The 5 Phases of Lockdown and How to Emerge Alive

The last few months have certainly been unique on the scale of human experience – definitely not your average start to the year. Or decade for that matter. Without realising we’re doing much at all, we’ve actually come a long way in a short space of time though. While everything still feels all too real, some things feel like a distant memory. And that’s got to be progress…                    

Stage 1 – Avoiding the supermarket and discovering hidden talents

Remember when we all thought we might have time to learn a new instrument or a language? Round went the emails offering free sign ups to everything from Fender guitar classes to Down Dog yoga sessions. You’ve got to commend our enthusiasm for thinking we’d have the time (or discipline) to take up coding, listen to a whole catalogue of Audible books, and figure out Tik Tok. We know now that home-based learning had other plans in store for us. But before the installation of faster wireless connections took place and spelled the return to work and school from our dining tables, there was a snippet of time where an unreal holiday vibe took hold and a plethora of amusing memes were shared. It’s comforting to reflect and appreciate that in the face of crisis, our optimism was still circulating, along with the virus.

Stage 2 - Martha Stewart meets Marie Kondo

It wasn’t long before advice hit the bulletin boards, and everywhere you turned there seemed to be another infographic or unsolicited WhatsApp message being forwarded, detailing how to break down the hours in the day for our children with an array of activity. At first it seemed helpful. But after the eleventy-hundredth post it felt like we might be an underperforming parent if we didn’t have a whiteboard hung on the wall with a blow by blow action plan mapped out for our kids to obediently follow, covering all the wellbeing groups from creativity to physical exercise. At least for the latter we could just whack on YouTube and get PE with Joe on the case. Another feature of this stage was the start of the baking craze and cupboard reorganisation. Many an old jigsaw puzzle and well thumbed book was discarded at this time (which would come back to haunt us at a later stage). In the meantime, there was bread to bake. It’s amazing there’s any bananas left in the world after so many of them were smushed into cakes in those early days!

Stage 3 - Can I get a discount with that?

As home-based learning started to bear its teeth, many started to question just what school fees were for, while simultaneously applauding the teaching profession and feeling relieved they’d wisely selected a profession that did not involve managing children. Not normally anyway. This generated a whole load of new memes about parent capacity for children’s learning featuring wine (sympathies to those with children following the Singapore Maths curriculum). Miraculously, with everyone so busy juggling home learning and work, the fervent requests to join groups for sharing online learning resources started to dry up and some schools offered rebates. Which may or may not have been immediately re-directed to pay for the wine delivery specials we’d been succumbed to after those memes triggered some online shopping. It was a time of bargaining (ok, I’ll exert more energy to avoid covering my face instead of walking comfortably and wearing a mask) and reckoning (fine, if there’s no yeast I’ll learn what starter is and make sourdough), to get us to the end of the circuit breaker.

Stage 4 - False starts and fake news

Except it didn’t end, it was extended. As we limped to the finish line we found out we were less than halfway there! You could almost feel a collective sigh the night we all found out. On the flipside, for many who were getting used to a smaller orbit and living locally, there was some relief in knowing that the big bad world might be kept at bay a little longer. This is an interesting feature of a crisis that has caused tragedy and uncertainty – it has yielded some unforseen benefits. It’s been remarkable to witness some of Earth’s small recoveries and there’s even been some pleasure in slowing down in terms of commuting and travel. The temptation though, was to connect more online. And no matter whether you went big and canvassed what was happening internationally, or went small and came across views that got a bit screwed up in isolation, it’s been hard to avoid the negativity. We would’ve been able to quietly muse over how some accept suffering for the collective while others believe in autonomy if we hadn’t thrown out those puzzles in the early stages of the pandemic. Lucky Netflix released The Last Dance.

Stage 5 - From Chrysalis to Conundrums

I need to go out to get my hair coloured but I need to colour my hair before I can go out. This is where we’re at now. As some kids gear up to go back to school (only to finish again soon for the holidays), I imagine salons of all kinds are booked up in preparation. Spare a thought for teachers who may not get a chance to tidy their toes before they re-enter the classroom. And we’ll look past the shoeless children who’ve grown out of their sandals during this period and haven’t had a chance to get new ones! There are still so many unknowns about what the future holds and when. But as we emerge from our cocoons, it seems safe to say that we possibly won’t be able to take flight anytime soon. As the time divides many of us further from our family overseas, we’ll be taking solace in the friends we have around us here.

There’s more stages that we’ll have to go through still. But reflecting on the journey up to now, it’s interesting to see how what we’ve been through already is so similar to the Stages of Grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. We may not have reached acceptance yet but at least we’re on the right path.

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