It’s a glorious spring day here. Blue skies, a gentle warm breeze, sunshine and fluffy clouds languidly crossing the sky.
Last Friday was blue too – more midnight blue shade, verging on black, as I hid in my bed, feeling low and hopeless.
I guess that’s why they call them the blues… or something.
The difference between this Friday and last Friday, as far as my emotional and mental state goes, is mostly a mystery to me. All I know is that by last Friday I had completely slumped into a stretch of four days of tears and the heaviness of depression, triggered at least in part by being unemployed once again, and the anxieties that brings up (plus, depressive disorder!).
Last Friday I took an unprecedented two naps, one around midday and one later in the afternoon. It was the best way I could think of to avoid feeling my feelings. The least damaging option, for sure. There was wine in the fridge, but I didn’t want to choose that route. I didn’t entertain any thoughts about the amount of antidepressants in my house (truly, I didn’t).
I slept a lot across the weekend and into the start of this week. I guess it helped because it kept me from being in my feelings all the time. I also made an appointment to see my GP, because I was concerned at the deep dive my emotions had me on. Sobbing on the toilet will do that to a person.
I think I can partly account for what brought me out of that slump – this brain business isn’t very precise from a ‘users’ perspective.
I shared a bit of what I was feeling on social media, and I received some beautiful, mostly quite simple, encouragement from people that somehow have come to follow me, mostly on Instagram. Strangers by some definitions. Friends by our new definitions. People with Instagram handles I could instantly put a face to, and those I couldn’t so quickly. It didn’t matter. Each of them took a moment to tap a message, or just a heart, into their phones, and all those hearts and words they tapped, they each reached me. Isn’t that something? They reached me and they reminded me I’m not alone.
There were plans to have lunch with my awesome friend Suzanne yesterday (Thursday) and I was concerned that I wouldn’t feel up to going to see her. Luckily by Wednesday I was feeling pretty even-keeled again. Also, we’d texted back and forth a bit earlier in the week. Suzanne is someone I’m (reluctantly) willing to tell the truth to, so I know she’s a safe person to be around, whatever state I’m in.
Driving up to visit her in the hills, between the trees and the ferns and the dappled light, then spending several hours with someone I can totally be myself with…. what a tonic. It was beautiful and gentle. I needed that.
Today is a mellow day at home. My brain and heart are quiet. I like it when they’re like this. Scratch that, I love it.
I went and looked at the clouds earlier, and mused about how much my feelings can change so much from one Friday to the next. I don’t expect never to feel that midnight blue-black feeling again. It’s almost a certainty. What’s also a certainty – days like today will come again. Turmoil and peace.
While I’ve been typing, my peripheral vision keeps catching the curtains billowing in the hallway… letting fresh air and sunshine into my home, a swirling pattern of dappled light playing out across the carpet. My brain might not have a window I can open, but there’s definitely a sweet breeze bringing the sunshine in.
I’ll take it. I’ll keep taking my meds too.
Much love to you all,
PS Thank you to those of you who read my words and leave me comments here, and to those who see my Instagram stories and send me hearts and messages. Thank you to you too Sueby, for being exactly who you are, and for understanding my continuing, hopefully diminishing, reticence to be vulnerable.
Here in Melbourne people are taking wildly different approaches to being able to shop, see friends, go out for meals and do all the things they’ve missed.
I am most definitely in the slow lane, and happily so.
I’ve been getting out of the house, which has been great, but doing it in a low contact way. Yesterday for instance, I went for a sort of aimless drive which led me to a small suburban bakery in a side street, where I encountered maybe 10 people in total, all very nicely masked and spaced out. I bought myself some lunch (including double donuts) and then headed for a nearby park.
Loads of people were enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine and picnicking together-apart, but I decided to stay in my car and eat my lunch. The windows were down, the birds were chirping and the breeze was beautiful.
I noticed as I was leaving that some people were enjoying their lunches in the shady grassy spots within the tree-filled carpark and I thought, I might do that next time.
My groceries are still being delivered, as I’m not that keen on supermarkets, which seem to be paying no mind to how many people are shopping at once. Mask-wearing is starting to really irk me, so I’m doing my best to not need to wear one.
