Life in between – 5

There’s been many hard days in the last 18 months; the day the pandemic was declared, the first lockdown, the second lockdown, lockdown three, the day with 725 cases, lockdown five and then lockdown six hard upon it. Perhaps the hardest day was last week when the CHO and Premier announced we wouldn’t get back to zero and while we could slow the spread, we now needed to prepare ourselves to live with covid.

Living with covid is a scarier prospect than lockdowns and the elimination strategy. If you have watched the news outside Australia, you know what living with covid means – lots of very sick people, some of whom with die of the disease.

That’s not a small thing to agree too. It’s not a decision we should take lightly because we are over the pandemic and want to go to the pub with our mates. The flip side of having our freedoms and so called “normal life” again means sickness and death to other people, particularly those who are unvaccinated. As a society is this something we want to agree to? Is going to a restaurant or seeing your family more important than another person’s right to be alive?

The argument is that you can get vaccinated and reduce the risk of getting covid. It really is a miracle that we have vaccines this early into the pandemic and as someone who is fully vaccinated I’m very happy to have done so. At the time, I didn’t think about this but by getting my vaccination, I was upholding my social responsibility to help protect others in the community as well.

Our social responsibility is what we agree to as societal norms and how we act together to live by them. At their most basic, they are the unspoken agreement to not do things that might harm each other – for example, not drink driving. They can also be actions that benefit society like picking up rubbish in your neighbourhood or planting trees in the park. Getting vaccinated is an action that fits into both of these categories because it minimises harm to others and allows us to consider safely reopening again.

None of our societal obligations are predicated on the fact we all agree or even like each other. They are purely an acceptance that all lives have value and everyone has the right to live. If you choose to act in accordance with your societal responsibilities then that choice benefits both the people you agree with and those whose views or actions you find abhorrent.

Opening up raises many uncomfortable questions for me around the belief in the value of other people’s lives and my obligation to minimise the risk to them. I’m going to repeat myself, opening up means some people will get sick and some people will die of Covid-19.

People die everyday, it’s inevitable and part of life. This isn’t to minimise its impacts; merely to state that it’s not something we can stop, and it is the end we will all come to. Accepting its hard inevitability is necessary and perhaps even healthy, though not welcomed or easy.

The question I keep asking myself is where does our responsibility to minimise harm to other people fit in with the plan to open up? For over 200 days, I’ve been in lockdown to flatten the curve, protect our health system and the most vulnerable in the community. If we open up and people get sick and die, is that just inevitable and the consequence of having to get on with life or is it something we should continue try to prevent?

In normal times these are not questions you would ask yourself. We already know the rules that help us to minimise harm to each other. Coronavirus has changed that equation. I believe it increases our obligation to act in a way that doesn’t harm each other. Of course the obligation runs both ways, but if you choose to participate in your social responsibility you do it even for those people who would refuse to do it for you.

We need to be very clear then that by opening up we are agreeing to an increase case numbers, hospitalisations and possibly deaths. These are difficult choices with life and death consequences. And we need to understand them and find a way to reconcile them as individuals and as a society.

While I’m sure I’m out on a limb here, I would personally rather stay in lockdown forever than one person die from this disease. My life is no more important than anyone else’s, so my right to see my family or go to the ballet can’t override another person’s right to be alive, even if that person has made selfish choices to not get vaccinated.

I also know it’s not realistic to stay in lockdown forever, it’s definitely not healthy or possibly even useful for lessening the long term effects of this virus on society. We do have to get on with life, whatever that means and looks like after all of this.

Getting vaccinated is the only way out, if you haven’t done so already please do. They are safe, and will keep you and your family, me and my family from getting sick and possibly dying. It’s the right thing to do for the sake of society that values your life as much as mine.

Life in between – 4

Lockdown 6. And I’m at a loss for words, we only got out of lockdown 5 a week or so ago. We celebrated a donut day and by 5pm we were back in lockdown. There’s no resilience for this lockdown, it’s just a slog.

Cases are going up in New South Wales, parts of Queensland are in lockdown, South Australia is out of lockdown but everything feels on a knife edge. It’s a giant mess. The vaccination rollout is an unmitigated disaster, and while I’m now fully vaccinated thanks to the Victorian government, there just isn’t enough supplies to go round.

