Long time, no type …

Yes, I know. It’s been a few weeks.

I don’t feel as though I have any one good excuse but when I reflect on all the stuff that’s going on, I realise there’s a lot of low-level of second order stress going on in the background.

One friend had surgery and the recovery wasn’t quite the seamless deal he’d been promised. The same week, his mother-in-law had a heart attack.

Another friend lost her grandchild suddenly.

My in-laws are a source of many conversations as we try to understand the increased but not identical needs they are developing as they age.

Sydney (including Wollongong) is involved in another COVID outbreak so we’re once again unable to plan more than a few hours ahead, which makes it impossible to sort out a practical way to get to Queensland to see if we can assist with the above. Nor can I pull the trigger on a quick overnight stay in Sydney to see a mate and a show. In fact, at this point, I’m not even sure I’ll get to the show in Corrimal Jamie and I are booked to see on Saturday night!

Fingers crossed …

Child the Elder has finished Uni and transitioned to the workforce but we still have no details of her graduation ceremony (a month away) and she’s trying to ignore some tests her doctor has recommended. Child the Younger has been on placement in a school and managed to get sick and miss a few days. One of the South American children has had a COVID case in her household and sounds very much to my lay ear as though she’s had it, too.

UOW-Shoalhaven. Photo: Chris Hadley

And then there’s yesterday’s Barnaby Joyce news.

Post-Turtle

Against this backdrop, there’s been a lot going on at work. Last week, UOW-Shoalhaven hosted a regional campus planning day. Next week, the new VC is running (COVID permitting!) a 2-day planning event as a reset for the institution. And visiting the first of the regional campuses. Again, COVID permitting.

We got the band back together!

So all of that is why I have been feeling tired and generally quite grumpy and not very type-y.

I am working on it.

I have a couple of Physio appointments booked. I’m trying to plan for some nice things to do during our next SAL (unpaid leave) week. I’m on Day 3 of re-establishing my morning pages habit. I actually only do two pages rather than the recommended three, but in rather lovely kikki.K journals. (When the store went into receivership last year I bought up big on these and had them all monogrammed, just in case. I have several years’ worth stored away, so I’m missing out on new seasonal colours, but I’m sure I can cope with that).

At some point I will re-institute my morning walk but for now, I’m just trying to be kinder to myself. Which includes not beating myself up if a blog post meanders with very little purpose … Sorry.

On Not Travelling

**Content warning: Suicidality, bushfires

Today was the worst Coronavirus day on record in Victoria. Again. The NSW Premier announced tougher border restrictions (anyone coming in from Vic now has to go into supervised hotel quarantine at their own expense), and the QLD Premier announced tougher border restrictions heading North, as well. Apparently the whole of NSW is now a “hot spot.” Which is kind of darkly humorous, because while places like Bunnings and Maccas are masking up, the State government is still taking a “meh … if you feel like it … you can” approach to face coverings.

Now, I had no intentions of taking a wee trip at all, but with one best mate in Vancouver, two in Vic, and one in Tassie, as well as elderly and frequently hospitalised in-laws in Queensland, the thought of not being able to pull some cash from the Emergency Fund and get myself to a place of usefulness should I need to, is not at all pleasant.

Apart from not physically being able to travel, I’m also “not travelling well” at the moment. This morning we had a very long meeting of all the folks who have been awarded Global Challenges funding relating the the rolling crises on the South Coast, and began to figure out how the researchers and regional campuses will work together on these projects. Now, this is generally a very good thing, and it’s very exciting to hear people who really care trying to make a positive difference to our people and communities. But lots of talk about being careful not to re-traumatise community members impacted by the bushfires can be a little re-traumatising in and of itself, if you were in fact one of the community members impacted.

This coalesced with a couple of other thing with which I sometimes struggle- and here’s where the content warning really kicks in, so if you need to protect yourself, please do a better job than I unwittingly have the last few days.

So a while back I got a revise and resubmit on a pop culture/disability paper where I got “Reviewer 2ed”–and one of their criticisms was that I argued that multi-(mental illness) diagnosis households are rare onscreen. And so they cited Please Like Me as also having one. So I dutifully over-compensated and watched the series in its entirety. And it does, for quite a small fraction of time, have two housemates who met as in-patients in a private facility. Rose is played by Debra Lawrance (known to many Australians as the second Pippa from Home and Away) and Netflix breakout star Hannah Gadsby plays her roomie, also named Hannah. And (Spoiler Alert – in case you’re like me and haven’t yet seen it, and are, like me, silly enough to watch it without first Googling it) despite the character of Rose having multiple suicide attempts as a major part of her narrative, I was blindsided when her son found her body in one of the very final episodes.

I watched it yesterday.

Suicide onscreen upsets me enormously and my family are all very aware of how much it unsettles me, and why. They are also aware that I am more sensitive at two distinct times of the year: around Australia Day, and right around now. And sometimes we forget why I’m grumpy and unsettled and then look at the calendar and realise. You see, today would have been my better-than-best friend’s 48th birthday, and he died at his own hand in late January when we were both 23.

The “better than best” is an old in-joke of ours. It started when I went to Japan on student exchange, back in 1990. You see, I’m so old that back when I went on student exchange, we had to communicate by mail. And people who’d been through the experience before us would always warn that you’d have a very special letter-writing friend, and it wouldn’t be your “best” friend. And so it was that my “best” friend wrote like twice the whole year I was away, but this very quiet guy who used to hang with our group sometimes and whom I sat next to in roll call, surprised and delighted me by writing hilarious and detailed letters at least once a fortnight. I still have them. His name was Jamie, and he’s the reason our daughter is named Jamie.

I still miss him terribly, and I worry about sharing the story. I try to be careful to only tell my bit, and not encroach on the grief of his family (who have been absolutely wonderful to both our Jamie and her brother alike). But today, as always, he is very much loved and remembered. And I’m going to try show myself some kindness and compassion over the next day or two — the way he did.