How are you feeling Melbourne, are we ‘getting there’ yet?

One of the smarter decisions I made in three months of detention in a 5 metre-wide box with two young adults, a 16 year-old, two kelpies, a cat and a pandemic of washing, cooking, cleaning, chaos-policing and "actual", full-time work was to stay off the bathroom scales.

They just don't seem relevant as we hurtle though this wormhole.

It has felt as though people like me with pets and kids and jobs have been Alice in Wonderland, but instead of clocks, tea pots and playing cards as you spiral down (clinging to a laptop, in PJs), you see tumbleweeds of pet hair, sinks towering with dishes dumped by kids, dirty towels a metre high – nightmare French tests.

Life is returning to the parks, as Melbourne people are, indeed “getting there”.Credit:Penny Stephens

The red faces of clock radios wink 02.37 or 04.15, or perhaps most annoyingly, 05.10am. Sweet dreams just out of reach mingle with all the other lost, or broken or disjointed things of lockdown.

There go both your credit cards, misplaced in to the haze of homely inertia; there float the dead household appliances that have been on such high rotation they've started fizzling out.

Chocolate bars cartwheel by, and comfort-carbs and so much B-grade, home-made coffee you've almost grown to like it. And wine bottles, then no wine bottles, then wine bottles again (only cheaper).

Two words that do not belong together right now are 'snap back'. Stumble out blinking, more like. But, stumble out, we will.

The cheery voice of a masked stranger chirps "parcel for you!" and is greeted by a wall of mad barking. The printer is flashing that it's out of ink, the word "deadline" flies by.

There is a pet with a sudden digestive issue … But there are never any scales.

Were there some, the temptation would be to wake deflated and disappointed that all your health-giving discipline is undone. Having to confront the toll on your one and precious body of existing (for the greater good) in this surreal world that is Melbourne's own, could just be "the straw" right now. Better to go back online for a slightly more generous pair of stretchy pants.

We're going to need to be kind to ourselves; to forgive the COVID-kilos and the borderline agoraphobia and the lost contact with friends (Zoom: as one young woman with glorious purple hair said on the news the other night, "I can't even deal with it anymore").

When a person as used to the pressure-cooker as Patricia Karvelas, the host of a live current affairs show, answers a Twitter question thrown out by a Sydneysider, "Hey Melbourne – how are you feeling?" with "a little fragile" you know we are going to need to be very, very gentle with each other and ourselves.

Like the defence counsel who doesn't ask a single question to which they do not know the answer, we have learned to stop inquiring "what do you think about stage four going on?" to people other than friends with whom we know we share a view.

Two words that do not belong together right now are "snap back". Stumble out blinking, more like. But, stumble out, we will.

The weather is getting better so, being Melbourne, our spirits are lifting. Kids are back on the slides and this week the schoolyards regained their lovely lunchtime babble.

No one (that I know) is pretending to have sailed through, everyone knows most people are hurting, at least a bit. We're talking about our mental health as plainly as you would a twisted ankle.

We're happy to confess three months in this weird wonderland has indeed twisted the familiar, and also wrung it out. But not always for the worse. Some things are blessedly simpler, who misses the rushing, for one?

Look to the sane parts of social media to see we have not lost our pride, in fact we're rallying.

Many Melbourne tweeters managed a wry, or even funny reply when asked "How are you feeling?" "Fragile" was a popular response but my favourite was "getting there", for brevity, and optimistic accuracy.

We are getting there, domestic chaos and swelling waistlines notwithstanding. We should congratulate ourselves for going through this Dali-esque landscape with the dignity we have. Rather than weigh up the personal wreckage, at least for now, we should well avoid the scale.

Wendy Tuohy is a Sunday Age senior writer.

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