Every member of our family has had to switch over to a virtual life in this altered universe in the time of Coronovirus.
Before COVID-19, morning rush hour in our household revolved around breakfasts to be eaten, lunches to be packed, and MRT rides to our respective destinations.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, weekdays look a lot like Sundays, but with a twist.
Time normally spent binge watching Netflix is devoted to online classes for the kids and video calls for the working parents.
In our altered universe, family members with laptops in hand, and earphones plugged in, purposefully move around the house in search of bandwidth. With long charging cables that trip us up and short tempers that are quick to ignite, we all suffer from various degrees of cabin fever.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. We responded by finding new ways to cope.
The husband’s weekly routine involves gym visits, squash games, and a trek up Bukit Timah Hill. Being stuck at home is hard for a trivia-loving, sports-obsessed extrovert. Being homebound with three women is outright punishment!
Once a month, the husband and I join a group of quiz enthusiasts (aptly named Qui-Sing) for a casual trivia night. Led by a different but enthusiastic quizmaster at each session, participants split into teams and compete good-naturedly to score points. There are no prizes. There’s an assortment of crowd-sourced desserts, however, and the opportunity to engage in some nerdy fun.
Unwilling to cancel the quiz planned for March, the team switched to a remote meeting via zoom using the breakout rooms function to maintain team integrity, proving that where there is a will, there is a way. Quiz aficionados agreed that it was a success, except for the desserts round. The virtual world lacks the ability to engage taste, one of our most important senses!
For greater good, and sanity
As an ambivalent ambivert, I vacillate between seeking solitude and craving the company of others. My office routine provides a framework for daily discipline, an opportunity to socialize, and a welcome break from the monotony of household responsibilities. Remote meetings, at best, serve as unsatisfactory substitutes.
Isolation breeds discontent and anxiety.
Not surprisingly, many like me gravitate towards religious or spiritual practices to allay fears.
When I received a zoom link via whatsapp to join a group session for chanting healing prayers, I enthusiastically added my voice (albeit with my microphone muted) from the safety of my home. For half an hour each day, I helped amplify positive sentiments, instead of spreading rumours or adding to the anxiety that occupied much of my news feed.
Getting away from parents
The girls missed the freedom of movement that they take for granted. With birthday parties, music concerts, and even school trips being cancelled, they chafed at being stuck indoors, unable to meet friends for impromptu get-togethers to satisfy cravings for pizza and mala.
Our elder daughter used the Netflix party option to watch movies with friends across continents. The younger one, although immersed in online classes during the day, took a break by setting up a combined guitar practise session with a friend on a video call, and then relaxed with an online game of pictionary.
It was strange to see them live through a time when the term “grounded” was not a parental edict but something they voluntarily exercised, from an internal sense of responsibility towards the external situation.
Family that laughs together
As with most unexpected turns in life, this situation had some positives. With all meals consumed at home, we had more conversations and more laughter across the dining table. Yes, we grumbled and complained, but we also found ourselves sharing a lot more than pandemic statistics.
One evening, our older daughter, a trained yoga teacher, taught a hatha yoga class at home. Our bodies, twisted into uncomfortable poses, seemed to mirror the way our lives were getting bent out of shape by the current restrictions.
Like yoga, which is not merely physical exercise but one path towards a holistic healthy life, our present situation was not simply an imposition but an introduction to a more mindful and deliberate way of living.
I was reminded that our individual good is embedded in the greater good.
To fare better in the long run, we need to stand together.
Just as long as we maintain the prescribed social distance of course!
This article first appeared the The Straits Times, Singapore on 12 April 2020.