Dear Sydney friend,
I write this to you with an open heart and a desire for the best outcomes for all Victorians and New South Welsh-people. But I need to be honest. The hardest aspect of this pandemic has been the increased parochialism as we hunkered down in our own state and the wisdom of our individual premiers.
Our federation has felt very shaky as our political leaders have at times been at war with each other which has had the potential to fracture cross border friendships. Let me give you an example. Last year when Victoria was locked down for an interminable period, interstate friends and relatives would call to see how I was going. But the purpose of the call would quickly deteriorate into a rant from the caller about decisions being made in my state, and how wonderful and shiny everything was in their own state (often NSW). I didn’t need that. I still don’t.
As you are no doubt aware, last week Melbourne reached the dubious milestone of being the city that has experienced the longest cumulative period of lockdown over any other city in the world! Great. I am so pleased. NOT. But I also have understood the reasons why. We needed to keep COVID numbers down as much as possible, and vaccinations up, so that our hospital ICUs will cope.
Right now, it is as though there has been no time other than lockdown.
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Everything – okay, most things – I had planned over the past 20 months have been stolen out of my diary, never to return. That hurts. I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear looking at the Facebook and Instagram posts of friends who have a life. I should be pleased for them. They can go out to restaurants. Maybe the theatre! Wow. Or even travel. See people. Celebrate. But no, this mean-spirited part of me seems to come out, and I resent it. That’s not good.
India v England cricket was on the television live a week or so ago, playing in England. Crowded grandstands and not a single mask. I felt sick! And anxious.
And right now, our COVID numbers are going up and up and up. And yes, I know the focus is on getting vaccination rates up to that magic 80 per cent, but my heart sinks a little more each day. I also cheer as I see NSW figures plummeting. Perhaps that is our future too?
But my dear friend, it is hard to see that future. Right now, it is as though there has been no time other than lockdown. All the Melbourne lockdowns since April of last year have coalesced into one long never-ending season. I sit at the dining table with my trusty laptop, Zooming and writing and languishing, day in day out, bored with myself.
I am grateful for your friendship. I am grateful for my neighbour, as we share our lives each and every day as we walk around our local gardens. I am grateful for my job, my family and friends, my cat and my voluntary commitments. I am grateful for our leaders who have always put people before the economy. And most of all I am grateful that I am loved by the God of eternity, for this too will pass.
With love and God’s blessings on your life,
Dear Melbourne friend,
I am sorry your city is still in the grip of this horrible Delta strain of COVID. While I wouldn’t wish a Delta outbreak on the residents of any city in any country, I especially wish the citizens of Melbourne had been spared. Last year, you guys shouldered the responsibility of stopping COVID’s spread in our nation, locking down with a sense of purpose for the greater good. It was a heavy burden to bear and we could all see the toll it took on you.
Since then, every subsequent outbreak and lockdown must have felt even heavier, almost like compounding trauma. Perhaps all the lockdowns and daily briefings could have been tolerable on their own, but stacked up on top of one another? It’s like the proverbial death by a thousand paper cuts, isn’t it? And I am so sorry it is. Of all the cities that deserve to have escaped Delta … couldn’t Adelaide have taken one for the team? (Ha! Just joking!).
I know we’re getting close to opening up here in Sydney. Our numbers are decreasing and so are our restrictions. I imagine that’s gotta sting. I’m sorry it does.
I feel a bit guilty about it, to be honest. I wish Sydneysiders had done a better job of locking down at the start of this wave. I think the COVID strain of last year had lulled everyone into a false sense of security, but that might just be me making excuses for poor decisions by our state government and poor responses from our people.
Our numbers are decreasing and so are our restrictions. I imagine that’s gotta sting.
Like everyone, when I think of Melbourne, I think of people – people spilling out of theatres, entering galleries, climbing in and out of trams, crammed into cafes and restaurants, watching tennis on big outdoor screens. I can’t imagine the city deserted. Again, of all the cities …
I see you’ve been awarded the dubious honour of having endured the most locked-down days in the world – how do you feel about that? I think I’d prefer not to have known that if I were in Melbourne. That would have probably been the last straw and I’d have thrown open the floodgates of self-pity.
But I hope that’s not how you feel. I hope, instead, you feel a sense of pride about what you have endured. Or, at the least, that you feel validated to know that the whole world has acknowledged you have survived something really hard. Because you have.
And yes, I can see that the wheels are starting to fall off a bit, now. That people’s patience has run dry and paranoia has run wild and then you got an EARTHQUAKE on top of it all and infections are still rising. And if I’m honest, I wouldn’t blame you one bit if you threw an almighty hissy fit and just refused to get out of bed tomorrow. You’ve earned it.
But I don’t think you’re going to do that.
I think you’re going to get up, put on some kind of fabulous, brightly coloured shirt, force a smile and send a text message to check on a friend.
I think you’re going to bury yourself in God’s word to get wisdom and cry out to him in prayer to get comfort.
And I think you will do it all with the same, striking dignity you’ve done it with for the past 18 months.
Bravo to you, my Melbourne friend. You inspire me.
I am sorry it is the way it is. Hang in there,