One

©careerusinterruptus

Hoo boy, you know it’s Interesting Times when you don’t know what to write. Where to start? Where in the mid-cyclone wreckage of March 2020 to even begin?

On the one hand: COVID-19. Jesus. You don’t want to hear any more about that. I sure as hell don’t.

On the other hand: #theKindnessPandemic. #teddybearhunt. Adopt A Healthcare Worker. Brilliant stuff, all of it. Genuinely giving of hope that there may be a chance humanity isn’t as fucked as I tend to think it is. Look at us, reaching out. Look at us, giving. Helping. Jacinda freaking-god-love-her Ardern. It’s out there, people. It’s our job to breathe life into it, and people are stepping up.

©careerusinterruptus

On the one hand: staying at home. This one actually doesn’t suck, for a bona-fide, card-carrying introvert. Except…

On the one hand: being quarantined with 2e kids, one of whom thinks this is the perfect opportunity to prove he can live on Minecraft alone, while the other one is extremely extroverted and rocking a serious nosophobia.

On the other hand: Operation Ouch, Horrible Histories, Steve Backshall, Mark Rober. Look how the latter have stepped up, bless them. Darlings. Our viewing cup runneth over. Online libraries, concerts, audiobooks being made available for free. Extra plugs for Hardball and Mustangs F.C. You know your kids’ viewing is brilliant when the household adults are keen to watch, too. Thank all the stars above for the ABC. Science and the arts – the finest endeavours humanity has ever produced – are keeping everyone alive and afloat, right now. Pray they all recognise and remember that. No, stuff prayer. REMIND THEM.

Hardball. Image Source

On the one hand: trying to care for 84yo deaf, demented mum, who still lives alone, whilst maintaining social distancing. She can’t hear if you’re a llama away, no matter how you bellow. Bellowing is no way to communicate, anyway. And she needs hugs, dammit.

On the other hand: my wonderful sister, connecting Mum to the internet, lending her an iPad, showing her FaceTime with the grandkids. My kids putting chooks on their heads for her amusement. (The chooks, tolerating this and not pooping in the house!)

© careerusinterruptus

On the one hand: the ramifications of the global economic recession that surely will follow. This one… god. This one is going to be hard.

On the other hand: the forced slowdown, the unprecedented technological connections (see above), the immediate evidence of environmental improvement, the slow seeping public awareness that we can be – no, we must be – a society, rather than an economy. Citizens rather than consumers. The chance, as a society, to rethink our entire value system. To recognise this for the test-run that it is. To cast aside any leadership that sees us solely in terms of our economics in favour of one that sees us first and foremost as humans. To remember what it is we actually, truly, need, and be content.

©careerusinterruptus

I’m not as angry, right now, as I was at the start of the year. (Although, bloody hell, if you talk to me about how our government is handling this…!) I’m still scared; only a heartless fool isn’t. Every afternoon, about 4pm, I’m flooded by a horrid visceral dread and the need to go lie down, hide, cry.

But this is not more than it was before, it’s just more acute. More obtrusive, more in-your-face, more, RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW, but – and this is really fucking important – it is no different to where we were before. We’re in dress rehearsal for the real shit that’s coming and so far, we’re doing okay. You’re doing okay. Go. Use your strength, your intelligence and your creativity, and practice kindness like your life depends on it.

One love, one blood

One life, you got to do what you should

One life, with each other

Sisters, Brothers

One life but we’re not the same.

We get to carry each other, carry each other

– U2, One

Sanctuary

One of the great joys in my life, is our homeschool group. The women who started and run it are, without a doubt, among the most amazing people I have ever met. Having been through stuff that would make your toes curl, the lessons they took away have made them consistently empathetic, tolerant, compassionate, and kind.

Also, they’re quirky as all get out and so are all our kids, so there’s bucketloads of that particular, tar-black sense of humour.

We all bask in finding this concentration of other mothers who Get It; even if the particular diagnosis doesn’t apply in your house, you’ve had the experience of trying to raise a child who doesn’t follow any of the developmental rules and therefore having to overhaul every last one of your expectations. And then keep overhauling. When someone arrives with teeth gritted, everyone else has a pretty good idea of what they’ve likely been through that morning. Both parents and kids are treated with an extra dose of kindness, and everyone feels, you know – understood.

I know these exceptional mums love what they’ve created, and I also know that this doesn’t stop it being physically, mentally, emotionally and sensorily demanding, very hard work, the sort that would drive most school-teachers to despair or cruelty or quitting. But instead they have created that very rare, very special thing, a place where extraordinarily challenging kids – the ones who are always butting so painfully against the world – feel completely accepted and valued.

And, you know how I know? Because this morning, this happened:

My daughter and some of the other kids have been reading a book by a local author, who also happens to be friends with the group’s founder. She’s been invited to come chat to the kids, later this week, so when I ‘bumped into’ her online, I said, we have friends in common; I’m looking forward to meeting you this week! She replied, oh, are you with the school? Yes, I said, but you’ll be better prepared if you think of it as a circus. (Having no better description of what it’s like, being in a roomful of 2e kids, especially one where they feel fully accepted for who they are.)

At this point, CraftyFish came in, so I related the tale to her, knowing she’s excited to meet the author, and that she’d get a kick out of the circus comment.

I didn’t get that far, though. As soon as I mentioned the word ‘school’, she puffed up like a society matron smelling a fart. “Do NOT call our group a SCHOOL,” she exclaims, outraged. “It is NOT a SCHOOL. It’s a SANCTUARY.”

Can I invite you to sit with that, for a moment? Because there is a lot packed into that one word: The sense that school (even the wonderful school we went to) asks us to be something else, something other than who we are, to meet other people’s expectations, often regardless of your own. The converse sense of safety and recognition that our group provides. The sense of ownership, of belonging. The sense that this is, in fact, a place safe enough for her to do things that have so far been challenging, such as … reading a novel. The drama of the delivery, sure, because as long as you’re not hurting someone else or being disrespectful, that’s okay.

It made my heart melt, it did. It is all I would wish for anyone, but perhaps most for our quirky kids: that they find a sanctuary.