Well - like everyone - I started off the year of 2020 thinking that it was going to be something special, loaded up with wonderful new beginnings. Never did I think for a moment that any of this chaos would be happening.
You see - I'm going to be a Grandmother again, and the thought of this brings me great joy. I raised 5 children of my own and life has always been busy for me. I have always worked creatively from the moment I left the 'regular 9-5' workforce. I learnt how to time manage and squeeze as much out of every day that I could, feed my creative needs and get a home cooked meal for seven on the table very night. Life was very busy, with three boys sport was a big part of after school activities, and dancing classes for the two girls were in the city. We played tag team a lot of the time - but you know - it didn't matter - it was our life and even though I was tired for what seemed like 20 years - I wouldn't have it any other way.
I had always wanted a big family. Being the only girl with three brothers and a ton of cousins, our house was always full of people dropping in for a cup of tea with mum and nan. Friday afternoon teas and nights with mum and dads family were great fun and Saturday evenings were no different. After a day at the footy watching my older brothers play we'd go home for toasted crumpets on the open fire and visitors after tea. I had a great childhood - we didn't have everything - but we had enough. My parents were happy - they'd both served in the Armed Forces during WWII and had seen what life could have been like as some of their friends and family didn't make it home. My Nan have five of her seven children in the forces - all over the world. Things were different then, letters took weeks if not months to arrive. A telegram often bought bad news. I still have every letter and photograph my Nan received from her sons and my mother over the war. Sadly, she lost one son and our family has never forgotten him or his sacrifice.
So you see - I've always considered myself very lucky - and I still do. Stuff happens - we all lose people who mean a lot to us along the way - through death, distance and divorce. Things like that change you, they change the way you look at things - but they don't change the way you feel or they can't change who you are - really are.
So mostly I go through life with a 'can do' attitude. If I can't do it I will either find a way or I'll find someone who can help me. And now here I am in 2020 and it's no different. I will find a way through this and I'm absolutely certain that there will be good things that come out of this time of uncertainty.
Many have likened this pandemic to a time of war. It has been compared to the time when our parents and grand parents were told by their Prime Minister 'We are now at war with Germany' - and yes it does feel like that but it also actually feels surreal. The sun is still shining, the birds are still singing, the adverts reminding us to travel here or spend, spend, spend on useless gadgets manufactured in China are still on the television. And to add to the unreality of what's happening all across the world we have had beautiful sun filled days here in Tassie. Our sky aren't full of planes, our streets aren't teeming with armed vehicles, soldiers aren't marching, we are not feeling afraid to walk through our cities, towns and neighbourhoods. Some people aren't taking any of this seriously and carrying on as if nothing is happening out there. Sadly they are the reasons for the stricter restrictions and job losses. However there is this subtle feeling that some people are preparing for the worst, the unknown and the unreality of isolation in this age where we have been denied nothing and never directed by our government to stay home and self isolate to protect your fellow man.
Never have my or my children's generation gone without, or be told that no - that's not available, or in shortage, or prohibited. Never in our lives have we seen the mass closing of pubs, restaurants, cafes and the like. Pubs closed! Never - even in my parents generation - excepting Sundays - but there was always a 'Sunday School' somewhere in the neighbourhood. Yes there are sometimes temporary waits for things to come into stock, but you can usually take a rain check.
We consider Australia as the country of the Fair Go and as Australians we consider ourselves Fair Dinkum. We, the majority, live by those principles - and I do honestly think that we are mostly honest and good and always look out and speak up for the underdog. However the scenes of panic buying and hoarding have taken me completely by surprise, as I never imagined that could happen here in Oz, let alone Tassie. But this is what fear does to normal people, it's natural, it's in our DNA, it's the flight or fight response - we all want to protect ourselves and our families - and it changes everything from the get go. We are now starting to look at people with more than one packet of sugar in their trolley as a hoarder - yet how else am I going to make the relish that I make every year for my whole family. My local butcher told a friend they had sold over 1 1/2 tons of mince last weekend! Seriously - there's going to be a lot of hamburgers or spaghetti bolognese in freezers out there.
I mentioned that I thought that there would be some good things that will come of this chaotic time in history - and I seriously do think that. People will never take things for granted again - as no one is immune from this - unless you've had it of course. We will never take for granted that our shelves will be permanently stocked. We will never take for granted the man or woman at our local store who is working hard to keep us in what we need. We will never take for granted the freedom of getting on a plane and ending up in another country - safe in the knowledge that after a few hours sleep you can then freely walk around, get your bearing and then have a soothing aperitif before dinner. We will never take for granted our health and the state of of health system, and I hope we never take for granted those people who are working on the front line during this chaos - the doctors, nurses, paramedics, orderlies, cleaners and kitchen staff who turn up for work every day in place where no one wants to be. I also spare a thought for the workers at any medical practice, and those who work in the public transport sector, Centrelink and government offices, and teachers. And lets not forget that essential service industry - the bottle shop. We will start again and live like our parents did after the end of the war - with a little more gratitude for what we have.
