Sun, rain, hail, Melbourne’s lockdown-weary mood is in tune with the skies

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At least in Melbourne our mood is in tune with the weather.

A bit of a reprieve from the latest lockdown (some sun in our hearts!), a mystery case at a testing station (dark clouds roll across), news that 15,000 to 19,000 truck drivers are rolling in daily from red zone New South Wales with no permit and shunning testing: blasting wind and sheets of hail.

In Melbourne for 12 days in July you could go through the whole emotional color-wheel in the space of hours, while doing little, physically, else.

We are opening up but Melbourne’s mood is still subdued.Credit:Getty

By now anyone with a social media account must have seen the “Coronacoaster” meme, the little block of text defining what we’re living through, quite nicely.

It says: “Coronacoster (n): The ups and downs of a pandemic, one day you’re loving your bubble, doing workouts, baking banana bread and going for long walks, and the next your crying, drinking gin for breakfast and missing people you don’t even know.″⁣

How many people are still, actually, baking is debatable and we probably haven’t gotten to gin-on-toast, but this strange mix of elation then devastation runs through the Melbourne water. It feels like you are so sensitised to headlines, the lesser emotions no longer cut it.

We could say that as with any adversity, repetition leads to familiarity… but stress levels are still through the roof.

Then again, though its hard to ever know how much of what you are feeling others are too, the vibe on the streets between press conferences seemed largely resigned, and less touchy/tetchy than during the big confinement of 2020.

Perhaps we are too tired to get edgy, but more comforting to believe is that all of the checking in, the mask wearing and the queueing, at what now feels a natural 1.5m apart, is part of a general recognition all of this is necessary and the more we accept warped normal, the sooner we will get it straightened out.

Could the lack of evident panic buying this time and the relatively lower volume of grief and political snarking from banged up Melburnians, especially in comparison to what we are witnessing from our poor cousins across the border, suggest a spike in resilience?

A blast of sunny happiness after cafes re-opened and Christopher Ong took his daughter, Ava for a coffee.Credit:Chis Hopkins

Could we have found some skills to shift into lockdown mode without it feeling so very end-of-lifey every time (I’d love to think so)? Or are we too worn down to whine? Depends what time you ask.

I asked the experts to help me pin down our mood, shape-shifting beast that it is. "For all the wrong reasons, Victorians have got quite good at doing lockdown; it’s not something we want to be expert at, but we have. A few people have said ‘I just change gear’, they’ve got a sort of system they sit back in. But I don’t think we can say stress levels were lower,” said Beyond Blue’s Dr Grant Blashki.

“We could say that as with any adversity, repetition leads to familiarity and learning strategies to manage … having said that I think stress levels are still through the roof.”

Sandro Demaio, the VicHealth CEO and popular Twitter presence, concurs that as each of us is hit in a different set of ways by these rolling lockdowns, even after five of them “there is no, single mood”.

There is no ‘single mood’ in Melbourne, but this week felt a bit like this.Credit:The Age

I pinched the weather metaphor from him: “A single person can feel happiness, sadness, hopefulness, appreciation and frustration all in the same day,” he says. “In Victoria we feel mixed about lockdowns, but we feel a sense of unity because we’re doing something that benefits others.”

“There’s less uncertainty about the day-to-day, people have got their new routine and have done this before. But there is growing uncertainty about the longer term.″⁣

The trick that will serve us, of course, is to stay focused as benignly as we can on what is right in front of us. Problem is, this can feel far less satisfying that the thought of doing a Mad as Hell , standing on your balcony and bellowing “why is this so teeth-grindingly, nauseatingly, brain-deaddeningly hard!”

For me, when the resilience-facade collapsed, regular calls to loving friends that revolved around 20-minute variations on “arrrghhhh!” have helped. Now we are free again, and there’s patches of blue, but I doubt we’ll lose the need for these any time soon.

Wendy Tuohy is a senior writer.

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