Sunday, 18 July 2021

[ the lockdown diaries ]

After three weeks already of this situation, everyone is tired, everyone is scared, and everyone is very, very bored.

So, as we embark on yet another lockdown, a harder lockdown, a lockdown with greater restrictions, higher levels of police presence, and surprisingly consistent panic buying, I want you all to remember one thing; it's the same lockdown, really. 

Nothing has changed. It's Groundhog Day for all of us. Again. Except we're doing it together, in some sort of weird, group hallucination, déjà vu...thing. 

In effort to keep us all sane (read = myself), it's important to review your actions, keep up a routine, be mindful, and take every day as it comes...

For example, I only washed my hair for the first time in 3 days today. I hadn't quite felt up to the mammoth task grooming the Disney locks entails, though it seems I probably should have got to it sooner; I found toothpaste on the ends, and vegemite on my ear. Disturbingly, I haven't eaten vegemite for a month. 

Moving on. 

It's also vital you try to keep track of times, dates, and familiar items to retain some sense of normalcy in your surroundings and avoid unnecessary distress. Like last Thursday, when I asked Mum where I left my glasses. Four times. In an hour. While in a Zoom meeting. 

Obviously, I was wearing them.

Letting yourself become complacent about things is a slippery slope to losing the feeling of control. Though, do remember, don't hold the reins so tightly you let stress drive the cart, as it were.

(Let's just let me have that metaphor, shall we? Otherwise you're in for all sorts of horse-related jokes, and I'm not that funny)

Diet, or more clearly, food habits, are a good way to gauge how you're coping during the days and weeks that roll together. 

Hypothetically, eating a large bag of chips, half a tub of salsa, a boiled egg and 3 Babybels, while watching the microwave cook my - ehem - your second lunch for the day, probably isn't the best choice you can make. 

Exercise is a simply brilliant way to keep fit, healthy, and mentally blow the cobwebs away. It is allowed under the restrictions, and I cannot recommend enough a good walk in your local area (yes, alright, the only place we're allowed to go, but still). You may even see someone you can say a quick hello to. Socially distant and safe, of course.

Went for a walk around the block just the other day, in fact. I talked to Roger, Darcy, the little family down the road, and my friend, Marvin. 

Admittedly, Roger and Darcy are what we call our cars, the little family happen to be a noisy, slightly territorial and vicious murder of crows, and Marvin is a futuristic-looking lamp in a lighting store on Canterbury Road.

(As in, Marvin the paranoid android? Anyone?)

Beside the point, however. Exercise is healthy! Anyway. 

As we all now have reasonably persistent, crippling anxiety as a standard, it borders on self-indulgent to let yourself get carried away. One must stop gnashing our teeth, throwing our hands up in frustration, and crying in the kitchen. Or the back garden. Or the loungeroom. 

If nothing else, that's very amateur; ugly crying should only ever be done in the shower, obviously. And, seeing as you're trying to save tissues for the inevitable toilet paper shortage, you've a lot of washing to get done after ruining the sleeves of at least 5 jumpers with snot on them. 

Stay informed during the lockdown! Do not fall prey to online gossip forums, covid deniers, and rubbish you read on facebook. 

There's a pressor every day at 11, which is a good time to have a morning tea break and chat to Gladys, Kerry, and Gary Worboys. Full of helpful(ish), straightforward(ish), and clear (ok, yes, alright, not so much) information, at least this is the most direct route to keep yourself abreast of current updates. 

That being said, be aware of the waffler who can put you to sleep in his first sentence (Hazmat? Hazsn't? Hazbeen?). But apparently he shakes the routine up a bit by blithely greeting random journalists in the middle of critical updates, and repetitively using 90's lingo such as whacko, so it's possible I'm the only one who finds him incompetent, unprofessional, and a dipstick. 


Remember fam, we're all in this together. I don't say that blithely or sarcastically, or mean it any other way than exactly as said. We can't do alone, we all have to work together, and we all have to get through this as best we can under the circumstances we've been given. We have to behave, we have to follow the rules, and we have to keep doing that for as long as it takes to get to a place where we can all be safe. 

That being said, nobody is negating how hard this all is. Take care of yourself and take care of your loved ones, even as that means not seeing them. 

In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane, get some sun if you can. 

And pass the 1kg bucket of hummos, please. 


Monday, 1 February 2021

[ Conjugate. I have anxiety. You have anxiety. We have anxiety ]

The weird thing about going through a major health crisis in the middle of a pandemic is that there's now constant competition for your usual existential crisis, general misgivings, and small-game worries (not to be confused with large-game worries, better known as adversity, but we'll get to those).

