What an extraordinary year 2020 is turning out to be. So far, we have spent a good portion of it in seclusion due to Corona times. As we begin to emerge, it is time to reflect on the past few months. These are a few of my thoughts and lessons I’ve learned.
Making plans is pointless
I had planned a trip to Japan this spring for the cherry blossom festival and then another later in the year to take my daughter to Disneyland Paris. I had planned my work schedule and drawn up a to-do list to get through. Then suddenly, the world changed and no one was going anywhere. I had to redraw that timetable. It now has three sections: work time, family time and time for me. As I work in the health sector, my job has grown bigger and busier and so have the challenges. Priorities have changed.
Get closer to your family
As a working mother, I have long wished for the chance to work remotely so I could spend more time with my family. Well, I got my wish, rather unexpectedly and yes, it has brought us closer together. I am rediscovering my children’s personalities. We used to be absorbed in our own busy lives but now we are having conversations, we all sit down to breakfast together and we go to bed at the same time. I’ve been surprised at how the youngsters have adapted best to this new situation. Our home feels peaceful and secure.
I have always believed home-cooked food is the best and being at home with the family has also given me a chance to get creative in my cooking, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. We’re at home but through the meals I prepare, we can travel the world.
However, I have not seen my parents for two months. I am one of six doctors in our family and we don’t want to risk exposing them to the virus. I take heart from the poet Gilbran Khalil Gilbran who said sometimes we must keep apart from those we love to keep them safe, and I am grateful for my mother’s prayers for me and my brothers every day.
Take care of yourself now
Being happy doesn’t just happen by chance — it’s a decision we make. For me, happiness comes from learning new things and teaching and helping others. One of my goals for 2020 was to prepare various training courses; Covid-19 has not stopped me doing that. As a trainer in the field of neurolinguistic programming, I’ve run several online training courses on personal development. I also made my debut as a hair care “expert,” presenting a course on caring for curly hair.
As a sporty person, lack of movement has been a challenge. I make sure that I spend the time slot I’ve allocated for myself doing an activity I love and I’ve shared tips with colleagues on how to maintain our physical fitness. For example, we challenge each other to see who climbs the most stairs in a day. I like taking part in community running and bought a treadmill so I could keep doing my favorite form of exercise. A big thank you to the Sea of Culture Foundation for the online yoga and relaxation classes my youngest daughter and I are doing together.
We are not alone
Physical distance has had a psychological impact on everyone. Some feel sad, some angry and some have succumbed to laziness and apathy. Nobody is alone in feeling that way. I’ve had those feelings too, but creating a daily routine has given me structure and helped me to look forward to each new day.
One of the best things about staying at home is that I’ve picked up my paintbrush again, after a four-year break. Painting takes me out of myself to places beyond this world. It brings joy and peace, not only to me but also to my loved ones who I see on screen and to my followers on social media and their children, who send me their drawings. When I see the delight on someone’s face, I realize that, even though I am a doctor, with my painting I can help people in non-medical ways too. And that makes me a better doctor.
Like all things, this time of the coronavirus will pass — not overnight, but eventually. But the memories and, hopefully, the lessons, will endure.
Dr. Lamees Ebrahim Abu Hlaiqa
Dr Lamees Abu Hlaiqa is a physician working Abu Dhabi Public Health Center. She's also a board member in the Sea of Culture Foundation, a well-known literature foundation in UAE, an NLP coach and trainer and still life painter.