Self care

Last night on Conversations with Annie and Kate, Kate Carruthers asked me whether I practised any self care, and if so, what? It was a confronting question, because my self care typically involves spending time with my friends, and copious quantities of hugs. Not a wise strategy during a pandemic, and given how many of my close friends are interstate and overseas, in many cases not even possible.

That’s not my only self care, though. I have taken to re-reading Terry Pratchett books, because they are my safe place. They are funny, and thought provoking, and most of them won’t make me cry. I don’t watch any tv shows or films that are dystopian, or even sad. I don’t have the emotional capacity for unnecessary trauma right now.

I try to go for a walk to our local cafe every day, to collect a take away coffee and maybe a friand. I don’t always make it, but it definitely helps when I do. I take pictures of flowers, and my cat, and always try to get some sunshine when it’s out.

But I’m in Melbourne, and this is lockdown number 6. I thought about counting the total days of lockdown and then decided against it. Sometimes it’s better not to know. Even when we’re not in lockdown, the threat of it hangs over us like a dark cloud. It could hail on us, or even hit us with the lightning strike of exposure to delta, at any moment. Going out doesn’t feel safe, but never going out isn’t a great option either.

The local cafe noted in lockdown 5 that they weren’t as busy. People weren’t coming as often. And I must admit, I’m not getting there as often as I did last year. I’m struggling to motivate myself to leave the house. I’m struggling to exercise, even though I know I need to. I’m struggling to organise online chats with friends. I have bursts of reaching out to people followed by long periods of lacking the will to organise anything at all.

It’s as though each new day in lockdown saps a bit more energy. Like the constant drop of a water leak in a cave can wear even stone away, this pandemic is eroding my energy, my enthusiasm, my heart.

Perhaps life force is a muscle, and the normal hustle and bustle of daily life strengthen the muscle. Some things weaken it, but friends and work and socialising build it back up and keep it strong. In a pandemic, though, it’s as though we’ve become bedridden. The life force muscle works ok for a while, but each time you lock it down it gets a little weaker, a little harder to build back up again. And the in-between-lockdowns-but-not-quite-a-life times just aren’t enough to restore it to full strength.

Against a backdrop of diminishing life force, I have been dodging news about the IPCC’s latest report because I can’t face the existential terror and despair. I know we have to have hope if we’re going to achieve anything right now, but hope is in such short supply.

I’m sitting with the sun in my eyes as I type this, reluctant to close the curtains and block it out because some light in my day feels so rare and so precious right now.

I guess it’s important to remember that this will pass. Things will change. Tomorrow is another day, and my life force muscle may be down, but it’s not out. Meanwhile, if you’re finding it hard to put one foot in front of the other right now, just know that you’re not alone.