Pandemic Survival 7: Reality Bites

We are back in lockdown.

It started with flare ups in a handful of suburbs linked to errors made in the process of hotel quarantine of returned travellers. While the government has accepted responsibility, in reality it stems from the same place as most problems in the world – human beings not doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, as anyone who lives in a bushfire-prone country knows and that we tragically learned last summer, spot fires can turn into blazes and blazes produce flying embers that start more fires and thus a handful of people not doing the right thing leads to a whole state back in lockdown.

Lockdown 2a

It’s generally agreed that the second lockdown is harder than the first. Like a prisoner being granted parole, tasting freedom and then being told “oops, we made a mistake, back into jail you go”. The first time around we were “all in this together” but now we watch our fellow Aussies in the West attending footy matches with 30,000 people and the ones up North enjoying local attractions while just over the border theatres are reopening. Borders are now closed to anyone from this pariah state.

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I’m fortunate to live outside the state capital which has just been moved to Stage 4 restrictions including a 8pm to 5am curfew. The rest of the state has returned to the Stage 3 restrictions we were under in the first wave. In addition, the government has issued a statewide mask mandate.

Fun With Fabric

The rescheduled Great Ocean Road Running Festival has gone virtual again and they have extended the time to complete the runs from two days to a week to allow for participants under Stage 4 restrictions to complete the distances as they can only exercise outside for one hour a day. Is it churlish of me to be jealous that they can score an Ultra Marathon medal by running 10km a day for 6 days while I have to do the whole 60km in one hit?

Probably. And no, I don’t want to swap places.

We were fortunate as a country to flatten our curve quickly with a rapid shutdown when the first wave started. We didn’t see the horrifying numbers reported out of other places. So it never seemed all that bad for most of us.

I got three reality checks in this past week.

1. A Dystopian Movie

Mortal Engines

The mask rule came in last Sunday night. As I drove the Youngest Son to school on Monday for his last day of on-campus learning for this term (with a return to remote learning as of Thursday), the sight of all those kids in masks walking into school was unsettling and I’ll confess I got teary.

2. Bad Neighbours

Bad Neighbours

The news report that a cluster had emerged, including at least one death, at a nursing home only three kilometres from my home brought the virus right into my suburb. The dangers seem more real.

3. Close Encounters of the Virus Kind

Close Encounters

Two days ago we were informed there had been a diagnosed case of COVID-19 at our son’s school. Yesterday we were informed by DHHS that the Youngest Son has been identified as a close contact of the infected student. He is now in quarantine, limited to his bedroom, his desk in the living room and the bathroom (which he shares with his brothers so has to sanitise each time he goes in or out). He cannot sit at the dinner table with us for meals. He cannot enter the kitchen and must ask for assistance if he needs to eat. Treating your own child like a leper is not something I remember from the parenting books. So far he has not shown any symptoms for which we are thankful and we hope and pray that it stays that way.

I’ve always been grateful that we have not been as hard hit by this virus as so many other places in the world and I know I am fortunate to have a safe place to shelter.

I still feel that way but I’ll admit that reality has given us a kick in the shins this week and that is not a comfortable feeling.

Kid kicking

Stay safe out there wherever you may be.

Pandemic Survival 2: You Will Be Found

One of my survival methods in those times when I’m feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of what may lay ahead in these Lockdown Days (and those waves rise up several times a day) has been to take myself out of myself (if you get what I mean) and reach out to others to find out how they are faring.

The act of caring for others brings a surge of positive energy and helps keep the feelings of isolation at bay. One of the most important things we can do in this crisis is try and maintain a sense of community and mutual care.

Taking ourselves out of our own heads for a while and listening to someone else can help put our own problems into perspective. As challenging as our own issues may be, we need to put our heads up once in a while and check on the other people in our lives.

So, when I saw this clip from James Corden recorded at the end of the At Home version of his Late Show, his words resonated with what I have been experiencing.

“Reaching out to somebody else who you think might be struggling too is pretty much the best thing we can all do right now because we absolutely will get through this.” – James Corden 31.03.20

And then he finished with a performance of the song “You Will Be Found” by the cast of the musical Dear Evan Hansen via social distancing rules of course. (Yes, there is something of a consistency of musicals in my coping mechanisms…)

Watch it. It will lift you up. It may also make you cry but in a good way. And then go and check in with someone you know. You’ll help them and you’ll help yourself.

Stay safe.

 

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

Not About The Money

I lost my job yesterday. I work as a casual relief (substitute) teacher in a special education school. On Sunday, our state government announced that schools would be closed from Tuesday. It made sense. We were due to finish for two weeks of school holidays at the end of the week anyway so it’s only an extra four days. And I’d be happy to view it as that except that in the current environment, nobody actually knows how long this will last. Three weeks, six weeks, six months? It’s the unknown that gets to you.

