As we’re faced with further rounds of lockdowns, there are some habits I’ve developed and am rather fond of.
For most people, lockdowns take a serious toll on motivation. At first, we were energized by visions of baking our own sourdough and flattening the curve and being “in it together.” Now, there is a general sense of fatigue as we realize that this is probably just our lives for at least the next year. It’s hard to care much about anything when it feels like we’re just waiting for this period of our lives to be over.
But, out of this mess of 2020, I’m trying to forge some good habits which I hope will endure when — if? — life eventually goes back to normal.
1. Spending More Family Time
While I was living overseas in my 20s, I sent the occasional “Hey I’m not dead!” email update to my mom. Now in lockdown, each week includes a lengthy phone call, a whole family Zoom get-together, and a virtual movie night — so I spend three evenings a week with my mom in one form or another.
As my siblings are spread across continents, this weekly catch-up is the most I’ve ever been in contact with them … and has been one of the nicest things to come out of this whole situation. Is it strange to feel somewhat sad at the prospect of normal life (and not being home on Saturday nights) putting an end to this new tradition?
2. Reaching Out to Friends
The beginning of lockdown brought with it a whole lot of messages from people I haven’t heard from in a long time, even years. As someone who is prone to sending random “Just thinking about you, how’s it going?” messages at midnight at the best of times, it was nice to have a totally legitimate reason to do this without being drunk/creepy/weird.
Because everyone around the world was stuck in their houses, I was also finally able to schedule video calls with friends in different countries where time zones have always made this difficult. It turns out the best time for everyone is now Saturday night.
3. Reading Actual Books
After four months, Zoom fatigue is real. As a writer, all of my work involves staring at a screen but now so does my entire social life and all of my extra-curricular activities as well. My hobbies have moved online, so, at the end of my workday, I simply close one program on my computer and open another without getting out of my dang chair.
With a lot more time spent indoors and a desire to not be in front of a screen for 100% of it, I find I’ve read more books than usual this year — actual physical books. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched a lot more TV as well …)
4. Diversifying My Reading List
2020 hasn’t just changed our lives by forcing indoors — the wave of Black Lives Matter protests has also sparked greater public discourse globally around racism and diversity. Hopefully, this has made us look inwards as well and consider the ways in which we engage with and are shaped by the world around us.
For me, this has meant consuming books, films, and television with a wider range of perspectives. I’m particularly aware of my lack of understanding of the history of my own country (Australia) and am consciously adding Aboriginal writers and filmmakers to my reading/watch list. In order for real change to happen, I know this needs to be a lifelong commitment.
5. Letting Go of Things I Can’t Control
This year was supposed to see my second feature screenplay turned into a film. Then a global pandemic happened and it was called off. Then things looked like they were improving so it was possibly back on. Then it was maybe back on but only if cases slowed in Victoria but not enough to lift the lockdowns so we could shoot in an empty ski resort. Then the ski resorts opened but so did the cases and it was off. Now it might be on, but not in Victoria …
Not being able to plan ahead is a bit of an emotional roller coaster — we’re used to having some level of control over our futures. There’s literally nothing I can do about this and the only way to cope is to refuse to worry about it. Instead, I channel my anxiety into writing obsessive to-do lists for the minutiae of my days so I can feel some sense of achievement. (Practice Guitar — TICK! Clean the House — TICK!)
6. Feeling Okay About Doing Nothing
When Lockdown 1.0 happened, a meme circulated among writers’ groups — reminding us that Shakespeare produced his greatest works during the Plague. This, of course, had the effect of triggering making me feel incredibly guilty that I wasn’t writing King Lear, which in turn only increased my doom-scrolling on Twitter thus reducing further my likelihood to write a Shakespearean masterpiece.
In Lockdown 2.0, I’m trying hard not to be the seven-day-a-week worker I’ve always been. I would like to take off whole afternoons to just walk the dog and nap without feeling terrible about it. Sometimes I manage this and other days — like this one — it’s Sunday and I’m stressing about writing a blog, sending out a newsletter, and I had two film meetings before lunchtime.