Navigating the big & small disappointments delivered by COVID19

Navigating the big & small disappointments delivered by COVID19

Reading Richard Glover‘s weekly column in the Spectrum section inside Saturday’s  Sydney Morning Herald or The Age is a ritual I always enjoy. The man can write and has a particular gift for making the ordinary a little extra: funny, meaningful, profound.

This weekend was no different and I was thrilled to discover he turned his pen to the subject of disappointment amid the COVID19 pandemic. It’s something I’ve been pondering and I nodded my head furiously while devouring his observations.

‘There are so many disappointments, fruits of this virus, that we needn’t triage,” he wrote. “For each of us, the virus will take something away, and – for that person, at least – it will be something important.’

It’s so true. There are so many absolutely crushing disappointments stemming from this pandemic: lives being lost, jobs lost, businesses folding, weddings cancelled. The Olympics postponed. New babies being born and families being unable to visit. Long-awaited trips to see relatives living overseas rendered impossible. The list of major derailments is long.

But, also, there is a list a million miles long of smaller disappointments that are each a bit crushing too.

Richard Glover described a 12 year old girl, voted deputy school captain, who will miss out on the fun of running school assemblies as she’d been looking forward to. As he observed, that’s not the worst thing in the world but it’s still a disappointment. It still registers.

Final year school students have been on my mind: this was their time to be school leaders. It’s been twelve years in the making and their final year is going to look nothing like many had hoped or expected.

The momentum of artists, writers, comedians, on the cusp of sharing something, anticipating their break, suspended.

No one is unaffected. And even the smaller losses, in the grand scheme of things, hurt. Because the smaller things matter. The seemingly small things are actually, often, the bigger things. Things that deliver meaning and pride and happiness.

Being able to mark birthdays, big and small, with friends and family. Travelling, near or far, to be with the ones you love. Meeting each week to play soccer or AFL or netball. Tuning in each week to watch your favourite team. Going to a game. Or a play. Or the opera.

Playing in the band. Singing in the choir. Winning. Losing. Getting better. Heading to the gym to be tortured in your favourite class by your favourite trainer. Leaving the house without a single ‘essential-only’ purpose. Sitting down at your favourite cafe and ordering something you love. Joining friends for dinner. Jumping on a plane to visit someone you adore. Milling around the school gate or the water-cooler or the dog-park. Popping in to visit an elderly relative.

These disappointments don’t all rank equally but that’s not the point. They’re still valid and we don’t need to deny ourselves their existence. There is, hopefully, still plenty to be grateful for. But the disappointment is real too and there’s something comforting about owning it.

Not making it everything, but acknowledging it.

In no particular order I am disappointed that an anticipated visit from family couldn’t go ahead two weeks ago. That our Easter holiday with the cousins is off the cards. That two parties to celebrate big milestones are off.

That my lovely niece’s planned ninth birthday was spent in isolation at home. That we’re no longer staring down the barrel of many weekends of sport that the kids love, that get us outside mingling with other families.

I’m gutted that I won’t be able to interview Jess Hill or Sophie Hardcastle at the Sydney Writer’s Festival in May. That I can no longer speak at a number of events I was honoured to be joining. That I can’t visit the office or see friends in real life.

These disappointments are so bloody lucky. I know that. More than ever before. But, I’m also not pretending they don’t exist. What are you disappointed about?

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