Scrolling through my news feeds last night on what feels like Day Eleventy Billion of quarantine got me thinking quite philosophically on the lessons we can learn from #isolife (and okay, the glass of red and warm fire probably helped with that thinking!).
I can see some people are really struggling with lockdown and dealing with the effects of social isolation. And working through relationship, parenting, financial, work and health stresses, so I don’t want to trivialise what anyone is going through.
But I’m also seeing a lot of people loving what living in quarantine has done for their lives and wellbeing, so I want to let them in on a little secret: this is what the tree change life is mostly like!
I feel a bit guilty for saying it given it’s been a big adjustment for many, but life has been ‘business as usual’ for us on many fronts. And a lot of things have only gotten better.
Don’t get me wrong; there have been some significant downsides in country quarantine life:
- I miss being able to travel freely to see my family, who live 2+ hours away.
- I miss my twice-weekly catch-ups with my best friend who lives ‘just up the road’ in country terms (i.e. a 45-minute drive away!).
- I feel sad that many of our local businesses are seriously struggling right now– with trade, keeping people employed and getting through the red tape between them and help. Some are doing it especially tough, having only just come through an atrocious bushfire season.
- I miss the friendlier, slower pace of our local big town – some people have become a little crazed as they shop for their essentials like ten years’ worth of toilet paper and tinned tomatoes 😉
Like many, my paid working hours are suffering too, but I’m lucky not to have an astronomical Sydney mortgage commitment!
My business as usual though involves us continuing to work remotely on our terms. It’s as peaceful as always here with workdays that include a spot of ducklings on the dam & wallaby watching from my desk. Not to mention a decent bushwalk on my lunchbreak. I’m visiting town for grocery shopping and post office pickups on the usual schedule, albeit it taking a bit longer from observing social distancing rules. I have all of the entertainment options I need thanks to my nbn satellite service behaving as usual, and there are still neighbours around and happy to help (from that safe 1.5 metres!) if needed.
The new upsides though are making life even better and are things we’ll do our best to hold onto when the lockdown life ends:
- Mr Tree Changer is not travelling for work every week, meaning the little bit of stress that occasionally creeps in when I’m left to run the place solo, has disappeared.
- I’ve rediscovered video conferencing is not just a business tool, but a creative and personal way to stay in touch with friends and stay sane (you need to give a Zoom birthday cake a go if you haven’t already!).
- We’ve had even more time to do things that are good for us – cooking better meals, getting a little bit more exercise, reading much more and getting those jobs that have been hanging around done.
- The supermarket shortages have helped me rediscover an old love – baking!
- We’ve tried to be even more conscious about where we shop, prioritising our local businesses and making an effort to get takeaway meals from local cafes.
- I’ve finally spent time on my passion project (this blog!).
There is also one essential thing I hope continues after lockdown ends –flexible working arrangements for people who are usually office-bound. In my very humble opinion, I think this experience is demonstrating most people can be trusted to work remotely and be productive, opening up the door to better work-life balance and of course more tree changing!
You should insert an evil laugh before you read this next bit: I LOVE that more conservative organisations which have resisted giving people more remote, flexible working options have had this change in working arrangements forced on them!
While I appreciate many people don’t have this opportunity, like our essential workers, many can work from a home office so it’s time to change the rules I say.
I know remote working is not for everyone. Still, I hope organisations will now have to have flexible, remote working policies if they want to attract and retain good people because good people will demand it.
On a serious note though, if you’ve found the extreme social isolation of the last few months challenging, tree changing may not be for you. As I detailed in an earlier blog, living in the middle of nowhere will mean you see fewer people at the best of times, and it can impact your mental and emotional health if you don’t make a conscious effort to see other humans when you move.
And to finish on another serious note: some people really are struggling right now, so if you need help or know someone who does, you should put your hand up. Blackdog Institute has some brilliant resources that may help.