more about yoga; I’ve been studying the movements and postures for years and I’m still only scratching the surface. Having been handicapped for a while with an immobile hand and wrist that wouldn’t support my weight I had already been forced to examine the parts of yoga that were not purely about pose achievement, and now I want to dive back into it.
  • I can’t control everything.
  • My grippy mat seems less grippy somehow.
(This is not my grippy mat.)

And so here are my new resolutions – may they last: I will focus on being kinder to myself; learning more about yoga; learning to accept what I can’t change, change what I can’t accept, and trying to know the difference; and saving up to buy a new grippy mat.

So there it is: random thoughts on a Monday morning.