It's not so much that the health thing isn't really scary. It is. In fact, it can still have you sitting on the bathroom floor, after relocating from the bedroom floor, to ugly-cry buckets before feeling exhausted and dehydrated then crawling back into bed with your misery.

It's just, once you make it through the initial shock of another fucking health concern to work through, you're kind of back to square one in terms of constant, low-level, high-functioning anxiety. Except, with the pandemic, that level is now a solid medium-grade with flickers of code red, depending on how much you watch the news. 

And that's where things get interesting (dark humour, clinical-style, thoughtful interesting). 


As hard as it is, try to think back to events before the pandemic. A single nasty event specifically, if you can. We all know that negative stuff sticks better than positive, so it shouldn't be too hard, but give it a crack. 

Now this isn't going to be pleasant, but that's the point; really think about that event. Did you lose your job, did someone pass away, did something happen to your home? Think about how you felt at the time, the things you said, the way you acted. As dreadful as this is, I promise it's going somewhere, so bear with me a bit longer.

Ok, now that feeling is buzzing uneasily, put a pin in it. Just for a moment. Now think of an event that happened during the pandemic that was similar in consequence. Unless you have really rubbish luck, hopefully it's not the exact same thing, but something comparable. Here's the really hard part; try to also suspend your feelings about the pandemic and covid. Just for a minute. 

Again, I know this is weird, but it is going somewhere. And for those of you who reckon you've made it through the last few years, 2020 included, with nary a stray flat tyre on a dark road late at night, well done you. Either that, or liar liar, pants on fire. Back to the shitty life events. 

Think about this second event the same way as the first. How did you feel, what did you say, what did you do? Barring obvious differences, did the two events feel similar, or did the second feel worse? And if it did, let the obvious - pandemic - bias slide back in. Then question if the second one felt worse because of the pandemic, or not. 

Hold that thought. 


Here's the thing about shitty stuff; it sticks. Remember what I said earlier about negative and positive stuff? It's called the negativity bias, and before you go hunting down the rabbit hole of trying to understand it, let's just say (very) basically that it means humans are predisposed and wired to reflect more on negative than positive things, even if the positive has more overall effect than the negative. 

Yea, I know, what a fucking mess we are. Anyway. 

Unfortunately, this means most bad things that happens to us can actually make us feel worse later than the actual event. Don't misunderstand me here, an event is still horrible and awful and traumatising. 

But the sticky part is that after the fact, we can sometimes feel worse, recall it as worse, and generally believe it had a greater impact reach than it perhaps did at the time of the actual occurrence. 

Yea, I'm aware. This is some messed-up, mind-blowing stuff. But trust me, I looked into it. It's wild. In a creepy way. 

Not all events pan out this way, and not all recall follows the pattern. But, by and large, this is the hardwiring humans have, and we can all fall prey to it if we're not careful. 

We'll come back to that last bit in a second.  


Back at the Mexican standoff that is the comparison between a shitty event years ago and a shitty event in the last year, it might occur to you to consider the mitigating factors surrounding both these calamities. Let's choose some examples, because who doesn't like to be drawn a picture. 

A few years ago, you quit your job because of a horrible boss. Like, really horrible; demeaning, dismissive, emotionally stunted. You'd been putting up with their bs for months and months, openly trying to find a way to work with them and be the better, more evolved person, but it just wasn't happening. So you quit. 

Last year, your beloved pet passed away. You'd had them since they were a baby, they'd grown and learned with you, you'd become more than owner and pet, you'd become companions. And then there was an accident they couldn't recover from, and you had to make a heartbreaking decision. 

Try to inject a little more emotion into these things - we haven't got the wordcount for me to go into the emotional depths required, but I'm sure you all get the idea. 

What would make these things worse? Surrounding circumstances obviously, so let's make it interesting (again, in a creepy, clinical way); these events could have happened at the same time. You had to quit your job because of all the bs, while your beloved pet was ill, then it passed away. You stayed home from your horrible job to take care of your sick pet, decided to quit because the bs was too much, and then your pet died. 

Let's stop before it gets too convoluted, but you're following along, right? Obviously you know what comes next then. You got it; COVID-19. 


Usually, we have some general guideline with which to deal with life's trials and tribulations. We've had a similar experience, someone we know has gone through a situation, we've seen and heard and even been partly involved in stuff. Not so much with covid.

Less convoluted to understand but certainly stickier, your anxiety has no baseline for a global pandemic. It can't rationalise the gut wrenching fear of going into lockdown, or being away from your loved ones. It can't apply logic to a world where shaking hands could mean ending up in the ICU ward of a hospital. And it certainly can't reasonably reconcile over 2 million people dying from what amounts to a zombie version of the flu. No one has any experience even close to related. 

Unless you work in virology or have spent significant time in the Congo (home of the virus that spawned a bunch of scary movies), no one has a baseline experience for this. Even people who have say this is the scariest thing they've seen in years. And these people watch bacteria eat human flesh

Something to think about.


Hence, we come back to a health crisis, general worries, and captain anxiety (sorry, got carried away there). And the pandemic. Always the pandemic. 

But that's the point we've come around to; the pandemic affects everything. It's on the news every day, it's on our streets, in our homes. All day, every day. And we can't escape it. Not right now, not yet.

So here's something to keep in mind when the next shitty happens - because it will, that's how life works - the pandemic is still happening. I know we're all trying not to relate everything to covid, but I'm taking a slightly different view, just for this. 

When that thing happens, when things come crashing down around you, absolutely feel like hell, scream and rage at the world. Throw things, cry, make some slightly destructive life choices. But also, take a breath and give yourself a break, just long enough to check whether the shitometer is just that much higher because the greater world has gone to hell in a handbasket and still hasn't quite gained equilibrium yet. 

Give yourself a moment to wonder if you could change jobs and feel little more confident and a little less insecure if the unemployment rate wasn't a record high. Because of the pandemic. 

Pat your little furbaby and wonder if their loss wouldn't be so hard if you could spend time with other people's furbabies. Except for the pandemic and house rules. 

Sit with your doctor, try to be calm, and discuss options like any other health scare, but speak a little louder to be heard through the mask. Because - you got it - global pandemic. 


Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your anxiety gremlins, your depression demons, your panic monsters (soz, happened again, but the idea stands). Be kind, give yourself a break, moreso than usual. Because we are still here, the pandemic is still on, and we've got a way to go yet.

You need to get up off the metaphorical (or physical) floor, dust yourself off, let yourself be sad, but temper it with understanding for your feelings. 

If nothing else, you're ruining all the good work of constant hand sanitising.



Sunday, 20 December 2020

[ lions and tiger and bees...]

It's a strange thing
To be a dreamer
And wish the word would intrude on you
With the same dreams as you
And not the harsh ones it already has

When money seems more appealing than love
When security is more pressing than passion
When you close your eyes and see a cage instead of the horizon
No answer will satisfy
Only time and change will bring the demons to heal


If you turn your head just so, the thoughts tumble one way
If you turn it the other way, they slide back to sleep
Would that life were as easy as deciding to turn your face to the sun
Or close your eyes to retreat

If all that's between took form,
If all that's inside became soemthing tangible,
It would be warm blankets on cold nights, and whiskey with a kick. 
It would be dark chocolate and hot cider, rain on wet grass, and light in glass windows.
It would dound like the sigh of the wind and the lap of the sea. Like glass breaking and doors creaking.
It would be constant as sunrise and mysterious as moonlight.
But most of all, it would be the real things that sometimes we can't explain.



Wednesday, 2 September 2020

[ me and mr brown ]

We're all tired of reading about anything pandemic related; the stats and figures, the government mandates, people doing the right thing, people doing the wrong thing, people doing other weird things, and the endless, heartbreaking stories that bring you to tears just watching the news. 

To be clear, this story is happening during the pandemic, but it isn't about the pandemic. I'm pretty sure I could be having this kind of, umm, episode, shall we say, any time, global virus aside. 

Now that we've got that sorted, let me tell you about me and Mr Brown...


A few months ago, I started a pretty exciting relationship. I originally met him on set for a production about celebrities in the jungle (not the show you're thinking of*). He was a co-presenter and I was working with the production crew. 

We just hit it off. He was charming and lovely, and not at all like the prima donnas you usually work with. I was all business and that seemed to really appeal to him; somehow I managed to get my day job done whilst also being a total flirt (no one is surprised). 

Once the show was over, I headed back home and he stayed on for a while. He's a vet you see, and was doing some animal education to bring back with him. It was weird for us both because we wanted to see each other again, also being aware these sorts of relationships can go either way. 

Luckily, when he came home about a month later, it was lovely. We thought it would be awkward, but it wasn't; it was sweet and romantic. He turned up at my house with flowers and we sat in the garden and drank gin. After that, we started playing that game of trying to keep things on the down low because he's still pretty celeb, and we're seeing how it goes.

Really, there's only one major issue to our relationship, and for those of you who know me, again, no one will be surprised. 

Yes, that's right; it's all in my head. The vet is Dr Chris Brown, and the closest we've ever come is bumping into each other in Bondi Junction about 6 years ago, with him winking and grinning at me when I recognised him. 

Yes, my friends, in isolation, I've totally invented an entire relationship. Complete with meet-cute, dates, arguments, sex scenes, and habits. 

At least it's with a real person, right...? 


