“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Lewis Carroll
I wonder if there is truly anyone whose life is exactly how it was back on New Year’s Eve 2019 we entered into 2020? I remember that night so well watching the Sydney fireworks on TV at a friend’s party. We had such high hopes for 2020. After all, it was meant to be the year of perfect vision – not the beginnings of a terrifying global pandemic which is still haunting us two years later.
Indeed, that also leads to the next question about whether we have changed. Or, to be more precise how much have we changed both as individuals and communities in all sorts of ways since covid first appeared?
There’s been a lot of talk about how vaccines are changing our DNA. However, I haven’t heard anyone mention how we might be reprogramming our own brains through the various covid or lockdown projects many of us are undertaking, and how the very structure of our brains could well be altered as a result – again in good and bad ways.
My world has been affected more than many because I wasn’t in paid employment when Covid hit due my lingering health issues, but I was more or less at a point where I was considering looking for some part time work. Before lockdown, I’m been beavering away on my blog and had various attempts at writing books, and have been trying to find my thing. With our son booked to go on a six week history tour of Europe and visiting the battlefields of France where his Great Great Uncle paid the ultimate sacrifice just three months before the end of WWI, I started retracing his steps and putting together his story. I also picked up on my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealey who I knew very little about and I had so much trouble nutting his story out, that I had to reach him through the letters and diaries of other soldiers. Before I knew it, researching our family members had expanded into a massive, obsessive research project. I saw no problem in that. Only good. Covid was the enemy, and I was going to have something concrete to show for it. Indeed, as lockdown continued, and it was still unsafe for me to venture out, and lockdown started up again, this project had totally overgrown it’s boundaries and it had become all consuming. While my friends were out there exercising with equal zeal, I was researching, writing, transcribing letters for hours and hours, days, months. Indeed, I didn’t mean this to happen, but along the way, I stopped playing my violin, my keyboard and even writing my blog. I also kept putting off exercise. Well, exercise is hardly my best friend, and it is a bit like swallowing that vile teaspoon of cod liver oil, especially before I get out there and actually see the roses and our stunning local beaches and coast.
Well, if you know anything about neuroplasticity, you know that the wiring in our brains isn’t set in stone. It is fluid – ever-changing. So the more you do something, your brain responds by building bigger fibres…whether these are good, bad, or indifferent habits. It’s part of the reason why practice makes perfect. It’s also the same with emotions. If you keep getting angry, the angry cable in your brain will just keep getting bigger and bigger unless you start bringing your anger in line.
This is all very simplistic. I’m not trying to be a neuroscientist. I’m just trying to give you the general gist.
Anyway, just before Christmas the penny finally dropped. Sydney had just completed an incredible four month lockdown and with my auto-immune disease and acute lung complications, I had to stay low. Moreover, after our fearless Prime Minister and his cohort, our new NSW Premier, decided to “let it rip” to save the economy, I burrowed deeply underground hoping the storm would pass by overhead and leave us alone. However, that hasn’t happened and now to quote a friend “it’s EVERYWHERE!!” Omicron is like the common cold on steriods. I’ve also decided it’s the fulfillment of all my grandmother’s most vivid nightmares of germs…germs on the toilet seat, germs on the public phone. She would’ve been beside herself through this covid crisis and her handbag which always seemed to have a bag of lollies (for herself as much as for us), dainty hankies which were useless when she cried in Church, she’d now be armed with industrial strength Spray & Wipe. The sort of stuff that dissolves the surface of your benchtop, your toilet seat, as well as a layer of skin.
To be perfectly honest I’ve found it much easier to hide than deal with all of that.
However, after two years of hiding, and after two years of fighting for the needs of vulnerable people with disabilities and chronic health conditions to be acknowledged and safeguarded and two years of detailed, obsessive but incredibly fascinating and productive research, I am not who I was before. I know I am seriously out of kilter, and all sense of balance has gone.
The other aspect to all this hiding away is that my social life is all but dead. For the hardcore introvert, that could be a blessed relief. However, as a fairly extroverted extrovert it has fairly major ramifications. I don’t know what it is to go our for dinner with friends anymore, and I’m glad I managed to get out for dinner with Geoff a few times before omicron flared up. I’ve become a prisoner inside my own body let alone the house.
After spending so much of the last two years reading, writing and researching and very little time socialising, exercising, or even doing such basic things as catching the train and using cash, I know I’m nothing like who I was before. I don’t know if I can or choose to go back to sit on the same seat on the bus I was occupying before. Or, if I want to get off. Or, Indeed, in so many ways I know I already have.
Of course, I know I’m far from alone in all of this. That many of you who are in the same boat, and you’re also asking: “Where to from here?”
The honest answer for me, is that I just don’t know.
My daughter goes back to school next week, but of more immediate concern, it seems covid has snuck under the front door and I’m not feeling well. Our son went to youth camp and we pretty much expected him to bring it home. I did try to get him tested before he came back, but that fell through. I tried to usher him straight into his room, but he was full of stories and so full of life. Meanwhile, our daughter’s best friend was also positive and just about everyone we know aside from my mum and dad has it or has been exposed. Dad is waging his own war on covid and he he won’t catch it, and it won’t catch him. A true introvert, he’s determined.
“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” – Lewis Carroll
So, where to from here? In the immediate sense I’m off to make a cup of decaf tea before heading to bed. Anything more than that, will have to wait until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts about what lies ahead and I should just mention that the first quote from Lewis Carroll comes from a book I’ve just started reading: Tea & Honesty with Jules Sebastian – wife of international singer and musician Guy Sebastian and now an author in her own right.