Living each day much muchier
We never prepared for this version of pandemic. On film, people cough and the world falls apart. If you survive, it’s a fend-for-yourself badland of tribal warfare for the local Costco. My plan was to stake a claim on the cheese fridge and then weep bitterly between mouthfuls of d’Affinois when the power went out.
The reality of COVID-19 is far stranger. It’s a drawn-out anxiety where our institutions hold – in some cases barely – and life continues with wobbly momentum. We pretend things are as normal as possible. It’s better. I haven’t had to fight ibis (bin chickens) for food, but we’ve still taken a collective hit and we’ve hardly begun to assess the damage.
Victoria woke up this morning to a well known, much hated scenario: tough lockdown restrictions. It’s 5 day snap preventative measure against the chance that the UK variant got its tendrils into our weary community. We think Melbourne is unlucky, compared to the rest of Australia. Compared to the world, we are privileged to live here. Anyone whose privilege provides them with choices to stay safe, is lucky. For us, the big fight, with its toll in the millions, is happening elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean we’re fine.
This post is a quiet word to my fellow lucky. It’s an aside to everyone who is safe, who has food and shelter, but who feels the continuing pain of lost time, unmade memories, uncelebrated milestones and frustrated hopes. It is a long accumulation of heartache living in a dissonant, constantly shifting world. How do we continue to cope with the tension of being pushed forward AND held back at the same time? How do we adjust to the double pressure of performing at work as though everything is normal, while also working harder to account for the ways in which it’s not?
The world is rightly triaging those most in need, but the lucky still have a duty to themselves and each other to acknowledge our struggles. Our experience is not irrelevant for having competition.
In fact, competition has become a way to hide. Be grateful, we admonish ourselves and others in social media pile-ons, effectively weaponising gratitude. Our hurt may be a small portion of the total damage, but it’s still there, still ours, and it accumulates. It will not so easily fit under the rug where we sweep it.
You can have compassion for others while also having problems of your own. You can speak about those problems without centring yourself in the conversation. You don’t have to be fine, or pretend.
2020 is behind us, but 2021 doesn’t feel right either. It’s like waking up inside a dream where you know something is off. The covidsafe life of the lucky looks like reality, but isn’t quite. It won’t be for some time. Elimination in Australia is fragile and the virus keeps finding a way.
As the pandemic drags on and breaks the well-intentioned sandbanks of New Years Eve, we honestly need to be braver in speaking up for our needs. No time off, no political speech, no blog post for that matter is going to make a year of prolonged heartache feel better. Maybe all there is, is to explore the most meaningful ways we can to counterbalance this off-kilter, not-quite-right waking dream, and keep counterbalancing over time.
One day, we will wake up for real. The world will look different in profound ways, but that difference will be consistent and feel normal.
Even if you are covid-lucky, treat your heartache gently and with every act of self care you can muster. Don’t diminish it by comparing yourself against others or lash out at people who dare to give voice to theirs when you think you can’t, or shouldn’t.
Your experience matters. It doesn’t have to matter to the State or the world. It only has to matter to you, because you will wake up in that new future and hopefully, with fresh plans and energy, put all this behind.
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain