THE most vivid memory of our living room growing up is the plaque on the wall that read, “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. We all find various ways to experience serenity and as we adapt to working from home and spending more time with our children and our partners, the serenity prayer holds its place at the centre of my household, like it did in my grandmother's living room.
Staying home for such an extended time is new to all of us. We probably have never spent so much time at home as we do now. From my own experience, frustration levels are at their highest when we are anxious or in a stressful situation. In my house, doors were being slammed with constant fights between sisters who are ten years apart in age. You may feel you are the only one who has not gotten it together, especially when you see what is happening on social media. My wake-up call came in the voice of my eight-year-old who, as I shouted at her to focus on her schoolwork, got up, gave me a hug, and said “Mommy, just breathe”. I followed her instructions; I simply took a long, deep breath.
Breathing is the perfect escape when life becomes overwhelming. A deep breath forces you to stop, focus on being alive, and as you release, to be grateful for small mercies. Breathing is a calm surrender to what is.
The truth is, we cannot change what has happened to the world over the last few months. COVID-19 is here and physical distancing is the norm for now. Accepting the situation for what it is, and taking the necessary safety precautions for you and your family is your first act of survival in this pandemic. Know that life is not always as we would want it. It is simply what it is. Every day is a new challenge and managing a household in these times can be stretch.
As we navigate this “new normal”, we must simply find new ways of being. Whether you manage a single parent household or live in an extended family unit, managing your relationship with each other is a delicate dance. Allow children to be; let them understand that you know it is also new to them and assure them that all will be well. I have discovered new ways of engaging my family. With increased time spent on computers or tablets, it is important that we consciously move from the screen after school or work. I use the opportunity to share some of the games I played as a child long before smartphones or tablets. Throw a dance party, play dress up or create a family book club!
Now is an opportunity to lean into the good values and attitudes we were taught as children — to be patient, kind, forgiving and empathetic to each other. And the first place to practise this is at home. I believe it is also important to use this time to teach our children resilience — how to be strong in tough situations. Rather than complain about excessive eating, discuss with them the importance of saving for a rainy day. Get creative and bring your message across using stories like the old fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. This also encourages them to read and gives you an opportunity to test their comprehension skills.
Surviving COVID-19 is more than keeping good health; it is surrendering to what is by accepting the things you cannot change, finding the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Coleen Antoinette is a lover of culture and people. She is currently the director of marketing communications at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Share your experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.