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Cancellation culture: Two years of no-plan plans has changed us.

Bing. Easter hat parade. 

Brrrr. Cross-country run. 

Beep. Best mate's birthday dinner. 

Ping. Football training. 

Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled.

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Weekend away with visiting family? Flooded out. 

Lunch with girlfriends? Three in iso, best reschedule. 

My daughter signed up for AFL four weeks ago. Hasn't pulled on a boot yet. COVID. Rain. COVID. Rain. 

My son spent all last night making a deeply strange Easter bonnet - a maniacal bunny sitting on the crown of his head. Super proud. This morning? Listless, pale, feverish. Benched.

How's your Easter looking? Third year in a row we're heading into it thinking - maybe? Maybe the holidays will happen. Maybe we'll get to go to that place we booked to do that thing we planned to do with those people we wanted to see.

Small potatoes, these things, in the scheme of the world and everything in it. In the face of the new, true horror of war, and of homes drowning in suffocating mud. In the face of 16 Australian women dead at the hands of men who were meant to love them. In the face of loved ones lost to this damned pandemic, and to hacking coughs and fainting fevers and countless people still grappling with never-ending lingering fatigue. 

Still. It all adds up, this inability to count on anything. It messes with our heads. 

It tempts us not to plan at all. To hide from the things that probably won't happen anyway. What's the point? As Ted Lasso was shocked to hear: after all, it's the hope that kills you. 

Best, perhaps, not to hope. Not to dream about that holiday, not to book tickets. Not to accept that invitation. Not to ask those people round. 

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My son is young enough that he doesn't really remember pre-pandemic times. Not really. So he only shrugs when the birthday party doesn't happen, when 'home' is always the default venue and someone's always missing from everything. 

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But my daughter? She rails against it, still. Every cancelled plan is a small devastation. "Why does nothing good ever happen?" "Why do we never get to have any fun?" "But we HAVE TO GO!"

Of course, these things aren't true. My privileged girl has plenty of fun. Good things live in her friends, the fridge, in her phone, in her house, at her school, wagging its tail in the form of our dog. But she's an adolescent, so over-dramatising is her duty. 

What about the rest of us? 

For some, "normal" has returned and we are facing it, changed and grateful, starving for fun. Weddings every weekend. Travel plans. Office days. Brunchy catch-ups for anyone with one line, not two. 

But right now, if you're in a major city or a flood-affected region or you're a teacher or a nurse or you work facing actual people, nothing is truly "normal". If you've done the rolling iso dance of family members staggering their positive tests and keeping you locked up for weeks. If you're vulnerable to getting smacked harder than most by this "mild" strain of virus, if you haven't seen a blue sky and a dry streak in months, if you're tired of re-drawing routines that are only ever torn to tatters. Well, you're living in Cancellation Culture. And it's unsettling here, still.

There used to be a quiet pleasure in a cancelled plan. In a quiet week. In embracing the blank spaces on the calendar. "Busy" had become our default status, and it was grinding us down. But what we've learned in two years and counting is that burnout didn't go away when busy did. That stress still sits in a pause. That a different kind of exhaustion comes with uncertainty.

We keep prepping for re-entry, talking and planning and drawing new boundaries. And we keep having those strategies upended, in an entirely predictable, unpredictable way. New variant. Climate emergency. Weather event. New new variant. 

I really want to go to my son's Easter hat parade. That's not a sentence I ever planned on writing.

 I really want my daughter to get her football boots muddy. 

I really want to see my great friend's face beaming in the glow of her birthday candles. 

I really want to have Easter camping with my old friends and a mob of kids who are growing like weeds. Covid kids, who are used to uncertainty, untrusting of promises. 

I really hope we get to do all of that. And you do, too. 

But it's best not to count on it, right? 

Image: Supplied.

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