In previous lockdowns there’s been a routine – numbers at 9am, the presser, work, a walk in the afternoon and a spirit of being all in this together. Now the numbers are a reminder of being in lockdown, and that if not extended, it’s still unlikely to be the last. And that’s way to depressing to cope with.

The transformation program at work is taking up a fair bit of my brain power. There’s a lot to understand and think about, the opportunity to give feedback is important but the uncertainty around what’s going to happen isn’t helping anything. And to watch friends and colleagues go through this when we have already been through so much just hurts.

Rejoining the union has made me think about what resistance looks like when there are almost no effective tools to really fight back against these cuts. Does participating in the process mean I am agreeing to it? Would it be considered a win if we saved one job? If so, who’s do we save?

In the strongest terms possible I want to say that I oppose these job cuts. No one deserves this, I’m furious about the injustice of it all. It’s always the worker who pays, never the executives and it’s just bloody unfair. I’m heartsick watching people go through this.

I’ve always imagined there is some universal tally of good and bad in the world. The needle moves back and forth constantly; we are nowhere near wholly good, and frequently it seems like we might slide right down into wholly bad. The bad stuff is kept in check by people standing against injustice, even when there’s no chance of winning. Opposing the job cuts at my work is like this – there isn’t a hope of saving anyone’s job but it evens up the score on the good/bad tally in the universe nonetheless.

The reality is though, and it hurts to write this, I need to accept the inevitability of changes even though I believe them to be wrong. This is a painful realisation that feels like giving up; abandoning friends and colleagues to a fate they did not ask for.

I don’t want to give up. I want to save their jobs but I have no power to do anything to stop this from happening. It’s like trying to hold back the tide, it’s going to happen whether I push against it or not. So, with regret, I accept the changes will happen and understand that by doing so friends and colleagues will lose their jobs. And that hurts even though I know there is nothing I can do.

Can I then both accept and resist? And if so, what does resistance even look like. For me, resistance is fighting for a fair process and for the most vulnerable in our community. It’s supporting colleagues who stay and colleagues who may not. Resistance is considering my feedback, pointing out flaws, making suggestions for improvements and trying to make things as good as it can be.

During times like this, it becomes very easy to demonise people making these decisions. I think it is an act of resistance in refusing to do this, which does not mean they are not accountable or that I can’t be angry or disappointed. Just that it helps no one to make out they are bad people when they are people trying to do their best with the crappy hand Covid-19 has dealt.

This may all seem counterintuitive and more like capitulation. Purists in the union movement may consider it so. Accepting an outcome that you can’t control is hard but finding ways too resist within the process is still possible and there’s always hope that it may make a difference.

Doing what I can, with what I have to make this process better is this the only act of resistance left to me. So, I’ll do it and do it well because it matters. It always matters, even if we don’t win.

 

Life in between – 3

Sigh. Lockdown 5.0. How did we get here, again so soon after lockdown 4, which we all thought was The Very. Last. Time.

I’ve been getting texts from friends and family to see how I’m feeling about another lockdown. I’m fine – resigned to the point of numbness. I mean who even makes plans anymore.

The lockdown this week has been overshadowed by the impending loss of 200 jobs at my workplace. Two hundred hardworking people with lives and families, who have done nothing to deserve what is happening to them. So while coronavirus continues to make a mockery of our lives, at the moment, its existential threat is secondary to the horror of watching things unfold at my workplace.

Anyone working in the university sector knows the restructuring drill all too well. Every 3-5 years an area in the university gets targeted. If you’re lucky it’s a re-alignment of positions and a name change, if not its redundancies, spill and fill, with those impacted carrying on working for months while it’s sorted out.

Restructuring is a feature of modern work, with varying degrees of success. Every organisation I’ve worked for has restructured at least once if not multiple times while I was working there.

When I worked as a receptionist, I was restructured out of my job – a sweet relief – I was terrible. At a shire council, the library was merged with customer service and then nine months later we restructured again to remove positions. At my current workplace we seem to have been in a constant state of restructuring since 2018.

