“Wow, you’re living the dream!”, I exclaimed.

“My student shot back wryly, “Yeah! The Covid Dream!”

The exchange took place in a class this morning. I had just seen her husband walk by in the background getting a loaf of bread out of the freezer. My student explained that they were going to have French toast with fresh strawberries (picked just yesterday). We had been discussing her remote-work set-up. Today’s class was taking place in the basement since her daughter had reclaimed her orange-walled bedroom back to be able to play in it.

Over the past three months, this student has impressed me with the way she’s been so organized, working out alternating work session schedules with her husband, taking a mini-vacation in a rented cottage at a local lake to celebrate the end of the ‘school year’ (if you can call it that!), setting up homework sessions, limiting screen time and reinforcing strict playtime behavior rules to keep the siblings in line. 

But what has impressed me the most is her positive attitude, consistent perseverance and unflagging motivation to keep life as normal as possible for her family – and herself (she’s kept up her running schedule even if she can’t continue swimming, her martial arts classes or company gym routine).

Contrast that with the headline on today’s local newspaper about tourist area business owners complaining about the lack of tourists, whereas only last summer they were complaining there were too many!

Obviously, not everyone is living ‘the Covid Dream’! Is it even possible? How? And, what would it look like?  

I maintain that yes, it is possible, though I understand, not necessarily easy.

As for the how, what about this concept? Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania explores the topic of learned helplessness and personal explanatory style in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Vintage Books, NY, 2006).

He explains that helplessness is a learned attitude towards circumstances, and that how we view what and why things happen to us will heavily determine how optimistic or pessimistic we will be and act.

[…] helplessness is a learned attitude towards circumstances, and that how we view what and why things happen to us will heavily determine how optimistic or pessimistic we will be and act.

(Martin Seligman)

For example, my student is quite evidently adopting a proactive role in structuring her personal and family life in a way that will limit the collateral damage of this global health crisis. On the other hand, although it is easily justifiable for business owners to complain about dwindling customers and nose-diving sales, the, albeit unfortunate, option is there: adapt or die.

They say that constraints breed creativity. So many business owners are taking their offer online – one sure, at least more likely, way to survive the huge disruption humanity is experiencing.

The process of challenging and changing the learned helplessness and personal explanatory style is a lot like gardening.

Personally, I’ve been trying out new things (teaching online), planting new flowerbeds (establishing new business associates) and pruning back (eliminating contacts and habits that aren’t helpful for me), while watering (nurturing healthy relationships and routines).  

As I conclude, I reiterate the third question I asked: what would the Covid Dream look like?

Obviously, it’s different for each us. Just as each garden on my street in suburban North America varies from one resident to another, so do the opportunities and skill sets we each possess.What we do with them, how we cultivate them, is entirely up to us. But it helps me to remember that although gardening is dirty, strenuous and takes time, it’s always so amazing when the flowers bloom, the tree provides shade and the harvest is plentiful.     

I leave you with the first line of a nursery rhyme that has been going round and round in my head over the past months: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

I’d love to hear how your life garden is developing. What’s working for you? How are you living the Covid Dream?

Til next time, keep gardening, and above all, learning!

– Claire :o)

[Photo Credit: Anna Earl/Unsplash]

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