To be fair, it's not the unhealthiest relationship I've ever had. But also - obvi - not the healthiest. At least I'm seeing this person in my head, and not, say, from their garden window at midnight dressed in a balaclava. 

Anyway. It all started with a semi-sexy dream where we shared a steamy kiss. I actually had a similar dream years ago about Simon Baker; nothing overtly sexual, just this really dreamy, gorgeous kiss, and I woke up feeling all moony over him. That 'fling' lasted for ages. 

And now, the new guy in my sub-conscious; also blonde, also tall and broad-shouldered, shiny white teeth, surfie looks, an excellent example of the Aussie male. Clearly, my psyche has a type. Which is weird, because in real life I like all types. Am I reading too much Men's Health in my sleep? 

Moving on. So me and Dr Chris. I've always had a soft spot for him. How could you not? He ticks all the boxes; well-kept, well-dressed, well-educated, cares about people, cares about animals more, advocates on a variety of topics, is nice to his co-workers, the list goes on. 

The worst that could be said of him is that perhaps he's a little vanilla, a little boring. Apparently, his worst secret is that he got done for malicious damage as a teenager mucking about with his mates and damaging an outdoor movie theatre sign. Yea, sorry Doc, we've all been done for some sort of mischief, you're not special. Vanilla AF really. 

And apart from his apparent, slight preference of cats over dogs, and his appalling habit of wearing loafers with no socks (and worse *shudder* boat shoes), there doesn't seem much more to him than what you see is what you get. Which is refreshing, and he's definitely up there on the mental lust-list, it's just not exactly the be-all and end-all in terms of thrills and excitement. 


So, what's the deal? Why am I sub-consciously hung up on a straight-up guy who happens to be a tv vet with a Colgate smile? Maybe that's exactly the thing; he's A-grade, straight as an arrow. There's nothing subversive or weird about him, he isn't going to randomly pull out some off-the-wall crazy I didn't know he had, he's exactly what it says on the box. And when everyone you meet right now has the possibility of spouting all sorts of nonsense in times like these, maybe that's much more internally appealing than I thought. 

Which is probably why I've been 'dating' him for months now. In my dreams. Literally. 

Reasonably, after the first one, I didn't think much of it other than what a nice interlude it was. The second tickled my fancy for the coincidence, the third made me consider if eating cheese before bed was such a good idea*. 

But the interludes have continued. Not with any regularity or schedule, but often enough to call it a pattern. In that case, what the hell; let's call it a relationship. It's not functional, has unclear prospects, and is entirely reliant on my ability to one-sidedly sustain it. 

Situation normal then really. 


Therefore, under the circumstances, I'm keeping it rolling. I mean, why not? There's no agreement in place, no money has changed hands, he hasn't met my family. It's win-win, and all in my favour. 

Plus, let's be honest, I'm sure things are all good and well for him with Brooke Meredith right now, but at least in my head, he eventually decides on his own to stop wearing those fucking shoes and buy a dog.


*Ok, probably almost exactly the show you're thinking of, but it's my story, so shut up

*It's a brilliant idea. Weirdest dreams you'll ever have but staves off midnight munchies. Balance people, balance.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

[ daily dilution and the feedback loop ]

A while back1, I got off the daily social media bandwagon. To be fair, it came on slowly and quietly, and I think I really only took note when someone asked me if I'd seen something or other, and the news was more than a week old. I'd spent a fair bit of time worrying about shit that didn't matter, some that did, and mentally going through a bunch of other things, so socials fomo wasn't top of my agenda most days.

However, when it did occur, this seemed quite the change from my usual habits. I like a good dose of anything and everything, then my brain sifts through it all, separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

I don't know whether I felt like I was getting more chaff than wheat, or that it was harder to sift through the mountains of data filtering into my brain, but I do know the change was there and it was sticking, like a good wheat flour does when you make dough.

Sorry, I'm at the bread-making stage of iso. Anyway.

It didn't bother me really, but it did made me think about where I was getting my daily dilution from. Everyone has personal outlets that dilute the thoughts in their head, whether by default or design. Those of us with anxiety and OCD tend to go looking for them, because otherwise we spend waaay too much time in our own heads, and there's only so much intelligence in there before you hit the mischief-worry gremlins2, and these guys are there just to make trouble no matter you do.

Back to daily dilution. I was obviously still getting mine from some of my usual sources; the news, occasional Instagram, texting, family, videocalls. But obviously not others; shooting the breeze with my baristas were off, catch ups with friends were limited, interacting with colleagues now firmly in the cyber zone, and a trip to the shops now a Mission:Impossible rather than Breakfast at Tiffanys. My dilution level had firmly veered off-scale, and it's unclear what the resulting consequence would be.


