In the grips of our first ‘hard’ lockdown, it’s fair to say that many Canberrans have been surprised by their emotional reactions to the new circumstances we find ourselves in.
We’ve fared mostly well through the pandemic, and I think many of us were pinching ourselves the longer the NSW situation escalated and we remained untouched.
So I imagine many of you reacted like I did last Thursday when the lockdown was announced – with a sense of resignation, as we knew this was coming and are ready to get it done, rid our city of the virus for the second time, and get back to normal as quickly as possible.
I expected everyone to take it in their stride, given we’ve had well over a year to come to terms with the pandemic as a constant part of our lives, and so I was disappointed in how so many Canberrans reacted. The panic buying. The melodramatic statements of trauma I saw flood social media, bemoaning the extreme hardship people expected to face stuck in their homes for a week (which was what we expected at the time). The flagrant flouting of lockdown measures in those early days by people insistent on continuing their day-to-day, not wearing masks, trying to sit outside with their coffees as though nothing had changed. The people I know who selfishly left Canberra for the coast and the regions despite the clear advice not to.
Realistically, the people who I saw displaying the least community-minded behaviours were the ones who are guaranteed the easiest ride through lockdown.
The contacts crying out on social media about the toll of the lockdown on their wellbeing were those who had secure employment, lived in homes that they owned, and who were more than able to manage their exercise, sustenance, and entertainment for a short period of time.
Yes, mental health is different for everyone, but perspective is also vital, especially given what many of our community are facing when it comes to losing work, businesses going bankrupt, and worrying about friends and family in other countries who are facing much worse scenarios of violence and displacement than we are, as an example.
The pandemic isn’t easy on anyone, but objectively speaking, some of us do have it easier than many when we don’t have to worry about income, food, a roof over our heads, and our futures alongside the real fear of contracting the virus.
So I started the lockdown feeling frustrated at the lack of perspective and resilience I saw around me. That’s why I’m so relieved that Ken Behrens came along when he did.
The community hilarity at Facebook’s caption gaffe during the Chief Minister’s press conference was the reminder I needed that while we all cope in different ways, there are simple moments of connection that can traverse the chasms between us.
Literally everyone I know, from all different parts of the community, had a giggle about Ken Behrens. It felt nice to be united in an in-joke that we all understood and enjoyed because we are indeed Canberrans, and it’s something we share regardless of our views on vaccinations, lockdown measures, the actions of the government etc.
We now have another two weeks minimum of lockdown ahead, and we’ll likely all experience some lows and some highs over this time. I’m going to try to be more compassionate about how my community is faring, even if I don’t understand the exact drivers of people’s emotional fluctuations as they come and go.
I hope we can all blend empathy with perspective, focus on doing the right thing, and get to the other side of this with our community intact.
It’s what Ken Behrens would want.