Monday, May 25, 2020

lock down (birthday edition)

Day 60, officially. Plus 11 for our household.

Totally laughable now that we thought we'd be done in 21 days. And what did we think 'done' looked like anyway?

Looking back, it's gone by quite quickly. As with raising small children, the hours drag but the days fly.
We've done all the same things everyone else in the world has done - vacillated between comfort and despair at pretty regular intervals.

Currently we've hit a bit of ennui...
Our 'lockdown diary', started with enthusiasm, is kicking around under piles of home-school materials and half-finished art projects. The school work we do is the barest minimum. We get out to take advantage of our 'exercise slot' (6 to 9am) at best three times a week. The kitchen is kept tidy, the bathrooms seen to once a week and high-traffic areas swept (and sometimes mopped) fairly regularly, but everything else is a bit murky and dusty.

There are a lot of screens in rotation, and there's been a LOT of the accompanying parental guilt about this. But a few things happened last week which changed my mindset about this a bit.
I had a chat with my sister-in-law in which she reminded me that my kids are not smallies any longer, and as the first generation to have access to this much online content who can really say at this point what the long-term effects will be? The convo got me thinking about my brother, a die-hard gamer and tech enthusiast, who is also possibly the brightest person I know.
Then this lovely poem by Hollie McNish.
And finally a rollercoaster ride, built entirely in Minecraft by my 10 yr old daughter, specially for me as a birthday present last week.
Encompassing an underground tunnel, a section through a glass-walled aquarium filled with fish and colourful plants, an LGBTIQ+ rainbow-walled section, the world's highest rollercoaster hill and a field of llamas I have to say it was one of the best experiences I've ever been gifted. It took her best part of two days and was all self-conceptualised.
The kids are alright.

And yes, it was my birthday. Lockdown birthday club whoop whoop.

Leading up to it I was apprehensive, thinking that maybe the reason we have birthday celebrations is to distract ourselves from the march of time, to literally sing and dance in the face of aging-related existential dread.
Nothing like reaching proper middle age in time of global pandemic to bring out all the anxieties.

But there was also a freedom in not being able to do anything special. No need to clean and polish the house for guests, no juggle to find an activity which suits all ages, schedules and budgets. No expectation of looking ones best or being goddamn cheerful.

And, as always with birthdays - lucky me - it was lovely. Turns out the essential elements - love, cake, friends - were still there, albeit very differently to in the past.
Love shown in small gestures and large, cake baked by me (red velvet) and more delivered by friends (chocolate, lemon drizzle, super decadent choc fudge biscuits - 'We have a cake BUFFET' my daughter declared the next day), friends who spontaneously arrived for a very socially-distanced glass of wine in our front driveway, perched on small fold-out chairs in the gathering gloom... giggles and commiserations.
Fortyfuckin'five is not too old to be reminded that we endure beyond viruses and screens and parental guilt and dusty floors.
Life it seems, carries on.

Friday, March 27, 2020

lock down

Today is Day One of lock down. Currently expected to last for 21 days.
We'll see.

I've stocked the house, filled the prescriptions, bought the basic meds we'll need should anyone get sick.
I've helped my parents get ready, made sure the people who work for us are safe and provided for, checked in with friends and family - especially those living alone.
I've donated to various organisations helping those in need through this time.
I've gone through the roller-coaster of all the emotions and fears, I've acknowledged my grief and rallied my energies.

I woke up this morning and felt ... relief. Anyone else feeling that I wonder.

There's nothing more I can do except stay at home. This is what I can do now to help. I'm so grateful not to have to go out anymore.

The logistics of leaving, being out there, returning - the sanitising and taking care and physical distancing and contamination containment was genuinely starting to make me feel loopy.
But worse, the people I saw every time who were not taking the same precautions, not taking this seriously, not taking care - that was driving my anxiety through the roof.

'You're all going to die' I'd think watching people huddle together to watch something on a phone, share a can of soda, eat with their hands, pick at their teeth, spit in the street. 'You're all going to die and you're going to take someone I love with you'.
Anxiety is not rational, but anxiety is real, and I've had enough brushes with proper anxiety attacks in my life to know I was skirting dangerous territory.

But now we're home. And we're not allowed to leave. As an adult I am so grateful for other grown-ups telling us what to do right now. And so immensely grateful for everyone out there doing what they're doing so that we can stay right here.