Then I read this. For those of you who can't get through the whole thing, the basic gist is; office workers are getting paranoid because they're not getting the usual feedback they do from working in an office. After going to a meeting or making a presentation, you'd usually be able to read the room, debrief with the team, decompress with a cuppa, and/or check in with the boss. Directly. With eye-contact, social cues, and all the other juicy stuff we love and loathe. 

Now, with everyone remote and everything online, people sit in their own heads with their own thoughts and brood. Incessantly. About how meetings went, what colleagues think of them, whether their work is up to scratch, should they interact more, should they talk less, did they get their point across, and on and on it goes. 

Because we're not just doing this a few times a week, we're doing this all day, every day, constantly. With no change as yet in sight. 

The piece dives deeper into the reasoning and the consequences but let me pause there, as the feedback loop stretches further afield than just the workplace. Or rather, the lack of one does.


This time last year, most of us would make decisions based on a variety of factors, then action them dependant on said factors. Let's pick a low- to mid-range importance one and follow it through; I'm thinking of chopping off all my hair3

Beginning the process of above, I'd see something random, perhaps a celebrity with similiar features, think they look good with their luscious new do, and consider how I'd look. I'd scroll back through my socials feeds, checking old hairstyles, checking pals hairstyles, judging, filtering out how I felt about both. I'd then garner the opinion of loved ones, friends, and finally, a professional (hairdresser, smartass, not a therapist). 

In terms of whether I'd actually go through with said decision, my mind would be fairly made up by the time I started getting opinions, but again - dilution. Doing research helps, but hearing what people who know and love you think, then weighing that up against my own thoughts about said thing (i.e. chopping the locks), gave balance and variance. 

Occasionally, things change your mind; given enough contrary feedback, input that varies to your own, and of course opinions will alter, and therefore actions too. That's the whole point of being well-informed and evolving. 

And that's where the problem is, right here, right now; the feedback loop. We haven't got one. 


A little while back4, I got into bread-making. 

Let me rephrase that; I spent the better part of two weeks agonising over getting into bread making. Nope, not just what sort of bread, where to get the best flour, whether to use a machine or by hand (you know, the reasonable, important stuff). No, no, I agonised over actually making bread at all. You know, just, should I make bread...

For those of you not following along; It Didn't Fucking Matter. Not then. Not now.

I mean, taking up a hobby that was recommended to me by a loved one as a stress-release sounded great. But, being me - and with a wonky dilution function throwing off my feedback loop - I deep-dived into that decision like someone had asked me to donate a kidney. 

What did making bread mean to me? Would it fulfil me? Would I actually be able to eat the bread? Who would I give it to if I didn't? I questioned whether the loved one was actually serious, or had they meant it as a throwaway comment? Did other people make bread? Which people? Would I need to join a group to understand bread? 

Holy Fucking Spadoolies Magrat. It's just bread. Carby, tasty, satisfying. But not, in fact, donating a kidney. 

I can't blame this all on one thing and I can't say what it was for absolute sure either. But consider this; with a decent feedback loop that comes from looking people in the eye, gauging people's tone, but also not just spending all your time with all your own thoughts, there's a mammoth possibility that I would have just taken the words as the affectionate suggestion they were, considered it briefly, agreed heartily, then got into making my multigrain soy and linseed far sooner than the fuckwittery that followed. 

Hold that thought...


In our parents' day, let alone our grandparents', they sat down and talked. They went to dinner and coffee and had long chats about everything under the sun. They added booze if it was an especially sensitive topic, or went somewhere fun if it was a celebration. But they got together and engaged on the matter at hand. I know, novel right? 

They actually sat together and looked each other in the eye. For hours. They didn't just hum one-word answers between text messages over dinners they photographed for people online they didn't actually know. The psychos! 

My point here is that while you're thinking about how frustrating and upsetting this is for you, maybe also spare a thought for people who have even less of a feedback loop than you do. Don't mistake me; they may have social media and computers and cable tv, but they don't use it like younger generations do. 

It pains me to boil down a point to an age thing, but it's more about a group of people who have certain habits that have been rudely, swiftly, and brutally dismissed. 

Ok, moving on from the rant-y section, but keep that in mind for later...


What we're all doing at the moment, from angsty teenagers to hipster twenty-somethings, from laid-back late thirties to perky pensioners, is living a lot with our own stuff. And every time we step outside our bubble, or rather, every opportunity we get to step outside it, it's pandemic this and restrictions that. Government mandates, medical testing, pillaged supermarkets. Weird world leaders and community violence. People suffering and people misbehaving. 