I did have an absolutely sensational, soul nourishing visit to my bubble buddy’s house on Friday night, where I ate the most magnificent lasagna of my lifetime.
Whichever way you’re coping, whether you’re coming out of Melbourne’s lockdown, living somewhere that hasn’t really been impacted, or facing a lockdown like my city has just endured, I urge you to do things your way – if you’re feeling emboldened to go out and do all the things, please enjoy yourself, and pay heed to the rules. If you’re not so keen to venture out, that’s A-OK too, don’t rush back into ‘normal’ mode.
One thing that shocked me, though it shouldn’t have, was the rush on KMart when it re-opened. People lined up at midnight, to go to the temple of fake brushed copper and blush pink home decor. Why? Still scratching my head over that one. Consumerism seems to have a stranglehold on some.
It’s Cup Day today, or as it is more likely to be remembered this year, the day before The Day of Reckoning. I’m nervous about the US election and will be watching results come in tomorrow and over coming days and possibly weeks. What is going to happen? None of us know, whatever the polls and pundits say.
Having time to go slowly is something I am very grateful for, not so much the circumstances that led me here, but there’s no changing that now. I am able to make lists of things I need to do around the house, or in other realms, like updating my CV, and cross them off without feeling much pressure. Soon enough I will be back on the hamster wheel of undertaking mutual obligations to receive my JobSeeker benefits, which will add more structure to my days.
Until then, I’m choosing to go slowly, to be mindful of my still very fortunate economic position in the global scheme of things and to remain positive and hopeful in a world where things seem as out-of-control as they’ve ever been. The times we feel more settled and in control are illusions, of course, but that’s a philosophical theme for another time!
I thought I’d post a little what I’ve been doing lately ramble. Buckle up.
I’ve twice ventured outside the 5km radius we’ve been restricted to until recently, which I have LOVED. Those extra 20kms make a huge difference.
My first trip took me up to the Dandenong Ranges, my nearby happy place of happy places. As I rounded the first bend and then saw the first lush fern, I let out a couple of rather loud, spontaneous woo-hooooos! It felt so good.
Under the canopy, driving that familiar road, admiring the trees and ferns and the myriad shades of green they display. It was genuinely liberating after so long stuck in my little suburban cul-de-sac.
I decided to change things up by taking the road to Kallista and I noticed how the undergrowth seemed to get a lot less daylight as the road dipped down and wound around to the little village of Kallista.
I drove back up to Olinda, then down past the closed Cuckoo restaurant. The sun came out and gave me my most favourite thing in the whole wide world, a beautiful curtain of DAPPLED LIGHT to drive through! Happy sigh.
A few days later I decided to zip down to the beach mid-afternoon while the sun was out again. I didn’t think about how much more traffic was on the road now, and getting there was slightly annoying, but turning on to Nepean Highway and glancing down the side streets, I caught my first glimpse of the ocean for 2020, in late October!
It was windy and sunny and brilliant. I hung a left and parked a couple of houses up from the bluestone entrance to the beach. Down the path with reeds growing as high as my shoulders, on to the sand and then BANG, the edge of the world opened up.
So vast and endless and incredible to see and smell and feel again. Happy sigh. I watched the waves for a while, took some photos, breathed in the salty air and almost heard my nervous system whispering, thank you, thank you.
We live on this incredibly beautiful island, and luckily, a lot of us live pretty close to the edges of it. Having not seen the beach for so long, standing there reminded me how much I love the idea that the world drops away under us and you’d need to sail or fly south for a long time to get to another gorgeous beach like the one I got to stand on this week. Happy, happy, happy.
Being able to take these little afternoon drives has been a great foil to the oddness of trying to get my head around the fact that I’m not just on annual leave, I don’t have a job anymore. I don’t have a nice income to rely on and I have to now get back into the habit of carefully considering every single thing I purchase. It’s been a bit more difficult than I expected to be honest.
Three years and eight months doesn’t seem like a long time to forget how hard it is to subsist on a welfare payment, whether it’s called NewStart, or JobSeeker, but sheesh, it’s a bit of a slap upside the head with a wet fish.
