News of Lockdown 5.0 taking effect in Melbourne from 11.59 p.m. Thursday night sent me into maniacal laughter in the cafe that afternoon while waiting for my chai. I was a bit too loud. Another guy, obviously also reading the news, simply shook his head. Self-control concerns me less and less these days. I can’t really pinpoint what I felt in that moment – hopelessness, anxiety tinged with giddiness, despondency, heat-prickling anger. It’s difficult for me to share here what a lockdown or this past year and a half has felt like on a personal level, because we have all felt it in our way. This is not my crisis, but a situation we are all enveloped in and have responded to with varying levels of bafflement. It can be hard to feel, in this collective hardship, that our own suffering is justified and worthy of speaking of when the suffering is widespread and highly variable depending on one’s health, job status, wellbeing and particular set of circumstances. I am luckier than most. I have a job. Much of my family are here in Melbourne. I am in good health. Talking about how I feel in these times is indulgent, but I’m gonna go there just a bit. I’ll also ramble. Feel free to check out now.
What I won’t do here, because it’s my blog and I write to you as a traveller lady, is talk about the dire state of Australian politics and how we are at the mercy of evangelical, private-school male alumnus. I won’t talk about vaccinations or being cut off from the world without a clear exit strategy or the rising xenophobia in some parts of the country and a sense that this shutting down and shutting out is all for the best. I won’t talk about any of that.
I do feel afraid though. I value my freedom. I value being able to leave the country when I choose, connect with friends and family overseas and also hug my loved ones 25 kilometres away. In the first lockdown there was a novelty to this sudden worldwide state of shutdown. I took up yoga and went full-in, in a way I would never have been able to previously. I baked my own versions of sweet and savoury breads. I took photos of objects around my home and sent them off to the state library archives, where they will one day be exhumed and displayed to show life in 2020. I worked from home, shared the care of my son who couldn’t attend kinder for 6 months with my then partner, working out daily zoom schedules and taking turns managing the remote control and ‘quiet time’. Thank god for quiet time. We fretted over my son’s Nonna, locked down in central Milan with a bronchial condition, some of her friends contracting COVID. One in perfect health, who passed away five days after being admitted to hospital. We practised kindness and empathy with each other, because not to would have meant facing our own selfishness in the mirrors of the home we were all bound within. I checked in with my writer’s group once a week and we talked not of writing, but of all the strangeisms and unfathomables taking place in the world. When I realised we were in for the long haul, I went into my bubble, discovered the beautiful introvert that lay within and needed aloneness to play like she hadn’t since childhood.
Some of the things I played at have endured. Others, sadly no. With two dear friends there was the seed of a magazine, spawned by the kind of ignorance that infuriates me and made me want to create a product of true diversity, true sharing. By the time January 2021 rolled around and the city opened and workplaces demanded attendance, the pressures became too great for our beautiful dream and we let it go.
I gained a new daily practice and way of being in the world. In yoga I found the stillness, femininity and voice that was always there, buried by noise, distraction and ‘doing’. I found myself signing up for each training that became available, craving more depth, more aloneness, more raw, weird and explorative experiences. I didn’t know how I would reconcile all of this learning and way of being with a return to work at the start of the year, but I’ve held on, showing up on my mat every morning to sing, dance, breath and meditate, then gathering myself for office life. I am now 7 months into a year-long teacher training in meditation, breathwork and mantra, connecting with fellow souls to create that which is sacred in the everyday. I may one day incorporate some of the teachings into my hikes, or I might not if I decide this will remain a personal practice. I can say that it’s the first time in my life I have been self-referential and truly authentic. Had it have not been for yoga, I would have fared far worse in all of these lockdowns and perhaps not have made the life decisions that have allowed me to return to my true nature.
In February I bought my first home on my own. Lockdown meant that money was not being spent on travel, and so I saved. The hardest letting go was that of my relationship with Little G’s father. We will no doubt travel to Italy together when the powers allow or when we have simply had enough, and what the future holds we know not, but for now I am happily in my Ladypad #2, picking pendant lights and blinds, hammering nails into walls for the first time in my life and feeling proud most days. It is a small space, but it is beautiful and honey-toned, and I feel like myself here. It has been liberating and scary all at once. This lockdown is challenging, I won’t deny that. It is not my weekend with my son and the apartment is quiet, save for Stolen Moments playing on my bluetooth and the promise of a visit from my ‘bubble buddy’. But I know I have tools now. I have new learnings and adventures on the horizon. I’m about to become a student again (!). And I like my own company most of the time. This is a relief.
This afternoon I drove myself down to an exceptional chocolate cafe in the pouring rain and treated myself to a dark hot chocolate with sea salt. I sat in the car while the rain pounded down on the window screen and listened to Jay Shetty interview Esther Perel. I’m not a Perel aficionado, but she talked of the endings and beginnings in lockdown and there was much I couldn’t deny in what she said about the dangers of prolonged isolation, ‘touch hunger’ and the stifling of our natural curiosity, risk-taking and eroticism. I often think about how we will relate to one another when the virus dissipates one day, or as we learn to live with it. Will it be with fervour and honesty and no-nonsense acceleration of decisions and relationships? I would like to think so. From where I sit in gloomy Melbourne where people are counting down the number of ‘snap’ lockdowns until Christmas, it is difficult to sense.
If you’ve made it to here, thank you for sticking with me and indulging me in my waffle with no real point to make. I guess this is frustration speaking. I will continue to work on my internal world, meanwhile, the world I can control. I’ll yoga and study and love irregardless of the daily news and stupidities. There’s some power in that.