By Donna McDonald
Day one: I’m working at home today. Trying to find my new rhythm in the roil and toil of the political and community confusion wrought by COVID19. I teach at a private training organisation. I’ve had some mild disagreements with it in the past. But the leadership team and support staff have jumped ahead of the game from the ‘set-go’. They didn’t wait to be told by government what to do. They are using their moral imagination to meet the needs of staff and students immediately. They are working hard to deliver a teaching strategy for the long-game. I’m impressed.
I’m anxious all the same. I am severely immune-compromised, a legacy from intense chemotherapy and stem cell transplant several years ago. I vacillate between social distancing and social isolation. I opt for social distancing today. No particular reason. I’m making decisions without any rational foundation. I’m too anxious to steer my way through to a rational daily-life plan in these covidly-obsessed days.
I debate whether to get my usual morning coffee. I decide not to go. I go for the coffee anyway. And experience the sensation of warm sand going down my throat. I eye off anyone who approaches me too closely. I go home and lie down.
Later in the day, I do a small postcard painting, and copy Charles Causley’s poem, I am the song. I post it on my new chat-group site which I set up last night, ‘Cheerful Covid Captives’. I’m pleased: I’ve done something positive today.
Day two: Have a cup of tea with buttered toast. The bright sunny day helps me to find my mojo.
Settle in at my desk to prepare for a Skype meeting with an architect firm. I’m keen to share my research and experiences about socially inclusive design. Feeling positive. I’ve got this! COVID19 is not going to grind me down!
Hear the ping of an incoming text message. It’s from a close friend. She had invited me to her home for coffee and cake later this morning. She’s sorry but she’s sick. Her daughter, an Infectious Diseases Consultant at the Mater, has given her fierce advice. Isolate, isolate, isolate! No contact with the grandchildren! Nor with friends! My friend’s text resounds with dismay. I sense her fear too.
My heart pounds. COVID19 feels way too close to my home now. I spend the rest of the morning trawling social and news websites. But despite all the words that pass before my eyes, I feel no wiser. If anything, I feel more uncertain about the way forward.
Another friend texts me. An academic, she’s angry about the pressure she is experiencing from her university to keep up with her research and writing despite these covidly-confused times. I reply, "Organisations, businesses, and universities need to accept that there will be an adjustment period for everyone."
I do another postcard painting. No words with it this time. Just a brief moment of stillness and colour.
Day three: A hot summer’s day. But it’s autumn. Even the seasons are confused.
I’ve been thinking about my academic friend again. I see that the story which has been missing from all those stories of government cautions, community confusion, and panicky TP / baked beans shortages, is the story of grief. Any attempt by employers to pretend that their workers just need to carry on as per usual, that working at home is just a change of place and nothing more, is manifest denialism.
All of us are already grieving here for the terrible losses incurred by the long Australian summer of bushfires. Our land has been scorched; our wildlife is disappearing. And then there’s the matter of our trust in government, faith in churches, and reliance on banks. These losses weigh heavily too.
Some of us are also living with enduring sorrow for other, more personal losses.
And now, we are grieving for what we thought we could count on: our ordinary daily routines. When we are under pressure or stress, we are always exhorted to return to our daily routines. Our routines are meant to support us and carry us along the tide of grief until we get through to the other side.
But we are in different times now. Ordinary has been blown out of the water. We are not only grieving for multiple losses. We are also having to invent new ways of being, each and every day.
I think about what to paint next.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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