Restructures are done primarily for cost cutting – people are expensive, so having less of them is an obvious saving. And because the Federal Government refuses to support universities during the pandemic, universities have been cutting positions and restructuring like their lives depend on it – so far 17,000 jobs have been lost.

Making people redundant needs to be made palatable, so its aligned to the strategic directions of the organisation. Exciting words are used like transformation, new ways of working and bright new future. The news is delivered with the right amount pathos and regret that there is just no other way. There’s dedicated counselling services and talk about self-care.

Restructures are usually accompanied by change management workshops for leaders, where change will be painted as both inevitable and an exciting opportunity. I have attended many of these workshops and have always found them uncomfortable and far too wrapped in HR speak for my liking.

As people we deal with change everyday – life is change, both in small ways and big. Sometimes in life you are lucky enough to be able to choose the changes like getting married or moving interstate. Other times the change chooses you, getting sick or a  sudden death in the family.

The former is of course preferable, who wouldn’t want to be in complete control of their destiny. But life isn’t like that. What makes life so hard – and wonderful is that some times change chooses you and you have to deal with it the best way you can.

Change management theories try to quantify people’s experience of dealing with change. They explain things using models like Kubler-Ross and they talk about how people’s reaction to change is linked to their feelings of security. I’ve always found these models to be deeply flawed and dehumanising.

The change management models lack deep compassion for the people who are impacted by change, which is to say, everyone. Feelings are reduced to something on a spectrum that supervisors need to manage. Raging against the universe because of the unfairness of the situation isn’t allowed, feelings are quantified into an acceptable range.

I recently went to a change management workshop but left before the end. I just couldn’t sit through another session where we talked about how to manage change, as though the whole last year where work pivoted, the world became smaller, and illness and death stalked us, didn’t happen.

HR departments mean well but often come across as cold and theoretical. Saying things like “people seeing having a job as a conduit for paying their mortgage” is both blindingly obvious and totally lacking in compassion. And yes, this was an actual thing that was said at the session I went too.

The thing is, the hard work of getting people on board with change mostly doesn’t need to be done anymore. From my experience, people are pretty jaded and are aware that their “permanent” jobs are only secure until the next restructure. So if they survive this round of restructuring, they see accepting the changes as the price of keeping their jobs.

The system is incredibly broken.

Life in between – 2

We are at the end of lockdown 4.0. Since the anxiety inducing 11 cases of two weeks ago, we have had zero cases for the last few days and no new exposure sites. This is good news even if they don’t all know the chains of transmission of how the Delta variant got out.

But the end of lockdown doesn’t mean the end of restrictions, which makes things hard. The arts have been particularly hard hit again because the restrictions mean theatres can only be partially filled. The Australian ballet June seasons I was so looking forward to have been postponed until later in the year and plans for concerts or other activities are on hold.

In Australia, the effectiveness of the virus suppression strategies means we became a bit complacent about getting tested and vaccinations. The latest outbreak in Melbourne was caused by someone who didn’t get tested and then spread it. That’s not to blame them, I had a cold recently and did not get tested either, but I should have.

Since the outbreak, it been great to see so many people getting tested and lining up for their vaccinations. A stat from one of the pressers the other day was that 1 in 5 40-49 year olds had gotten their first shot, that was within two or so weeks of it being opened up to that group. I’ve now booked in for my second shot.

Brett Sutton the Chief Health Officer for Victoria (who is definitely a doctor) said “there’s no doubt people are over this” and he’s right I think most of us are wearied down to our souls. Lockdowns are hard, the disruption is hard, the anxiety about cases numbers and exposure sites is hard, sickness and death, being bombarded by news and the would have, should have, could have are hard, and we are all so tired.

There are very few people who are thriving at the moment, most are just trying to get through and make sense of what has happened. It’s like we need to stop, take stock and find new ways of being now.

I think back to June last year after the first wave, after the whole of Australia had been in lockdown or 6 weeks and we were all so happy that it was over. It felt like we could just go on as before. But when case numbers started rising in Victoria and second lockdown loomed I got the distinct sense that nothing would be the same, there was no going back to life before.

