This is a response to requests to continue as ‘normal’ during these times. My idea is that this is old thinking for what is really a new paradigm – those ideas belong to BC times (Before Covid). Normal times as we knew them, are not returning. There will be new times to negotiate, slightly or not so slightly different, and we will need all our resources to manage this.

What if instead, I ventured to say as a professional to parents (and to myself) “Don’t worry about being consistent. Only be consistent in your inconsistency”? I would encourage a growth in fluidity (we have been flooded as a country so perhaps this is the right metaphor!), a plea instead to be flexible, awake and responsive. Routine and things to do are important, but don’t be ruled by this. Respond to the day as it unfolds. Go outside, turn faces to the sun, listen to the birds, pick up leaves, rush around, shout, dance and play hide and seek with the cat. Stick a timetable upside down on the bin lid, paint it in rainbow colours and then throw it away. Call friends and have meetings online, sing to each other, dance in virtual dance halls, connect, connect and then switch off.

I would say that we are all learning new ways of being ourselves, and this will affect all our relationships. So, while I agree with maintaining continuity at these crisis times, I

also disagree with it. Let’s not over value the idea. Let’s hoola-hoop our way through each day, spinning the circle of life in new ways which can inspire creativity and refresh the heart as well as the intellect.

I heard Alexander McCall Smith read his poem on BBC Radio 4 the other day and thought it was wonderful and very apt. Here it is to share with you because perhaps poetic words can be more of a guide to us now than the rule-bound certainty of continuity.

 

IN A TIME OF DISTANCE

Alexander McCall Smith

The unexpected always happens in the way

The unexpected has always occurred:

While we are doing something else,

While we are thinking of altogether

Different things – matters that events

Then show to be every bit as unimportant

As our human concerns so often are;

And then, with the unexpected upon us,

We look at one another with a sort of surprise;

How could things possibly turn out this way

When we are so competent, so pleased

With the elaborate systems we’ve created –

Networks and satellites, intelligent machines,

Pills for every eventuality – except this one?

 

And so we turn again to face one another

And discover those things

We had almost forgotten,

But that, mercifully, are still there:

Love and friendship, not just for those

To whom we are closest, but also for those

Whom we do not know and of whom

Perhaps we have in the past been frightened;

The words brother and sister, powerful still,

Are brought out, dusted down,

Found to be still capable of expressing

What we feel for others, that precise concern;

Joined together in adversity

We discover things we had put aside:

Old board games with obscure rules,

Books we had been meaning to read,

Letters we had intended to write,

Things we had thought we might say

But for which we never found the time;

And from these discoveries of self, of time,

There comes a new realisation

That we have been in too much of hurry,

That we have misused our fragile world,

That we have forgotten the claims of others

Who have been left behind;

We find that out in our seclusion,

In our silence; we commit ourselves afresh,

We look for a few bars of song

That we used to sing together,

A long time ago; we give what we can,

We wait, knowing that when this is over

A lot of us – not all perhaps – but most,

Will be slightly different people,

And our world, though diminished,

Will be much bigger, its beauty revealed afresh.