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Give me these problems

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So many times, I’ve wanted to wrangle my thoughts about 2020 onto a page. So many times, my thoughts were overtaken by events…

But tonight was different.

Tonight, on a Saturday in early winter, I came home to a cold, dark house. It was immediately apparent that there were two hungry dogs, a pile of dishes and many piles of washing.

I’d divided the day between the nursing home (where our mum has lost the ability to feed herself and didn’t know us last night), hospital (where our dad is suffering a bad infection that’s threatening his sight) and online Camp Magic (grief camp, for kids who’ve lost a parent, like my 9-year-old son did, nearly four years ago).

I sat down to catch up on the work I was intending to do all weekend. Like I’ve worked the last three weekends. Because I’m swamped.

I set the alarm for 6ish. I have to take my 21-year-old to work in the morning because she wrote her car off last week…

And, you know, I just had a moment of thinking, ‘This is not the life I ordered’.

When my daughter was at school, she wrote one of those amazing stories that you read in one direction, and it’s all bad. Then you read back up in reverse and it’s all good. It occurred to me life is like that:

She wrote the car off but she wasn’t injured.

She has a job in a cafe and her boss has done everything possible to look after her income during lockdown, at Penny University. Similarly, her 19-year-old sister has been totally taken care of by her boss at the hairdressing salon in Googong, despite both businesses having to shut, and much pressure for these two young, hard-working small-business owners.

I’m one of those too (business-owner, not young). Until the end of this financial year, I have enough clients to have to work every weekend at a time when people have no work at all.

There’s an incredible organisation transforming our family’s grief and they’ll be there for my son until he’s an adult (and beyond if he wants to stay involved).

Dad is 88 years old and he’s receiving care in a hospital and I’m not terrified he’ll pick up COVID-19. We’ve done so well at social distancing as a city and as a country.

Mum’s receiving excellent care in the nursing home, where she’s never been by herself until tonight, and that’s scary. We are confident they’ll call us if she becomes distressed. My sister and I, despite much going on, both have full health and could drop everything and go, as we did last night.

At the age of 46, I have two parents who are still alive. From my son’s perspective, that must seem incredibly lucky. And it is.

We have clothes.

We have dishes to wash.

We have food.

We have dogs.

The dogs have food.

We have a $50,000 new roof over our heads after January’s hail storm wrecked the last one. That’s thanks to the insurance I can afford.

There’s a new car in the driveway for the same reason.

I’ve walked into a cold house, but it has two forms of heating and I can afford to use either.

And we have beautiful friends, who are just a call away to help.

It’s not about discounting or minimising or disqualifying our genuine, difficult emotions. It’s about feeling them fully (and gosh, do I?).

It’s important to acknowledge this situation is not easy.

But it’s good to step back and see that, even with all of this going on (in a way that seems to have been going on for years, unrelentingly), our family has so much for which to be grateful. So much, I can’t even capture it.

We’re in a position of immense privilege in this world.

Footnote: After I wrote this, I discovered the dog had done a poo in the bathroom last night (we’d left in a hurry for the hospital this morning). When my son swung open the bathroom door, it dragged across said poo…so, at stupid o’clock I was on my hand and knees, scrubbing the floor, trying to work out how to de-poo the underside of the door and dry-retching. I mention this because I’m not Pollyanna about life. It’s crap sometimes. Literally.

But even then, in the great scheme of 2020 and all that is unfolding now…give me these problems.

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