Many local residents patiently waited as the gate was opened to allow swimming and surfing at Bondi Beach for the first time and four weeks. Picture: Matrix News
Many local residents patiently waited as the gate was opened to allow swimming and surfing at Bondi Beach for the first time and four weeks. Picture: Matrix News

The isolation lessons worth taking back into normal life

Now that, in New South Wales at least, residents are allowed from Thursday to have two other people over to the house, I can tell you there's one person who won't be invited.

The archetypal Karen.

Who's 'Karen'? Well, she's emerged in COVID-19 times as the internet meme of the busybody and let's be clear, there are plenty of male Karens out there too (plus also some very decent people with the same name).

But this Karen's attitude reeks of 'Can I Speak To The Manager'-style imperiousness and 'Karen' revels in restrictions and dobbing which is spectacularly back in fashion. There's no human behaviour too minimal to call in to the cops or complain about on the Facebook neighbourhood group.

While a return to free Aussie life is so tantalisingly within reach as we embark on a phased relaxation of lockdown measures, it also ushers in self reflection.

So what has been supremely irritating about iso life and what has been a delight, so much that we want it hang onto it?

The aforementioned Karen type is an advocate of dobbing under the guise of 'keeping everyone safe', but there's flattening the curve and everyone taking responsibility for their health and then there's spiteful taletelling and cops driving on grassy parkland telling solo people to pack up and go home.

Hopefully we never have to see the toilet paper wars again. Picture: AAP/James Gourley
Hopefully we never have to see the toilet paper wars again. Picture: AAP/James Gourley

If 12 months ago someone said we'd be brawling in broad daylight over three-ply loo roll, they'd be quietly ushered to a corner and told to get a grip.

But hair pulling, spitting and wrestling over supermarket groceries meant we got used to wild and sometimes violent scenes at supermarkets as shoppers fought one another in blind outrage for the last packet of toilet paper.

Our frail, disabled and elderly didn't stand a chance and I know of more than one who was too scared to venture out to the shops. I have a friend whose elderly mother-in-law's fear was so great she would be knocked over and seriously injured that she didn't leave her house for two weeks - not even to go to the letterbox.

Corona catastrophisers - yes we will also be glad to see the back of them. We all need to get outside for physical and mental benefits but the critics were out in force when surfing and swimming effectively became legal again between 7am and 5pm at Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama, by way of just one example. It's sunny, you're on the sand and we're all going to die.

Our wavering level of social cohesion meant the social distance rules were ramped up in a bid to immunise against stupidity.

And that means we've been shaming people for going outside. Runners, bike riders, casual strollers - all subjected to finger pointing and death stares. The sensible folk realise that the health benefits of being outside outweighs the risk of getting the virus as long as you are social distancing, continually washing your hands and so on.

COVID-19 lockdown measures will ease slightly this week. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty
COVID-19 lockdown measures will ease slightly this week. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty

But as we learn that control over our lives in society is largely an illusion and embrace some cutting of the slack, we can also take heart in our kids.

Our children will remember fondly this strange and testing time in history. How on earth did mum, dad and kids operate 24 hours a day in a merged school office home environment and, arguments aside, survive with stories and a lifetime bond that, for once, didn't take a lifetime to make.

In that way, lockdown has forced a bracing focus on us all. Stripped from our roaming mindset, we have all had to tap into resilience.

Many parents who work long hours away from home in an office have found a way for their work and family life to merge. And sure, it hasn't been perfect. Try conducting a phone conference with the boss while the neighbourhood dog shrieks constantly, no matter which room of the house you try to hide in but necessity has helped us make it work.

And maybe some are reassessing work-life balance - especially if WFM has been a success. Anything that encourages quality family time has to be a winner.

Isolation, food and stock shortages and having the kids home all the time has reminded me that it is not only easy to pare life down to the basics but it can even be fun. Interestingly our television has been on less than it was pre-lockdown and I have been reminded on a daily basis that I really enjoy hanging out with my kids.

Surfers return to the water as Bondi Beach reopens to the public following an outbreak of coronavirus. Picture: AAP/Joel Carrett
Surfers return to the water as Bondi Beach reopens to the public following an outbreak of coronavirus. Picture: AAP/Joel Carrett

And I am confident that while they may never admit it publicly, they have realised this too.

If I can hang onto that for the last few years of their childhoods, that's a corona blessing.

Resilience has tipped into heroism of doctors, nurses and hospital staff for whom just going to work is a risk - to themselves and their own families.

And let's face it - we were taking them for granted.

We've heard stories of frontline doctors and nurses who moved out of home so they could keep working and keep their families safe. Medicos have come out of retirement to boost staff levels.

The volunteers who continue to staff food banks, do meals on wheels deliveries and check on the elderly and disabled.

The companies who changed their production lines to mass-produce medical equipment like ventilators and personal protection equipment.

The children who wrote letters to elderly residents in lockdown at aged care facilities.

As we see the beginning of the end to this current wave of coronavirus - knowing that a second wave may yet befall us - how are we going to step forward?

With a new-found love for simple pleasures, with a new appreciation of what family really means and an extra layer of resilience wrapped around us.

@whatlouthinks

Originally published as The isolation lessons worth taking back into normal life



Music teacher pockets $1350 cash ‘as collateral’

Premium Content Music teacher pockets $1350 cash ‘as collateral’

A Boonah woman caught with meth, pipes and piles of cash told police she had taken...

‘There’s a bomb in my bag’: Drugs blamed for bizarre threats

Premium Content ‘There’s a bomb in my bag’: Drugs blamed for bizarre threats

A drug-affected man forced the evacuation of a supermarket after making a bomb...

Young mum warned: ‘Don’t waste money on dope’

Premium Content Young mum warned: ‘Don’t waste money on dope’

An Ipswich woman was caught with marijuana following a raid by detectives