I had a break from work this week, which was beyond nice. It meant I didn’t have to go out. If you’ve been following along these past few weeks you’ll know that I’ve not been in a good headspace with our borders reopening so not having to go to work meant I could avoid people for pretty much the entire week.
I didn’t do a very good job of staying away from news sites and I’m still struggling to find a balance between keeping sensibly informed and feeding my distress and anxiety. At least not going anywhere meant that I didn’t have to worry about whether I’d been to an exposure site or whether my masks were up to scratch.
I raged a lot in my journal about what was happening and the changes the governments were making to things like the definition of “close contact”. (You’re only a “close contact” now if you’re been close to a covid-positive person for four hours in a home or similar setting. Not it you’ve sat next to them for two hours on a plane or all day in your workplace. Make total sense when we’re dealing with a variant of the virus that is much more transmissible now, doesn’t it. Right.)
I chatted to people online who agreed with me and felt relieved that I wasn’t the only one feeling like this.
I don’t understand the rush to get back to “normal” when the pandemic is still raging. It’s a pandemic. There is no “normal”. We’re living in perhaps the most “non-normal” time that many people have ever experienced.
I know people want this to be over, and I keep hearing the term “getting our lives back”, which is another way of saying we want things to go back to normal, back to the way things were two years ago. But nothing is like it was two years ago and that thinking we can ever go back to that is just setting ourselves up for a fall.
The world has changed in a significant way and we can’t carry on as if it hasn’t. And if we do, and we’re not too concerned about catching the virus because everyone will get it in the end and, hey, the symptoms are mild, we overlook young children, and people who are already immune compromised, who are sick, or who can’t get the vaccinations. And even then, the vaccinations won’t stop the spread of the virus, and they won’t stop the long term effects that will impact on 10 to 30 per cent of the people who contract this illness. And who’s to say there won’t be another variant that changes the goalposts yet again.
“Normal” is an illusion. It doesn’t exist. There is now, and now is all we have. We are not “getting our lives back”. We are living in a world that has changed and continues to change.
Maybe the need for normal stems in part from a human need for certainty and security, and many people, myself included, feel uncomfortable in a state of not knowing. Not knowing how or when this will end, not knowing how it will play out, not knowing if the next place I go to will expose me to the virus.
And it’s not just because of the virus, although in our country, this is the most obvious sign that we aren’t going back to normal. But if the virus isn’t scary enough, the uncertainty around that is overlaid with an incredibly frightening view of the impact of environmental catastrophes that are already happening.
As Sarah Wilson said on Instagram, what is normal now is “abject uncertainty, discomfort, destruction, death, reverberations as our consumption tips the scales”. 2021 was not an “anomaly we have to get through”. Remember those wishes to ditch 2020 as quickly as possible and have a better 2021? They all got recycled at the end of 2021. Because, she says, we’re on a trajectory and things are not going to get better. They certainly won’t be what we used to consider normal.
It’s more than uncomfortable. It’s terrifying. But it’s happening now. It’s what life is now.
21 for 2021 update
It feels a bit (a lot) crazy to shift from “life is no longer normal” to updating a list of the most mundane activities I tried to do in 2021. I guess there’s an element of doing what I can do and focusing on what I control in there. Or maybe it’s denial. I’ll just carry on as if life was normal and maybe all that scary stuff will go away.
Pointless as it may be, this was the final week of 21 for 2021, so here’s where I got to with all of the things
Thing 1: Go to the exercise physiologist and get an exercise program
I went (twice), I got the exercise program and I didn’t implement it. Thing technically complete but not effectively complete.
Thing 2: Choose a different vegetable every week from In Praise of Veg and make one of the recipes from the book
I cooked with 41 of the 50 vegetables in the book. Thing 80 per cent complete.
Thing 3: Complete the 30-day voice training course on Udemy
I did five days of the course. Thing started.
