Chandy is the developer of hometuneup.app, a free online resource for DIY home maintenance.
The pandemic isn’t over yet by any stretch of the imagination. For some of you, perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly coming into focus, and luckily it doesn’t look like another train!
I am sure everyone wants this pandemic over, and to forget that it ever happened. At least that seems to be the most popular sentiment.
I am not so sure that forgetting the pandemic ever happened is the right thing to do. A little reflection may prove to be beneficial for all of us.
Conveniences and inconveniences
A useful way to structure your reflection on your life during the pandemic is to create a list, either a mental one or on paper, with two columns.
In one column list all the things that you would consider as an added convenience that was brought on primarily because of the circumstances created by the pandemic.
In the other column, list all the things that added to your everyday burden – inconveniences you would rather not face again.
Things that appear to be conveniences may lead to some lost opportunities that you may have overlooked. Similarly, things that appear to have been utterly avoidable inconveniences may actually have a silver lining that you may want to extract and weave in some manner into your post-pandemic lives. So, remember to reflect on each item a little more deeply than simply labeling it as a convenience you want to retain or an inconvenience you want to eliminate.
Three items most likely to make many of your lists are the impact the pandemic has had on your work life, your kids’ schooling, and relationships within the family unit.
Some of you may have found not having to sit in traffic driving to your place of work, or back home from work, a huge blessing.
However, the drive to work and back, while never all that enjoyable on the face of it, actually affords us time to be on our own to gather our thoughts about the day we are about to have or the day we just had. Or, for some, it gives us the opportunity to catch up on the news of the day. Or enjoy the music we love, in quiet solitude.
Another important benefit of the commute to work – it creates clear demarcations for the beginning and end of each workday. Something that many “work-from-home” workers are undoubtedly missing during this pandemic. In fact, some creative remote workers follow a daily ritual to separate work time from personal time, in order to maintain a semblance of work-life balance.
At Home Schooling
School closures or not having in person learning at school for your kids have resulted in an enormous burden for some of you. Particularly those of you that hold a full-time job.
However, keeping an eye on the activities of our children, particularly the young ones, as they go about their remote learning day provides us with the opportunity to truly observe our kids in the process of learning.
Normally, we rely on their grades and reports from their teachers which very rarely give us any insights about how the kids actually learn. Knowing what works for them and what impedes their learning progress can be enormously helpful in figuring out how we can create the ideal environment for them, at home.
According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 31% of the parents reported that educating their children at home was a positive experience, 19% found it stressful, and 29% found that it was a bit of both.
The Family Unit
When people are asked about the most significant thing that has happened to their families during the pandemic, the answer more often than not is that the pandemic has brought them closer.
Generational divides have blurred, even in the absence of physical contact. Extended family members are communicating with each other more often, getting to know each other better.
For some, sadly, this shift has been brought about by tragedy.
The same group of people will also tell you that being “packed in together” and “living in each other’s pockets” for almost a year and a half has placed an enormous strain on relationships within the family unit.
In the past, family members that occasionally crossed paths in their homes like “ships in the night”, had the option to ignore any differences between them in order to avoid conflict. At least, some of the time. Now, those very same differences are staring them in their faces every day, creating tension and strife.
Negative Space: A Tool for Reflection
Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject. It is common for us to focus on the positive space, which is the space occupied by the subject, and miss what is depicted in the negative space. It takes effort and concentration for our brains to look past the obvious and see what the rest of the picture is communicating. Take a look at the picture below and make a note of what you see at first glance. Do you see anything different if you stared at it for some time?
Finding the Negative Spaces in Relationships
We create preconceptions about others based on what is obvious to notice in their appearance and behavior, or their viewpoint. That’s the positive space. It takes effort to look past the obvious and understand the full depth of the person. That requires us to observe the negative space.
The same is applicable to communications: it is important to listen not only to what is being said, but also what is not being said.
When you spend significant time with another person and observe their behavior under different circumstances, the positive space melts away after a while and you begin to develop a deeper understanding of the person through the negative spaces they expose. The differences between you and the other person that, at one point, looked like obstacles to forming or strengthening your relationship, now appear as opportunities to build bridges and expand your horizon.
Clearly, the unique circumstances created by this pandemic aren’t going to heal all tension in families overnight. Interactions among some family members may still be like “ships that pass in the night”. But now, there may a small gesture of acknowledgement between the ships. For some families, that could represent a big win!
Self-help books and gurus teach you how to make a mindful, conscious effort to find the silver lining in any difficult circumstance you face. In many ways, this pandemic has created situations that have given us the opportunity to teach ourselves how to evolve to that state organically, even subconsciously