Hi, I’m Faye. I’m the Marketing Coordinator at Interchange Outer East. You might know me from such things like IOE Facebook page, monthly newsletter, program flyers, annual reports, events and posters. Thanks to COVID-19, I, like many of us at IOE and all over the state, country and world, am preparing to work from home from next week. I’m feeling lonely just thinking about it.
I’m no doctor, immunologist, politician or anthropologist. In fact, anyone with those titles is no doubt far too busy earning their pay cheques these days to read this. I’m not even a parent of someone with a disability. Although I can only imagine the kind of added stress and uncertainty that some parents may be feeling at the moment. Despite our differences, for everyone who reads this, whether it’s five people or 5000, we have one thing in common:
We are all citizens of planet earth.
We are all unsure. There’s a feeling of disbelief; are we in a sci-fi movie? We all wonder what the next few days, weeks, months have in store for us and our families. Most, if not all of us are preparing to spend a lot more time at home, riding out the wave and practicing social distancing to do our bit to protect the vulnerable.
And the question remains; what on earth are we doing?
We have a choice to make. We can let this virus kill us. Not literally (god willing!), but morally. Metaphorically. We can allow it to do damage that will linger on far longer than the microscopic contagion that may only give most of us mild symptoms or none at all. Or we can look back in a year and feel a sense of pride, of solidarity. Social media is a mix of judgement and misinformation, with the odd glimpse of kindness and compassion. Elderly people can’t buy bread for their toast. People are brawling at supermarkets! There’s no meat on the shelves.
What if I told you that the human body doesn’t need meat to thrive, let alone survive? Nor does it need pasta. Or rice. It’s hard to move away from the norm; I have a four year old whose standard dinner request is ‘pasta with nothing’, but challenges create opportunities.
I often tell my eldest daughter that if we spend our time worrying about something, we live that moment, that thing we are worrying about, over and over, and for what? It might not even eventuate! We can live it once (or not at all), or we can live it continuously until D-day. Worrying about something doesn’t affect the result, or the likelihood of it occurring.
‘Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.’
During my trips to the supermarket, I notice forlorn faces in every direction looking at empty shelves. Pasta, meat, flour, noodles, beans. You know what’s fully stocked, like a rainbow of breakfasts, lunches and dinners? The fresh fruit and vegetables! Instead of letting sausages and mince add to your stress, fill your trolley and take the opportunity. When else will it be acceptable to have fruit salad for dinner!? Or carrots and dip for breakfast!
Like I said, I’m no doctor, but if you’ve been cooped up at home for a week, two weeks … a month(!), you’re feeling lethargic, your mental health has taken a nose dive. It’s not sausages and mince that will put a sparkle in your eye or a spring in your step. It’ll be dragging chairs up to the kitchen bench, getting the kids involved and making a huge bowl of fruit salad together. Dollop some yoghurt on top for a protein hit and sit on the front step in your PJs! Wave to the neighbour as they walk past with their dog.
When our kids look back on this time, while we remember the bills piling up, the supermarket anxiety and the social media mayhem, they’ll remember that time they had fruit salad for dinner. They’ll remember the absence of rushing. Mud pies in the backyard on a Tuesday and extra family time.
I’ll say it again; I’m not a doctor. I don’t know where you’re most likely to catch the dreaded COVID-19. I do know one place you certainly can’t catch it: on the internet! We are facing social isolation like we’ve never experienced before, yet we are more connected than ever. Did you know that you can visit almost every major museum or national park in the world on your computer? You can visit a theme park or a zoo. Your front door is closed but the world is at your fingertips. Technology is our friend. Everyone you know and everything you’ve ever wanted to learn about, or teach about, is on the other side of a screen.
Isolation doesn’t have to mean the death of connection.
The disruption of routine is going to pose a huge challenge for many families. The anticipation of what’s to come is interrupting your sleep and putting you on edge. I see you. I feel for you. I hope that in between meltdowns, tears or withdrawal, you are able to find moments of magic; moments of peace in the absence of scheduling. Maybe you’ve got home life down to a fine art and it’s about to be thrown into chaos. Maybe you feel like chaos is your baseline and the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is barely visible. We’re staring down the barrel of down time – family time – we didn’t necessarily ask for. It’s a tough ask, for some families more than others.
I don’t know what the future holds. The uncertainty is overwhelming. I’m nervous. But I know one thing. We’re all in this together. Because if we’re not, we’re all alone. If we tell ourselves and each other that we’re all in this together, it feels like a challenge; something we can overcome; something we can look back on and feel proud of for our resilience, the way we helped each other and the things we learned. If we go down the alternative path; if it’s every man for himself, the outlook seems much more dire. It feels more like a war.