Right now there’s a lot of people doing it tough.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a home. Owing to COVID and extreme weather, my partner lost income, I lost gigs and our daughter lost her school – but we’re okay. I don’t need much and I’m not a materialist.
Many of our friends and community lost a lot more. It’s almost impossible to comprehend, even when you’ve been one of the helpers stacking the piles of broken belongings. It’s weird to say it, but I’ve found it really challenging at times. And it’s hard to talk about because I’m okay. I’m not on the phone for days to an insurer. Or online trying to navigate Service NSW support grants.
Some call it ‘survivor’s guilt’, but I don’t think it’s that. It’s empathetic exhaustion. It’s the trauma of witnessing the trauma of another and wondering what the F you can do. I don’t feel guilty, I feel sad. I feel like I have to do more. I have what feels like FOMO, but it’s not fear of missing out on a party or a social outing, it’s about missing an opportunity to help someone, or an opportunity to make a difference. Even a very little difference.
After the last two years I don’t feel the same. Life’s changed. I’ve changed.
I worry about my kids. About all our kids. I worry that they will lose hope. That they’ll withdraw rather than expand. That they’ll dig into despondency and loss. That they’ll miss the opportunity of their own remarkable resilience and power to transform.
The other day I was wondering what happened to that easy life we used to have. Re-member that life? When you planned things and they happened. When you organised a birthday party or a wedding and it went ahead. When you said you’d see someone at Christmas time and you did. Now we make plans and have liquid paper on stand by. Disappointment is the fragrance of these times.
It’s one of the big impacts after the flood, after the COVID lockdowns; it’s the damage you can’t see. It’s the part of us that feels uncertain. That’s the one precious thing we’ve all had taken from us – our certainty – our blind faith. Without certainty, or at least a justified sense of certainty (in what is without a doubt an uncertain world), we are fragile.
It takes a special kind of resoluteness to find a place of joy and hope. To be positive instead of negative. To be someone full of belief, rather than a jaded cynic shaking her head going ‘I knew it would all go to shit’. I don’t ever want to be that person. Every day I engage in what I call my certainty recovery program. The certainty is that there is none. That somewhere in there I still have to find hope. I have to find a way through the rubble. To replenish our precious and fragile humanity.
Every day I start the day by reading updates of the war in Ukraine, and like many, find the suffering and the meaningless violence hard to take in. I watch families living underground in train stations because their homes are either gone or too risky to return to. I read of rape and devastation and death and sorrow. I marvel at their quiet courage. I can’t imagine living like that; where our worst fears have become certainty. They are in constant danger, and many will die. How do we, as a global community, continue to live beside this?
How do we pull the narrative threads of those lives we witness on the news, those lives we know are real, together with our life? How do we weave a sense of our place in this, in how we might evolve, and in how we would want this to unfold if we had the power to change it? And most importantly, how do we weave together who we are, and how we are in relationship with each other?
The other night I watched The Cat Empire play their last gig with their full line-up at Bluesfest. After years of not being able to gather in large groups it was profoundly beautiful to stand in a sea of people and listen to thousands sing with the band…
‘Music is the language of us all’.
Because, it kind of is.
Music is a unifier of hope, and poetry, that lands in our body and heart.
Sometimes it’s just in that moment – that’s all the certainty we have.
And it’s enough. Maybe, like the Cats sing, our weapons are our instruments.
We just have to learn to play them.