Updated: Nov 29, 2020
2020 has been an extraordinarily cruel year for many families globally. Millions dead - a quarter of a million have died in the United States alone. There's no denying the harsh decisions that many political leaders all over the world have taken - ignoring the ethics of humanitarian conscience in favour of the inhumanity of an argument about 'herd immunity' - which is a false economic rationalisation, in any case, both in theory and in practice considering the outrageous figures in the US especially.
With Australian state governments introducing firm policies for health protection early on, our citizens have benefitted from the emphasis on civic responsibility over the individual right to spread your COVID germs anywhere and on anyone you like.
Thank goodness for our States' regulations, I say, implemented mostly by leaders whose political instincts were in alignment with the health interests of their constituents. That was a significant silver lining for Australians, and so far so good. But what were the other lessons we learned in the midst of the shocking statistics elsewhere, and the restrictions, lockdowns and sacrifices we endured at home?
SSOA's emerging writers - attending our writing meetups via Zoom rather than physically all in the one meeting room - offer us their thoughts on silver linings ...
SSOA emerging writers focus on the positive
COVID-19 is a story of vulnerability, but also empowerment. A chance to pause, momentum interrupted, and take a deep breath while we put a mirror up to our own mortality and examine our weaknesses.
It’s a continuous shared test of character where everyone is naked. Now we see who can think for themselves, and who’s thinking what they’ve been told. Who’s observing the way ideas play out, and those at war, unwilling to reconcile their differences. Here in plain sight we see who’s making an adjustment to respond to their nudity, and who’s shameless in it, not just in displaying themselves, but also by insisting they’re not actually naked.
We’ve been brought back down to earth. And anyone paying attention can see, very clearly in the face of this plague, who’s aware of the context of what life is like in the rest of the world right now, and what life has been like historically.
Struggle is what you make it. You can’t buy into your own suffering. Don’t waste your time in life, because there are darker things lurking in the shadows.
What's really important?
The globalisation of the last two decades gave us choice - often increasing confusion. Decisions to make on where to go, what to see, what to eat or cook and which product to buy.
The scaling down and lack of choice during the pandemic has woken people up to appreciate the immediate, what’s available, easy and uncomplicated. As our grannies and ancestors used to say - ‘Well, you’ll just have to make do’.
Maybe some would baulk at getting the needle out to darn the hole in the sock, but I did attack a pile of mending and fixing that had lain in the wardrobe for a year. Craft shops sold out of supplies and older generations smiled as lost skills were revived and passed on once more.
Communication amongst families improved over communal jigsaws, and board games from the attic were dusted down. Zoom quizzes took place between family members scattered globally. Grandparents embraced technology to connect and youngsters giggled and questioned as all trawled through the box of old family photographs and listened to stories.
People cleared up and threw out, with a new realisation that little was actually needed for a contented life - and why did they buy all this stuff in the first place? The daily walk with the dog opened a new vista on what was on their doorstep, that they took for granted before - when overseas was deemed more exciting and exotic.
They witnessed that small is truly beautiful as the vibrant bottlebrush on the street corner faded and that first purple splash of jacaranda appeared in the park. Birdsong cheered the lonely and strangers knocked on doors, leaving meals for healthcare workers, cleaners, and essential workers.
The frenetic world halted for a time to take stock of what’s important, and people slowed down to reflect on life’s meaning and our vulnerability as a species.
Let us hope we are opening up to a more grateful, caring world where nothing can be taken for granted.
Thirty is a good size for me
Be careful what you ask for. Back in January, after the best holiday in Perth in a long time, I made the decision to move back home. I was targeting May. The first thought that came to mind was, 'What a pity! I wish I'd had the chance to enjoy my apartment a bit more.' Then COVID hit. Oops.
At first, I thought that I really should have moved to a bigger place earlier on. I decided against it at the time because I didn’t really want to spend more money on rent. Rent already ate a big chunk out of my salary – if anything, I should have been downgrading. But a studio apartment at thirty square metres was really quite tight, given all the stuff I have. Plus, there was no way that I was ever going to succeed at minimalism if I kept upgrading for space. There would just be more room for more merde – excuse the French. Eight months later, I’m still here, I’m still sane. What my little thirty square metre place has taught me is to be grateful for whatever I have. We, as human beings, adapt easily. After all, I was living in a twenty-five square metre space for five years in Tokyo in my twenties. I always made the best of every situation, so why not at the age of forty?
Thank you, my little thirty square metre. Because of you, I hardly buy anything these days and I’ve made good progress decluttering, selling on eBay or donating. Shedding things from the apartment is like shedding layers of skin. I feel renewed, refreshed. I’m ready to take on 2021. Whatever space I find in Perth, I hope it will continue the teachings of my little thirty square metre.
Copyright Text: C V Williams - intro; Matt Jackson; Gerdette Rooney; Cherry Chang. Photos Wix; C V Williams; Wix.
The four SSOA Zoom writing meetups per week are made possible with the support of a City of Sydney Council COVID assistance grant.