A few months ago, while walking a six-kilometre loop with my husband, Kev and Labrador, Oscar, a father and his two sons whizzed past us on their bikes. They were calling directions out to each other – let’s go down this dirt track – and I wondered if this was a usual activity for them or something born out of social isolation and the fact that we are not allowed more than five kilometres from our homes and only for two hours at a time.
As I looked ahead, and behind us, there were many family groups either walking or riding bikes, some little people on scooters. It’s been like this for months, even during the coldest of winter days.
This is a positive outcome of a global pandemic. Families forced together, hopefully reconnecting. I moved to the future for those two young boys and I’m sure they will have good memories about days like this, hanging out with Dad, just like Dad might too. Special memories.
Family ties. This is what we are getting, what we are being reminded of, as we battle against a silent, invisible and so-called deadly enemy.
When the pandemic first became part of our life in March this year, I saw it as an opportunity to work on some writing projects that I had been neglecting. And I did. I proofed and amended my novel, getting it to the stage of review. I printed ten bound copies and started fielding possible readers. I felt accomplished and patted myself on the back.
As time went on and we got deeper into life in ‘isolation’, the anxiety about the future began to creep in. I was declaring, ‘Write your book!’ while in lockdown but for many people stress was overtaking them. It began to happen to me. Our income halved and we wondered what the future held for us. Sleep became restless and I took on the collective anxiety that was being expressed all around me and on social media to the point where I felt exhausted and all creative energy was zapped. I watched more Netflix, ate more food and worried about my family and friends, the whole world even.
My friends declared that all their creative juices had dried up along with loss of income. Some had to home-school their children, something many felt ill-equipped to do. Some had to do this while also working a full-time job at home. I stopped harping on about writing and being creative in lockdown because it felt unhelpful.
I was not writing or reading and nothing excited me. I felt hemmed in and fearful, then angry at the situation. I wondered how people who weren’t resilient were coping. Would they bounce back from this? Stories emerged of young fathers taking their own lives and domestic violence soaring – not everyone was managing to reconnect in a positive way.
My usual sunny disposition was being rained on. I wasn’t so worried about myself. I was worried about ‘the world’. I was worried about all the lonely people who needed company and assurance that everything would be okay. I was worried about the decisions that our leaders were making. Were they the right ones? How much damage was being done unknowingly?
I tried to think about the things that I could do for myself to stay strong because if we don’t look after ourselves, we are no use to anyone.
I tried to think of ways to help others. Not easy when we weren’t allowed to see people or travel further than five kilometres from home. I offered help to anyone local who might need it. This was well-received but no one actually took me up on my offers. I wanted to feel useful.
I was forced to go inward. What could I do to help myself? I looked for books to read that I could escape into and I turned to my trusty journal. I started to vent daily for ten to fifteen minutes each day, a practice of old that I’d long forsaken.
Almost instantly, I could not stop writing. I could not stop the words flowing. You would think, with life so reduced by restrictions that I’d have very little to say but I couldn’t stop. I wrote and wrote and wrote.
I ranted and raged about what was happening in the world, recorded my day and gave gratitude for what I did have – food, shelter, work, a loving family that was safe and well. There was so much to write about for all of them.
With this daily ritual, came a flow of ideas, an opening up. I started working on other projects and sketching on paper, a challenge that I’d set for myself for a visual project. It came to a point where I looked forward to these fifteen minutes every day, my time of solitude where I connected with myself at my teeny little foldout desk looking out across my wild garden with the birds chirping away. I was reconnecting with myself.
Blaise, the book chick