Music Monday | Saturn – Sleeping At Last

“There is a fundamental reason why we look at the sky with wonder and longing—for the same reason that we stand, hour after hour, gazing at the distant swell of the open ocean. There is something like an ancient wisdom, encoded and tucked away in our DNA, that knows its point of origin as surely as a salmon knows its creek. Intellectually, we may not want to return there, but the genes know, and long for their origins—their home in the salty depths. But if the seas are our immediate source, the penultimate source is certainly the heavens. The spectacular truth is—and this is something that your DNA has known all along—the very atoms of your body—the iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and on and on—were initially forged in long-dead stars. This is why, when you stand outside under a moonless, country sky, you feel some ineffable tugging at your innards. We are star stuff. Keep looking up.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

I am six in my first memory of that sense of longing for the stars, the pull of belonging to the stars. Dad is driving us to Queensland to visit my grandparents and I am lying on a mattress in the back of the station wagon as the car winds its way northwards along the single lane highway. It is one, maybe two in the morning, and instead of sleeping, I am staring out the back window, the sensation that my home is somewhere out there rushing through my veins. And of course it’s in my blood; the very iron in my body was created in those stars.

The first birthday present G gave me was a night at the Sydney Observatory. It was September 2014 and he’d booked the place just for us with our own private astronomer to give us a tour of the Universe. One of the things we saw that night was Saturn, in all her ringed beauty.

So it’s only fitting, that it is Sleeping at Last’s “Saturn”, that reminds us…

How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist

Music Monday | Get On The Beers – Mashd N Kutcher

This isn’t the song I’d planned on posting tonight. But nor was this the announcement that our State Premier, Daniel Andrews, had been intending to make today.

After twelve weeks of hard lockdown in Melbourne–which is also the amount of time we have been here for G’s treatment–restrictions will ease. G was discharged from hospital at the end of his first round of chemo on the day that Stage Four restrictions came into place. I picked him up and drove to the apartment where we are staying for the duration of his treatment.

On that day, we expected to be almost finished his treatment by now. On that day, there were over 200 active cases in our immediate local area. A few days later, Victoria recorded a daily count of 725 new coronavirus infections. Today, there are only two active infections in our local area. Today, we recorded zero new coronavirus infections.

I had recently sworn off the press conferences that our State Premier has delivered daily, for over one hundred consecutive days. But today was different. It had already been announced that there were zero new infections overnight (out of  >15,000 tests), so I risked the anxiety rollercoaster. And when I saw the North Face jacket, I knew it was going to be good news. Over the past few months, a trend has emerged; if the Premier wears a suit, we are in for difficult news. But if it is the North Face jacket, we can expect good news.

And today, the news was excellent.

A journalist asked tentatively “Can I confirm you are saying we can finally get on the beers?”

“I don’t know that I’ll be drinking a beer tonight,” Mr Andrews said. “I might go a little higher up the shelf.”

And indeed, on his Facebook page tonight, he posted a picture.

All Victorians–but especially Melburnians, who’ve shouldered the majority of these brutal lockdowns–should be proud of this achievement. We aren’t out of the woods. But with the virus at trackable and traceable levels, we should be able to get back to some sense of normal. Covid normal.

Time to get on the beers.

Everything Is Waiting For You – David Whyte

On July 20, Victoria recorded 341 new coronavirus cases. That same day, France recorded 350 new coronavirus cases.

Just over two weeks later, Victoria, with some restrictions in place, registered 725 new coronavirus cases while France, with minimal restrictions, had more than twice that at 1,695.

Melbourne went into a hard lockdown. Restrictions included a curfew between 8pm and 5am, a requirement to stay within a 5km radius of your home unless you were a worker with a permit to be outside of that radius, and you could only leave your home for one hour per day for exercise and one hour for errands such as grocery shopping.

Children had to stay at home and return to remote learning, parents had to work from home if possible, retail and hospitality venues closed and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.

It has been eleven weeks, and from today, restrictions will ease a little. Because unlike Europe, our State government took extreme action. Difficult action, yes. Action with consequences for business, for workers, and for mental health. Absolutely.

But on October 16, France recorded 25,086 new coronavirus cases. Victoria recorded 1. On October 17, France recorded 32,427. Victoria recorded 2.

Lockdown has not been easy. I don’t pretend that it has. But the alternative, tens of thousands of cases per day, is incomprehensible.

And now, as we ease slowly into a covid-normal summer, everything is waiting for us.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte

Deterioration

I wrap myself into my quilt like a burrito. I’m sleeping on the couch which, while not overly comfortable, doesn’t induce the same anxiety as having an argument with myself about going to bed. Instead, when I become sleepy, I close Instagram, blow out the candles, turn off the salt lamp and roll over.

I am not sure why going to bed holds such angst for me but it always has. At least, until I met G. For the first time in my life, I looked forward to going to bed because I felt safe. Held. Loved. I try to replicate this feeling now while he’s not with me but the best I can do is to stay awake until it is impossible not to sleep.