A year later and the pandemic isn’t over, and a whole bunch of things have now been normalised, like working from home and remote teams. And for a lot of reasons it’s better with flexibility and proper work/life balance that businesses have been dancing around for years.

In my team, a few of us don’t see the necessity of going to the office, we are more productive and work is more enjoyable if we do it from home. And while the pandemic is still swirling around us and people have caring responsibilities it feels like they shouldn’t have too.

The arguments of about a workplace community and culture just don’t seem to cut it as reasons to go back, which is not a reflection on my colleagues because I really like them. Just that while it’s important, I think community has grown in a different way and being online has brought new opportunities, like collaborating with a wider range of people.

For me, the benefits of working from home have outweighed the bad – although it was a struggle to start. I can plan my workday and make time for things that matter to me – like going for a walk or taking a proper break at lunch time. I also have lots of thinking time to plan and make good decisions, which I believe makes me more effective.

There are lots of stories around at the moment about workers reluctance for going back to the workplace. And of course employers want people back. The flash point between workers and their desire for flexibility and organisations need for them to be back in an office is the most obvious example of the way the world has changed because of the pandemic.

We bandy the word apocalypse around a lot without understanding it’s real meaning. Apocalypse in Greek means a revelation of great knowledge. I think the pandemic was an apocalypse and it revealed (and perhaps continues to reveal) so much about how our lives were unsustainable.

One of the ways it did this was to reveal how miserable most of us were about how much time and energy going to a workplace took. My daily commute was usually over an hour each way and regularly more than that, by Friday I was exhausted but of course it was completely normal and part of having a job. Now it  just seems like a waste of time and an energy snapper that polluted the air and made you stressed.

The revelation I had and I think many others as well, is that work while important, a proper work life balance where there is time and energy for the things that matter is more important. Putting work into proper perspective and making it sustainable seems to now be at the forefront of people’s minds. Having the flexibility to make time for things that make life worth living is not just a want it’s a need. And one I hope we can hang onto.

Life in between -1

This is the first post of my new pandemic life series. Despite everyone wanting “things to be back to normal” and seeing the world as post covid, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic – 3.5 million deaths, 168.9 million cases, yesterday across the world nearly 13,000 people lost their lives due to coronavirus (source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51235105).

Melbourne is having another outbreak – at the time of writing we are in another seven day lockdown. A man became infected in hotel quarantine in another state and then as is the case with this virus infected a whole bunch of other people who then did the same. There’s about 15,000 people in isolation and about a gazillion exposure sites. It’s grim.

My workplace has just been announced as a tier one exposure site. So far a whole bunch of my colleagues are potentially exposed and need to isolate, and that’s not counting the students, academics or people grabbing coffee that might also have been there. It must be so stressful waiting for test results, and I’m worried for them.

Let’s face it the systems are not up to scratch and that’s why we are back here. Hotel quarantine has seen multiple breaches and is really just not suitable for this sort of airborne infection. Quarantine is a federal government responsibility but they aren’t really good at taking responsibility, so 18 months into this pandemic, there still isn’t purpose built facilities.

On top of this, the federal government’s vaccine rollout has been a bloody mess (to be nice about it). There’s been no campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated, many front-line workers, nursing and disability care home residents have not even received their first dose. The government has claimed that everyone who wants a vaccine will have their first dose by October but at the current rate it will be 17 more months before we are all fully vaccinated.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that it wasn’t a race and so with no community transmission no one eligible saw the urgency in getting vaccinated. The Victorian state government, growing weary of the federal government incompetence, has opened up the vaccination in state run facilities for everyone over 40. Chaos has ensued. It’s amazing how the prospect of another endless lockdown means that suddenly everyone wants to get vaccinated.

Walk in clinics are reporting up to 4 hour wait times and there’s only a hotline to book, which is weird given it’s 2021 (why isn’t there an online form?) but also has meant phone lines have been jammed. I probably spent at least 5 hours trying to call and waited for about 40 minutes before I got to speak to someone.  But yay I’m booked for Sunday.

There’s a certain feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when you know they are going to announce a lockdown – it’s anxiety and then resignation and just wanting to hear how long and how severe it will be. We were having a team meeting at the same time as the presser, and so we listened together, a deeply uncomfortable experience when I was already emotional from news reports earlier in the day.