The weirdest thing about this virus is this - it causes one immense fear and concern, and then puts one in the place (if you're lucky) where you're most well-equipped to deal with this.
In our home, with our pets, our loved ones, our comforts.

Where this goes no one knows, but for now I feel more relaxed than I have in weeks, and I'm going to cling to that for a while.
Until the milk runs out at least.

Monday, January 27, 2020

this time of year

Ironic to follow up the last post with this one, but they don't contradict each other - it's all just life.

It took me by surprise last year, although I should really have been more attune to it then, and this year again it took me a while to work it out. What is it about this time of year that niggles me, brings feelings of helplessness, of quiet sadness even in happy times?
There's something in the air, in the heat, in the bright light, something dark and heavy.

It was this time of year I was walking the last stretch of the road with Zahida. Those last few weeks of desperation, crippling exhaustion and sorrow. The sunny days seemed a mockery, the new year optimism like a kick in the balls. Starting the new year, new projects, felt disloyal and cruel. She would always ask, always ask about me, right up to the end, and genuinely seemed to want to know what was going on, despite how incredibly painful it must've been to hear.

The last time I saw her at home it was a really warm day. She was so lively, almost unable to sit still despite the air tube linked over her ears and in to her nose, she couldn't go longer than a few minutes without it. Her eyes, large in her thin face, were bright as sparks. She was full of plans, getting me to help her work out the hanging arrangement for a bunch of her children's art she wanted to get framed, hoping to get to the beach that afternoon.
I knew from the reading that I'd done that this was known end of life behaviour, despite seeming so full of life it was in fact leaving her fast.

Later that morning she tired, but insisted that I stay and sit with her as she lay down in her bedroom - air con unit and feather duvet on, she was no longer able to regulate her body temperature. We cried and chatted and sat in silence as she seemed to drift in and out of sleep. She had one last wish she quietly whispered, she wanted to die at home, she wanted to die in her room. 
For a long time she had despaired that her children would remember her as weak and sick, she hadn't wanted that, but now resigned that that was to be the case she really hoped to die not as a patient in a hospital, hooked up to machines, but in their home, as if to cement herself to the end in their family.

10 days later she was gone. In hospital, after a traumatic few days of goodbyes, and then more goodbyes and false lasts and and utter exhaustion and just a handful of distressing visits with her kids. Part of my initial grief was knowing how badly she'd wanted that to be different.


Zahida and I were members of the same book club. She introduced me to it, I was the 9th member, and for over a decade we met once a month at each others houses for dinner and books and so many laughs.
FOUR members of that group were diagnosed with cancer over the years. Stats which left us reeling.
Zahida's was the quickest, the most brutal, and last week I got the sad news that after years of fighting Lee-Ann had succumbed too.

Lee-Ann's was quick. She was seemingly doing okay, recently away on holiday with her teenage daughter. Hospitalised last week with a stomach infection, she deteriorated in a matter of days and on Thursday was sent home, nothing more to be done. She passed away in the night, in her bed, her mother, sister and daughter by her side.

I'd not seen Lee-Ann for a while (I gave up book club after Zahida died, it was the one thing too painful to keep on doing without her), and we were never particularly close, but naturally it came as a huge shock.
And through my sadness for her, and for her poor girl, I felt so sad again for my dearest friend -  and angered anew at all she'd suffered and how to the last that bastard disease wouldn't even grant her such a simple, so heartfelt request, to have her children remember her as vital and functional, to die in peace at home.
Fuck cancer.

This time of year it all comes back, the last few days it came back hard.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

rolling into it

I really like the sound of 2020.

The beautiful symmetry of the number, the sound of it off the tongue - gives me a jolt of optimism every time I think of it. I think it's going to be a good one, a redemptive and light one.
Rolling into it with hope.

There's a liberty in having no plans. Obviously there are plans, but I have as yet no hard dates this year, no deadlines.

There are currently only two goals.

Embark on the massive renovation we've been planning for years and fine-tuning for the last couple of months... and ... consciously relish this year with our girls.

I realised over the holidays that the girls will be 13 and 10 over the next few months.
It's Frieda's last year before she moves to high school, Stella's last year on the junior campus of their school after which she moves up to the senior campus (new teachers, new rules, new routines) in 2021. For these reasons and more this year feels like a pause in the known, a moment to breathe a bit deeper and move a bit slower together.
Rolling into it with enthusiasm.

Live. Love. Laugh.
Saccharine cliche on a kitchen wall, real 2020 goals in my heart.