It’s nearly a year since I wrote a COVID-19 post. I nearly wrote one a few months ago when things were going COVID-normal smoothly, by which I mean our lives were minimally restricted, with daily life being as free as we could hope given the world-wide situation. We (I mean we Ken Behrens) were visiting friends and family around Australia. We were dining out, going to the movies and theatre, playing sport, visiting museums and galleries, and so on. Gradually, even generous distancing rules had been removed. Certainly, we were not wearing masks. (We were, though, still sanitising and checking-in.) I wondered what I could say, given life in most other parts of the world was still comparatively more restricted. Life was generally pleasant.
But then, Delta made its way here and we were not prepared because we – for, mostly, political reasons – were too far behind in the “race” to vaccinate, and it left us exposed. Now, our two largest states, and my little Capital Territory, are locked down. It is the right thing, I believe, to prioritise health and life, equitably, while we get our vaccination levels up – but it’s not easy. It is in this environment that I remembered the inimitable Jane Austen’s suggestion that
It is well to have as many holds on happiness as possible. (Henry Tilney to Catherine Moreland, Northanger Abbey)
I thought to share some of my holds on happiness …
Only connect (EM Forster)
For most of us, the best “hold” is connecting with family and friends. Those who, like me, live with supportive others are lucky to at least have built-in company, but even we need some variety. It’s been said ad infinitum, but how lucky are we, compared to those who suffered through the Spanish Flu or the plague pandemics, in being able to remain in quality contact with others through WhatsApp, Telegram, FaceTime, Zoom, and so on.
For me, WhatsApp chats replacing a regular lunch with friends, FaceTime sessions with our son, his partner and our grandson, Zoom catch-ups and meetings, and emails, blogging, and common old phone calls with our daughter and others, are keeping me sane and connected. They can also provide some joy. Have you ever tried playing hide-and-seek via FaceTime with a three-year-old? It can be done!
Other connections come from regular visits to our local PO to get the mail. We love our local post office workers. And to cafes for takeaway coffee and food. We love our favourite cafe owners too!
‘Twill do me good to walk (Shakespeare)
If connecting with people is important, equally so is exercise. It distracts the mind, keep us fit and tires the body (which is a useful thing in a constrained life!) Fortunately, we are allowed to exercise outside, and for most of us that’s walking. In some jurisdictions some sports are also allowed, but Mr Gums and I don’t do organised sports.
So, for us, exercise comprises walking in the nature park across the road, gardening, joining our zoomed Tai Chi classes – and, for me, doing yoga via my Yoga With Adrienne app. (You can also find her on YouTube if you are interested. She is delightful, and a good if imperfect substitute for my own wonderful teacher/neighbour.)
The thing about these activities is that, besides being good for our minds and bodies, they provide structure to our days. Structure, we learnt pretty quickly, is important to getting through endless days that look the same. Each morning, we say, “what are we doing today?” and make a plan of action (or inaction, as it sometimes is.)
Indulge your imagination (Jane Austen)
Exercise might distract the mind, but the mind and spirit also need feeding, and again, technology is helping us out. Of course, there are books, and they are my mainstay, as they are for many others. But, most of us need more – whether this be movie outings with others, live music gigs and concerts, theatre, festivals of all persuasions – and it is these that have been so affected by COVID-19. However, it is also in these that technology has been best able to help (albeit not ideal).
It is also plague season again in London and the playhouses are shut. (Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet)
I don’t need to tell you about streamed movies. It seems that every time I turn around there’s a new service. I have no idea where to start with all that so, although we are a technologically-focused pair, we haven’t chosen one yet. There’s enough available on free-to-air so far to entertain and inform us, because if there’s one thing we’ve been doing, it’s been keeping informed.
I have written in previous Living with COVID-19 posts about online writers’ events. I haven’t attended many recently, but I did join the ACT Writers Centre F*ck Covid afternoon (and have written about that.) The participants included established and emerging writers, and they were so generously open and articulate about their work and practice.
We have also attended webinars (including one with Jenny Hocking about the Palace Letters, which is well worth listening to) and online and streamed concerts from Musica Viva and the ABC. This short video link featuring recorder player Genevieve Lacey and harpist Marshall Maguire will give you a taste of one concert we “attended”.
We have passed up so many other opportunities. If there’s one thing about this lockdown, it’s that the arts world has done its best to stay alive and to reach out to us in whatever way they can. I can’t wait to give back by attending their shows and applauding their efforts – in person! I just hope they can all survive until then.
Meanwhile, wherever you are, how are you surviving? How is life looking in your place?