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Seeing a COVID world from Melbourne

This pandemic whilst global, has a very real impact on us locally. Alexis Martin shares here her perspective on living in a COVID Melbourne, Australia.

I can honestly say I was glad to see the back of 2019. Considering it not my finest.  I had turned 50 with a big themed party planned.  DJ, Dress Up, Gin Bar, the whole shebang. Only to be diagnosed with Breast Cancer 2 months prior.  I completed treatment successfully and looked with hope towards 2020……

The Christmas/January bushfires hit Victoria and NSW hard. Loss of life, devastating loss of properties and wildlife that just kept on going and going.  Thick smoke caked the air all day every day and an ominous darkness or red pall covered the landscape. These were unprecedented fires and times. There was fear throughout the country.

Except in Melbourne. We enjoyed a cool but clean-aired summer. Beach days and family outings remained unabated aside from a lingering concern for those effected by the fires. We saw Australian mateship at its finest. Millions of dollars were raised in support of those affected. People rallied around and volunteered clothing, food, shelter, you name it to help the victims of these devastating bushfires.

Just a month later, another disaster struck.  This time in the form of a Global Pandemic.  Covid 19 had arrived…… This disaster was different, however. Gone the very best of humanity.  Gone the generosity, empathy, the sense of togetherness. In its place a new kind of fear. This new fear pitted people against each other. Fighting in supermarket aisles for of all things, toilet paper.  Shelves were stripped bare of essential items. Noone was looking out for the elderly, the vulnerable or those in need.  It was every man for himself. It was as ugly as it was primal. The world it seemed, had finally gone mad.  Doomsday at its best.

This new fear pitted people against each other. Fighting in supermarket aisles for of all things, toilet paper. 

Australia shut her borders, both internationally and domestically. We were ordered to stay inside our homes and only leave for essential food, work or exercise.  The streets were eerily bare of cars. The large shopping centres empty of people. Panic had driven people indoors.  Job losses were extraordinary and profound.  These were again, unprecedented times.  My husband and I run an event company that relies on large crowds of 1000 plus.  All scheduled for the first half of the year. By March, our business had closed for the foreseeable future. Our income dried up. Our 12 year old twin girls now at home joining my husband and I. The girls the only ones actively busy with their virtual classroom commitments.

I went into an emotional freefall. Panic gripped me. Our house, car, schooling, future all at risk. The girls had just begun high school, I had left their primary school with all the known comforts that years of familiarity brings. Our business had ceased. I didn’t understand high school and the girls didn’t need me. By 8.30am when they logged onto school – my work for the day was done.  It was a scary empty and redundant feeling that pulled me into a crying and bitter heap for around 2 weeks.  Surrounded by friends whose businesses were booming, I felt alone and lost.  Friends whinged about how busy they were – without appreciating that they had income, a role to play and could ride this out even within the walls of their home.  I had been a stay at home mum – working on our business part time for well over a decade. I couldn’t just pivot into a new role or job. I was scared.

My home, the hub of our lives: work, school, zoom calls

But this sense of identity loss didn’t last too long. Melbourne was enjoying a late summer. Everyone now confined to their homes, found themselves out on the street. I have never seen our streets so busy with pedestrians. Walking their dogs, taking the kids for bike rides and exercising in the late summer sun. For me it has been a wonderful time.  I have actually spent more time getting to know our neighbours as we renovate the outside of our home. I’ve spruced up the garden in readiness for spring, lit scented candles daily and enjoyed our home. We have a backyard and multiple rooms to escape to and be together. I have enjoyed spending as much time with friends at the park as ever. Zoom catch ups have been hilarious.  I have loved dressing up for Zoom trivia and bingo nights.  My liver is not as enthusiastic as the rest of me! Drinking is a quick and socially acceptable way to reward oneself for just getting to 5 o’clock!  Being at home all. the. time. Means that no forward planning for transport is required when catching up with friends. Merely a stumble to the bed.   As the girls don’t need to get up early to catch a school bus, I have enjoyed the sleep ins, the lack of taxiing around to various organised sports all week and the ease with which the days go by. We have actually experienced less stress in the last few months than ever before.

We will all regroup and return to our hectic lives. We cannot hide from this virus until a vaccine is developed. We need to continue and get back to work.

The government has provided much needed stimulus packages, that will buffer our expenses in the short term. Online shopping isn’t just for the millennial’s! Businesses and schools can survive with the wonderful technology that we have. I haven’t felt alone at all – as I feared. I also haven’t felt any Marie Kondo joy!, I haven’t taken up a new hobby, completed (or begun) an online course or finished any Netflix series. But, you know what? I am more than OK with that.

I haven’t taken up a new hobby, completed (or begun) an online course or finished any Netflix series. But, you know what? I am more than OK with that.

Melbourne has weathered the first storm wave, our hospitals are ready and we are ready to re-emerge.  At least I hope so.  There is a level of complacency to this disease as the numbers have been so relatively low in Australia.  I know noone who has been affected by this virus.  So our re-emergence into the world again and the inevitable increase in cases will shock us all.  But in the meantime, I am actually quite content.  Looking forward to a more free way of life and appreciating our home and our suburb all the more.

Alexis Martin

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