It's any wonder we make stupid, knee-jerk decisions, or endlessly torment ourselves over simple stuff (see aforementioned bread situation). No wonder we react badly to something not that bad, and get excited about stuff everyone needs to be a little less excited about

It's a bit crap at the moment, and no one is doing anything remotely normal because there aren't that many normal things to do. That's no ones fault; it's a global pandemic. But we need to keep saying that to ourselves, we need to keep overexplaining that to ourselves, and to everyone else. 

So, yes, we are over-reacting and under-reacting. And no, your reactions are not normal, but this is not a normal time. Yes, we will get back to feeling settled and regular, but it won't be 'normal' like people want it to be, and we need to stop using that as the word du jour. This wasn't and isn't normal, it's life-changing and there's nothing we can do about it.

As a result, maybe we start cutting ourselves some slack, cutting everyone else some slack, and just trying to make decisions again based on logical thinking, reasonable judgement, and the usual good input from your nearest and dearest. Until it really gets through, until we can step back from a moment, just for a beat, and check ourselves, how we are treating things and how we are treating others, and just be cool.

Oh, and totally stop checking what reddit says we should be doing today. That rubbish will rot your brain.


1everything comes in this timeframe now; you can say days / weeks / months, but really, it all kind of blurs into one segue

2these are the asshats who wake you up at 2am to consider how much better your life would be if you were richer / thinner / in a better job. Fuck these guys

3don't be absurd, of course this is a hypothetical. It's Lady Lovely Locks until I die now

4see first note - this is slightly less time than that, but still anywhere between five days and a month

Thursday, 30 April 2020

[ magick in isolation ]

In some ways, there's a very surreal feeling to current times; some days I feel like we've been in isolation forever. Like the days and weeks, edging eerily close to months, have been drifting along for ages and ages, and we can't seem to recall the last time we went out for anything that wasn't 'necessary' or 'essential' (a strange thing to define right now).

Other times, days when the sun hits my face just right, or when I can smell winter cooking on the air starting up, those days, it feels like we've only been doing this for a little while. A little shock of delight when I recall the last time I bought a takeaway latte and joked with my barista. Hurrying home from the station to beat the crowds. The faces of all the people I encountered every day, how their expressions changed when they saw me (good, bad, and indifferent!).

I've been thinking about all the things I've read, about how it's completely normal to feel and be less productive in a global pandemic. I've realised there are things I can and can't do, and some things that are just plain different no matter how much I want them to be the same. Even that seems surreal somehow, like I'm standing in the middle of storm I can't control, as well as having no way of even quantifying anything even resembling a plan. Which is super normal it seems but doesn't make it any less weird.

To be honest, I've never felt isolated as a solitary witch before. All my training over the years has been dipping in and out of group work anyway; I got to work with others when I wanted, and practice alone when I didn't. I've always had the option of how I worked my magic. Now, even if I wanted to, I don't have a choice.

Or do I...?

Here's the thing; day by day, week by week, I'm starting to grasp the small blessings that come from a situation as appalling as this. The little things that reconnect me to the earth - you know, the one that's currently trying to annihilate us, one event at a time.

(I mean, how much bigger sign do we need than three natural disasters in a row? I know I say that the universe is vast, and we are miniscule, so sometimes messages get lost in translation, but this is pretty mind-blowingly clear).

But this doesn't negate how hard this all is, how stressful and mentally exhausting every single hour can be, just trying to forge a new way of acting normal. Because this isn't normal, it isn't simple, and sometimes, it really doesn't feel like it will ever be over.

So, while we're here, we need to use this time as best we can and do what we can. As witches, as practitioners, as otherlings. We need to use our not-inconsiderable strength and power, and punch it joyfully out into the world. Or even just whisper quietly to our spirits in the dark, you know?

I'm come up with a list of ways you can do this in isolation (come on, you all knew a list was coming, don't pretend you didn't). This list will give you an idea of how to keep working in these extraordinary times, little rituals I hope will give you comfort and spark your own ideas, ways we can keep making magic, no matter what.

~* Miss sitting in a park or trekking around the bush? Yea, me too. But we're not in prison cells - nature is everywhere if you look hard enough. Whether you live in an apartment or are lucky enough to have a massive garden, spend some time with plants. Walk barefoot on grass if you can, or just stick your fingers in the earth (announce yourself first, it's only polite!), close your eyes, and breathe in that earthy scent. Feel the grainy texture of the soil, smell the smell of organic growing things. Hold it in your mind. Return to it when you're feeling out of sorts. 
We all came from this, and to this we shall return *~

~* Being the whitest white girl in Sydney, I don't really strike people as a 'beachy' person. And I'm not, but that doesn't mean I don't miss my yearly trip to feel the sand on my toes, the smell of the sea, or cold, fresh water on my skin. If you're lucky enough to live close to the ocean, I'll bet you're popping down whenever you can for exercise, but for those of us who don't, all is not lost. Even for those in apartments.

