Oct 2021

Happy with time

Coburg Lake
Coburg Lake

By Sarah Andrew, Liberty Common Equity Rental Housing Co-operative (CERC) member

During lockdown there's an eerie quiet and peacefulness in the streets. All around us we become fastidious, washing our hands and clothes, scared of inhaling the dreaded virus. Now, with restrictions possibly easing, so do our minds.

I spend some of my days studying Peer Work in a mental health course. I learn about, and contribute, my own lived experience of being unwell. The teacher and other students are on board with this movement. They have the experience of how to attain wellness in their lives, after having been through so much themselves. I have almost completed the year of studying. 

Home learning for my son Lewis has been difficult. He concentrates for long periods of time. At the age of thirteen, he spends over six hours a day on the computer. He worries that he may be falling behind. He lays on the couch mostly, ploughing through what is required so he doesn't get in trouble. He is doing fairly well academically, but I worry that he misses socialising, that things are not fun. For so long now, with remote learning, his computer games and headset, life has been guided by technology.

I feel safe in my home, taking breaks to lay on the couch and read, looking out at the people walking through the streets from my lounge room window. I forget about the vacuuming, no one visits. I hang a birthday painting Lewis made me: a well painted bottle of wine with 'Mum' on the label. Sometimes I think this is not a good look for a single mum, then recoil at my conservatism and lose myself in staring at the lush painted strokes.

The course I study teaches us to practice gratefulness. The room is cosy, warm. A bookshelf, two separate couches with throws. I recently bought a new television. Gladioli grow outside the window, the mop-top tree I planted is losing its leaves. Having lived in too many homes for no more than a couple of years at a time, I can't believe I have been in my co-op home for eleven years.

Through the housing co-op I have connected to a whole community and taken up other opportunities to be involved in my co-op and in the co-op housing program more broadly.  I joined the newsletter advisory group and enjoy being able to meet other co-op members, even though it’s all online now and contribute to ideas for the newsletter and write stories for Co-operatively Speaking, which I love.  

Being part of something helps ease that sense of isolation even when in lockdown.

 *  *  *

Lockdown in 2020

We sip Sav Blanc out of picnic glasses, as I sit along the Merri Creek with my friend Kathy. My mind is distracted. My twelve year old son Lewis, has hit the streets for a couple of hours with his friend: Slurpee’s and running around the lake, they should be fine.

During lockdown we play it safe, hardly even walking with people even when allowed. Lewis says he doesn't care about Corona; although, he once he said it will be the end of civilization because of the economic fall. I wonder what goes through his head and what he talks with his friends about.

Kathy is sitting on the creek bank smoking, she smokes a lot. I have given up for two years now, and gently sniff the lingering smoke from her cigarette: beautiful. She is a good friend of mine. I have known her for twenty years. One of those family friends you forgive for everything because of their generous hearts.

I sip on the wine which I don't really feel like today. I am nervous sitting near her, perhaps because of Coronavirus, perhaps just because I have spent so much time alone and am not used to sharing my time any more.

At home, we watch repeats that we have already seen on Netflix too many times: shows we can both agree on like Black AF, or Live at the Apollo. Shows, where the humour reaches both of us.

I look down at my tracksuit pants with a hole in them. I have been wearing tracksuit pants all year. During lock down, I have tried to buy new tracksuit pants from Target, but they were all sold out. I enjoy the distraction from self-grooming, from people maintaining images. It's hard to maintain an image in a tracksuit and a mask.

There was such a dichotomy between anxiety and freedom during lock down: the anxiety of catching the virus, and the freedom of time, expansive and needing to be filled in creatively.

The outfit of the tracksuit and mask are fine with me. Going for a walk, a bird playfully swoops at my head, there seems to be a lot more birds around. Is this because all the cars are off the road? The air is smelling clean, as materialism dissolves. Perhaps I will have to get used to people again, perhaps in time for Christmas. A scary time, a liberating time, it shifts again, unknowingly.

*  *  *

A year on, and I still meet Kathy on the creek sometimes, still a bit nervous. I am beginning to sit with the continuation of lockdown better. The deep fear of catching Covid dissipates slightly, I have more hope in me now that the people close to me are getting vaccinated. 

There is an expansiveness of time that I enjoy. I can look at the news a bit more now, without the feeling of my head exploding. The times unfold, and there is nothing I can do about it, but stay positive and examine what I've got.

Reach Out If You Need Support

Reach out to your community or CEHL Referral to Support Services if you need support.

CEHL works in partnership with Launch Housing to provide all people in our housing program with a support service to assist in many aspects of daily life including:

  • financial counselling
  • health or disability services
  • family relationships
  • tenancy matters

The service is a fully funded and confidential, provided by CEHL to all people in our housing program.

Read more about CEHL Referral to Support Services

Call03 8598 1100 where you can leave a message or email CEHL Referrals  

Please note all messages will be responded to as soon as possible and within 2 working days (Monday, Tuesday & Thursday)

Find out more about World Mental Health Day