This is a strange time, right? 16 March, my family and I were in Tasmania, staying in a remote little cabin, with no wifi or phone reception. When we emerged from our retreat, en route to a primary school in Queenstown, we discovered that the rest of my Tasmanian school’s tour had been cancelled, and we’d better book the next flight home, because Tasmania was going into lockdown. The rest of the world was rapidly shutting doors, as COVID19 firmed its grip on the world.
My kids had one day back at school. The next, they were told to stay home. Every day since, we’ve been schooling them from home. My husband hasn’t worked until today. And I haven’t done another school visit, or in person appearance.
The first week or so of lockdown was strange. Anxiety provoking. Awful, if I am honest. Every adult conversation centred around COVID19. Every news intrusion was COVID related. No-one could see each other. Police were patrolling the beach, making sure no-one was sitting around. People wore face masks and gloves to the supermarket. The supermarket shelves were bare. You couldn’t buy normal things like bread or toilet paper or pasta. The lady next to you in the fruit section gave you a death stare if you so much as cleared your throat.
No-one knew what would happen, or how long any of this would last. I was taking sleeping pills to help me get through those early weeks. I was also exercising daily, not drinking alcohol, doing nightly meditation … everything I could to curb the anxiety and depression.
My career seemed like it was in free fall. Every day, two or three emails came in. This festival cancelled. That school visit cancelled. This book delayed, possibly canned. That book tour cancelled. No acquisitions for the next few months.
At some point, I had a publisher calling me to let me know I may not get paid for some of the books I had written. By then, nothing surprised me, and the publisher may as well have been telling me the supermarket had run out of toilet paper. Again.
Meanwhile, the author community was rallying online. Smart savvy people were quick to set up online versions of the stuff they do face to face. I felt pressure to do the same. Get online! Set up quick! Claw back some of that income you’ve lost.
But every time I set up a camera, and recorded something, I lost the recording. When I tried to upload things, my computer crashed out. My internet was pleading with me to slow the crap down. Stop trying so hard! Maybe start with getting offline.
I took a step back from social media. If it weren’t for the new book series I was launching, I would have left it altogether, because social media, like traditional media, did nothing but get the heart rate going.
And the worst of it? We were stuck at home, with all this time on our hands and these gaping income holes, and I couldn’t write a word. Not a single creative drop was left.
So I was forced to step back. A friend, Edwina Wyatt, told me about yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. That helped dramatically. I started laughing at the ridiculousness of our situation. When the kids couldn’t complete a whole day of learning? Then, well. Don’t. Make a cake instead. We’d go to the beach every afternoon, and the beauty of the Northern Rivers autumn swallowed us, and took care of us. I quit trying so hard to sleep, to exercise, to homeschool and work. I just let it flow.
And a day or two later, I slept peacefully without pills. I blocked out all the COVID stuff I could. Laughed with my kids. Rode on the beach.
My wick was ready. The creative flame began to burn.
I’ve been writing or painting every day since. I have a few goals and some agenda, but a lot of it is play and discovery. My husband hasn’t been able to work, and unlike me, actually qualified for Job Keeper. So he’s around, literally being paid by the government to school our kids. He makes a pretty awesome teacher too.
I set up my desk in my bedroom, plugged in my earphones, lit a candle and put on some gypsy jazz. And wrote.
I emerge from my cave every few hours to talk my story through with Greg. He is a whizz at plot so helps me untangle the mess in my head. I go back refreshed, and do what I love most. Write delicious words. Get my characters talking.
There have been weeks when I have thought: What have I actually done this week? It feels like nothing. But when I do an inventory, I discover I did A LOT.
My kids are learning so much and growing so much. With two parents home most of the time, and zero social engagements, they’ve relaxed in many ways. My eldest has been getting into basketball. My youngest is reading confidently now. They both do more house chores than they’ve ever done. They’ve tried cross stitch. And are doing so well in their school work; working so hard 9-3.30 every school day, as they plough through the mountains of material they’ve been assigned. I am super proud of them.
We’ve done things as a family we’ve never done before. Long bike rides on the beach. Riding all the way into town from Suffolk. Watching family movies … on a school night! We go up in the evening and play board games with my parents. Why have we never done these things before?
We’ve been super lucky to live on a property with my parents. We have space to roam. And having my parents here is a godsend. I particularly love my Saturday morning farmer’s market visits with Mum.
This week, restrictions lift. The kids go back to school one day a week. And we are able to see people socially, within reason. I know through social media and WhatsApp groups that many people are itching for this all to be over. But now we are in the rhythm of the lockdown – this isolation daze – I feel kind of comfortable.
For all the trauma, loss, heartache this virus has caused, there have been some silver linings too.
Hope you are doing OK.