Having things to look forward to

Remember life when we had holidays, family gatherings, concerts, parties, dinners out and family days out to look forward to? It was so enriching and gave a lot more excitement to life than what we are experiencing right now.

Last year many of us had these (and other) things cancelled – along with smaller plans, like date nights out, sleepovers at grandma’s and lunch with friends – all  of them were just shelved, never to know when we would experience them again. And now, week 4 into our 3rd lock down and the uncertainty of when (and if) things will start to return to normal, is feeling quite demoralising and mundane. To be stuck in this lock down cycle – balancing home learning, work, chores, assignments, tiredness of pregnancy … and in the mix of it all, unable to look forward to the usual things; like celebrations, holiday’s and outings is hard. Even going out to work or meeting friends, once offered a change of scenery and routine to life that is now lacking. And i’ll say it again – it’s hard!

If like me you have been feeling a sense of disappointment over losing these joys from life, then you are not alone. Not having definite future plans, in person celebrations and gatherings, or places to go and more routine can (and has been) be a real struggle. It is tempting to say things like; “well at least we are all healthy and safe” or to try to combat it with “at least we aren’t dealing with the hardships and worries of unemployment or losing our home like others are”. And yes, this may well be true for you currently but, like I have said before, it is mentally healthy to acknowledge pain, injustice, struggle and loss in your life in spite of what is happening in life for others. It isn’t ungrateful and it doesn’t disregard that others have it harder. We have to acknowledge pain and struggle without comparing it to others to fully feel and comprehend it – it is actually important and healthy to acknowledge how something is making us feel and to process that without disregarding it because maybe someone else has it harder. It doesn’t make your pain or struggle any less.

The truth is however, that yes, even though we are grateful that in-spite of the inconveniences of life right now, we have a home, work and health to enjoy, even so – having things to look forward to, to work towards, to save for, are all such enriching parts of life too. The sense of anticipation and growth that these things bring, energises our souls, helps us feel a sense of accomplishment, enriches life and even just helps us get through the hard times. So, when things are lacking to be excited for and look forward to, the joys of anticipation that are beneficial to our well being and mental health also lack, and we are left feeling stressed and uncertain about the future. And it is absolutely okay to feel that without justifying it.

It is with the lack of theses things and that “not knowing” that makes lock down so hard for me. I don’t mind the home learning or the all being home together – yes it is hard some days and stressful, but what I really don’t bode well with is this sense of groundhog day (I’m sure it’s TRUE for us all). I struggle not having things to look forward to at the other side or even the end of the week. No family events on the calendar, no holidays booked to count down to, no days out or a special Friday night with a rare babysitter. There are no lunches with friends to mix up the week or seeing my sisters to watch a film (I could go on, but you get the idea) –  all these things made life varied, fun and offered excitement on the horizon of a stressful or hard day.

Right now, I can’t even look forward to showing off my new baby in a few weeks and having the whole family and friends meet him, because we don’t know when we can meet again. And that is really quite sad.

Whilst there is little we can do to change this though, we can (and have tried to) create our own small moments of things to be excited about and look forward to. Whilst not the same as a weekend away or family gathering with all the hype, we have still tried to find things to break up the mundane and make life at home a little more varied and fun. In so doing, I have discovered that trying to find small things for us to look forward to help ignite that joy (even briefly) that comes in life from having things to look forward to.

We bake during the week, have Friday afternoon “outdoor learning” and Friday film nights (with treats). But also, we plan other things too. Here are some ideas that might work for you too!

Theme nights  

I have seen on social media some friends who really knock this idea out of the park and it’s fabulous! Theme nights are fun for all the family and not only create fun moments and memories, but also give you all something a little different to look forward to doing in the week. On Monday we did “Burns night” and tailored our home learning to be about Robert Burns, and then watched Brave, had a haggis supper, listened to and danced to Scottish music til bedtime and spoke in Scottish accents. It was fun, different and was great to do and look forward to.

Other ideas could be – A Mama MIA night with Greek Food and singing, Chinese New year, Indian night, Mexican night and watch Coco… pick a country, or a fave film and dress up; make appropriately themed foods and play games or have music to enjoy. This weekend we are hoping to do a fancy dinner party with the kids. We are going to have 3 courses, fancy glasses and drinks and dress up posh – they are super excited!

Not the same as going out for dinner, but they create lovely memories at a difficult time, offer variation for a samey week and provide an “event” on the calendar all the family can look forward to.

Make weekends, weekends 

Been in the same house day in day out causes many of us to lose track of time and even know what day of the week it is. To me it has been important with the hard “Monday to Friday” requirements and schedules, that we all switch off, relax and have fun at the weekend. I try to make home school fun and mixed, which it is some days, but even so, it is important that we make the weekend feel like weekends.

For us we try to do things similar to how a weekend would normally be for us – waffles or pancakes for breakfast, a walk out, games and films. On Sunday’s we dress in our church clothes for the morning and have zoom/home church, then enjoy a Sunday dinner. These small but simple things make life a little more varied to what our week looks like. It is hard (of course) that our outings are restricted, but finding local places of interest to walk around (like a nature reserve or historical place), make it different to the day to day circular walks we take and also make it feel more like a weekend!  Sometimes we order food in too to mix it up!

Online get together’s

Last weekend my in laws organised a zoom baby shower for my sister in law and I. It was spontaneous, a bit of a surprise and also such a fun night. It was great to have a social event in my diary and to spend the evening playing games, talking babies and pregnancy with my sister in laws and mother in law and generally just having a laugh! It was a late finish and made my Friday night feel a little more “normal”.

Back in December we did a zoom quiz for Nath’s birthday with family which was also fun and we are hoping to plan a few more “get together’s” with other couples and family online. We like to have a little treat or special drink too to make it feel more of a “party”! Of course it isn’t the same as in person connections, but it eliminates loneliness, brings joy and laughter and makes the end of the day exciting.

Do things for you 

It’s hard to find space and time when we are all stuck in, under one roof to chill and have silence. And I know some days I really just crave some “me time” after being with the family ALL DAY LONG!  I just want silence, no one touching me and nothing to have to think about or do.

This can be accomplished by some solo exercise outdoors; maybe meet a friend for a walk (don’t get a drink, you may get fined!Ha) or grab some treats and plan to watch your fave film one night. Last week I took my laptop in the bathroom, ran a bubble bath and just lay there watching “Say I Do” on Netflix – it was a good 45 mins of peace and chill time ans was nice to be able to switch off. Some nights I just watch a film in bed with a glass of milk and a giant cookie – bliss!

You might want to order yourself something in the sales, a new book or even something to try out as a new hobby – packages also provide joy of things to look forward to.

Talking about future dreams 

Just because we don’t know when we will be able to travel again or go to our favourite cities and places, doesn’t mean that we have to stop talking about them and planning for them. One of our favourite things to do at the moment is watch “A place in the Sun” and then look up property and see what we could afford in that area of the world. It it a lot of fun to imagine and dream.

We talk about where we want to go on holiday next and what we want to see, where we might like to visit with the kids in the UK and our general bucket lists and how we hope to accomplish those dreams. We reminisce about swimming and when we will get to go again and we talk about all of the fun we have had (and will be sure to have again).

It is hard to not have specific and definite plans right now, but the potential of happy future experiences can fill us with excitement and lift us out of (even if it is briefly) the mundane day to day and hard times of lock down life. These things are not the same, but the simple joys and memories they bring offer a different facet to lock down life and make it a little more exciting! They provide much needed feelings of anticipation and things to look forward to.

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