Wednesday 19 August 2020

The second hand unwinds...

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick, and think of... libraries.

Damn it.

Flashback a day to Friday.

I break. Rendered pretty much useless. At the end of the day, I tell my partner that I just wanted to go to bed and sleep for two weeks. The signs were there. I'd been feeling them growing for days, weeks, months. Time accumulating - without space and without time out.

Flashback more than ten months to October, 2019. I am in Hobart for a conference. Which, incidentally, is the last thing I blogged about. Mum calls from Melbourne. It's Dad. Cancer. She's optimistic - they're doing amazing things with immunotherapy these days.

Flashforward ten weeks. He's gone. We clean out his study. I take a bound copy of his PhD, because god knows we all paid for it through those years. We cancel the overseas holiday, and Christmas is quiet, caring family time instead.

By the time my partner and I return to Canberra, everything is on fire. We watch the news, as houses not far from my partner's house in the country are reduced to nothing, and flames come over the hills.

Flashforward two months. I've quit my ongoing public service job. In hindsight, it seemed like a rash decision, but all I knew was that I needed a change, and there was an opportunity to do something different. Be creative. Learn new skills. It was the right decision.

Flashforward one month. COVID-19. Working from home is a hell of a way to learn a new job. No getting to know your colleagues, so that you can figure out how everybody works. Cursing the remote access to the work server that keeps crashing. Completely failing to separate work time from home time. Social media time slowly becomes more of an extension of work time. When it's my turn to run Zoom meetings, I keep them short and sweet. April and May seem to go on forever.

Flashforward to June. Restrictions are relaxing. Everybody is being defiantly nonchalant, since we've flattened the curve, and there's hardly any active cases in Canberra, so what's the big fucking deal, just give me my coffee in my KeepCup and not a non-recyclable paper cup. We're still trying to save the planet, right? I have a weekend of abdominal pain, and for a few hours I have an unshakable paranoia that it's cancer. I wonder when we'll be able to visit Melbourne again, to help my mum finish cleaning out the house. I try not to take any vague criticism sent my way personally, but usually fail. I decide to delete my Twitter app - I need to find time to disconnect, so I announce that "I am taking a hiatus for the winter." Wanker.

It's the uncomfortable calm in the eye of the storm.

July. Return to work full-time in the office. New outbreaks in Melbourne. I check daily for the inevitable spread of cases to Canberra which never come. August. Lockdown. Borders close. Canberra is declared a 'hotspot' by Queensland, and everybody laughs.. I get into a shitfight on the internet, because I think it's ridiculous that partnered swing dancing classes have started again when it's only a matter of time before we have our second wave. I feel awful because, actually, all I really want to do is dance with somebody.

I find myself logging back into Twitter. I engage, regret... engage, regret. The communities that I care so much about, but also microcosms of intensity that suck out all my emotional energy. Especially libraries. I go to the shops, and there's Father's Day shit everywhere. Time after time.

Deadlines loom. Frustrations grow. Setbacks occur.

Friday. I break. Despite wanting to sleep, not a lot happens. My mind races. I think about how I would be in Dublin right now, in an alternate university, rather than preparing for a midnight Zoom meeting, which is hardly a substitute. I can't sleep I think about my work, and libraries, and Library People, and Twitter. Repeat. Repeat. I decide that this is not healthy, and proceed to unfollow all of the Library People on Twitter. I realise that it's more than half the people I was following.

I wonder how all this is what my life has become.


It's a new week now. I know that I need to make some changes.

I need to find more time, take more time, and manage it all better. My pre-COVID life meant regularly getting out and about, engaging in activities that took my mind away from work and libraries. Now that those activities are off the table for now, I need to be better disciplined with my time, so I don't end up in just one bubble that acts as a feedback loop that amplifies all my anxieties and desperation to try to fix all of the things.

I need to learn to switch all of that stuff off. Seriously.

I've applied for some leave. I was putting it off, because I've always only saved my my leave to go away travelling. But perhaps a staycation is exactly what I need. I have a lot of good books to read.

I don't regret socially distancing from what was a major source of angst, particularly on Twitter, but I do regret the way I did it. It shouldn't have come to that point, and people got hurt. Sometimes it is better just to fade away, at least on social media, I guess.

I want to visit Melbourne again. I spoke to my mum this evening, and she told me that two of her colleagues in the hospital were recently tested positive for COVID-19. She laughed about it. I didn't.

The world is not okay right now.

It will be again. And then it won't, again. Time after time.