Life interrupted – 12

On sunny days, I eat my lunch on the deck, listening to the birds and the sounds of the neighbourhood – a child’s cry, a delivery truck, the noise of someone else’s home being built. Midges gather and dance across the grass, the light glinting off them as rise and fall in the sunshine. The cats, always curious, sniff at my lunch, then stroll away to loll in the sun.

It’s winter and the grass is green though patchy after the intense early summer heat. I mowed it the other day, a pain to do but deeply satisfying once complete. My mowing technique needs some work, I generally do one bit, get bored and go do another bit. The effect is more drunken than uniform.

When I moved in two years ago, there was no grass or deck or even fences, which was kind of against the rules. Getting the fence built from our less than reputable contractor was six weeks of increasingly frantic phone calls and threats to consumer affairs. He left us with this…

Needless to say we got someone to fix it.

Building the house was both not much fun and completely exciting. The company started building before I had secured a loan from the bank(!!!), which led to some interesting days when I frantically scrambled to get approval. There was poor communication, some shoddy concreting, unexplained delays and an incident of sexual harassment, which led to one of their staff getting sacked. Even worse, I occasionally had to get my Dad to back me up because it always seemed to go better when a man was involved (sigh). 

Despite all this, my house is well built and for the most part exactly what I wanted. There’s a walk in pantry, a tin roof, and enough space for a library. I have a mix of antique and new furniture, with the requisite number of Ikea pieces required for a first home owner. My couches are comfy for an afternoon nap and my yellow hall stand makes me happy every time I see it. 

After living with family for most of my life, living on my own is both complete freedom and really hard. If I want to stay in my pyjamas all day and eat chips on the couch there is no one to stop me. But there’s also no one else to cook dinner or help with chores. And financially it’s all on you to pay the mortgage and bills. 

It’s not lonely though, at least I’ve not been, even during the seemingly endless lockdown. I’ve always liked my own company, or as I jokingly said to someone I find myself endless fascinating. In my last post I wrote about missing my people – my friends and family. But loneliness is something else; a disconnection from the world around you, not just people and that’s not me.

If anything, in second lockdown I’ve felt more connected to the turning of the earth; the slowly extending days, the changing light, the trees and the weather. In the before times, I would have missed these details – the light at four o’clock in the living room, the second time its snowed here in my lifetime, the double rainbows and the buds on trees as spring approaches.

I have found watching the seasons and weather, endlessly consoling. It’s different every day (and it’s Melbourne so sometimes more than that) but it has own rhythm and reasons for being that knows nothing of pandemics or even people.

Earth and nature exist outside of what humanity can control. We see examples all the time, cyclones, floods, fire and drought. But also the change of the seasons, the shower of rain and new growth of trees. Nature endures beyond me, which is both joyful and deeply comforting.

In the before times, I often bemoaned that I never had enough time at home to enjoy it. And now I’ve barely seen anything other than these four walls for months. With the world outside making my head spin and my heart hurt, at least here, I can close the doors against the hardness of the world. The frogs call, the flowers bloom and they give me hope and constancy that whatever happens next will be ok.

Life interrupted – 11

I was going to start this by saying how long we have been in stage four lockdown but honestly I can’t remember, could be three weeks or three months. Time and dates seem to have no meaning anymore. Instead I count time by Dan Andrew’s presser and the cats miaowing for their dinner.

I’ve been crying a lot this week. I’m ok, well, as well as you can be during a global pandemic but sometimes the requirement to be alright and stoic through massive upheaval in our lives is too much.

The issues this week were around my work. Before the global pandemic hit, we started working on a project to replace our institutional repository. It’s one of those projects that is meant to be a highlight of your career. I expected it to be challenging and rewarding but I did not expect to be doing it at home in my trackies, anxious about the state of the world and away from my team and my friends.

I’m coping with the workload and loving the many paths it has taken us down. I have no doubt the project will be successful, my team are resilient and always just finds a way. But it feels like we climbing Mount Everest we should taking a gentle walk by a stream – that is to say, it feels like it’s too much of a challenge when we should just being less hard things right now.

Working remotely has its good points but your work becomes really siloed. Online meetings are exhausting. I find engaging for anything longer than 30 minutes difficult, my mind wanders and I’ve developed some bad habits, which you would not do if you were face-to-face. .

Impromptu conversations both within and across teams don’t happen. Everything has be organised into meetings or phone calls. You can’t just talk to colleagues to get their input . It feels like this key ingredient is missing and it worries me.

Mostly, I’m just massive disappointed that I’m doing something so brilliant and exciting under these circumstances. When I got this job nearly a year ago it was one of the things I was most looking forward too, now it just feels like it’s nothing special and we won’t be able to celebrate this achievement.

There been lots of information about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how our response to the pandemic is just to have our most basic needs met right now – that is food, water and the safety of a home. With normal life so disrupted, fear and uncertainty everywhere, doing these basic things is stressful, the emotional energy needed to do a large and complex project takes a toll.

And you think you are ok because you’re resilient and you have everything you need and are safe at home. So you turn up to work, contribute and do your absolute best. But then all your emotions come out doing something as normal as meeting with a colleague and it makes no sense.

Other friends too are reporting that they frequently find themselves in tears. They also  say it makes them feel better – not so much for me because I’m not even sure what I’m crying about. It feels selfish when I’ve got everything I need to be upset because I miss my friends or not getting to do the special project in the way I wanted.

When I started at MPOW I was pretty crushed by previous library experience. But my colleagues embraced me and made me feel like I mattered. They are my support network for work stuff but more importantly just a great group of people who want to make the world a better place. 

So I miss them, and it hurts my heart that we aren’t having Monday first home owners lunch, or one of them isn’t dropping by my desk for coffee, or we aren’t all sitting together in the sun on fake grass mountain or gathering around a table in the lunch room, or talking marxist theory while eating snacks from a vending machine.

Early on in the pandemic people were publishing lots of articles about grief and loss like this one. And yes I do feel a sense of loss of normality, not seeing my friends, family, or doing things I like. Going out is also really stressful – mask up, keep your distance; the disconcerting experience of seeing empty streets, where once they were bustling.

It’s tough. I’m both ok and not ok in equal measure. And yes, there are a whole bunch of people who are worse off than me. But that does not make this any less hard, just makes me ache more for the world I can’t fix.