Life interrupted – the last post…maybe.

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve gotten through it.  As I write this, there have been three cases in Victoria after 61 days of no locally acquired cases, it’s concerning, and we are all on tenterhooks, hoping this doesn’t lead to another resurgence of the virus in the community.

When the year started most of Australia was on fire. So much burnt, millions of hectares; so much death and devastation. I still can’t look at most of the news coverage of the fires without feeling sick. If you believe in such things, it was an ominous start for the year to come.

On the 12 March, the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, a week or so later, Australia closed its international borders and by equinox we were under stay at home orders. The pace of change in those first few days of the pandemic were dizzying, emotions were all over the place as you suddenly faced a whole different world to the one you knew.

The rest we know – lockdown one, a short reprieve, a second harsher lockdown in Victoria; mask wearing, hand sanitiser, being restricted to an hour a day outside, having to stay within five kilometres from your home, Dan’s daily presser and through it all a sick feeling in your stomach that maybe, just maybe this was going to lead to something worse.

All in all for us to survive this year has been nothing short of a miracle.

It’s always good to do a bit of a reflection at the end of the year. What happened, what are you proud of, what did you learn and so on. But this year, there’s almost too much to process, my thoughts lack clarity about how to even begin to understand 2020.

And maybe that’s ok. This year has been something of a roller-coaster so lack of clear insight into what you learnt or felt isn’t that surprising. There have been a few thoughts swirling around mostly about work, which I’ve tried to articulate below.

-I don’t like working from home but don’t want to go back to one-and-a-half hour travel twice a day either.

-Replacing a repository during a global pandemic is like one of the Labours of Hercules. It was so difficult, and I have very complicated feelings about the value of it and my role in it. We lost key staff during the project and there was a huge emotional cost involved in just getting it done.

-Libraries are not good at tech projects. I’ve been involved in multiple tech projects in different library sectors and libraries really aren’t good at them. The issue is lack of adequate resourcing – often libraries are trying to do them on the cheap, meaning that no extra budget and trying to do complex projects as part of everyday work. There’s also a top down approach to project management ie senior leaders deciding the project means they are not adequately scoped or the complexities understood before go ahead is given.

-Expecting business as usual in a year where nothing was usual was weird.

-I don’t think I did a very good job as a leader. Leadership requires emotionally energy to give to other people, I didn’t have any spare this year. My team, some of whom were new, had a sink or swim a bit, I feel pretty bad about it but just couldn’t summon the energy most of the time. This year leadership came into sharp focus, Daniel Andrews showed what good leadership is, lots of other people didn’t but regardless it just hard work.

-Friends from MPOW, across the library sector and everywhere else were a godsend. Friends from twitter who I’ve never met and some who I have, called me, sent me things in the mail to keep my spirits up. Particularly friends who were single, understood the double edged sword that this year was, and together we circled the wagons to look after each other.

–After some passive-aggressive wellbeing nonsense from a newsletter at MPOW a friend dispensed this pearl of wisdom to get through the pandemic: don’t worry about how much you weigh, just buy stretchier pants. And honestly it’s the best advice for 2020. See also: is it ok to eat your own bodyweight in cheese?

-I like my own company and find god in quiet places. I haven’t missed going to church nearly as much as I should have. Instead it’s been in those moments where I’ve seen flowers bloom, or laughed at the cats, listened to Luka Bloom, received a care package from my parents or with the small group of women who met together every week to pray. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to go back to attending every week. I have, as it turns out, complicated feelings about organised religion, I will probably always feel a bit like an outsider and not be entirely comfortable. I’m ok with that.

-Never underestimate the life giving power of growing things, making things and doing jigsaws.

In this year of chaos and loss there’s been too many low points and not enough high points. We will hopefully never live through such extraordinary times again and while the pandemic isn’t done with us, at least there’s hope in the form of a vaccine. Because there’s always hope, always.

Life interrupted – 16

It’s advent, the christian season in the lead up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting; of looking forward, the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the promise of new things in the dark.

Advent ties in well with endings and beginning, it’s what we need right now at the end of the 2020 hellscape as we hope for better things in 2021. For me it means taking a break, having time to reflect, to count blessings and regroup for whatever the next year brings.

Since April this year, I’ve been leading a prayer group. There’s mostly been just four of us, with a few others dropping in every now and again. Unable to meet in person, we have used Zoom, which has had the usual difficulties we have all come to know and love.

The weekly ritual of preparing for the group has been grounding in a year where events seemed out of control and time meaningless. The technology has sometimes been awkward and our words imperfect but said with great hope and conviction – it’s been a revelation and a blessing.

This Wednesday, will be our last meeting for this year at least. It’s time for a break and see the fruits of our prayers. It’ll be a wrench to stop, as you’d expect we have developed friendships over the 33 weeks we met together. I’ll miss seeing them.

In the middle of things you are so busy getting through that you don’t see what’s shifted. Indeed this year when things seemed to go from bad to worse it was hard to see if we weren’t just praying into the void. So, our break is a chance to pause and give ourselves space to look around us and see what has changed.

I’d like to explore prayer more in 2021 – its rhythms, practices and ability to change you. It’s hard to think about what next year might look like right now. No one had global pandemic on their 2020 bingo cards and I feel being too hopeful or forward looking could just lead to disappointment. Who knows what will come my way.

I have had to make some decisions about next year already, which has been hard when you are tired. I didn’t nominate for parish council again, for lots of reasons but mostly because I need space to do other things.

I was never felt entirely comfortable in that role. Despite loving traditional Anglican services, I have little interest in church laws or the proper way of doing things. Where I wanted to break down barriers, I often felt like I was part of a system that maintained the status quo, entrenched inequality and white voices.

This is not a criticism – all who serve in this capacity are good people doing their best. My fundamental issue is with the structure itself and it’s hard when you look at things a bit differently and feel like you don’t quite fit. But I made some good relationships with people and learnt a lot, which is never a bad thing.

Because of Covid, we aren’t able to have our usual Christmas services this year and the flurry of catch ups and busyness seem ill fitting under the circumstances. In a year where death has stalked us, and we have both literally and figuratively been on fire, I need this time of quiet waiting and preparation for what’s next.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse this year it was written for these dark times and this advent season of waiting… “The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:5). For those like me who are wearied by this year and struggling to be hopeful about 2021, my prayer for you all tonight as we meet together for the last time will be that we see that light that never goes out shining in the darkness.