Masked up in the wild west

I’m currently staring out the window at the rain in Perth, where our five-day hard lockdown ended without another COVID-19 case being identified in the community. There are still a few restrictions in place for the time being, including wearing masks — a foreign concept to most West Aussies until a week ago, though the vast majority of people have gone along with it.

Having had one community case in 10 months, many have asked if the State Government overreacted. Maybe. But as much as I miss travelling, I look at what’s happening in other parts of the world and I’d definitely prefer to overreact than underreact.

Besides, it’s not really about me. If I’ve ever been seriously ill in my life, I don’t remember it. But I share the planet with people who are more vulnerable than me. So I can put up with some mild discomfort and foggy glasses. If that makes me a “sheeple” then so be it.

I’m not oblivious to how fortunate I am though. I’ve kept my job throughout the pandemic. When we went into sudden lockdown, I just opened up my laptop and kept working… I didn’t have to shut down my business or lose all my income.

So I’ve been lucky. Lots of people haven’t. But it seems like every approach to COVID involves the sacrifice of something — or someone — whether it’s the economy, physical health, mental health, the ability to move freely, etc…

I’m no expert on any of these things, but neither are all the armchair epidemiologists who have suddenly graduated from the university of hard knocks over the past year, so I figure I’m equally entitled to give my BS opinion on the internet. 😛

Hopefully we’ll get through the other side and people will still remember how to wash their hands and respect one another’s personal space.

And if someone wants to wear a mask in public once it’s no longer mandated, they should feel free to do so without being stared at like they have five heads. 🙂

Day one of lockdown…

Yesterday began like any other Sunday in a state that’s had no community transmission of COVID-19 for 10 months.

I went to a fitness class. I visited my aunt and uncle. I went home and had lunch. I started browsing Disney+. My phone was at my fingertips. And then I saw the news on my socials that Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan was holding an emergency press conference at noon. (It ended up being around 12.45pm, with the rumour mill swirling on the Facebook Live video comments as we waited.)

The Premier emerged wearing a black face mask, and I knew right then we were going into lockdown. By 6pm, the sporting venue I’d been at hours earlier was closed for at least the next few days, and casually visiting my aunt and uncle was no longer permitted.

It’s only a five-day lockdown at this stage, though that didn’t stop the panic buying. Ugh.

My workplace sprung into action on Sunday afternoon, closing our building for the week and directing us to work remotely. If the lockdown ends up being extended… we’ll deal with that when the time comes.

I worked remotely for three months last year, so I knew it could be done. This time around, the decision was more sudden, so I couldn’t go in and grab all my stuff from the office for the perfect teleworking setup. But hey, it’s a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve since finished my first 24+ hours of lockdown and, despite feeling a little unsettled, it’s been fine. I may have had too much coffee and tea now that the kitchen is a breath away from my workstation, but I managed to avoid the caffeine-induced anxiety I sometimes get, so all good. (It’s a fine line between alertness and anxiety. 😛 )

I don’t know if or when life will go back to something resembling a pre-COVID normal. But I’m trying to focus on the here and now.

So, day one down. Four more (hopefully) to go. Let’s do this. 🙂

Episode 2021: A new hope

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly because I know myself.

2021 feels like an even weirder year to be making big plans — a lot of the things that made 2020 terrible for so many people around the world haven’t gone away just because we’ve ticked over into a new calendar year.

So in lieu of any New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I’d share a couple of my dreams for 2021.

First up is something I’ve joked about to a few people, except that I’m kind of not joking at all, because it would be awesome. I want a transporter so I can beam across state and international borders to see family and friends.

According to Star Trek legend, this technology is only in its infancy in the 22nd century. But we managed to skip the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s in our universe, so we’re already in a different timeline, maybe one in which a transporter comes to fruition sooner? Transporter technology would also minimise contact with potential sources of infection when travelling between places.

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Star Trek in iso, can you tell? 😉 (I’ve also watched Star Wars, hence the blog title. I like both. Don’t make me choose.)

For a somewhat more realistic version of this dream, I’d love to be able to travel safely out of Western Australia again and not worry about whether or not I’ll be allowed back home. I’m anxious (as always), but I’ve got a collection of reusable face masks and excellent hand hygiene, if I do say so myself. International travel is not looking likely for the average Joe, but I’m hopeful of seeing my loved ones in the eastern states before too long.

Secondly… I want to get my debut novel out into the world.

For reasons that I’ll probably cover in a future blog post, I’m leaning towards indie publishing, despite its challenges. So the “getting it out” part is in my hands. Even if I decided to go down the traditional route, querying agents and publishers is in my hands too… I just haven’t done it.