So now, as we start to see other countries close borders and close down states, cities, towns and populations across the world - it's hard to see how we are going to get through 2 or 4 weeks of home isolation statewide if we don't made plans and provisions for the near future. Personally - I'm not too worried about food and supplies. My kids and friends will tell you that after raising a big family I could feed myself and another family for quite some time. That's not hoarding - that's just how life has been for me for way too long. There is one thing that does concern me most of all - apart from the obvious health challenges - and that is isolation means exactly that - isolation. Ok - I'm 62 and this is the first time in my entire life that I have ever lived on my own. At first - that freaked me out - now I kinda like it. On the flip side of that I am self employed and work 90% at home. I have a very social group of close friends, and family. In my normal life I make contact with a lot of people for a whole range of reasons. So isolation does scare me a little, as social interaction is a big part of my life. I see my kids and grand daughter every week - and I would definitely miss that. But also - most of you in isolation will have a family or a spouse that you interact with daily - so you'll all be isolated together. I know there are phones, Skype, messenger, emails, texts etc - but it is going to be a tough gig - and I can fully understand how the younger generation may be feeling right now. They are mostly like - are you serious - no way - never going to happen - Doomsday Preppers - it's just the flu - I'm going to get it anyway - I'll be ok - it's just a media beat up - surely they'll find a cure - no way I'm not having a flu shot you only get the flu then - but I've paid for this holiday/wedding/party. And this is our main problem - and the fact that they are not testing everyone. Some of the younger generation are pretty invincible - or they think they are. They are the ones that will flout the advice and laws and have a few people around for some beers because they've never been told they cannot do anything before - or we've always fixed it for them. And sadly as science has told us - they will probably be alright, they will probably get it and it'll be mild, but maybe not for me or anyone older or with compromised health situations.
So I hope if we all have to bunker down - and I think we will - I'd like you all to take a minute and think of your single friend or sole parent who might be doing it tough. You might indeed be climbing the walls having to spend unlimited time with your significant other - but us spare and single people out there who do socialise will be missing that easy contact that you take for granted.
Having been self employed for many years I am very good at time management and also very good at the art of procrastination and avoidance. I thank my art and creative skills for giving me a lifeline. Art in my life has always held a place of prominence - I know I couldn't live without the means to express myself creatively. Over my time I have been a writer, a painter, a graphic designer, a costume designer, a photographer, a maker, a sewer, a knitter, a grower of plants, a cook and all round domestic goddess - the housework does suffer severely. There have been very dark times in my life that my art skills have saved me from goodness knows what. Creating has given me hope and a light at the end of the tunnel by providing an escape from reality, transporting me to a place where I can think of nothing but what I'm creating with my hands and my mind. So the only way I can even entertain the idea of isolation is knowing that I have a studio full of new and unfinished projects that I can divert my mind to. Art is therapy - it is what gives us all joy. Art can also disturb, it can be provocative and proactive. But what ever art you are interested in - take this time out - time out of life as we know it - to discover more. We are so incredibly fortunate to be able to tap into the work of artists from all over the world. There are endless tutorials on You Tube - I often say that I have a degree in You Tube. There are some amazing videos on Vimeo, art on Pinterest, Instagram, Deviant Art and many many more platforms where artists share their work. All you need is an internet connection and just watch the hours dissolve.
Time - that's what we have been given - and that is all anyone is asking.
Time to postpone those plans you made, time to stay home, time to save our country, time to catch up when it's safe, time to help our health system cope. Time - that's all - just some of that precious time that someone less fortunate like those with compromised health conditions, the weak, old and infirm, and the very young with no immunity defence, don't have. Time to stop all our busy lives, time to slow down and chillax and stay safely in our homes where we are comfortable and the worry of infection is way less than being in a crowded place. Time to look at the garden and plant something to nurture and watch it grow. Time to cook those special meals you never have time for. Time to relax in a bath with a face mask on, a good book and a glass of something. Time to learn how to meditate and control all that anxiety that this modern life brings along with it. Time to learn that new language so when travel resumes you will be able to order 'due rossi vini graze'. Time to travel online or via catchup - discover places you've never heard of. Time to keep a journal of how you fill your day - write a to-do list and stick to it. Time to write a letter to someone - an actual hand written letter is such a treat to receive. Time to finish off any of those half done jobs that you've been meaning to get back to but have never had the time. Well guess what - you've got it now so don't waste it. I would hate to look back on this time we have been given and to know that I did waste it - I want to achieve something - something that reminds me that we should never ever let our earth be pushed to the brink again.
Tread lightly and take care.
P.S. I'm not sure where this all came from - but I just knew I had to say it.