It has been seven weeks. For years we have heard everyone discuss their busy lives and the need for a break. We all got what we asked for. For us the lock-down was a giant simplification of life on one side, and a scary abyss of information on the other. The work behind all the outsourced things we take for granted was tremendous. What have we learned?
I learned that being locked up in an apartment with your family is fine for a little while, but after a week or two the nerves frail. There are limitations to the amount of time one can spend with the same people, all day everyday, regardless of how much you love them. Even modern technology limits the psychological effect of “cabin fever.” How much time can one spend on various e-communications before it becomes as annoying as the fact that leaving one’s dwelling is dangerous and/or illegal? I miss my friends, family, colleagues and those important to me in my life. The thought that it will be nearly impossible to see many of these people this year is saddening. My children’s faces of confusion when I try to explain to them that we will not visit any grandparent, nor will they visit us for a long-time, is also difficult emotionally. Repeating the situation to one’s children makes the reality increasingly morbid during this unprecedented situation. Will we ever see them again? The bonds in human contact with the ones we love is irreplaceable in my eyes.
The most important thing for many of us men, food, is a challenge which we accepted and did well with. We really did buy some extra stock of dry goods, planned what we needed, and could easily go a month without any real sacrifices. The kids understood in general. As with many things in life, showing the children that there is nothing else to eat brings the reality to them, and they accept it better then when you hide/refuse to give them what they want and try to justify it. Furthermore, when we started going to the grocery store we appreciated things more. We opted not to do restaurant take-away and felt like it was a good decision. I miss restaurants more than most other things, and they are having a terrible time. The thought of the whole business changing now is devastating. The whole scene in most large cities globally has been remarkable the past ten years. One no longer needed to travel for specialties, top chefs were imported from various countries, the competition was working well in raising innovation and quality while killing off the unworthy or poorly managed competition. I know many of my contacts say they are already redoing their concepts or will not reopen at all. How will this business look in the future is anyone’s guess? A global epidemic has not occurred in the modern era and looking to Hong Kong and some other cities affected by past viruses suggests that only changes will occur on the side of hygiene, which is a positive. As we slowly return to the offices we work at I am still not sure if I will be visiting my favorite lunch spots or not.
Another learning lesson is that home office is a nightmare. As with most, I occasionally had home-office days in the past, but when there is no choice, and one is forced to work with the whole family at home it is not good. There are the people that immediately conform to every situation, but for me it was something that could not prosper long term. Too many distractions, too little professional interaction, and too many choices. Work is for work, home is for family, and sometimes blurring the lines is okay, but as a choice, not a lifestyle.
I am not a renaissance man. The experience over the past seven weeks finally allowed me to give up on the concept of the renaissance man. My whole life I was keen on understanding how to build things, improve our dwelling, taking care of all the maintenance, etc. It is just not possible anymore. There are so many choices, so many methods and so little patience on my side. I am giving up painting or anything like that again. I am done, I give up. No more plumbing, electrical or appliance repair.
Hobbies are something that I need to spend more time on. I have never been a person with hobbies but with children this needs to change and the epidemic was the spring board of action for me. We started a terrace garden with our kids, and although it is not going well we keep trying and learning. I find gardening very calming, and if one sets the expectations low at the beginning, success will come eventually. Another hobby is playing with the kids and trying to listen to them. Instead of coming up with ideas, ask them what they want to do. I started branching out from their ideas and it was much easier than watching 20 videos on what to do with kids and trying them.
I have started other hobbies and hope I can keep up with them upon return to a regular work life. Hopefully the children’s activities will also start coming back online in time, I miss those the most!
Lastly, the best lesson of all was that being home is great. Especially the last two weeks when we started exploring the forests around Prague. There is so much around us and so many interesting stimulations for the kids within a 30 minute drive of the city. With the upcoming reopening of castles, parks, zoos, museums and more, we are already excited that we need the rest of the year just to complete what we have started.
I can’t understand the folks itching to fly to the next super destination. Summer is here, the weather is great and we have a country full of amazing natural, historical, architectural and fun venues. With the food and services options spanning a broader range now more than ever, it is the best time to try them out. I can’t wait to take my boys rafting on the calm rivers, or one of those Tarzan land obstacle courses, or camping in the wilderness.
As our quarantine experience comes to an end, I will use the opportunity to write some family experiences in the Prague Monitor on a weekly family activity idea, so you can get some ideas for yourselves. Equally appreciated if our readers sent us some ideas or experiences of what we could go explore.
Good luck returning to normal!
Paul Lysek – The idea of writing a daily update came to me by seeing, hearing and trying to understand all the things that are happening around us at this time. This story is a combination of all those sources, including friends, relatives, and experiences with attempts to bring out the satire, emotion and changing environment of the situation. It is entirely fictional, with the exception of my sarcasm.
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