I admit I had a bit of a meltdown last night.
I live in Tweed Heads, in the Norther Rivers region on the Far North Coast of New South Wales in Australia. Tweed Heads is right on the border with Queensland. The suburb of Coolangatta is on the Queensland side, and our two suburbs are known as the ‘twin towns’. Before COVID, our communities were virtually one and the same, as many people live and work either side of the border. I cross over into Queensland every day on my afternoon walk.
In late March, The Queensland Premier (the head of state) shut the state’s borders to interstate travellers. Only ‘border residents’ were allowed to cross over into Queensland and for essential purposes only (work, exercise, medical appointments, caring for someone etc) , and were required to display a special pass on the windscreen of their car when they passed through the checkpoint. This checkpoint is manned by police, army personnel as well as the SES (State Emergency Services) volunteers. This checkpoint turned the relatively quiet main street of Tweed Heads into a car park, with major traffic jams during morning and afternoon peak hour, and other random times of the day.
The Queensland Premier opened the border a few weeks ago just before school holidays, yet excluded travellers coming from the southern state of Victoria, which has had a major recent outbreak. More and more ‘hotspots’ have since been declared in New South Wales, and people coming from those places have also been banned.
At first I was rejoicing at the news that the Queensland border would be re-opening, but when I learned about the new restrictions, I had my doubts that anything would change. In fact, things got worse. Checkpoint personnel were checking every car with a Victoria or New South Wales number plate, and the traffic delays were horrendous.
The school holidays are over now, and the traffic has reduced significantly, but due to recent outbreaks in Queensland there is serious talk about closing the border again.
Across the street from where I live, there is a COVID testing clinic. I can see it from my kitchen window. The waiting area is outside in the open air; sometimes there are two or three people waiting to be tested, sometimes there are twenty. It is a very confronting thing to see every day while I’m making my breakfast.
Every day on my afternoon walk, I pass by the traffic signs warning of the checkpoint ahead, and see the cars queuing to cross the border.
Which brings me to my meltdown last night.
Up until now I’ve coped fairly well mentally and emotionally with the pandemic. I’ve had my moments; all of my family live in Queensland and at least an hour’s drive away. It was hard, and I felt very alone over here in New South Wales. But I kept busy studying and writing, and I have had the opportunity to see friends and family while the border has been open. However, the uncertainty resulting from the recent outbreaks has been really wearing me down.
Living in Yeppoon last year, I missed my home on the Gold Coast , and was so excited when the opportunity arose to move back earlier this year. Yet recently I’ve had serious doubts as to whether moving back was the best idea. Having the uncertainty around the border, seeing the checkpoint every day, and the testing clinic across the street. I waited so long and worked hard to get back here, and it breaks my heart because I love this area so much. But as they say in The Handmaid’s Tale: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. In this case, the bastard is COVID.
Earlier this week I sent my latest short story, Bedouin Boy, off for editing, and tomorrow on Writing Friday I will start typing the sequel, Grave Bargains. Between working on these two projects, I have decided to dive back into my Irish psychological fiction novellas.
I had put these novellas on hold for this year, to focus on getting my five previously published books back into distribution, and to publish Bedouin Boy and Grave Bargains. But I’m feeling like my soul needs to be working on my Irish novels right now. They are my passion project, my life’s work. I derive a certain type of joy from working on these particular stories that no other story I have worked on before has given me. I’ve decided to use this as my ‘dabble’ project, just something to tap into on the weekends and in my spare time. No deadlines, no pressure. Just pure creativity. That is what my soul needs right now.
This year, I have learned how to return to the pure joy of writing. I have remembered how to write just for me. To distract me, to lift my spirits. And if you too are struggling, I encourage you to seek out what you love, what sets your soul on fire, and do more of that.
This picture was taken on my first trip to Ireland in 2012. It is at Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore, one of the three Aran Islands, off the coast of Galway.
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