Permanent and contracted staff will continue to be paid. Casual staff will not. I was booked in to replace a teacher for the whole week but that’s now ended. Should schools remain closed after the holidays, teachers will revert to the online provision of a program. How that works with high needs special education, I don’t know but what I do know is that online teaching will not require casual replacement teachers so there will be no work until the schools open again.

I’m luckier than others. I know that eventually, when this crisis is over, schools will reopen and my work will return. Others will not be so lucky as extended lockdowns send businesses to the wall. We’re also in a pretty solid financial position so we will survive the loss of income. I know I shouldn’t complain.

But here’s the thing – it’s not about the money.

I love my job. Work is my happy place. My students fill my heart and soul with joy and satisfaction. It’s the loss of this that has me feeling weighted down and my heart aching.

What will I miss?

I’ll miss

  • the utter joy on faces as I play my guitar and we bop along to I’m A Believer or Down On The Corner
  • the hysterical giggles when I sing all the funny voices for the different emotions in If You’re Happy and You Know it (angry and sad are favourites – that my students find my singing a song while crying as hilariously funny is slightly disturbing)
  • the literal tears of pride when a student achieves a learning goal for the first time
  • the cheeky and mischievous grins
  • finding that new way of doing something that means a student has a better day
  • the cheerful greetings as I walk around the school – as a CRT, all the kids know me and I know the name of every single one of them
  • working as a team with my Education Support co-workers, the true rockstars of special education
  • singing made up songs while pushing a swing to give a student with difficult behaviours a happy play time
  • all the feels – when my students are happy, sad, angry, upset, proud, unwell – they touch my heart so deeply

And I worry. I worry for the students for whom school is their safe space, the only place they receive what we call ‘unconditional regard’ and are nourished in body, mind and soul. I worry for the parents forced to give up work to care for their child every day and the financial impact of that and the lack of respite they will receive from the intensity it takes to care for a special needs child.

I know I am luckier than so many others but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that pain in your heart and what is causing it. I am grieving and the only thing that will fix it is a return to the job I love. It will come but it’s likely to be a long and challenging journey to get there.

How are you bearing up under the conditions imposed to combat COVID-19?

Stephen King quote on change

A World Gone Quiet

One of my favourite books is Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s one of those books that made me go, “Oh. So it’s not just me then.” It describes all the great things about introverts even though it’s a struggle to get that known because we live in a world designed for extroverts.

The subtitle of her book is “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. Well, the world has just gone a little quieter.

Containment measures are being implemented across the world to try and stop the spread of COVID-19. People are being asked to stay in their homes and only go out for essentials. Non-essential activities have been cancelled.

The Australian Football League has just suspended the season. My son messaged me with the news and Messenger gave me the option to reply with “Yay!” It’s a little worrying that my phone knows me so well…

Of course, introverts around the world have responded to these extreme measures with “You mean I have to stay at home, limit contact with people and avoid crowds? Sweeeet!”

 

But what does it mean for the extroverts of the world? Well, dear extroverts, you get to walk in our shoes for a while. It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it? It feels unnatural and way outside your comfort zone, doesn’t it? It has sucked all the energy out of you, hasn’t it? Yeah, tell me about it. I live it every day.

Do not fear, extroverts. Help is at hand. I have long advocated for extroverts to make friends with at least one introvert. Introverts make deeply thoughtful, compassionate and loyal friends. We may not be good at chitchat but we’ll give serious thought to a request for advice. We’re unlikely to want to go to a party with you but we’ll come around and help you with a task whenever you ask. We won’t be the ones making the speeches but we’ll make sure the dishes are washed and the chairs are put away.

But now, we really come into our own because we know how to spend vast amounts of time alone.

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This will be good for you, I promise. You’ll have more time for reflection, for new activities, for careful thought and consideration.

It doesn’t have to mean hours in front of the television. Read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle, make some art. Lie outside on the grass or sit on your balcony and just watch the clouds go by or contemplate the stars. But do it slowly and deliberately. It’s not a thing to be completed as soon as possible, it’s something to spend time on and as much time as you have (which is likely to be lots, let’s face it).

If you’re craving physical contact, go outside and hug a tree.

If you’re allowed to leave the house, find a remote natural area and spend time in the nature. I promise it’s just as rejuvenating as a boisterous crowd if you allow your mind to settle in it.

Trees

Since contact with others has to be so limited and deliberate, utilising various virtual arrangements, take the opportunity of one-on-one contact to really talk to someone. And, more importantly, listen. Really listen. Who knows what you may discover about a friend that you never knew about them?

Take the time to be less task-oriented and just BE.

Extroverts, you can do this. After all, introverts have survived in an outgoing world for millennia. Surely you can survive a few months?

And remember, if it is all getting too much, your introvert friend will always be there for you. Because that’s what we do.

Just don’t expect it all the time. We’ll be enjoying the lockdown.