The other day I noticed that I wasn’t the only person who was tired. We’re all emotionally exhausted. If life were the same as it usually is, this is when we’d take time off and maybe even go on holiday.
I wrote those sentences then my thoughts led me into talking about how holidays are affected even for those who can still take them and I realised… one of the reasons we’re so tired is because there’s no escape form the pandemic. I’m in iso. As long as I am in iso, I’m safe. It should be simple, really. I should be shut off from the emotional fatigue. But it isn’t. And I’m not.
This is the moment I need to call forth my promise to myself.
Life has been challenging for me for a few years now, and I told myself that if I was going to continue to have garbage thrown at me, I was going to turn it into fertiliser and grow the best garden. When I remember this, the exhaustion takes a step back. Let me make some fertiliser right now.
I like lists of ten, so I’m going to list ten things that make life that much easier when one is Gillian in a pandemic.
1. Soft material. I use an amazingly soft blanket to snuggle in, and every time I do this I fight the long time alone.
2. Basic dance exercise. Keeps my body capable, even when I can’t go outside for weeks on end and things hurt. Also means I can fling my arms around flambuoyantly.
3. Chocolate. I don’t need to explain chocolate.
4. Other peoples’ stories. Books and TV and streaming services – when things get too much I can dig a hole in someone else’s world and only emerge when I want to. I choose to call this fairy tale groundhogging, for I found a Cinderella film last night and it took me right back to the days when there were solutions to problems. Now… not so many solutions, but I’m still allowed to dream.
5. World building. I finished writing a novel and the next one is a while off for I have to build a world. This gives me so many excuses to delve into intellectual places I normally don’t have enough time for. Six months I have, to delve. Maybe a year. To imagine a different world. Then I find a few people in that world and I write about them, but this deep level of world building is such a good place to be. I have a giant piece of paper on the back of the door, I have two notebooks… and this time I’m auctioning off place names to raise money for SF fans to meet each other. The geography of my three new countries will give a bunch of people what the world building does me: a feeling of being in contact with others at a time when… we aren’t so much.
6. Cooking. Today I intend to cook enough curries to last me one meal a day until after the weekend. Cooing calms me right down. I also talk to myself. When I’m in the middle of a novel, I might talk to my characters or argue with my plot. While other writers pen more drafts… I cook.
7. Online conferences. I can turn the vision off (so no-one sees me in my PJs) and listen to academics talk about their fascinating research while I do those stretches and gentle exercise and fling my arms around. A university professor says something that changes my own research or is important to my writing, so I stop in the middle of a paper and race to my desk and take notes. Free online academic conferences are the best form of academic training or updating for writers. I can break down stereotypes and I can learn how coin hoards change the way we see a place and its coinage and I can be reminded of the Welsh triads. Right now my world building is dominated by what I recently learned about Celtic Law because the experts in that law were handily on my computer.
8. The capacity to lose my temper without hurting anyone. Let’s face it, to only see two or three people in real life over a period of months is not an emotionally good place to be in. Chronic illness and iso leave me ready to snap when someone tells me off for being ill, or who thinks it’s a privilege to be single and of my age and alone. I lose my temper to myself, privately, then turned the garbage into fertiliser and asked everyone to think about chatting with me on Zoom. And now I have friends around me from a distance and I’d love to say I never lost my temper directly at anyone in achieving this, I’d love it if that side of things was very private… but I only lost that temper once in anyone else’s presence. Things are not easy for any of us. We often only see the good things in the lives of others because it’s so important to get through things. Having space to lose my temper and to curse the world and to move past it and regain civilisation is a lovely luxury.
9. I own the shell of an emu egg. It looks like a large, speckled avocado, but it’s an emu egg and it’s mine. My next dream is cook with the other parts of an emu egg, but that’s harder to achieve. Another dream is to paint emu eggs, but I’m not good at painting and the egg shells are not cheap. Painting is easier to achieve in the US, where emus are farmed. My egg comes from an emu that was never constrained and constricted and (given emus) quite possibly bullied children. I was bullied by emus as a child. And now I have an egg.
10. I can take moments to ponder the important questions. My important question at this precise moment is whether other places have birds that bully in the way emus do. We also have cassowaries, but I’ve never met one because they’re far more dangerous than emus. And we have magpies that swoop. It’s swooping season right now, in fact, and I’m safe inside and cannot be got. I wish I could see a person on a bike, with a mask to protect from COVID-19 and a helmet studded with spines to protect against magpies. In fact, I wish I had a picture and could make postcards with funny comments.
This post was brought to you by a way-too-early swooping season and by an emu’s egg.