It's important to keep our visualisation skills honed, so this is a great exercise for them. You can take a jug of water outside, or even just stand at the kitchen sink (remember what I said about the universe not caring about the tools, only the intent). Dip your fingers slowly into the water. Visualise where it's coming from; think of a stream or the tide on a beach coming to lap at your hands. Sink into the images you're creating, let them wash over your whole being. If you can hold it long enough, you might even begin to smell something, but don't worry if you don't, that will come with time *~

~* Does everything smell like antiseptic? Is the medicinal smell making you just a little bit crazy, like lady Macbeth trying to wash imaginary blood from her hands? Just because we should all be washing our hands and accessories more thoroughly these days doesn't mean we need to smell like a chemist all the time. You can still be hospital-grade hygienic and smell like an English garden.

Start washing your hair and body with things from the pantry. You heard me; the pantry. Put honey and lemon in your hair, and olive oil on your skin. Brush your teeth with a wee bit of bi-carb soda, and bathe or shower with some sage or rosemary. No need to go overboard, a little goes a long way in this case. And as a bonus - you can eat this stuff too. Win, win, right?*~

~*Everyone is sleeping badly right now, and everyone is having weird dreams. Some of us are having nightmares, and that kinda sucks more than anything.

But there is a teeny silver lining to this depressing turn of events; weird hours mean more opportunities at weird magic! Ever wanted to try that midnight moon spell or that crack of dawn incantation? Well now you can.

Without a morning commute to worry about, or where you'll park your car, there's a good hour or two of your day that can be saved for other things - like cat naps between spells and work. With your lunchbreak now neatly sandwiched up against your work time, you can start using it to prep a little ritual for the afternoon, or even nod off on the lounge for a while.

Time is on your side here, so whether you redress the sleep debt balance or use it for magic, make note of the mysterious times we're living in and make them work for you*~

~*I recently dug all my old textbooks out of the garage and started to go through my favourites. Books of water magic and love spells, crystal tomes and candle texts. I found my very first notes from my training days, pressed like flowers between the pages of a dog-haired natural magic hardcover.

Revisit the past, reconnect with your roots, relearn the skills you take for granted. With so much to watch on tv, it's hard not to stay glued to the screen (I'm not dissing it by the way, just suggesting ways to rest your eyes). And most of us learned our grassroots lessons with a book in our hands.

So, wipe the dust off the jackets and leaf through your favourites. Maybe, like me, you'll get lucky and find a pendulum tucked in a bag of runes tucked away between Divination For Beginners and Hocus Pocus*~

~*Even the most solitary of witches is feeling isolated right now. There's a difference between avoiding others and groups, and avoiding everything. The former is a lifestyle choice, the latter is a survival choice.

It can be hard to understand, but science and magick are not separate things. In fact, they are very similar; magic is just a science that hasn't been proven yet. And maybe it never will, but if they are the same, surely, we can use them alike?

Attend online meditations or host sabbat parties, where everyone brings their treats to the screens and discusses their rites for the day or night. Read about your stars here or get your cards read here. Or if you're feeling especially in the mood, do your own readings for others via videocall; your magic is not diminished by distance, only by lack of belief in yourself.

Think outside the box and inside the star; new ways mixing with old*~

The is by no means an exhaustive list, and in some ways, I look forward to finding out new weird and wonderful ways to work magick at this time. I'd also like to hear from you, so feel free to drop me a line with any others you've thought of, any magical questions you might have, or even just some thoughts on how magick has changed - because it has. But not in the way you think.

Because really, you've got to know, the universe doesn't care if you use a silver bowl or a plastic one, it doesn't judge if you use cheap herbs or the torch on your phone as a candle. The energy comes from you.  The intent comes from you. The magick comes from - that's right - you. 

It always has and always will. Remember that.


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

[ lust in the time of corona ]

It's all about COVID-19 coronavirus at the moment. I'd love to tell you I had something else to talk about, but I'm working from home, watching Netflix and 'watching' memes, so my repertoire is a little light these days.

One curious little nugget that's starting to pop up though is how dating will work, especially online dating. And here, my friends, is where I shine.

Because, let's be serious; we all know I was hoarding before it became a thing, avoiding people before the government mandated it, and dating like a hybrid Bridget Jones and Taylor Swift.

Y'all ready for this?


For starters, THANK THE EVERLOVING GODS FOR SMALL TALK. I know what you're thinking; wtf? That is literally the last thing you want to be doing during this cluster of a situation. But hear me out. 

