Another 6-weeks of lockdown . . .
I felt numb when I heard Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announce that he was putting metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire (in the Hume region of Victoria, located North of Melbourne) in a second lockdown starting July 9 for six weeks after the state recorded the country’s biggest increase in Covid-19 cases.
It was hard to believe that only a few days ago, I was out bike shopping with my friends, hoping to buy myself a bicycle so I could join them on cycling adventures. At that point, the state of Victoria (where Melbourne is located) was slowly coming out of our first lockdown, and I was enjoying heading out for dinners with friends, going shopping for fun things beyond the basic necessities, and was looking forward to my swim club reopening.
Alas, a rapid rise in community transmissions have put Melbourne back at square one, with only four reasons to leave home: shopping for supplies, to seek medical treatment, for work or education (if work from home cannot be done), or for caregiving purposes. But unlike the first lockdown, where all of Australia was in it, at this time of writing this, Melburnians are doing it alone.
I frantically typed, “Things to do in a second lockdown”, into my Google search engine, praying to be hit by a list of new inspiring activities that went beyond tackling that “to be read pile”, watching Netflix, or baking. However, a lot of the articles were written in early March or April when the world was looking to go into lockdown, so most of the content was written with much oomph and enthusiasm, as if living in isolation was nothing more than a series of lazy weekends indoors.
Except life in isolation, with its associated uncertainties and stress, is anything but a cosy weekend nurturing one’s hobbies. And I suspect for most Melburnians, the second lockdown is starting to feel like a prison sentence. For most families, it will mean having to homeschool their children. For those whose jobs were on the line during the first lockdown, there’s now the added uncertainty if they’ll survive this time around. And to top it all off, Australia is in the middle of winter, and the cold, dreary days of shorter days and longer nights, can make things particularly challenging.
On my part, I’ve gone on a book-buying and reading binge, gotten back into writing snail mail (only to be told by the post office that the only available option is by sea instead of air, so it’s unknown when my letter will reach its destination), and have tried a high intensity workout clip on YouTube that’s left my thighs in all manners of agony (but I will persevere!).
I tried to count my blessings. I still have my job, my friends and family, and a roof over my head. But yet other emotions such as anger, sadness, and disappointment, pushed in at me. Anger that my brief taste of freedom has been taken away, sadness at not knowing when I’ll be able to see my family in New Zealand again, and disappointment at having plans cancelled yet again.
But at the same time, I was also relieved I’m able to continue hiding at home as I work on mending my spirit that’s been broken by recent hurts and disappointments. I’m a little bit like Humpty Dumpty who has fallen off the wall, and God is slowly piecing my broken shells together. It’s probably best I let Him work on me in isolation rather than try to head out pretending everything is all good.
I don’t know what the next month and a half of being stuck indoors is going to look like for me, but I’ve put down four pointers to help me keep going. And I hope you’ll find these tips helpful for you too if you’re in a similar situation.
1. Keep clinging to an unchanging God
Covid-19 cases are rising by the day in Melbourne, and reading the news can be quite distressing. There’s even speculation that Melbourne might go into a stage 4 lockdown, akin to what New Zealand did to contain the virus, with all businesses shut and even takeaways disallowed.
Bombarded by these uncertainties on a daily basis has left me desperately clinging on to an unchanging God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and whose words remain the same even if the world passes away (Matthew 24:35). There’s so much comfort in reading the Bible, knowing the Scriptures written 2,000 years ago is still applicable today.
Throughout the Bible, we see examples of a faithful God leading His people out of all kinds of calamity. God protected Noah and his family, along with all the animals, while a flood ravaged the earth (Genesis 6:5-21); God sent His angels to protect and rescue Daniel and his friends when they were in the furnace after refusing to bow down to foreign gods (Daniel 3:28); and the same God who told the Israelites as they wandered in exile, “I’m the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you,” (Isaiah 41:13) is the same God who holds my right hand, saying, “Do not fear, I’ve got this.”
Of course, it’s a long stretch to compare my life in isolation with the Israelites in exile. But reading about how God sustained them in exile helps me live in anticipation that the same God who delivered them then will come through for me too.
2. Take each day as it comes (and put a routine in place too!)
The first lockdown taught me to slow down and to take each day as it comes, and it’s proven helpful now that I’m back in lockdown and forced to concentrate on living through one day at a time. Otherwise, staring down another six weeks of lockdown can be overwhelming. I’ve also found putting a routine in place to help me get through my day really works. These days, my weekday looks something like this: Waking up around 7.30am-8am, spending five to 10 minutes working my way through my YouTube workouts, having a decent breakfast, and praying, before starting my day.
Living a day at a time has also eliminated a lot of anxieties I used to agonize over, such as “What if the case numbers never drop?”, “What if I’ll never be able to see my parents?”, “What if borders never reopen?”. Matthew 6:34 teaches us that we’re not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow has its own troubles; this truth has never been more applicable than it is now. The Bible also says every day is a gift from the Lord, so lockdown or otherwise, I rejoice for each new day the Lord has given me (Psalm 118:24).
3. Give yourself breaks from connecting with others
While it’s true that this is the time to band together and support each other through the next six weeks, I’ve also been experiencing bouts of “reaching out” fatigue (I might actually faint if I see another social media post exhorting me to “reach out” to my fellow friends). Yes, connecting with friends is well and good, and I’m grateful for friends messaging me to check on my welfare.
However, I’ve also found it really helpful to spend a day away from my phone, leaving my WhatsApp and Facebook Messengers unchecked for a whole day, and spend it doing things I really enjoy such as reading, journaling, or coloring. Taking a break from technology has been refreshing, and a recharged me means I’m able to better continue to encourage and build my friends up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
4. Find new ways to stay active
Swimming was the only sport I did before this, so I was at a loss of ways to keep active when lockdown came. In the first phase of lockdown, I remained hopeful that things will return to normal (or a new normal) once restrictions ease, but this hope has since been dashed.
So, I had to find a new exercise I could do, and have decided brisk walks are a good way of keeping my heart rate going, without the pressures running would add to my knees. Pre-Covid-19 me would balk at the idea of walking, but in-lockdown-me have found a brisk walk to my local shops, stopping at the local bookstore for a browse, and then up a little slope to my flat, a rather enjoyable activity.
Over the next few weekends, I plan on enlarging my walking territory by exploring nearby walking trails. After all, a bit of fresh air has never hurt anyone and it’ll go a long way in curbing cabin fever.
I don’t know what the weeks ahead will look like. I’m sure there’ll be days of frustrations and days of feeling like the four walls are closing in on me. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my first lockdown, it’s that things do and will get better, God will work out something out of this painful experience, even if I’m not able to see it now. For now, I’ll continue clinging onto Him, learn to take one day at a time, and find new ways to keep myself physically active and mentally sane, while keeping my eyes open to what God’s doing in me during this time.