27 February 2021

As if nothing has happened

End of February 2021 in the UK.  Spring is at the doorstep and vaccinations are taking place in several countries.  There is a general feeling that we are soon getting back to normal.  My twins’ school is about to reopen and I am looking forward to this, I also want to have some space to myself! 

It would be easy to forget what has happened in the last year and to focus on ‘catching up’ with family, friends, work, holidays or anything else.  Myself,  have been doing some reading and writing for what I think is going to be my next book.  I have tried hard also to seek alternative hobbies or career possibilities.  I have now exhausted myself.  Luckily I have people around me that keep telling me to slow down. There is no need for the rush. I was supposed to go easy on myself during this new lockdown!

Anyway, I think that part of my problem is that I somehow want to forget about 2020 and to carry on as if nothing had happened.  This is a normal reaction to adverse events.  Only that if we take another look at what went on, we could also rescue some positives.  And then accept that we are to move on, with this awareness.

Some of us would want to cling to helpful habits that we have acquired.  Paradoxically in my case, I have learned to do some things slowly.  Waking up and having breakfast, getting ready for the day whilst having a nice chat with my wife has been really good.  We talk about science fiction or comics, the mangas that she is reading, novelties about our twins or my ideas about how crazy and un predictable creativity is.  We also vent out our frustrations and worries.  And then we start working or homeschooling.  For me it has become a realisation that it is not possible to do everything on a single day, or do it very well.  My praise to my twins teachers, they do an amazing job, all things considered.  

I would love to get back to my office on campus,  with a view to enjoy the physical surroundings.  I would love to do less there.  I used to spend a great deal of time there, wandering between the office and the cafes or the shop, feeling that I needed to be there and with a fear of wasting my time.  Now, I think can still do my work and would love to stop on the way for a coffee in nearby towns, or strolling for a walk as I used to do some times.  

We just have to be grateful to be alive, to have some energy to carry out during our days, to have loved ones.  Yes, we are now living differently and more carefully.  But we can still live.  Slowly but surely.  Who wouldn’t want to do that?  

24 January 2021

Pandemic presence

The lockdowns in our societies have helped bring to the surface how we as human beings think of ourselves as present. Virtual and other technologies have helped us to maintain a degree of presence at work and with geographically distant family.  

I wonder if we have changed our image, what we say or do when being remotely present, and how we have managed our physical presence when it comes to going some places or just talking or doing stuff at home.  

Myself I had not thought of the above as I assumed that I was the same individual when interacting with others.  I was aware of the (mindful) importance to be fully present (easier said than done).  The first lockdown was a retreat to finish writing my latest book and some research articles, and a preparation of educational resources for my job.  I think I maintained presence in my circles, showing myself up at times.  There were nice conversations with old friends that I had not seen for a good while.  And with of course my close relatives.  At times I was also absent minded:  the writing, the preparations, the anxiety, the frustration.  

After this first lockdown ended, I noticed I was missing my coffee meetings with myself (for writing) and with my friend Adrian.  I was also missing meeting my well-being group.  We kept the meetings virtual.   And when the first opportunity came I socially-distant met with these people.  It was good to finally catch up.  

And with second and third lockdowns, I am now thinking that I need their presence somehow, and that I want but often cannot really be present as I would like to.  Work and home schooling make busy and draining days.  

Presence is now a challenge.  Or is it not?  Maybe I am still present, but not in the way I would like to.  It is one thing to talk or listen to my students online (most of whom do not show themselves and only listen), or to have virtual work meetings (in which we follow an agenda and occasionally we joke).  And it is another thing to feel we are ‘there’ in a common space, that we are ‘there’ now, fully engaged, feeding from each other, communing with each other.  

Maybe we would need to accept that presence means both of these things.  That we are and we are not present.  That one cannot be with the other.  

We are all trying to be present, perhaps we just need to be less demanding of what we want to achieve.  

22 January 2021

A test for other viruses

This new year brings more testing, and not necessarily for COVID-19.

Having lived through several lockdowns and uncertainties, it might be time for us to test ourselves on how well aligned are our values to what we do at work and elsewhere.

It might be that our self-defensive habits have taken over, leading us to strongly protect some imaginaries like our own images of ourselves or others.  

Or our 'nostalgic' pictures of what the world was or needs to become ('normal' again?).   

And in the process, we might have adopted thoughts or behaviours that keep us ‘safe’ from the scrutiny of others and the world in general.  We could also have developed other habits or adopted thoughts which we considered very alien, and are now part of who we think we are.  

Myself, I considered that I am now more of a facilitator of learning than a traditional lecturer, although I still keep some habits in and outside the classroom.  My values of dedication and commitment remain, for good or bad. I have adopted my teaching material to suit more shorter events and also use of other online resources from publishers.  And I still aim to propose creative assignments to my students, teaching face-to-face whenever required.  

So I do not think I have been afraid of change, only that I have somehow changed at my own pace (not too fast, not too slow). There are costs. I feel drained at the end of the week.  Maybe I have tried to hard to instil enthusiasm in myself and my students. Perfection, again. 

Perfection, an old habit, and also, I have adopted some unhelpful thoughts:  “There is no body else that can do what I do; If I don’t do this the world comes to an end.  I am here to right all the wrongs encountered; everyone should be committed to help students, and if not I must intervene. It is the pandemic “. 

Some of these thoughts align with my values of dedication and commitment.  But others don’t.  I appointed myself to be a saviour, when colleagues are also paid to do their job.  I value time with family and time for thinking too.  I cannot right all the wrongs or help everyone that comes my way.  It is really not possible.  

What else do I value?  

  • Contact with nature
  • Health
  • Self-care
  • Collegiate support
  • Curiosity
  • Simplicity
  • Reflection 
  • Honesty
  • Time to do nothing.  

Time to reshuffle priorities, and test myself again, with compassion.  

And what about you? Is your job misaligning with your values, creating fake thoughts or unhelpful habits?