There’s a movie called Little City that I may or may not (read: definitely) watched because of Jon Bon Jovi. In it, Penelope Ann Miller’s character says something that unfortunately sums me up pretty well:

“At least I have potential. It’s a wonderful thing, potential. Because as long as I don’t do anything, I’ll still have it.”

Folks, I’m bursting with ‘potential’… Maybe this is the year I finally leave the comforting familiarity of my desert planet and learn the ways of the Force, metaphorically speaking.

Or maybe I’ll just pledge to go to the gym every day… starting next month.

What I do know is that I’m very lucky to have kept my job during the pandemic, to have access to mental health treatment, and to live in a place that has no community transmission (touch wood). While others are just trying to survive, I have the luxury of dreaming big and doing things to make those dreams happen. If I want them badly enough.

Keeping well and breathing

It’s the 21st of December, which means it’s time to play the greatest Australian Christmas song of all time — “How to Make Gravy” by Paul Kelly. The classic tale of a man who finds himself in prison over the holidays while his family gets together without him and makes gravy incorrectly, probably.

Paul Kelly – How to Make Gravy (singalong version)

It’s also a good time to acknowledge that, for various reasons, the festive season actually sucks for a lot of people. This year, many people are separated from loved ones due to the pandemic, while others might be trapped in situations with someone they can’t get away from.

My life is pretty good, but I do find my anxiety is sometimes worse during holidays or long weekends.

In case someone else reading this is in a similar boat, I thought I’d share a mindful breathing exercise I use when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It’s not a magic pill or anything, but it’s helped me at times, and maybe it’ll help you.

It goes a little something like this…

  1. Find a reasonably comfortable position. If you’re stressed or anxious, you’re probably not feeling very comfortable, but do your best.
  2. Close your eyes. This isn’t mandatory, but I find it helps me focus on my breathing, which is kind of the point. 🙂
  3. Take a deep breath in for four seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for two seconds.
  5. Exhale for six seconds through your mouth like you’re blowing out slowly through a straw.
  6. Repeat this process for a minute or so.

If you find that breathing exercise useful, consider it my Christmas gift to you. If it’s not useful, then the Paul Kelly song can be my gift to you. 😀

Happy Gravy Day.

A-Z attitude of gratitude

Slightly different post today. But I’ve been trying to practise gratitude this year. And I do have a lot to be thankful for in my life. To prove it, here’s my A to Z of things I’m grateful for in 2020. 🙂

  • A — Artists. They get shat on a lot. They’re also the reason we have things to occupy us during isolation or lockdown.
  • B — Blogging. I’m not a very prolific blogger but I enjoy it.
  • C — Cats. Don’t have any, but some of our neighbours do and they’re cute in a curious yet aloof kind of way.
  • D — Dogs. Don’t have any dogs either, but there are dogs in my office building and they definitely spark joy.
  • E — eBooks. It’s how I’ve done most of my reading this year.
  • F — Family. Not everyone is lucky enough to be loved and supported by their family, so I’m eternally grateful for mine.
  • G — Google. Makes me sound far more knowledgeable than I really am when I’m on the phone to clients.
  • H — Hot chocolate. Or as I like to call it, pure happiness in a mug.
  • I — Imagination. I mean, let’s face it, the limits of reality totally suck sometimes.
  • J — Journaling. I’ve found it surprisingly helpful to scribble something down every day, even if it makes no sense later.
  • K — Kindness. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • L — Libraries. I could write a whole post about the importance of libraries to communities and not just because I work in one. But that’s not this post.
  • M — Music. My singing lessons were one of the few things I could really do for a while during the pandemic. And my favourite band (Bon Jovi) released a timely new album that I loved way more than I thought I would.
  • N — Netflix. I’m all about Star Trek: Discovery at the moment but apparently there are other good shows too.
  • O — Oz. As in Australia. Plenty of worse places I could be right now.
  • P — Phone. Good for keeping in touch with people you can’t physically be with and don’t know when you’ll see again.
  • Q — Quiet. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate people, but I do need time away from them to recharge.
  • S — Sanitiser. I used it religiously before COVID but it’s been liquid gold this year.
  • R — Rice cooker. Listen to Uncle Roger, they’re the best.
  • T — Tea. A nice warm hug in a mug.
  • U — USB flash drives. They’re just really useful.
  • V — Vanilla ice cream. Boring? Maybe. Delicious? Yes.
  • W — Work. I’m fortunate enough to like my job, and keeping busy with it helped keep me sane this year.
  • X — Xerography. It’s the technology that photocopiers use and… okay, I’m scraping the barrel with this one, but I didn’t get any x-rays or play the xylophone this year. 😛
  • Y — Yoga. I’m hardly the most flexible or balanced person around but I think doing yoga has aided my mental health.
  • Z — Zoom. So many video meetings this year, but I also got to pretend I was on a variety of spaceships through my Zoom virtual backgrounds. 😀
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