Like most people with a little disposable income, I’d become quite used to disposing with some of it into the coffers of UberEats, or into not making dinner with what I had on hand but going grocery shopping again, or buying a book or a dress that caught my eye. Those days are over for a while. O.V.E.R.
I have a strange relationship with my phone. It’s nearby or in my hand quite a lot of my waking life, yet I don’t talk to many people voice to voice with it.
One of the longstanding exceptions to that is that I love having chats with my friend Sair. We right all the wrongs, we laugh, we cry, we simulcast our viewing of Presidential debates, we commiserate over the utter fuckwits we see doing the wrong thing, again and again, we listen, we ask questions, we ponder, we cheer each other on, we bear witness. Most importantly, we remind each other that we’re not alone.
We have been friends for three decades, and counting. It is so, so, so good to know that she loves me for me, and I love her for her. We are smarter, wiser and kinder now than we were when we first met, and our precious friendship endures.
Huge happy sigh. Love you Sair. xxxxx
I had another one of my ‘ends with a weird toilet experience’ dreams this morning. I think my brain is SO CLEVER to be able to get my subconscious mind to take whatever dream I’m having and work in a bizarre and almost always public (as in there aren’t any walls) toilet experience to get me to wake up and take care of business. This one was in a nice hotel, so it was better than some of the other situations my subconscious has put me in to let me know I need to go!
The other major theme that my dreams seem to take is that I’m lost. I do not like these dreams. I was chatting (via text) with my sister Lisa a while ago and talking about themes of unsettling dreams. I told her mine often have me somewhere I don’t know how to get home from – like being on the wrong train, or getting stuck somewhere I’m unfamiliar with, and she commented that one of my fears must be getting lost.
After I woke this morning, it occurred to me that when I’m lost in my dreams, it isn’t really that I’m lost that I find stressful, it’s that I don’t have all the information I need to figure things out. Ding, ding, ding!
As an adoptee, this makes total sense to me. I don’t have basic information about myself that people take for granted. I don’t know anything about my biological family or my background, even my nationality is a mystery. Am I from English stock, or Irish? Perhaps my ancestors were Scottish or Swedish? I don’t know. I’m pretty white, I’ll grant you that, but it’s still a mystery. I don’t have any stories around my birth mum’s journey through pregnancy or the hilarious/fraught drive to the hospital, or how I looked when I was born. I don’t know if I made my way into the world easily or with difficulty. I don’t know my birth father’s first name, let alone his last, or what he looks like. I know his height, age and occupation. That’s it.
It’s no wonder that dreaming of being lost comes up for me over and over and over again. In this morning’s dream I was at a conference being held in a complex of various hotels with one central check-in desk. I’d been to a session (no idea what about) and couldn’t find my way back to my hotel room. The staff at the check-in desk couldn’t help me and advised me that actually, my name wasn’t in their computer, even though I’d checked into my room and I had my conference lanyard around my neck.
A long and frustrating attempt to find my room ensued, with colour coded elevators not taking us where they should have, long doorless corridors that led nowhere and other people denying that I was checked-in or belonged at the conference at all. I wake up tired from those dreams; as well as busting for the loo.
Aside from the drives and chats and dreams, a lot of the days seem to blend into each other at the moment. It’s AFL Grand Final Day today and by now we’d normally have a result and I’d have watched at least the pre-game, first quarter and last quarter. This year, I don’t even know what time the game starts and now that I don’t have Foxtel anymore, I’ve got no free-to-air channels either. It’s weird.
Adjusting to the ways life changes takes time. We’ve seen that in ways we never expected to this year, huh? We started the year with horrific bushfires, then COVID sprang up on the other side of the world, made it’s way around the globe, and now various levels of lockdown seem kind of normal. Tomorrow, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews will likely announce further changes.
If you haven’t gone for a 24 km drive or had a good phone natter with a girlfriend for a while, I highly recommend both. Hop in the car and drive to the prettiest place in your 25 km radius. Enjoy the view. Stop for a while. Or grab yourself a cuppa or a glass of wine and dial that number. You may find yourself smiling more as you take your empty drinking vessel back to the kitchen for a refill, or pull up to that all-too-lived in home again.