In the last week, there has been another infection, two surgeries and blood counts that still aren’t following the predicted path. My OCD has fixated itself on his illness and now intrusive thoughts of blame drive all manner of compulsions, day and night. If I haven’t given him covid, I must have given him cancer.

Life is random and unfair, I tell others. Bad things happen to good people for no reason. And while I almost believe that is true,  intrusive thoughts still swirl that this is somehow my fault. My punishment. For what exactly, I haven’t determined. It could be a range of things and my brain is providing plenty of options. As a result, my anxiety is out of control. Today I had a telehealth appointment with my GP who has recommended blood tests, an ECG to check my heart which has lingering issues from my years of being underweight due to anorexia, and some medication.

“This is the only prescription I will give you for this medication,” he tells me, “due to it having addictive properties. You must be sparing in your use but it will help with the panic attacks and anxiety. I will give you a second prescription for something that you can use long term but the effect won’t be noticeable for two to four weeks.”

It’s been seven years since I took medication for my mental health and while I suspect I need it, a new fear has surfaced during the pandemic and my husband’s illness which will likely prevent me from doing so; I cannot take any medication for fear of the masking of covid symptoms or because I may have a bad reaction requiring treatment. I will no longer even take paracetamol or ibuprofen, pain killers I have taken for years, especially when I have severe cramps during my period but now I am afraid they will mask the symptom of a fever and I will never know if I accidentally acquire covid. I will not take new tablets, not even vitamins, in case they cause some sort of reaction where I have to present to a hospital because the more places I go, the more likely I am to come into contact with someone with covid. My anxiety is pushing me towards never leaving my house again, unless it’s to travel to the hospital where my husband is having treatment. Home. Hospital. Home. Hospital. That is the extent of my world right now.

And all of it seems justified.

Music Monday | Here Comes The River – Patrick Watson

It was my birthday a few days ago. Birthdays in 2020 are something different, aren’t they? I am sheltering in place in a small apartment in the “covid capital” of Australia aka Melbourne. But thanks to our state Premier’s leadership, the Chief Health Officer’s medical expertise, and my fellow Victorians (largely) doing the right thing, our daily case numbers have reduced significantly from more than 700+ cases a day a few weeks ago, down to less than 50.

But this isn’t where I was supposed to be for my birthday. Earlier in the year, I booked annual leave for the next few weeks. I had planned to be in New England, traveling first before arriving in Maine for the Camden International Film Festival with a friend.

But 2020 looks nothing like the plan I made in January.

Instead, I spent my birthday here with G, before having to rush him back to the hospital when a pain in his hip prevented him from walking. Scans indicated another infection. The news of a temperature spike after a procedure to drain fluid from the infected joint whacked me back into mid-August when he developed sepsis after his first round of chemotherapy dictating that he spend weeks in ICU in a critical condition.

We lurch from crisis to crisis, barely recovering from the last before a new one begins, with the original cancer somehow just a low background hum. Tonight, his temperature has settled. He is being flooded with strong antibiotics. Fluid is being drained.

I knew the cancer treatment and chemotherapy was going to be intensive. But nobody told me that it was going to be this hard.

Nobody told you that it was going to be this hard
Something’s been building behind your eyes
You lost what you hold onto
You’re losing control
There ain’t any words in this world that are going to cure this pain
Sometimes it’s going to fall down on your shoulders
But you’re going to stand through it all

Here comes the river coming on strong
And you can’t keep your head above these troubled waters

Here comes the river over the flames

Sometimes you got to burn to keep the storm away

Today, there is also a bonus song; I played this song as part of a meditation last night to remind me to get up, always.

Music Monday | Where Do We Go – Desiree Dawson

The blisters on my cheeks where a face mask pulled tight across them for seven hours a day, twelve days in a row, have healed. It’s been a week since I’ve been allowed into the hospital. My visitorship was revoked as soon as my husband became stable again. It was disheartening for both of us but not unexpected having already happened twice before.

So I wait in anticipation of his return, in this small apartment that does not belong to me, and I have endless amounts of time to fret. Instead, I try to distract myself. I scroll, I clean, I read, I breathe. A circle of friends have organised themselves onto a roster to make sure someone calls me every day. At least once a day. Sometimes twice. Even, occasionally, three times if necessary. And it has been necessary. I am almost always ok until it is time to sleep, like now. It is then that I feel the low hum of anxiety that has been the background to my day start to rise.

And the only thing that helps me then is meditating in Love. Because in Love, I am reminded that we are all One. We are Connected regardless of time or space. In this connection, I can truly see that the Light in me is also the Light in everyone I meet.

It is difficult to focus on Now but it is all we have. And so I stay with it. With the uncomfortable feelings that rise, with the uncertainty of what might happen, and with the knowledge that the only place I can go from here is into Love. Because I am in Love, and Love is in me. And actually, it is all we need.

Where do we go, go from here
The present is cloudy, future filled with fear
The past is something we hold on too dear
So where do we go from here

Where do we go?
Where do we go?

But love is all we wanted
And love is all we need
Deep down in the dark is where we plant our seeds
Plant those seeds

I was given the sweetest treat when I started seeing myself in everyone I meet
You were given the sweetest treat when you see yourself in everyone you meet