IS THIRD TIME REALLY A CHARM?

On Friday morning, I woke to whispers of a third lockdown and thought ‘Here we go again’. The State’s hotel quarantine had failed yet again, and community transmission of the dreaded mutated COVID strain had begun. There were 19 confirmed cases in the State. Newspapers started reporting that Victorians were about to be hit with a snap five-day lockdown to curb the possible undetected spread of this deadlier and more transmissible virus that was ripping through the UK.

Like the rest of Victoria, we had plans and lockdown would throw everything out of the window. We had swimming classes the next day. Lunar New Year celebrations were planned for Sunday. There was school swimming starting on the following Monday and parent teacher interviews on the Tuesday.

Messages started circulating among friends and families. Someone heard from someone who knew someone who worked somewhere who vouched that lockdown was imminent. That’s how reputable news travels these days. And where there is smoke, there’s surely to be fire, right?

By lunch time, it was confirmed. Victoria and its 6.49 million residents were going into a hard lockdown again. We would only be leaving home for four reasons; essential work, medical care and care-giving, food and exercise. We would be limited to 5 KM from our home (except for work) and exercise would be reduced to 2 hours. One person would be allowed to go food shopping, once per day. Weddings were to be postponed and all non-essential businesses to close.

While lockdown causes little damage to our financial situation, for some of our family and friends, it has the potential to significantly affect their livelihoods.

A friend of mine who owns a restaurant and already struggles with staffing and revenue, was forced to cancel all of his Valentine and Lunar New Year bookings. All the time and money he spent prepping food for the weekend crowd will probably go to waste unless delivery and takeaway orders can make up for the cancelled bookings. Another friend who owns a small business running baby sensory classes only recently reopened and now has to deal with cancellations. My brother’s friend was forced to cancel his wedding today. I don’t even want to think about how that’s going to affect them financially with unused flowers and food.

While it’s easy to suggest that a five-day lockdown is necessary and pales in comparison to the devastation of a rampant pandemic, it’s still a hard pill to swallow. Victorians are still reeling from the last hard lockdown and there are those of us who have barely had time to readjust to normal life. As much as I am thankful that Australia hasn’t experienced what other countries are currently suffering through, it must be acknowledged that lockdowns cause a different kind of devastation.

The possibility of another prolonged lockdown makes me anxious, and I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to cope with going back to my studies, doing teaching placements and homeschool two children. But let’s not go there. Positive thoughts and all.

So, with the announcement of a snap lockdown to begin on Friday night at 11:59 pm, we decided to have a Lunar New Year dinner with my parents beforehand. Was it counterintuitive to have family gatherings before a lockdown? Most definitely. Probably a bit like how people gathered in pubs for a last hurrah across England before lockdown restrictions were imposed. With 19 cases across the State, I was willing to see my extended family for an hour or so.

The eight of us gathered for a quick homecooked meal and red pockets for the children. If you don’t know what red pockets are, it’s a tradition where adults usually give children, employees and unmarried singles red pockets filled with money in hopes of receiving good luck. In return, these recipients offer well-wishes for the year.

My 4-year-old son thanked my dad by saying “I hope you get to buy lots of junk to put in your house and make you feel happy.” For my mum, he wished for a magical fountain to appear in her lounge room, spurting endless supply of his favourite apple juice. The good chap made $85 buckaroos for the night.

My 8-year-old daughter thanked me by saying “I hope you don’t get fat.” You can bet she received a paltry red pocket from me. Even with the snark, she made $95 bucks for the night.

Back in my day to get that kind of money, I had to bow in front of an uncle and aunty and spout empty platitudes before they’d give a measly $5 note. And there’d be a billion children lined up in front of a billion relatives. It was a tradition you couldn’t shirk and took FOREVER. Kids these days just rock up, stick their hand out and say whatever they want and grandparents just think they’re the wittiest little beings. If that happened back in my day… 

Anyway, we left after staying for an hour… a bit like Cinderella and the ball, in a hurry and not wanting to be caught when the clock struck midnight.

The small family gathering was what I needed to give me the strength and fortitude to see through this third lockdown. We’re already witnessing pandemonium at the supermarkets. Toilet paper is being stripped off shelves. Panic buying has started up again. You’d think going through a third lockdown that people would be calmer. After all, supermarkets are still open, and it’s only for 5 days. But maybe Victorians are lockdown wary and bracing themselves for the announcement of a longer lockdown. I know I am.

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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SETBACK IS NOT FAILURE

I’ve been off social media and blogging since mid June. I took a short break after I felt my mental health suffer from the constant negative news of COVID-19 and the re-emergence of a second wave of the virus where I live. Many things have happened during my sabbatical – some funny, some embarrassing and a few not so great. I’ll start at the beginning; the moment that prompted my temporary absence.


Reflection from 26/06/20 – prior to the second wave of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown.

For the last six months, I’ve been feeling happy and mentally healthy. I’ve worked on improving social connections, reducing social anxiety and negativity, and lessening the need for control. ‘Let It Go’ has become my new mantra. In fact, not long ago, I suggested to my doctor that perhaps I had reached the stages of maintenance or recovery. Yesterday, I had a humbling reminder that achieving good mental health is an ongoing journey and setbacks can happen. In actuality, setbacks are part of the recovery.

