Friday, 19 February 2021

Hot days and long weeks

Big, big sigh. I'm really tired but without being ready to rest. I left work just after 8pm this evening and got home about 9pm, and I washed, ate, fed cats, but mainly I sort of fidgeted about for an hour and a half. The five-day lockdown we've just had in Victoria has taken its toll. The psychological experience of the pandemic is like being a wartime submariner. Moving fast but to where? Sailing blind in cramped chamber adrift a vast darkened ocean, wary, submersible, going silent, sometimes hearing the shocking subsonic thud of depth charges going off around you. 

As soon as my shoulder was better enough (it is still quite painful a lot of the time) I went back to work and worked from there every weekday for a couple of weeks. I am carrying and juggling a heavy and complicated set of coloured balls at work just now, and while much of it is very basic work of the kind I thought I'd finished with for ever, the simplest things are all suddenly much slower, harder and more uncertain to do now. Many of the staff I relied on to take care of big chunks of my areas of responsibility are currently dealing with big, rough personal challenges and simply aren't around much. So I am holding things together and trying to push through progress on the big thing that will relieve the pressure on us, which is bringing the volunteer workforce back into action. They've been away for a year and the operating environment is drastically constrained so their re-entry has to be thoroughly managed and also allowed to happen at all their various different paces. You can see the whole question is somewhat overwhelming. I have dealt with miniature versions of it before however, in this job, in coping with the critically under-resourced projects that come up in the seasons of Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. The way I usually handle such tricky demands is to let all the mess and complications well up, overflow, in the physical form of a hundred thousand scrawled on scraps of torn paper and post-it notes spread on my enormous desk, in not ever shutting down my computer and seldom closing programs or even windows, in acquiring clipboards stacked with to-do lists that I keep adding things to as well as crossing things off. I knew, when I restarted working from work, that I'd be in for a certain amount of this way of life and I thought it would take about two weeks to get ahead of the game, if I threw myself into it and worked at it feverishly for just those two weeks. But then lockdown chucked a whole extra week into the timeline, and I think that's part of why I feel this tired and this wired too.

Last night I forgot to take my tiny quarter of a tiny sleeping pill until it was much too late, and so I was awake most of the night: I slept maybe three or four hours and got up feeling pretty awful; made a slow start to the day by riding to Northcote for breakfast with a friend (I don't if they still even read this blog? Do you?) and then it was well into a hot glary dusty and windy morning and I rode to work, though Fitzroy and Jolimont and Richmond and finally across Birrarung Marr, past the gargantuan tent city and vast almost empty blue seating banks of the Australian Open, and across the Domain parklands. By the time I arrived at work I was dripping with sweat and radiating heat off my head and arms. I took a cold shower, but I was still sweating, even after I got out and dried off. 

The next ten hours passed in a daze of diving repeatedly into that thick desktop soup of floating disjointed bits of task set aside till they became time-critical, or till I had enough of several similar little problems to wipe them all out with one big gesture of a solution, numbers of people I didn't want to call back yesterday but felt I could cope with them today. In the end it was difficult to make myself leave my desk and go home; I feared the wallop of the heat outside, but more than that I didn't trust that I'd pulled things together enough for next week that I could just go home and not think about it again till I walk in the door on Monday.  That's my own special personal variety of lockdown-triggered hypervigilance kicking in. 

I sewed 28 new cloth masks over the first two days of the five-day lockdown. Clearly kind of mad. I needed some new ones, but not that many lol. Still, if you have to wrap your face and mouth and nose in hot, clammy cloth that stops you from breathing, seeing and thinking with any semblance of clarity, it's nicer to wrap yourself in fresh and clean pieces of cloth than in grubby frayed old worn-out ones. Anxiety always finds a way of justifying its flaring ridiculousnesses.

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