The pandemic sparked a year of disruption and personal change

Tomorrow, I will switch off my computer, unplug the mass of tangled wires next to our bed and walk away from 17 years of working in the law into a great unknown.

I thought I could be that woman who ‘had it all’ – the law job, the three young kids, our own home. I thought she was who I wanted to be, would always be. Six years ago, I even wrote about it in this newspaper: “My husband and I have found our own unique version of ‘it all’ … It doesn’t mean that we have everything, but that we have a balance of what is important to us”.

COVID-19 has been a disruptor worldwide.Credit:Getty Images

But COVID-19 has been a disruptor. Worldwide, it has changed our cities, our lives, our sense of certainty for what tomorrow will bring. It is a year that has left scars. Tonight, my little girl stood at the head of the table, eager to read out her grade one reflection, “This year has been bad,” she began.

It was a year that began for me with eight long days at the Royal Melbourne Hospital with sepsis and severe pneumonia, with my husband trying to get home from Vietnam, with my children scared without us. I emerged back into a world from which I craved certainty, trying to shrug off the deep sense of my own mortality that had settled. Instead, a pandemic swept the world. And our foundations shook further.

Home-schooling two primary school children and looking after a preschooler, cut off from the world, my husband and I tried so hard to stay afloat. We worked frantically amid the incessant demands of our children – my husband clinging to his job thanks to JobKeeper. But cracks began to appear. Tears flowed more easily, our tempers flew at small slights, and regressions emerged in my youngest. Fault lines that will leave their echoes for years to come.

I felt an aching sadness for the days when I did not have time to sit with my daughter as she struggled so intensely with her schoolwork. Of the days when my eldest needed me but could not be heard above the background noise. Of the hours my three-year-old stared vacantly at the iPad. Of the many times I said to him “I’m sorry, I am too tired to play”. Every night as they slept and my day was finally finished, I would stroke their heads and tell them “I’m sorry, tomorrow I will do better”. And yet. Tomorrow came, and no better was done.

And in amongst it all, a sense of disconnectedness grew. I knew life was out there, only a Zoom click away. But my exhaustion kept it at bay. As the year progressed, everything I thought I wanted began to crumble.

Staying connected was just a Zoom click away.Credit:Louie Douvis

So, a decision was made. A decision made by many before me, and undoubtedly many to come. A decision made because I am tired of being tired. Tired of being overwhelmed. Tired of just surviving, of going through the motions. I want to find space where stillness descends.

Maybe there will be no house purchased, maybe that dream will be shelved. Along with new clothes and takeaway coffees and all those other things we think we need. But there will laughter and joy, there will be cuddles and dancing. And there will be time to listen, time to care. There will be time.

There will be time to listen, time to care.Credit:Chris Hopkins

So tomorrow I will flick off that switch and walk away, down to the kitchen where I will make a cup of tea and cry some more tears.

Because yes, my darling girl, this year has been bad. But let’s use all that badness of create a new order, a new life, a new world. Let’s use bad as an impetus for good.

Amongst the longest days of lockdown, there was a special place in Royal Park we would visit. We would stare at the bright blue sky, the yellow of the wattle, and feel for a moment alive again. We would lie on the grass and find animals in the clouds and the kids would run free and build makeshift huts from sticks and bark. It was like this little snatched moment in time, a glimpse of a portal to another place. Now, I’m going through the portal. Wish me luck.

Marisa Black is a (for now) non-practising lawyer and freelance writer.

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