Thing 4: Work through the ideas in The Change Journal, one idea per week for 24 weeks
I completed eight of the 24 chapters from the journaland started two others. Thing 33 per cent complete.
Thing 5: Spend an hour a week working through my annoying undone things list
There were 34 things on this list and I did 20 of them. One of the things I didn’t do was get a haircut, which was something I was meant to do in April 2020 but cancelled because of lockdown. This means I haven’t cut my hair for over two years. It looks like it too.
Thing 6: Grow some vegetables in the garden bed
I cleared this out and made space to grow some vegetables, and I left some other things that had self seeded to grow but I didn’t make a lot of effort with this. Thing started.
Thing 7: Clear out the area at the side of the house and make a space to sit
I trimmed away some excess shrubbery from above the gas cylinders so the gas people could refill them. This counts as progress. Just.
Thing 8: Spend an hour a week working on Kramstable’s videos
These are videos I used to make annually for Kramstable’s interstate family who he rarely sees, but I fell out of the habit and got three or four years behind. This year I had hoped to finish one from that backlog and this year’s video. I did this. I completed the 2017-18 video and the 2020-21 video. Thing completed.
Thing 9: Write my mother’s life story
I worked on this during the year and I did Patti Miller’s Life Writing course to help me with this. It’s a lot more work than I expected and it’s a much longer project than one year. Thing started.
Thing 10: Make a book of my 2014 UK trip photos
I did a bit of work on this but not much. Thing started.
Thing 11: Complete the Compelling Frame course
I watched all the videos in this course and worked on some of the exercises. A lot of this is ongoing study to feed into my creative practice but, for 21 for 2021 purposes, this thing is complete.
Thing 12: Complete the Photoshop Classroom in a Book activities
I didn’t start this.
Thing 13: Create a consistent web presence for my work
I worked on this but I’m not happy with it and need to do more work. Thing started.
Thing 14: Photograph some unexplored areas
I didn’t get out as much as I’d wanted to but I did have a couple of opportunities to make photographs in places I hadn’t spent much time in, one of which I posted on my photoblog. Thing progressed.
Thing 15: Use my tripod in public
I didn’t do this.
Thing 16: Go out and shoot with film
I did do this but my camera stopped working and I need to get it fixed. Thing started but stalled.
Thing 17: Complete the Brainsparker gym* program
I completed the nine modules that were available this year. I need to work out how to put some of the things I learned into practice to make it a more valuable learning experience.
Thing 18: Update my resume and apply for at least one new job
I updated my resume and got a new job. Thing complete.
Thing 19: Get a Strengthsfinder assessment
I put off doing this all year. I want to do it. It’s only going to take 90 minutes of my time.
Thing 20: Implement the workday routine from the LifeHack course
I did this for 66 days but didn’t keep the habit. But I think I need to tweak it so it works for me rather than abandon it.
Thing 21: Read at least three books about Tasmanian history
I didn’t do this. I started reading The Founding of Hobart 1803-1804 by Frank Bolt this week but it wasn’t actually one of the books on my list I’d planned to read.
21 for 2021 summary
Things completed: 6 (1, 8, 11, 17, 18, 20)
Things I started: 11 (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16)
Things I didn’t start: 4 (12, 15, 19, 21)
I probably set myself up to fail this year with so many long term, large projects on the list.
No. That’s being harsh on myself.
I didn’t fail. I finished six of the things, including two videos that took six months each to do, and I made progress on most of the others.
I wrote aboutmy progress a couple of weeks ago, where I noted that the 21 for 2021 list might to be a list of one-time actions we need to get done and can cross off so it may not be the place for big projects. Or, if it is, then for only one or two top priority projects that I want to focus on and then a bunch of smaller one-time things so I don’t get pushed and pulled between big projects.
This is something to keep in mind as I work on my 22 for 2022 list, and decide how I want to structure my blog posts in the new year. (Just after I said the new year doesn’t mean anything to me . . . )