Look after yourselves okay? Let me know how you’re doing and what you’re dreaming about.
Today was my first day reporting for NewStart 2.0 aka JobSeeker. Zero income in the last fortnight, check.
I lost my job on the second of the month, which wasn’t that unexpected, but still sucked. The upside was that my redundancy and leave payout was enough for me to CLEAR my credit card, and to put away more than that amount as savings. So there’s no sting in the loss, yet, but there will be.
Losing your job during a pandemic isn’t an unusual thing. Lots of people are in the same boat, and have been for months already. What’s unusual about being unemployed in 2020 is that all of a sudden, the government acted (temporarily) to alleviate the crushing poverty of being on a welfare payment.
Just my luck, I lost my job after the increased payment was partially decreased and will only receive five payments before it is scheduled to go back to being below the poverty line, where the unemployed deserve to subsist. Eye roll x infinity.
On the other hand, I’ve been here before and I’m pretty wily when it comes to stretching my payments out. The major difference is that last time I was out of work, I wasn’t paying all my utilities, due to the strange mistakes that are a historical ‘feature’ of living on an old non-subdivided block with two residences on it. No such luck this time, I pay all my utilities now, like a good citizen should.
Lockdown life and being out of work is a strange mix. There’s no escaping the immediacy of my environment, aside from the beauty of the big park in my neighbourhood. I’ve visited a few times, with a book and sketch pad – to be out in the fresh air and hear birds chirping and kids playing in the distance has been wonderful. A true balm for the cabin fever of the past six months.
I started this blog in a season of unemployment. Here I am again. I hope that I will return to writing regularly, as it is something I enjoy and feel helps me with the ups and downs of having LOTS of time on my hands, as well as the fairly monotonous silence of applying for work and hearing nothing back.
These days, because I’ve neglected this space, only a few people will probably see this post. That’s okay. I’m hoping that as I write my way out of 2020 and into whatever is ahead – dear gods please let 2021 be quiet and unremarkable – I might reach people who enjoy my musings and carry the hope of better times with them.
Now that I’ve reported for duty and the vacuuming is mostly done; while the sun is shining, I think another park visit is in my immediate future. I’ll share some photos via Instagram.
However this strange, strange year has unfolded for you, I hope that you can still find reason to #lookup and that you’re carrying a little hope that we will make it through this.
Upon consulting my calendar, it appears that it has been 22 (and a hump day) weeks since a whole slew of Melbourne folks, including me, started working from home and staying home more than usual.
That’s a long time! Deep in the second trimester of growing a human in your guts kind of time, yeah?
It seems both entirely normal and still surreal to be connecting to the office computer network from the small desk in my bedroom. I haven’t enjoyed a face to face chat with my workmates since early March.
I mostly wear trackies and a hoodie or stay in my pjs as I read and send emails, arrange settlements, chase things up for the sixth time, and chat to clients over Skype and FaceTime. Who knew it was so easy to seem semi-profesh while wearing uggboots? Throwing a colourful scarf on is my no. 1 video chat hack.
I think I’ve felt all the feelings in the past 22 weeks, from fear and loneliness to gratitude and moments of peace; and every adjacent emotion. Thankfully I’ve mostly been able to cope with it all.
I like to pop outside mid-afternoon and see what the sky is doing.
This week I discovered jasmine exploding over the back fence.
I look up, take photos, say hello and thank you to the grocery delivery guy, check the letterbox every couple of days, and do the dishes before they pile up too high. I make the bed, most days!
My oldest friend in the world and I have silly text chats and long phone conversations which range from uproarious laughter to the deep and meaningful.
Today, my dad called me to make sure I have had the faulty airbags in my car replaced. Bless him! Get yours done if you haven’t, dad says so.
I’ve misplaced my cooking mojo. It will return I’m sure. If you’ve got a great (vegetarian) pantry staples pasta sauce recipe, hit me up please.