I pulled myself together after a few hours, and while concerned for colleagues, I’m even finding things to enjoy in this lockdown. I had marmalade toast for breakfast this morning and it made me way happier than you can possibly imagine. I’ve also been chatting to friends, reading books and planning my vaccination outfit – because why not.

But let’s not pretend that this is anything other than terrible or that we are anyway close to this being over…

 

 

 

400 days later

The first thing I notice is just how piercingly bright the lighting is. Then the bareness. Plants that used to dot our workspace were taken elsewhere before we started working from home and now the space feels cold and austere.

Across the two floors, most of the desks are empty. Once the workspace was full, now the empty desks remind me of all that has changed over the last year.

My team are there before I arrive. No hugs just a huge relief in seeing them again. They are already busy, and I’m spared the embarrassment of crying all over them.

My desk is exactly as I left it, the farewell card I got for a colleague in February 2020 is still there. The screens are at the same perfect height as when I left all those months ago. Notes on our white board stand as a reminder of the time before. The chair needs some adjusting.

Messages about a tech issue start coming in. This is the part of my job I love – problem solving. For a moment I feel at ease.

It’s nearly 11.00 and we go for coffee. Work seems to be the least important thing today. My team and I catch up, it’s so much better than doing this online.

For weeks I’ve been dreaming of the eggplant and potato curry from the Indian place on campus. It’s everything I hoped for and better that I can eat it with a friend.

Throughout the day there are friends and colleagues to meet again. Seeing them is like finding the thing you didn’t know you needed. Zoom has been a lifesaver but it doesn’t quite match bumping into a colleague in the hallway and seeing their smile.

By 2.30 I feel out of sorts, my head is aching and I want to go home. I’m not sure how to be in this space anymore. It is deeply unsettling how everything is both familiar and new.

To get to the office, I had to find things I had not thought about for more than a year – my pass, a mug, cutlery. I packed snacks, as though I’m a child off to their first day at school. Putting on work clothing feels like I’ve dressed up for a special occasion.

I’m out of practice driving on busy roads and have forgotten the level of concentration needed. On the ring road, I have to remind myself that I can’t daydream, as cars move in and out of lanes and onto exits.

How normal the twice daily commute used to be – being stuck in traffic was just a part of life. How much better is it that these are now a rarity. Although as fate would have it, not on Friday.

Listening to the news while driving reminds me that we are still in a global pandemic. We are safe here. For now. But life is different. The kind of normal we now have is not the same as before.

At home, I check on the cats. Of course they have been fine without me. I’m not as sure that I’ve been fine without them.

I get changed into my trackies – were my work clothes always this uncomfortable  and turn on my computer. There are messages from support sites, and other things to be deal with.

It’s getting late, I’ve eaten a toasted sandwich and had a cup of tea. I’m almost too wired to sleep. It’s been an emotional day.

Eventually, I’m tired enough to go to bed. Hemingway sleeps next to me.

I don’t sleep well, my brain is still catching up. I feel disorientated about the world around me. And a sense of slipping, like we haven’t hit the bottom yet.

But the sun rose in the morning, and there are cats to feed and life to get on with. And maybe for now these small things are enough.

 

 

Life interrupted – 2021 edition (1)

Here we are again. Lockdown 3.0 – five days, masks everyone, four reasons to leave your home – which is fine because there’s no where to go anyway. I’m back to wondering what time Dan’s presser is, whether he’s in business casual or family hike wear, anxiously refreshing twitter to see when the DHHS daily number of infections have dropped.

If I thought this year was going to be less of a bin fire then 2021 has already proven that we are in for tough times. There was an insurrection on the US capitol and the former President has been impeached for a second time. Perth suffered massive bushfires. The number of deaths from Coronavirus is over two million, with the US death toll close to 500,000 people.

Coronavirus variants are wreaking havoc – the current lockdown is because the UK variant got out of the hotel quarantine program. This piece explains the worries with these variants and this one how much more contagious the new strain is, which is why we find ourselves in another snap lockdown. We are fortunate that we have vaccines that are effective when the virus seems to rapidly mutating.

