Silver Linings – NZ Woman’s Weekly Column

23 Sep Silver Linings – NZ Woman’s Weekly Column

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28 September 2020…

Somewhere during those 102 Covid-free days, I expressed nostalgia for our Level 4 Lockdown. So yeah, it was probably me that jinxed it – though I met more than one person with a similarly rose-tinted backwards view.

We talked fondly of those five weeks in early autumn when we had sat very still while birds took over our gardens, or took government-mandated walks down the middle of our streets and spotted bears in other people’s windows. Shout-chats over the fence with neighbours, and finding time to sort through forgotten boxes. I found a recipe I’d been meaning to try ever since I clipped it out of the Listener in 1996 and used it so often it became a staple.

It is possible I also went a bit mad – my underwear drawer was as neatly arranged as a museum catalogue cabinet, and one day I vacuumed the dust off the top of the living room curtains. (There is a special brush for this, so don’t tell me it’s not a thing.) Insanity aside, as a secret introvert I relished not having to go out, and only putting my game-face on for the odd Zoom.

Thrown back into Level 3 last month, I worked hard at remembering those silver linings. The Lockdown I’d hankered for – and it was only a mild hanker – came with caveats: we’d know when it would start and finish, maybe a month tops once a year, and there’d be a guaranteed basic income to ease the fiscal terror. A kind of “paid annual leave” plus “enforced staycation” scenario.

That’s not, of course, how a viral pandemic works. A lot of us found this second round harder – a repeat disappointment that forces you to grasp that if a bad thing can happen more than once, it might happen any number of times, like the particular tragedy of a second failed marriage.

We are all in this together, but our lockdowns are different depending on whether you have kids to educate and entertain, a job you’re trying to do remotely, a business you’re trying to keep afloat, how full your pantry or bank account is when each alert level is announced, how far you live from the people you love, or how vulnerable you might be to the worst this virus can do.

As a freelance creative, I used to say – possibly with a fair bit of smug, sorry if you heard it – that the wide range of things I did gave me “income security”. Turns out – ha! – almost everything I do relies on large numbers of people being able to gather in a room, which is – ta da! – the very thing we cannot do. So for the second time this year, I watched the work vanish from my diary. Not just for this month, but for many months ahead – an August lockdown makes clients pretty leery of making plans for November, lest the gods laugh. I’ve made a spreadsheet (lord knows I have time) called “Lost to Covid” detailing cancelled and postponed gigs, with a running total of what they were worth. Keeping it updated is the financial equivalent of obsessively poking my tongue into a broken tooth.

So I do other things in between, finding the things that make me happy and calm my mind. As someone who was time-poor before I am trying to see myself as time-rich, and recalling all the things I wished I could do back when I was busy being busy. I bought stamps (yes, stamps!) at Level 2.5 so that when I think about someone I miss, or someone I should have said thank you to for some kindness, I can send them a letter (yes, a letter!) or a card.

Old-school in that respect but less of a Luddite in others. I have fallen madly in love with my kindle – bought for the overseas trip we couldn’t take in April – treasured now as a magic portal for every book in the world (or the ones available as e-books, anyway). I am really getting my money’s worth out of the cheap leggings I bought for no good reason in a sale three years ago, pulling them on in the morning on the off chance I might be moved to ride my bike before it’s time to put my pyjamas back on at night. And attempting to embrace the new normal with a modicum of flair by buying a range of face masks from a similarly underemployed but vastly more crafty friend so I can get all matchy-matchy with my outfits.

Most of all, though, I am promising myself never to take it for granted when we get the moments I am properly nostalgic for – being in a room with friends, or grandchildren, or total strangers. And yeah, trying not to descend into the kind of madness where it feels normal to vacuum the curtains.