My rural community is normally a reasonably busy rural centre, but in more than 70 days I have visited it only five times. My husband and I are in the ‘at risk’ group for age and I also have an ‘at risk’ health condition, so we erred on the side of caution and chose to stay home as much as possible.
We have been lucky – there is grocery delivery, I’ve always had a well-stocked pantry and ever since the paper panic of the 1980s I have kept up with my toilet paper supplies. Our community has been illness free and the only thing we lacked was hand sanitiser, but I managed to find a half used bottle at the back of the bathroom shelf (circa 1990 I think).
The new normal of our lives has created some interesting changes. When we first heard about the pandemic, the risks and the control factors, I spent a week feeling panicked and adrift. Despite spending much time at home already I resented being told that was where I had to stay. Things looked bleak.
After week one my attitude changed: this new way of life was so similar to my old way and suddenly I was given permission to isolate myself from others – a bonus! Other bonuses began to happen around us. We have three grown kids, with two living in our home state and one many miles away in Western Australia. While we often saw our South Australian based son and daughter, we had irregular phone calls with our eldest son in WA. The new normal has seen us catch up as a whole family – our kids and their partners – once a week via Zoom calls. This has been good for our kids who have been able to connect as a family group and has been fun and productive.
I have also made it a rule to phone one friend at least once a week to check on their welfare – I don’t usually enjoy chatting on the phone, but am growing to appreciate a way of communicating which used to challenge my introversion.
Never a housewife, I established routines for cleaning and baking – my husband and I sharing the chores – and I am taking pleasure in a tidy home - and home-made food. We’ve even lost a little weight as our diet has changed from quick to slow food.
I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life and my initial thoughts around the pandemic and restrictions were to imagine myself drifting away into a twilight state of not caring too much about anything. But, again, I have been surprised. The extra time I have saved by not having to drive kilometres to run my business, which often saw me spend nights away from home and hours and hours on the road, has allowed me to establish routines – for work and home – and these routines have saved my mind. Instead of despairing I am buoyed by new ideas and new ways of working and I am looking forward to what the future brings. I’m also one of the lucky ones as my workload has increased during this time.
Living in a rural region where we have reliable and speedy internet connections and good phone signals has also been an enormous bonus – and I know how lucky we are.
Restrictions are easing in my neck of the woods and last Saturday I popped into our township for some errands and was thrilled to catch up with a friend. We had a socially distanced cup of coffee and a great chat. The dog loves us being home together so much. The ‘new normal’ isn’t so bad after all!