Life interrupted – 6

We are still here, and it’s not bad. Except for Zoom meetings, they can get in the bin. The rest I’m dealing with even if I’ve got a very naughty cat who keeps escaping and needs cuddles in the middle of the night. I’m not bored or lonely, although there are moments when I intensely miss people and how easy the world was before.

While we have been at home, autumn has turned the leaves to red, orange and yellow. This year, they seem to be more beautiful than usual, as though they are saying “see, here’s what we can do without you”. They are blowing away now as the winds from south are heavier and a little bit more chilly. Winter will soon be here.

Autumn always makes me think of John Keat’s Ode to Autumn. There’s a joyfulness and urgency about the poem as though all the good things in life will be no more once winter comes. And I’ve been thinking a lot about ripening, harvesting and letting die away what no longer serves, for obvious reasons.

I’m finding poetry has the vibe for where I’m at right now. Within those perfectly formed verses, they express the full range of human experience. Its hugely comforting to know that other people have the same feelings, survived terrible times and thrived in a new world.

They have also helped in clarifying my thoughts about the multiple ways the world was a bit stuffed in pre-pandemic life. I could write a long list but poets Sonya Renee Taylor and Tom Foolery Probably have done it for me.

Of course not everything was bad, there was heaps of stuff that was great. And I was a happy functioning adult, with a good life and everything I needed. But life was becoming more and more constricted, like a tie being pulled tighter and tighter until you can’t breathe.

There was always so much to do – housework, job, church, garden, keep up with professional literature, meet friends, exercise, eat well, contribute to society and on and on. Life began to seem like a series of chores; weekends left me feeling overwhelmed with the all jobs I needed to get done, enjoyable things often lost their shine. I was tired all the time, regularly needing two hour naps on the weekend to even function.

I don’t want to go back to that life.

Nor the world that was full of greed and lobbyists; where ideology was more important than science, where we lock up refugees and don’t support the most vulnerable in our community. That messed up world where we were divided and didn’t realise we all needed each other.

I’ve spent a lot of the thinking about what I want my post-pandemic life to look like. It’s not a world of an hour plus twice daily commutes, or the rigidity of a 9-5 life. In my new world, there’s time to make a pot of tea in the mornings, lie on my lawn in the sun and contemplate the world.

But in a larger sense, for the world to be different, it means I need to be different too. You need to be in the world, the way you want the world to be. Though I’m just one person in six billion, collectively we are the world and all our choices ripple outwards.

Being different, will require deep and perhaps painful examination of choices, thinking and actions, though it’s not about blame or guilt. It comes from a place of acceptance that as a human you are flawed, that you may have a privilege denied others and trying to understand that and yourself, so you can do better. 

It’s been eight weeks since I’ve been in isolation and I’m not yet ready to return to the world. I feel like the world isn’t ready yet to return to the world. We need more time as John Keats writes to…

“fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more”

That is to say – we need more time to prepare the ground for something new.

Life Interrupted – 5

Going to the supermarket is at the best of times, not the best of times. They are noisy, there’s lots of people and way too much visual stimulation. It’s hard to know which is the correct aisle to find what I need and end up walking around as though in a labyrinth. I invariably forget to buy something because I’m hopeless at writing a list.

During these days of a global pandemic; with social distancing and panic buying, supermarkets are a bloody nightmare. Never has such a mundane task turned out to be so stressful. I am constantly aware of how close I am to people or they to me. I feel pressured to get in and out as fast as possible, which adds to the stress. 

Lots of posts on community Facebook pages scold people for being out shopping at all or seemingly taking their time while doing so. This is decidedly unhelpful, as not only are you worried about the person you passed in the aisle being Typhoid Mary, you are also hyper vigilant about who’s watching as look for something I need. 

I’ve never wanted to cry in the supermarket before and now it seems to be a regular occurrence. One day, I teared up because I wanted garbage bags but could only find sandwich bags. Being forced to stand on a spot to maintain social distancing and seeing supermarket workers, in masks and gloves is confronting. On another occasion I walked straight back out again because it was just a bit too much.

Like most people, at times I haven’t been able to find what I need – though this has largely been inconvenient rather than urgent. It has led to a few hilarious things like a friend and I  sending each other photos of successful toilet paper gathering missions. And my parents sending my sister a care pack filled with Weetbix because she couldn’t get any where she lives.

There’s some weird things too – I’m still not clear why I have to pack my own shopping bags when the person on the checkout has already touched everything. And have you ever tried picking up more than two pieces of fruit using the inside of a plastic bag – that’s a level of dexterity I’m yet to master.

I realise of course, there is a massive level of privilege in being able to go to a supermarket to buy what I need. And while much of this surreal, inconvenient and stressful, I’m not struggling to buy essential things because I still have a job in middle of the pandemic.

There are bigger questions here too, which I’m not able to fully articulate yet, about the essentials of normal life and freedom. But those thoughts will have to wait until I can go to the supermarket without planning it like a covert mission. Although, even when that happens, will just popping to the shops for a few essentials ever be the same again? Maybe not and maybe that will be a good thing.