When you meet someone new, online or otherwise, you basically want them to grab your attention straight up, give you a little mental thrill of pique. In normal situations, you'd put up with all manner of utter tosh first in order to get to the meaty goodness of a chat. The hopes/wishes/dreams part. The who-I-really-am part. The part you actually care about and start paying attention to. 

With the arrival of corona, all that fuckwittery has to go. No longer is how's your day? going to cut it, the standard is going to be better and the stakes higher. Because boy, trust me; you're not the only one she's talking to, and they sure as hell aren't wasting their time on bullshit pleasantries about the weather or what she's wearing. 

You know what else is going to happen more often? Best behaviour. And I have to be honest, I'm suuuch a big fan of best behaviour, but for very conflicting reasons. You see, best behaviour can mean two things. One, you're being the really good version of yourself, as much as possible, and that version is pretty great. So much so that the rest of you, however much you find it wanting, is actually still pretty attractive to others. 

Two, and on the other hand, can also mean you're hiding your a-bit-rubbish side. You know, the one who says rude things, eats with their mouth open, and doesn't shower enough. And this is where things get interesting.

When you're dating someone in person, best behaviour lasts for approximately however long it takes for someone to fall head-over-teakettle for you, at which point, all dem flaws come tumbling out, as it were. 

You start leaving the toilet seat up, or make-up all over the sink. You start drinking milk from the carton or talking trash about his friends. You admit you didn't take SARS or swine-flu seriously, so you can't understand all the fuss around corona. It's hard to stop once it starts; we're all human, and there's only so long we can hide what we really are.

Well, guess what, lovers? Y'all in for a bumpy ride! Because now you have to be on best behaviour day after day after day. For weeks. You gotta keep your game face on and on and on, while the other person decides if they believe your little stage show, or they overpaid for their tickets. 

And now we're all in iso, that means you have to pull out all the stops in cyberspace. But don't think that means you can be complacent, it actually means the opposite; whereas the online lure used to be enough to reel them in hurriedly for the face-to-face, no one wants to get close enough to find out anytime soon, despite not being allowed to anyway. 

Therefore; best behaviour. A degree in artistry will now need to be employed. And you'll either need stamina or to actually be a good person. Because he's not meeting you at a club at 2am anymore sweetheart - he's snuggled up at home on a videocam with a girl who's teaching him to cook ratatouille while singing charmingly off-key in French. 

Pick. Up. Your. Game. 

If you've made it past the initial play, i.e. the first couple of weeks or so - ok, let's be honest, it's closer to a month - then double thumbs-up to you! You've essentially made second base without having to leave the house, spend a fortune, or go anywhere ridiculous - how is this not awesome, right?! 

Again, remember, dating, like everything else is going to get weird and unusual and we have no choice but to get on with it (except this will be funnier of course). So, should you ever want to see third base again, let alone a home run, you've got to remember that this isn't all going to end tomorrow (or even next week), and act accordingly. 

Now is not the time to get half-cut on cheap plonk, whip out your 300-strong POP! Vinyl collection and introduce your date via videochat to each and every one. By character and actor name. 

Now is not the time to stop wearing nice clothes (upper body only obvi) and start treating video-dates like a gym class, where you get in, work up a sweat, and slip out. Best behaviour, remember? 

Now, in fact, is the time to pull out the big guns. Time to start showcasing all your awesome, sexy things (not that yet, get out of the gutter). Special things, things that make you unique and groovy, not weird, creepy things, that make you, well, weird and creepy. Remember the chick who sings and cooks? Think like that; think hidden talents, not hidden habits. 

Being able to name every Rob Thomas song every written: talent. Being able to name every Australian serial killer from 1900 to now: habit. Please don't make me spell this out for you. And if I have to, get off the interwebs. Right now. 

Got a secret flair for card tricks? Yes, my man, crack them out! Able to braid hair like a Disney princess? Yaaas, queen, turn on the videocam, toot sweet! 

This is the part of the 'relationship' where things get juicy (again, not like that). We still get to spend time doing cool stuff, fun stuff, stuff we usually make an effort to do when we're dating someone in the real world. We're just not going to get to do it in person. Not any time soon anyway.

So, you've got to put in the extra effort here, be creative, think outside the box. Make. Shit. Up. In a good way, obviously.

Look, unless you're an idiot, looking to risk your health, your families, and practically anyone else's, we need to make peace with the fact that no one (no one smart, anyway) is getting laid anytime soon. Which isn't all bad really! The last time I had casual sex I ended up in emergency with a roaring UTI, a headache, 3 days off work, and a massive case of irritation. Good times. 

As far as I'm concerned, coronavirus might be the best thing to happen to the dating world since Bumble added a video chat option. So, strap in, brush your hair, fire up the laptop, and start getting creative.

And maybe brush up on those poetry skills.