At the beginning of this year, I thought about success, what it means for me, and how I want to achieve it in this year. I came up with a pretty ambitous list of goals for this year, it seemed to much to hope to accomplish.
With clear goals in mind for the year, I set off to work. I pushed myself, in some weeks to the limit, as I was (and still am to an extent) suffering from increased fatique. Like to be expected when doing many projects at a time, in these first two months it’s hard to already tick boxes like sales and exhibitions. But I was clearly working toward all and felt very confident to make (almost) all my goals year. I reached out to other artists (which on its own felt very good), founding a collective (probably called milc, and hopefully with a website soon, but we got stopped in the tracked by an evil virus, more about that in a minute), I teamed up with two other printmakers to do the open studios jointly this year, I took one week off for focused writing, and handed in submissions…
And then, last week my life was turned upside down – like for so many. On Friday the 13th (when else), M. developed a high fever. Sticking to NHS guidelines, we created quarantine quarters for him: Our bedroom has an ensuite, so he was to stay in there. Luckily the twins share three beds, one for me to spare: They went back to sleeping in their poster in my daughter’s room, and I camped out in my son’s. So, instead of a weekend with printing and submissions to a print exhibition, I spent a weekend entertaining the kids, fearing we might catch something, and worrying in general. The fear that M. might have caught on the new Coronavirus stirred us up. Germany was closing down schools and threatened to close borders while the UK seemed set to doing nothing and “taking it on the chin” (quote Johnson). What would we do if M. and I both need hospitalisation? Where would our children go? What if something worse happens? I started to read up once again on how to write a will (something I have thought about many times but M. resists), M. read about how to set me up as a beneficient in his pension scheme (yes, we should have done all that before; and we haven’t even done it now), all the while making sure the kids don’t get too worried.
On Saturday, M. had severe pain in his throat and still no cough at all. He called a GP practise which, after checking thoroughly over the phone, agreed that it didn’t seem like a corona infection, that the tonsillitis he himself suspected was more likely, and he was allowed to come in to see a doctor. They confirmed this diagnosis and prescribed antibiotics. He was still to isolate just in case, since it wasn’t clear that nothing is riding “on the back” of this infection.
We felt more confident again. But while M. still kept to his quarters, and I was alone with managing and entertaining the kids, alongside caring for M, and while struggling to sleep in my son’s bed.
On Monday I brought the kids to school, increasingly worried about the state of things. In Germany school closed, in the UK nothing was being done to help with the infection. The worst affected area, they seem to have reasoned, is not people and their lives but business and their finance.
On Monday, M. was still feeling ill but on the path to recovery. I sent the kids to school, because schools were still open. Because NHS advice at this point was that Matthias should self-isolate, but not the whole family. And, let’s be honest, because I craved breathing space. I needed to ship out goods that were ordered over the weekend, and wanted to get into the studio.
But we read up on recommendations for people with CP and found out that they are considered a risk group. The twins have never been especially prone to infections, and other than some with CP, do fine with breathing and swallowing. But as all muscles are weak and lack control, including those for breathing, it is feared that a pneumonia that comes with corona would render them in need of artificial respiration more or less immediately.
On Monday at the 5pm announcement, finally UK’s government buckled under international and domestic pressure and nodged their recommendations up. Anyone with a fever is to self-quarantine together with their family for full 14 days.
M., still weak from high fever, wasn’t in a decicive mood. But I decided it was time to take the kids out of school and isolate completely. Even though his wasn’t a new fever. Even though we were pretty sure it wasn’t corona.
Knowing my children and myself, I knew it was unthinkable to wake them up the next morning and simply tell them that they wouldn’t go to school. So I closed down shops (also because we decided to self-isolate as completely as possible, and that includes not going to the post-office), and spent the evening and next morning setting up a time table for home schooling, printing out material, and keeping their schedule as close to the known as possible. Instead of telling them the next morning “no school for you today”, we told them from now on school was happening at home and presented them with a time table. We discussed how our “Kurzke Uniform” would look like, and kept dressing them in it every day.
From that moment on, I taught Maths and English every day, plus two extra subjects in the afternoon: Geography, Music, Art, PE, science, German. My son asked for French lessons, and knowing my own limitations I booked a French class over skype for him.
On Tuesday we did maths from 9-10, had a short break with a snack of fruit, did English from 10.20-11.20, had a short break, and then guided reading with my son from 11.30-12. Somhow I managed to cook a very quick dinner at the same time, and at 12.10 we had a warm lunch. I went on a cleaning routine – that’s extra important if you have someone on quarantine in your house. To their great joy, I let the kids join in and gave them a cleaning job each. My daughter asks every day which task she is allowed to do that day.
We finished the day off in the afternoon with science and outdoor PE for one kid (football in the garden), physio exercises for the other kid. And then I started to prepare for the lessons on the next day…
On Wednesday M. was starting to feel better, and helped here and there. He’d cook lunch, and just help with stuff. Still, my life had turned in an instant. From doing art, reading news, and being worried about the world, I went to no-time-for-news, preparing lessons, delivering lessons, and organising kids.
I crave alone time. I crave art time. I weep for lost chances, and feel betrayed by the world. I made such an effort in the first two months of this year. And it looked like it would pay off. And now this health crisis just jumped in my way and keeps me away from the rewards of hard work.
But, to my surprise, with all the bad, good things happened too. It is hardwarming to see the level of support we received from everywhere. I am so grateful for all those who helped get my daughter’s physio and mobility equipment out of school to us, who shopped for us, or – in one instance – handed over their supplies of tampons and sanitary pads because these have become a rare item.
And I actually enjoy seeing my kids learn. I am so proud on how they are doing. They are eager to show me what they know, and actually love being home-schooled. On Wednesday my son asked whether we could just carry on with school through the holidays, – he didn’t want to do an Easter break. On Thursday both resisted the idea of interrupting school work for the weekend. And on Friday afternoon he said: “I am soo tired. Home school is just as tiring as real school. – But better.” Which I take as the highest praise. And I think it’s good that they are looking forward to the weekend and doing nothing for a while.
For me, it’s not back to art, unfortunately. I am looking forward to the weekend. I hope I’ll manage to write a little, and maybe film the skillshare class that I have already skripted (and online teaching is by now my only source of income). But I have more imporant plans:
I fear that, with Brexit still under way and all that, difficult times are coming. And I plan to turn a good portion of our garden and lawn into vegetable patches. I’ll start today with a very small (about 12 square meters) of potato field. So it’s digging and turning soil today and preparing classes tomorrow. Sowing seeds and planting stuff will come next. – One thing at a time. We are told that staying active is important, so I guess gardening is a good thing. And with schools in the UK closing from this Monday, home-teaching has been made easier: School now sends us teaching material and learning schedules for every week.
I wonder when I will next see a supermarket from the inside. I wonder when I will feel at rest and ease. I wonder when I will see friends and extended family again. I worry about more vulnerable family members. I wonder how these isolation measures will change society as a whole. I worry what will happen with the economy for us personally and the whole country, Europe, and the world. I worry what will drop out of this politically in the end.
But mostly I am busy looking after my family. And although I crave alone time, I am more grateful than ever for having children and being with my family. Not all’s bad that’s going to come.
How are you doing out there?