On Normality

Life slowly starts to roll back to normality after a six month upheaval. Not ‘normal normal’ obviously, but ‘COVID normal’ where we still check the news a little too often, don masks to buy groceries and shy away from people blowing their noses loudly and wiping their hands on the door handle at the dentist. I feel I should have spent the last thirty years shying away from those people anyway. As a bonus consequence I’ve been remarkably well this year. Most years I get a winter cold that takes me off work for a couple of weeks, gets exacerbated by the late night gigs and over-indulgences of tour life and somehow sticks around as a perpetual sniffle until early September when it gets replaced by the itchy throat of hayfever season.

My partner tells me I’ve been clearing my throat less this year, so there’s a small positive to this global pandemic. Other small positives? I’ve been prolific on social media, posting a weekly video for three months now. I’ve upped my cooking game, embraced cuisines from a bunch of countries on the wish-list, churned out dish after delicious dish, then sat around in agony after overeating night after night. As a counter, I’ve somehow managed to curb my burgeoning waist line through giving up alcohol (only for six weeks, my asceticism has some boundaries) and running more than I’ve ever run before. I’ve written most of a new album, and some small parts of it are stronger and more exciting than anything I’ve created before (now to gather the motivation to record this sucker!).

But like the last couple gasps of a long run where you’re battling your body, or the final edits of a creative work that you’ve revised again and again and again over months, the tail end of Melbourne’s second lockdown has started hitting pretty hard. Steve tells me (I paraphrase here) that its like your body knows the end is coming. You can deal with something until you see the end is in sight, and then suddenly it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever been through and its hard to hold on for the last couple of moments. I identify with this. I was wildly productive for vast periods of lockdown. I played more music and wrote more lesson plans and recorded more snippets of songs in five months of lockdown than I’ve done in the last ten years of life, but suddenly as the end draws near everything starts to crash and crumble around me.

I talked briefly (On Down Days) about losing motivation and lying on the couch for a week, and how that mindset briefly infiltrated my life. I sat with sadness for a bit, and now I’m well and truly over that emotion, but it lingers in the last light gasps of 2020. Strange how with this decade where we have more mental stimulation than ever before in Netflix and streaming music and the internet, there still exists a space where boredom reigns supreme. It’s not about the tools we have at our disposal, it’s about mindset and mindfulness and moving through life with a sense of purpose, and sometimes its so so hard to pull those things together when you can see the end is in sight.

I do this thing sometimes, when I feel up to it, where I skip my morning meal and fast my way till lunch. It’s not fun, but if I keep myself busy I can usually get till 11 and then I find myself engulfing anything within arms reach. If I’m in the classroom I start to count the clock, tick ticking away until the time I can send the kids out to play and get myself something to eat. When I’m not careful I quickly inhale my lunch, then inhale the staff room snacks, then inhale anything else in sight. I usually take an afternoon snack to work, but if I skip morning food, the afternoon snack becomes an essential part of midday food. It’s a visceral response to feast post time of famine (of course I pay for it in an afternoon of hunger, but binging feels good in the moment ala the Roman Empire).

I’m starting to feel the final gasps of hunger in relation to lockdown. I’ve powered through the night. I’ve powered through the morning. All the good intentions and self-discipline that have kept me going have evaporated, and its 10.50 and I’m ready to binge on the freedom of friendship.

One of the things that HAS kept me feeling fulfilled in this time is these weekly videos I’ve been releasing. More than anything its something to do. It gives me a specific task with a specific time restriction. It also gives me a reason to reconnect friends, most of whom I haven’t seen in six months.

This week’s video with Harry Broome is a perfect example. I hadn’t made the connection between the words and this week’s blog until just now, but some parallels apply!

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