When I’m not working, you’ll mostly find me under this colourful blanket watching something on Netflix, Stan, SBS On Demand or Disney Plus. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched Hamilton. How good is it? 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 from me.
I hope you’re keeping well, especially my fellow Victorian readers.
We can do hard things!
Keep going. Stay home as much as you can. Wear that mask. Wash those hands.
Run your kids ragged in that one hour of exercise off the premises.
Call an old friend and have a laugh.
Read a blog you haven’t read for a while.
Comment on someone’s Instagram feed. Spread some nice thoughts around.
Return to an old album you loved, or a book that’s special to you.
Most importantly, have flexible expectations around how you get through this exceedingly odd and challenging time.
Baked beans on toast for dinner is 100% okay, and a delicious source of fibre.
Home schooling hiccups are okay.
Throwing in the towel (temporarily) is fine.
Having a good week, fab.
Dragging yourself through a bad week? Know this, you’re not alone. Have a quiet cuppa on the back porch. Text a friend for support.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your pals who live alone. Just a text or Instagram ❤️ reminds us we’re not alone.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that I enjoy marking the ritual of having a laundry basket full of clean folded clothes.
There’s something satisfying about bringing clothes or sheets in off the Hills Hoist or clothes rack, piling them up next to me on the couch and methodically folding them.
Pants – in half and then in half again, my particular undies fold (which is not KonMarie approved!), tees get the arms folded in then folded thrice… it’s familiar, rhythmic, part of the ritual of everyday life.
Those rituals are more important than ever in “the time of Corona”.
Tiny moments of calm and control help me stay calm and clear on the inside.
This week I’ve made an effort to keep the dishes from piling up. When they pile up too high, when I run out of sugar spoons for my daily coffee, it messes with my insides staying calm and clear.
Orderliness has always been part of my personality. I like things to be neat and squared away. I feel better when things are sorted.
If only it was as easy to do that with the world around us, as it is with a laundry basket.
I hope that you are finding ways to keep your insides calm and clear.
Maybe laundry folding isn’t your thing – what a glamorous life I lead. Maybe it’s tending your garden, or a daily practice of yoga or creativity that keeps you motoring along.
Whatever it is, don’t let it slip.
Just keep folding, saluting the sun, writing, painting, hooking, and if you find yourself stuck for something to centre you, just pop outside and look up. We’re all under the same sky.
One hundred days since I last went to work, outside my house.
One hundred days since I reached for the remote control to the building’s carpark.
One hundred days.
The freeway lanes have changed. There are barricades up, and the emergency lane is now a traffic lane.
The new rail overpass is finished. They’ve removed the old tracks I used to drive over, and laid fresh bitumen.
I think they’ve painted the balustrade of the building’s spiral staircase, but I’m not sure.
I missed 100 phone calls. 100 even, over 100 days. Isn’t that weird?
I missed watching a whole season unfold.
Last time I was on the street where the office is, the trees were full of green leaves.
Today, the trees were bare.
I missed the everyday unfurling of autumn’s beauty. Just like that.
I missed one hundred days of looking up as I drove to and from work.
One hundred skies. Sob.
Hundreds and hundreds of awesome songs on the radio.
Cyclists, pedestrians, colleagues, packing leftovers for lunch, filling the car with petrol, deciding what to wear… all missed.
I have missed these previously ordinary things, and I’ve come to enjoy the new rhythms of the last hundred days.
I wonder what the next hundred days will bring?
I truly hope that we will see the curve flattened out again, as some parts of Melbourne go back into lockdown tonight.
However your your last hundred days have been, I hope the next hundred are mostly good days. Days where you notice the light is different at 5pm, or you see evidence of a new season bursting into life.
May there be lots of days when you really enjoy the people you are “stuck with” at home. May we continue to be kind to each other, appreciate what we have, and be the first ones to step back when public spaces we are sharing are tight.
Let’s cook through our stockpiles of tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, rice and pasta before we fret about getting more. If you need TP, let me know!!
A lot can happen in a hundred days.
Don’t forget to #lookup, wash your hands, and keep me posted by dropping a comment below.