March 11. That was the last time I was on the outside. For work, anyway. It seems so long ago now, a world away. I had just finished chairing a symposium of >100 people – an unimaginable number of people! It seemed like we were using draconian restrictions for our attendees at the time. We told people who had been overseas anywhere in the last 14 days to stay away. So we lost a proportion of attendees. This is me, having a glass of bubbles after finishing my 12 hour day.
The next day, COVID-19 was upgraded to a pandemic. The following Monday, I worked from home and attended emergency meetings about the pandemic. The rest is history as they say.
Like all of us, I’ve been through the rollercoaster (and still am) of emotions, sometimes on a hourly basis. I’ve watched our nations being ravaged by the virus and by the economic and social devastation. And I’ve been bombarded on every level by new information – the news, work emails, the enormous changes in general practice (hello telehealth!), school at home, yoga at home, exercise at home, home retreats, Zoom house parties, dance parties at home. Learn a language, embrace your vulnerability, reflect, spend time with your children, connect with every single person you know because social connection is so important, grow an orchard, teach your children amazing science facts, watch a million documentaries, sign up for a yoga retreat, and don’t forget to do a cute dance routine with your family and post it on social media. Use this time to grow. I just want to use this time to nap.
All along, we lose so many parts of what we hold dear: Time spent outdoors. Having a job. Going to the supermarket without worrying about catching a deadly disease. We’ve had to let go of so many things. Many of you hold very heavy burdens – national death tolls in the thousands. Losing a livelihood. Losing a loved one, or two, or three. Not being able to say goodbye. Being afraid to go to work. Abuse at work. Abuse at home. Being alone, all alone. My heart breaks every single day to think of the suffering.
The rest of us, all of us, are likewise struggling. School at home plus trying to keep a full-time job? That’s like asking me to fly to the moon!
I don’t have all the answers. I am still working things out every day. I just wanted to say I’m thinking of all of you. Whatever you’re holding, whatever you’re going through right now, I can’t pretend that it’s also my lived experience because we are all unique. But I know that everyone is scared. At least a little bit. At least some of the time. I’ve been scared too. Especially scared to go to the clinic.
I invite you to be kind to yourselves. I’m trying my hardest. Look out for the little things, which are really the big things. Don’t worry about the children’s haphazard “schooling” but rejoice in the fact that they’re home, safe, well, boisterous and resilient, and have food in their tummies and sleep soundly at night safely at home. And at the end of each day, no matter how the day has gone, congratulate yourself on reaching your personal best in number of days lived on Earth. Still here. Still showing up. Ask yourself what you need right now. Is it a cookie? is it a cup of tea? is it a nap? (My answer is always a nap). Do you actually need some time alone – strange concept in this day and age – but has the constant Zooming, Whatsapping, instant messaging, binging and bonging, has that been too much for you? Do you need to go outside and see the sun to remind yourself that the Earth still turns on its axis, the birds still sing in the mornings and fly home in the evenings, the dragonflies are out in force and bumblebees are returning to our gardens? Or do you need to cry? Ask yourself these questions as though you’re caring for a very very dear friend. We’re in the survival phase. It’s ok to feel this way. You’re doing AWESOME.
Don’t forget that you can still access support for how you’re feeling – from your GP through the amazing world of telehealth, from your counsellor or psychologist, from the helplines that volunteers are manning – Lifeline, Beyond Blue, or your chosen organisation. And if the only thing that makes you laugh is a Youtube video of babies farting, then so be it. (This may or may not be a true story). Embrace the joy in the small things.
I’ll send you a letter regularly from now on. I didn’t want to do it too early into the pandemic as there has been so much noise. But I’ve been writing daily Wellbeing tips for work, and everyone seems to like them. If there is anything you would like me to say, please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Stay safe everyone.