Dealing with the unfamiliar in Lockdown #2

Melbourne emerged from a 10-week lockdown designed to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections on 1 June 2020. Life was starting to resemble something akin to normal, when a friend commented over (a socially distant) lunch that she felt like we were walking along a beach, admiring how calm the water was, not realising there was a tsunami on the way. I’ve thought about that comment several times since the second wave of infections hit, sending us back into lockdown again after less than six weeks. And a hard lockdown at that. As of Monday 3 August, we are on Stage 4 restrictions. Limited to travelling in a five kilometre radius of home and only for approved activities, subject to a curfew from 8pm-5.30am, and required to wear a mask whenever we leave the house. As Anna Spargo-Ryan points out, ‘it’s worse this time‘. Her theory: ‘It’s not just that the actual figures are scarier. We used up our energy getting through the first round, had the fixed timeline in our heads and allocated resources accordingly. We didn’t realise (or denied, anyway) we would need to keep some in reserve.’

Like Anna, I believed that if we did the right thing the first time around, we would now be on the other side of this pandemic. In Lockdown #2, I’m finding it harder to hope that doing our best is enough to make a difference. The uncertainty is killing my creativity. For me, to create — at least, to write — means moving away from the familiar to the unfamiliar and not backing away when things get tough. To sit with the discomfort. To reflect. To find a way through. (Kim Wilkins speaks eloquently about this in her TEDx talk, Creativity in the Age of Distraction).

But at this moment, everyday life is unfamiliar. We are isolated in our immediate family unit. Our freedom of movement is drastically curtailed. Small things we took for granted — spending time with friends, going to bars and cafes, walking along a beach, walking anywhere without having to wear a mask — are not permitted, and its hard to see through to a time when they will be possible again. How can I wade into unfamiliar territory in order to write, when unfamiliar territory is where I’m currently living?

Instead, I find comfort in reading, crafting and cooking: small, achievable tasks that allow me to add in some small way to the sum total of happiness in bleak times. Following on from my Literary Birds initiative, I’ve branched out from knitting to crochet, and from birds to beasts, making critters inspired by my reading. Recent pairings include Meg Mundell’s eerily prescient and compelling novel The Trespassers with a young kraken from Genuine Mudpie; and Thuy On’s stunning poetry collection Turbulence with Kate Wood’s gorgeous, koi-like Fancy Goldfish Amigurumi. I have a quite few more pairings in mind, notwithstanding a brief hiatus to knit a beanie for my beloved (inspired by the one worn by Stanley Baker in The Guns of Navarone).

Given at least six weeks in hard lockdown, I might end up with a whole menagerie!

In other news, my Yarra Valley Writers Festival book club session with Brook Powell and Michael Veitch is available to watch here. I greatly enjoyed the chance to talk about my novel Mother of Pearl with both the hosts and participants, and appreciated all the thoughtful questions and comments.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel, Mother of Pearl, is published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing and currently works as CEO of Writers Victoria.
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8 Responses to Dealing with the unfamiliar in Lockdown #2

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    That’s such a well-taken point, Angela! It’s an entirely different feeling when we don’t know what things will be like, how long hard lockdown will last, etc… There’s so much uncertainty that it’s very hard to focus and stay on track. I think lots of us are finding solace in cooking, crafting, film streaming, TV show binges, and those sorts of ‘comfort’ things. Sending good wishes for you and your family. Stay safe. We will get through this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. FictionFan says:

    Your way of dealing with it is considerably better than mine – obsessive news watching. I spent many years working in health care administration, part of which was planning for just this kind of eventuality so I have a kind of morbid interest in seeing where those plans succeeded and where they failed. But I have confidence that all our health systems are urgently planning for delivery of the coming vaccine, a thing they all know how to do very well – may it be soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have a stronger stomach than me, FF, if you can manage obsessive news watching. My partner warns me against obsessively checking online news—aka ‘doom scrolling’—and I have to say, I feel better when I tune out. I hope you’re right about a vaccine, though I suspect life will never be the same even if/when we have it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kathy D. says:

    When the pandemic began and afterwards, I have watched news obsessively, read the NY Times and Guardian and Worldometers, which gives global statistics on the pandemic. I’m not checking the statistics frequently anymore. I wasn’t accomplishing anything, not even reading for awhile, only playing card games online and reading blogs. Then I guess I got used to the situation. Have food delivered. Buy books. Read Susie Steiner’s excellent “Remain Silent.” Read “Mother of Pearl,” which got me thinking. Read some other books I’ve had for awhile. But no house-cleaning, cooking or such. And I’m not crafty, at least no in the artistic sense. Friends are knitting, crocheting and quilting. An old friend is going to nature preserves nearby and walking, masked, with one friend. Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy, it sounds like you have some good coping mechanisms in place — such a relief to find yourself reading again. I have to admit this is one activity that has remained constant for me, more so than writing. And I agree with the benefits of walking in nature — it’s a bit part of my mental health strategy, though I struggle with the mask-wearing. Take care of yourself and I hope you continue to find great reads to keep you company.

      Like

  4. Mrs P. says:

    Thinking of you, Angela. The way the numbers are rising in the UK, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same happens here, and am already mentally bracing myself. It sounds like you have some really good strategies in place for getting through this phase as best you can – love the orange fishy! I’m a knitter, and that’s given me some solace in the past few months – that lovely, calming, repetitive sequence of moves…

    I’ve found dipping into familiar blogs all around the world to be a great boon as well. I really value keeping up those links, and am so grateful that we still have these online points of connection. Sending all best wishes to you and your family x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for that lovely message, Mrs P. Always a pleasure to find a fellow knitter in my networks. I agree with you about the meditative element. I also appreciate the sense of achievement that comes from being able to start and finish a project within a relatively short period of time. And, like you, I am relieved that the pandemic has occurred at a time when technology allows us to stay connected. That said, there’s not much fun in lockdown. I do hope you can avoid it in the UK. Warmest wishes to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

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