Angela Mollard: Covid cancels my plan to visit mom in New Zealand
Columnist Angela Mollard was really excited to travel to New Zealand to see her mother for the first time in 18 months – but Covid has struck again.
The future, he wrote, will never provide you with the assurance you ask for.
Shit, I thought as I read psychologist Oliver Burkeman’s column in The Guardian.
For years I had read the sweet thoughts of this insightful man, but his latest column, documenting his “eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilling life” me more than others.
I like a plan, a roadmap or a hypothesis. My life had gone pretty well – pretty much or some pothole – generating ideas, setting goals for myself and working towards them on a regular basis.
I didn’t mind a road less traveled, but I liked having a good idea of where it would end. In short, the certainty made me feel safe.
But Burkeman was telling me to forget about it. We may want to know that everything will be fine later, but we can never, he said.
Of course, we could still plan, but we had to do it “with the awareness that a plan is only a declaration of intent for the present moment, not a lasso thrown around the future to control it.”
Since reading his last words nine months ago, I have worked hard to put into practice Burkeman’s “secret”, as well as two others that resonated: that the ability to tolerate minor discomfort is a super power; and that the advice you don’t want to hear is usually the advice you need.
Without wanting to brag, I was quite successful in letting go of control over things that weren’t under my control. Instead of trying to secure a future in my romantic, financial, and professional endeavors, I caught up with myself every time I stepped forward.
I found that if I noticed simple things – the birdsong, the sun on my back, the laughter of another, a leaf unrolling, the way my fingers seemed to dance as they typed – then I could really live in the moment.
In doing so, the ordinary became extraordinary, I loved myself more and the future, with all its variables, became less important. Just as my grandmother invoked taking care of the pennies as a way to take care of the extra pounds, it became clear that enjoying the present could be a good building block for a happier future.
Honestly, I was just a yellow robe before I became the Dalai Lama.
But that was before my new composure was properly challenged. It happened this week as Covid metastasized again and my hopes of flying to New Zealand were on the line.
It was so unfair. I was especially going to see my wonderful mom, whom I haven’t seen for over 18 months.
Two weeks ago, she lost her brother to cancer after taking care of him for weeks. Despite his grief and exhaustion, I could feel his excitement.
“I can’t tell you how much I can’t wait to see you darling,” she told me during our last conversation.
I imagined him making lamingtons or crunchy ginger. My favorite.
Feeling my frustration mounting as I railed against the circumstances, I took a break from work to swim in the ocean. Delightfully, I was joined by dolphins and as I made my way to the bay, marveling at the invigorating clarity of the water, I stopped to watch a small crab cross the seabed. Maybe I couldn’t see my family but it was okay.
The little optimism switch I had installed over the previous months was working fine and although I hadn’t mastered a full Buddhist mindset – everything was definitely not as it should be – at least I didn’t. not be catastrophic.
I was also trying to avoid “Lead Character Syndrome,” a trend that started on TikTok and is now more widely used to describe a semi-narcissistic tendency to act like your life is a movie in which you play the main role.
Of course, we’re all the main character in our lives – a columnist who writes about her life arguably more – but if you reposition yourself offstage and behind the scenes, you tend to have more curiosity and greater perspective.
I might not have been able to see my mother, but it was much worse for the others. If anyone was allowed to indulge in lead character syndrome, it was Mark Kilian who had traveled from the United States to see his terminally ill father, but was denied an exemption four times by Queensland. Health although he was fully vaccinated and tested negative for Covid-19 several times (he finally got permission).
Or West Australian James Turbitt who did not see his mother until she died after being banned from flying from Melbourne to Perth. “
Either way, I was very successful at dealing with the uncertainty and focusing on the present, as I was about to email Burkeman and thank him for the gift. that his writing had done to me.
And then something else happened.
My cat, who has had bladder issues lately, peed on my laptop. It wasn’t just a dribble but a bucket of urine that made my computer beyond repair. And that’s where I lost it.
The tears came with disgraceful sobs. Fuck the dolphins and the crab and the unfurling leaves, I just wanna see my mom.
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