Late in the afternoon, seemingly out of nowhere, I started experiencing shortness of breath, coughing and tightness in my chest. It felt like an elephant had nestled down on my sternum. My immediate thought was ‘grab the puffer, it’s an asthma attack’. If I hadn’t panicked and had taken a moment to think, I would have concluded that a random asthma attack while playing a Nintendo game was improbable.

Frantic to alleviate the shortness of breath, I puffed Ventolin like it was going out of fashion. It did nothing but gave me the shakes and dizziness. You’d think being an ex-pharmacist, I’d be a tad more informed but no, gasping for air must have killed all rational brain cells. My husband suggested I sought medical attention and question possible COVID-19 infection.

I was promptly seen at the medical clinic with the doctor checking all of my vitals, including oxygen saturation. When asked what triggered the symptoms, I was at a loss. In the morning, my three-year-old son and I had watched trains past at the nearby train station, played at the local park and had babychinos.

At the time of the attack, we were playing Animal Crossing, making ‘money’ through the sale of harvested fruit. It’s a big loan, two and a half million ‘dollars’ to be exact, so there could be some causality. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.

The most likely trigger was the discussion I had with my husband, which had taken place an hour prior to the onset of symptoms. We were deciding whether or not it was in everyone’s best interest to travel almost seven hours to stay with the in-laws amidst the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. It was a mutual agreement to can the trip.

The doctor gave me two options; go to the emergency department for oxygen nebulisation and get checked for COVID-19, blood clots and asthma or stay in the clinic’s treatment room for observation after taking a Valium for a suspected panic attack. I countered with ‘I think I’ll just walk it off. Uh… or go home and rest.’ In the end, I reluctantly took the Valium and waited in the treatment room for the dizziness, pins and needles, tremors and chest tightness to dissipate.

As I sat on the treatment bed, several nurses came in and out of the room to gather medical supplies and asked why I was there. I felt embarrassed having to repeatedly admit that I had suffered a panic attack and as a result, hyperventilated. I also felt ashamed for occupying a treatment room and wasting the doctor’s time, who could have attended to patients with ‘real’ problems. Stupid, right?

Instead of accepting it for what it was – a panic attack, I let the experience colour my interpretation of my self-worth. I failed. Therefore, I am a failure. I allowed myself to believe that falsehood.

That internal dialogue of mine can be cruel and critical, making me proficient at self-sabotage. I’m quite the high-achiever in that regard. I have such a negative perception of myself that every time I am faced with challenges or a setback, I am quick to accept defeat.

Ironically, I am fast to point out to others the importance of being kind to yourself and owning and valuing your truth. It’s high time I heed my own advice.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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JOURNEY TO MATURITY

During lockdown, we bought a Nintendo game called Animal Crossing. Have you heard of it? It’s a popular social simulation game where you play a customisable character that willingly moves to a deserted island run by a (shady-ass) raccoon named Tom Nook, the island landlord. He gives you a tent and some tools. You make ‘money’ through selling fish and bugs that you catch. Pillaging and pilfering for resources from smaller islands and trading on the turnip stock market gets you the big bucks (ahem… just a tip). You can recreate your own dream island filled with friends, fruit and money trees, a museum and a clothing store. If you don’t mind repaying exorbitant mortgage loans to Tom, you can turn your humble tent into a three storey house and hoard furniture and clothes until your heart’s content.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. The point is, the kids love this game and so do I. It’s fun, friendly and ever so addictive. Whenever my three-year-old son has a turn, he likes to take off all his character’s clothing and run around in his underwear. Whenever my seven-year-old daughter has a turn, she likes to go to the clothing store and spend all her money on unnecessary fashion.

It’s painful to sit and watch them play. I have a habit of telling them what to do. I remind them that there’s fruit to harvest and sell, weeds and fallen sticks to pick up, mortgage loans to repay, and island star ratings to consider.

My husband always says, “Let them play their game how they want.”

You see, I forget that each child is playing the game to their level of maturity. Each person is unique in their definition of success and their journey to maturity. What a three-year-old boy finds interesting is different to that of a seven-year-old girl. And the same goes for adults.

My son is a hoarder of fish and furniture. He has a room filled to the brim with fish tanks and furniture stacked randomly inside and outside of his house. My daughter has questionable taste in fashion and wallpaper. She will spend her entire savings at the clothing store. But that is their game. That is what’s important to them. That is where they are in their journey.

As an adult, I am used to running on that pesky treadmill of life (obviously not literally because sweating and I have a hate-hate relationship). I am much further along in my journey to maturation, having experienced some high and lows of this rollercoaster called a life. Sometimes I forget to have realistic expectations of my children.

I need to remind myself to give my children the freedom to grow emotionally, socially, spiritually and intellectually at a pace that meets their needs. They will have plenty of years to be burdened by the complexities of life but as a parent, I can try to shelter them as best I can. Hopefully, in a way that doesn’t turn them into precious snowflakes!

In the meantime, I’ll wait until they’re asleep to log onto Animal Crossing to harvest all those unpicked fruit, make some money and pay off their loans. Hey, I’m not addicted! Someone’s gotta do it. Well, that’s the excuse I’m sticking to.

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