wellness

"I can't watch the news anymore." This week, I'm absolutely done with the COVID mental load.

"Keys, school bags, lunches. Set to go... Sh*t! I forgot my mask!" This happens every day.

I used to hate the morning routine. The craziness of preparing my four children to leave the house. 

The school lunches, the screaming involved in trying to untangle hair, the lost shoes. Now it’s become my favourite part of the day.

I love the chaos. The routine. Having a place to be at a certain time. 

My life in Melbourne lockdown had become completely unstructured. Suspended in time, we were just living in limbo for months. I would wake filled with dread of all the hours I once again had to find ways to fill.

Watch: When Daniel Andrews announced easing of restrictions. Post continues below.


Video via Sky News

Finally, we have been offered relief. We are starting to travel on the roadmap out, There is hope for the return to "COVID normal".

The rainbow is seemingly beginning to emerge from behind the dark clouds. So why do I still feel so drained? Why does it feel like the cloak of darkness still looms? 

I’m privileged. I’m healthy. No one I know directly has been affected by the virus and yet I can’t shake the heaviness and exhaustion from my mind. The negative thoughts and an internalised terror looms in the background. Like a quiet hum. A lingering foul aftertaste of the past few months.

I sat quietly and tried to decipher the feelings I was wading through. Why don't I feel more excited? 

More than anything I think it’s because of the vast difference between "COVID normal" and normal. 

That’s why I love the hectic morning routine. Because it’s the only time of my day when life feels normal. When my mind is so filled with mundane tasks like remembering what goes in each sandwich that I don’t think about the daily numbers or the virus. It’s the only time where my mind is given a brief respite from the COVID mental load.

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As soon as I step outside I’m bombarded with markers of COVID's presence. The heat from my breath beneath my mask. The crosses marked on the ground for people stand upon at the local coffee shop.

Watching my children use their elbows to press the button to cross the road. (A habit so ingrained they now audibly gasp when they see someone use their hand.)

The suitable distance I must stand from their school as I wave goodbye and watch their temperatures being taken.

The constant familiar strong chemical smell of hand sanitiser upon entering a shop. The faces I stare at.

The clues I search for to decipher someone’s attitude.

I wonder if that person really is smiling, or if the wrinkles around their eyes are merely etched in memory of frequent smiles and laughter from years passed. 

I then look at my phone. I immediately turn off the news updates and switch to the distraction of social media. I see my interstate friends without masks gathering and clinking wine glasses together. I feel a familiar stab of jealousy but I tap the little heart and give them a like because I don’t want to seem petty. Also, I don’t want to be forgotten. 

I don’t watch the news anymore but everywhere and everything has become about COVID. We are saturated and drenched in it all. That’s what the weight on my shoulders is. The COVID mental load. 

The thoughts about how to hold my daughter's birthday party.

How to position chairs when you do gather. How to desperately stifle an innocent cough to avoid the inevitable dark looks. 

The constant hand washing. Checking locations before ordering online to calculate the shipping times. Sanitising packaging.

The constant thinking ahead, because spontaneous plans have become a thing of the past. Checking in with friends and family. 

The conversation continually looping back to the same script. "Wow, 2020 can you believe this?" "Did you see the numbers today?"

Opinions and politics are higher on the conversation agenda than they have ever been. We have suddenly become acutely aware how large a role government regulations can play in our day to day lives. I'm suddenly debating politics with strangers in the street. 

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia's podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.

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My urge to move on from it all is so intense. To invent a time machine and go backwards or forwards. Anywhere from this same ongoing conversation. 

It’s no coincidence that shows about mindless Parisian sex and men falling in love with octopuses are trending. It’s the same reason I’m just re-watching episodes of Friends and Gilmore Girls

Our brains need junk food. Frivolous, ridiculous comfort food. A break from the COVID mental load. 

I know how serious this virus is. I know it has decimated lives and crippled business. I know it has brought entire countries to their knees and continues to wreak mass destruction.

It has been a great teacher and I hope we don’t forget the lessons it has provided. Lessons that will shape a better world going forward. A kinder world. A more considered and thoughtful world. 

We have learnt just how quickly lives can change and how not to take things for granted.

I hope these lessons are not forgotten in our haste to return to our lives. 

But at the moment I really just want to change the f***ing subject. I want to gather with a group of friends in the sun with a glass of wine and not once think about social distancing or hygiene standards. I want to bask in my privilege and frivolity. For my mind to be completely switched off from the COVID mental load. 

I want COVID to become like a toxic ex boyfriend. 

In the wise words of Taylor Swift, "I forgot that you existed. It isn't love, it isn't hate. It's just indifference."

I am craving indifference. To flip the switch.

There's only so much repetition a person can take. Only so much caution you can stand before you start fantasising about hugging strangers and licking poles. 

This time has been eye opening and soul crushing. It has been life changing. It has been so big whilst making us become so small. It has been repetitive and exhausting.

I have continually asked the questions, How long? What are the symptoms? What can I do? How can I help? Are you ok? Have you washed that??

Now all I want to ask is… Can we change the subject? 

Feature image: Supplied.

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