wellness

"I booked flights interstate on Monday. Then I had a meltdown."

I had a meltdown on Monday night.

Yes, I had a meltdown at this time of year, where I should be festive! And happy! And ready to celebrate!

Because whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the end of year period is normally a cracking time in Australia – or at least, I can say, in Melbourne, where I call home. 

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The sun is usually out, the drinks are flowing and good food abounds. The energy is light and bright and buzzing. Work is winding up, and we excitedly share our plans to go away. Or if staying more local, we sit on sidewalks at sundown, nursing an Aperol spritz and sharing a plate. We hit the beach (okay, fine, the bay), and whether you care for tennis or not, the city hums with anticipation as it begins to shift gears for the Australian Open. 

But best of all, we find the time to spend the time – together. Whether it’s with family, friends or colleagues at a Christmas party.

And my God, after the catastrophic shmozzle that’s been the past two years - and counting – tell me if there is anything sweeter than this?

Yes, we’re ready to let our hair down. Hell, we’ve been ready since we were double jabbed, and congratulated for doing our bit in early November. And still, we have crawled to the finish line of 2021. It wasn't sexy, but we made it and we’re here.

So, why the meltdown now, you ask?

Image: Supplied.

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My partner found out he’d be getting a few days off work, and they coincided with mine. Flights were cheaper than usual, and we reminded each other that yes, it’s been a while since we’ve had something to really look forward to, and yes, we really need a proper break after the year that’s been, and wouldn’t it be amazing to go to our special place in Queensland? Yes, book the flights quickly, before we miss out, although I’m not entirely sure it is a good idea, because what if, but quickly… 

And we booked. 

Over the following few hours, the headlines of dread amped up and continued to pop up on my phone, and that now-too-familiar queasy feeling gripped my stomach. 

What the hell have we done?

Omicron. Shorter booster intervals. Traveller cancellations. Queues for hours for PCR tests. Delayed PCR test results. Numbers surging. 

Did we really need to go now? To what risk are we exposing ourselves (and potentially our loved ones), and all just because we wanted to walk on the beach (yes, a real beach, not the bay)? How selfish! It was just meant to be a nice, few days in Queensland! Have we done the wrong thing?

And I used to be decisive. 

I promise you, I definitely was not this person.

But then again, I’m not entirely sure that I really know who this Rebecca is, two years into a pandemic – and maybe it’s time I acknowledge she exists, and we get acquainted…

This version of me who prefers a quiet dinner with a few, than a party with lots (okay to be fair, that was always me – but now I absolutely cannot with the party. And was I always this sensitive to noise?). 

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This me who has to work really hard to maintain a conversation IRL, because did I always have to concentrate this hard?

And when needing to go somewhere – anywhere – deliberates over the location, time and risk with Einstein-like precision thinking. Must. Not. Get. Pinged. 

via GIPHY

This me who when queuing, mindfully calculates the distance between me and the next person, and where was this spatial awareness in Year 9 maths? 

This me who cries instantly in a movie that really isn’t that sad; and 3,2,1, that’s precisely the time it takes for my temper to give rise too.

This me gets easily overwhelmed by… well… basically anything. 

That feels the need to loudly announce ,“Gee, my hayfever is bad today” when she sneezes in a public place.

This me who every time she has waited for the results of a PCR test, goes from being chill to totally convinced that yes indeed, I have COVID, and can I still smell coffee?

And bloody hell Rebecca, please just make a decision!

Yeah, COVID-me is a lot (and suddenly I have greater clarity as to why I really did feel the need to book that little holiday…).

Because it’s all being so draining. We've been operating in this elevated state for two years, and just when we thought we were oh-so-near to normal, here we are: Still ducking and weaving and isolated from milestones and many of the “regular” everyday moments we took for granted - like the simple joy of living relatively carefree, without having to remember a clean mask and sanitiser every time we leave home.

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The reserves are depleted. We are exhausted. 

And as we edge into the festive period, where the pressure for reflection, perfection and progress mounts, I'm realising that we cannot hold ourselves to the same pre-pandemic standards and expectations. I’m reminded of the words I have told so many of my loved ones since COVID – you have to go easy on yourself. More kindness, less judgement. 

More kindness –

If you haven’t had the time or energy or inclination to make Christmas what you imagined, that's okay. 

If you don't feel like you're going to be the life of the party this year, that's okay too.

And if you're self-conscious of your ‘COVID kilos’ (you shouldn't be, but I hear you!), that's also okay.

And extend that kindness to the friend that you haven’t heard from for a while, and the worker who has been charged with the task of telling you the queue for testing has closed; or the air host who reminds you to pull up your mask.

Oh, and if you are devoid of headspace for defining your goals for 2022 or a new year’s resolution (urgh!), that’s more than okay too. 

Because to look ahead, you must know who you are now. And as the pre and post COVID versions of ourselves continue to collide and adapt, that may not be so clear. Much like many of my pants, what ideas and values and actions once served us, may no longer quite fit.

So, less judgment.

Of ourselves, and those around us too.

Because we’re all struggling in our own way, and trying to figure it out as we go, looking to find perspective, a new balance.

And I’ll let you know if I find mine in Queensland.

Feature Image: Supplied.