Before Friday’s announcement, I’d been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to go out and do things. I mean I’m happy but there are worrying signs that I’ve spent way too much time alone – like writing bad poetry, so I probably need to get out of the house soon.

But the thing about this global pandemic – you have to pivot so swiftly from I had plans, too now I’m staying at home; wear a mask in all settings, you don’t need a mask now. It’s dizzying. Who wants to make plans when it’s all so uncertain? It feels like a monumental effort with the prospect of disappointment, so it’s easier to just stay home.

Of course you have to go with whatever is changing around you but processing takes a lot of energy and space. It’s been hard to find that because the rapid nature of the changes means there is always something else you need to respond to. It’s like you have 25 tabs open and someone is pinging you on messenger – so much stimulation.

In the beforetimes, activities outside my local area were something that required planning, I couldn’t just decide on the day. As a classic introvert social interactions, noise and lots of people can be exhausting – so I needed to prepare myself for that. Living an hour outside the CBD means there are practicalities of getting there and back to factor in, which adds to the emotional energy needed to go do the thing.

After a year of staying at home, I have lost my match fitness for going out – even locally. The energy needed to do things just isn’t there, so I’m being more picky than usual. It’s not that surprising; so much has changed, how you feel and what matters to you.

The upsetting thing about this new lockdown is that I was just starting to feel like things were maybe ok. Not the old normal, but the new one created by the pandemic. By normal I mean safe – that I’m not going to spend the entire time I’m outside my house stressing about if I’ve been exposed to a deadly virus. Clearly, this lockdown means that normal isn’t here yet.

Of course, I’ll get through the next five days, though I’m not going to pretend to be cheerful about it. But for all our sakes, I hope this is the last one.

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.

Life interrupted – 15

In Victoria, we have had more than 20 days of double donuts and for the first time since February there are zero active cases of Covid-19. In August we had 7000+ active cases so the turn around is remarkable.

The borders are opening up, we don’t have to wear masks outside anymore (thank goodness). Christmas can go ahead, all be it with reduced numbers; Bunnings is open, you can sit in a cafe and shop for things that aren’t essential.

I saw my sister for the first time in months and I’ve been able to go to a friend’s house as part of their social bubble. The sun is shining, people are relieved and grateful for the opportunity to do something normal.

But the world is still on fire. And if for five seconds you forget it there’s a few thing to remind you.

South Australia went into lockdown for six days and then lifted it again when they found someone lied to contact tracers about his relationship to a pizza shop. Even more surprising their outbreak was caused through hotel quarantine, exactly the same as in Melbourne. I mean it’s like all the other states with their smug return to normal were not paying attention at all.

In the US they had an election and the person who lost won’t concede and keeps claiming fraud and votes being illegal. The US always painted itself as a beacon on the hill for freedom and democracy, it’s terrifying to watch its descent into chaos.

Twelve million people in the US now have Corona Virus. The death rate is one of the highest in the world. Sweden, which went for some kind of herd immunity model have had 6000 cases in a single day. In the UK they have re-imposed lockdowns, as well as all over Europe.

Australia while relatively covid-free (touch wood), everyday we seem to be governed by a more and more morally corrupt, hypocritical and partisan federal government. But hey you’ll get a few dollars in your bank account because of tax cuts – the fact the mostly help the rich is just details.

There are allegations of war crimes committed by our soldiers in Afghanistan to just make you feel sick to your stomach. The horrifying report alleges 39 murders were committed by SAS soldiers during the Afghanistan war. It’s hard to read, and even harder to understand how we ended up here.

Meanwhile, the government had to pay out 1.2 billion dollars of our money in the failed and illegal Robodebt scheme that is linked to the suicide of 2000 people. Ministers should have lost their jobs but if there is one thing this government excels in is lack of accountability.

It’s the end of the year and I’m tired. The lack of distraction means there’s been nothing else to think about other than how messed up stuff is. While this makes things larger than they would probably be normally, it’s also given me time to clarify exactly where I stand politically and a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

And that might just be about the only good thing to come out of this year.

(I’m going to keep the life interrupted series going but it might be dispersed with other new topics now… Stay tuned and thanks for reading).