Blog: Social-distancing – and how it pains my soul

For a long time I was thinking me and my family were doing well during the lock-down. Now, eight weeks into lock-down I am no longer sure and I am taking a closer look.

In the beginning I felt mostly relaxation. enjoying that there was no morning rush hour to get the kids to school and neither was there an evening rush hour to get food on the table before sports classes. I started inline-skating and exercising at home. When weather was dry and not too windy the whole family or part of it went outside to play table tennis. We got both kids started at cooking once a week. And my husband and I danced tango in the living room every second night. We enjoyed the new and old things we did and were proud on how well we were dealing with the situation. We took care of carrying the family community together and enjoyed movement and play.

After two weeks home schooling started and my husband and I were confronted with the additional task of motivating, supervising, supporting, checking homework for mistakes and even more motivating so being the motivators for having our kids doing their homework and/or loggin in for online lessons. The kids often chose to work in their rooms, which made it harder to oversee what they were busy with. When checking then we would often find them online with games or cartoons instead of busy with homework.
I didn’t very much like the role of controller and motivator. I see myself as the one supporting my kids in dealing with the world, not as the one executing the demands of the world to them. I felt stressed and overwhelmed, lost on how to get myself in a workflow, when continuously checking in on the kids, trying to get them do things they didn’t want to do.

My husband and I are used to working from home, so we gathered it would not make a big difference to us in our daily lives. But when my husband’s recent assignment ended and I saw myself writing workshop materials for workshops in the forthcoming future for the clinic all day, we were lost at how to motivate ourselves and do our work with the same joy as before. While this is probably unique to our situation, then many other people are likely affected in different ways from the Corona crisis, but with similar results.

Driving to work once a week and meeting my colleagues again after three complete weeks of home-office, helped me a lot. Offering empathy to overworked colleagues from the different departments of the psychiatric clinic would have been something very fulfilling. But the colleagues in question unfortunately did not find their way to our cozy space with delicious coffee. They chose to say: “I am doing ok” when asked and ran off to their next task.
After three fairly desperate weeks my husband found a colleague for daily remote co-working. And I found four awesome spirited trainer colleagues to found the Dutch Parent-Hotline. This gave us back meaning, focus and companionship.

After another few weeks I realized that I missed connection with my loved ones. We all were busy in our own rooms and only met for meals, table tennis or occasionally skating/cycling together.

By now I seriously needed a change of scene, and arranged so I could meet up with my good friend and empathy partner last week. Twice he remarked that he experienced me as more distant than usual. At first, I thought this was just because I was busy thinking about work and stuff.
It took me three days to actually discover, that he was indeed right – I WAS distant.

We sat down together and held a session on it. We started with how I was feeling these days and in this very moment. Some way into the process I connected to this imaginative heavy warm blanket.
This blanket covers me and protects me from feeling the pain of not being allowed to see my friends or family. It protects me from feeling the shock that runs through my body every single time I take steps backwards, when I might get too close to someone in the streets, the park or the supermarket. It protects me from feeling how sad I am, that I am not allowed to hug my dear colleague trainer at the clinic when we meet. It protects me from feeling the shock and scare, when my son gets yelled at by a woman in the park, when he passes her at only 1,20 m distance on his bicycle, because he is immersed in a conversation with me. 
AND it keeps me from feeling the longing for physical closeness with my friends and loved ones. It keeps me from realizing that I am distancing myself not only from strangers or friends and colleagues, but also from my loved ones AND FROM MYSELF!

I realise now that in me this social distancing is making me sick!! It simply hurts my soul so much. 

And here I feel the strong rebellion coming up that I inherited from my father. I wish I could say: I won’t agree to social distancing to this drastic degree again. If there would be another epidemic of some sort, where they again ask us to socially distance ourselves, then my heart yells for a strategy to get myself infected in the early hours, so after recovering I will be safe to hug and touch and to be close with.
And I would be wearing t-shirts with the text on: “FREE HUGS! I recovered from xx I am immune and safe to be around.” Thus speaks my heart and soul and body.

Writing this phantasy fills me with strength and hope. I can feel how I reconnect to life and joy.

But right now, I am still in despair! So I ask myself this question: “What can I change now, to feel more alive and free again?”
I miss dancing with people, hugging my friends for “hello” and “good bye”, sitting close with friends and relatives and being relaxed with random people around me at work, in a café, in the supermarket, in the park and the streets. AND I want to keep people safe. My colleagues, my family, my friends. and the strangers I don’t know.

I have now pledged to myself to ask friends to start meeting up again. At first for walks and talks outside, keeping the safety distance. And when things get e bit more relaxed, I hope I can find some friends to meet for tea and talk and maybe a board game.

I am curious how my story resonates in you. And curious on what you do to cope with this lock-down? Please share your own experiences in the comments.