A year of the new normality

Today it has been a year since I have been to the office. Well I have been in the office for the odd day or three, but that's it. A year where everything was turned upside down. And I want to take this occasion to look back on that year. Because whatever the last year meant to me, to you, to us, good or bad, one thing is for sure: it was full of new experiences.

So now I am at home

A beginning. Full of doubt, uncertainity, fear, caution.
I will stay at home.
Just like everybody else.

A few days in I collect my courage and go out, just a short stroll in the evening. I see other people. Eying each other suspiciously one switches to the other side of the road. Sounds that you never realized were there suddently become obvious due to the sudden silence.
The thing I will remember most vividly will be the different smell of the city from the lack of cars.

In a few weeks we manage to exceed all climate goals we had. Looks like it was doable all along. It was just that nobody wanted to.

We are looking at the next months with cautious optimism. This will be a new experience. An adventure. Mentioning that this might not be over after the summer is mostly met with smiles and laughter.

So now we are at home

Home office would have been fine. It is warm, I can sit in the sun with my laptop.. But we have kids. Three of them. Home office is loud. Meetings, a significant part of my work, are exhausting. Not only for me, for all attendees. I cannot stop apologizing for the noise.
After three weeks Paul starts calling my screen "the meeting". I can see where he got that from.

Being together all the time is a challenge on its own. No matter how much you love each other, at some point it is just exhausting. I miss the time in public transit or on my bike to wind down. Each morning I sit down on the balcony - even in rain - for half an hour, often with a book.

We want to avoid unnessecary risks. I go shopping once a week. A week full of food for five persons is a lot. I'm surprised how much I can fit into our fridge.
Everybody is stockpiling the weirdest things. Toilet paper. Yeast. Sometimes I think that this virus is turning humanity into bread-baking mummies. I have nightmares about the day diapers are out of stock.

We cannot be at home all the time

With rising temperatures Barbara often takes the kids to her mothers garden. They can run around, get exhausted. Kids are not built to stay at home for weeks without any change, it drives them insane.
Whoever decided to close all playgrounds obviously never saw a kid up close.

In summer everything relaxes. We can go to Schönbrunn. Hotels open, we manage to go on vacation in austria for a week. It almost feels like we will move back to normality.
People talk about going back to the office. Boy, are we in for a surprise.

While the kids are not at home

September comes and Simon starts his first year in school. Kindergardens are open again, the young ones are there for a few hours every day. Coworkers voice their concern about the sudden lack of noisy interruptions and inquire about my childrens wellbeing.

We get used to our new life. It is not yet over, but everything is relaxed.

Meanwhile infections rise and rise.

So now everybody needs to go back home

Shops are closing again. We are already used to that. Schools too. That one is harder to manage. Now we have the joy of home-schooling in the home-office. Luckily Barbara is still on parental leave and has time to teach Simon. That was our theory. Reality intervened in the form of two other children at home that want to be entertained. That combination is ... interesting.

This lockdown feels different. Everybody is complaining, the streets are not as empty as in the first one. While the first lockdown was filled with solidarity, helpfullness and a feeling of being together in this, the second one is filled with conspiracy nuts and conflict.
I miss the silence and depressed, melancholic feeling of the first lockdown.

So we are working from home now

Barbara is back to work and this brings its own challenges. She needs a place to work, but luckily our WIFI works in the childrens room. Simons desk is now repurposed for three days a week. This means that his playmobil castle needs to make room for a macbook which he does not like at all. But everybody must compromise now.

We are lucky that Simon, due to his special needs, is allowed to go to school even during this lockdown. And twice as lucky that his school is modern, well funded and all in all quite enthusiastic about their job. While other coleagues tell me that their kids are just supervised in school Simon can actually get an education there. One teacher is teaching in class while the others are teaching the kids at home in video calls.

Somehow everything is normal for us now. The tests you can get everywhere help with meeting other people again without being afraid of infections. You only realize the positive effects of social interactions once you did not have them for a long time.

And then?

That is not the point of this post. And if you ask me: it will not be over for a long time. And once it will be, we will - quite fast, in a few months maybe - fall back into our old way of life that we currently cannot even imagine anymore. As if this all never happened.

As if this was just a long, dark dream.