17 February 2021 Day 324 in the time of coronavirus and we held our breath and waited for the 4pm announcement from Jacinda and Ashley and when it came it was good news and even the journalists seemed surprised. For there had been two more cases of the UK strain detected in the community today, both connected to the original cases, and as they were speaking, a third case was announced and yet in spite of this Jacinda declared we are dropping to level 2 at midnight. She is confident the outbreak is under control. The systems devised to halt the spread are working. The six people now suffering from this UK and nastier strain of Covid-19 — I wonder how they are doing? — have been self-isolating for several days. Of the hundreds of close and casual contacts who have been tested in the past two days all their results are negative. Even wastewater testing of sewerage has revealed no evidence of the virus. Always I admire Jacinda’s presentation. She is decisive, knows her facts and never wobbles. And Ashley Bloomfield is pretty much the same. And that is sufficient for me, to listen to the oracles and follow their guidance.
Tonight, the writing is random because I've been immersed in the diaries of Helen Garner in preparation for the journal course that can now commence next Monday evening at the Devonport Library, and her style has given me permission to write in this way. This is how she opens her latest collection of journals 'One Day I’ll Remember This — Diaries 1987 – 1995':
‘What do you write in your diary?’
‘Everything. I try to write all the worst things. That’s the hardest. The temptation to gloss it up. I force myself to put down the bad and stupid things I do, the idiotic fantasies I have.’
‘And do you read back over it?’
‘All the time.’
She’s good, very brave and spontaneous. There’s an article on the new book in a recent ‘Listener’ by Holly Walker where the author, now in her late seventies, defends the journal as a literary form. For years she says she was sensitive to the criticism that using diaries as source material was ‘somehow lazy, inferior “not real writing.”' Now, writes Holly Walker, she has 'put a stake in the ground for the diary as a literary form by publishing her own.”
I heard the saddest story recently and I've been reflecting on it today. I met a woman who has not spoken to her husband for over a year. She’s angry for the usual reasons. Infidelity. She says she stopped loving him twenty years ago. ‘Why do you stay?’ I asked. ‘For my son.’ When I asked the age of her son she said he’s at university and flatting. Yet still she continues to live with a man she does not like intent on hanging on to her lovely home.
Once that was me, or a version of me. I stayed stuck for a number of reasons, one of which was the awareness of the overwhelming immensity of the challenges I would encounter in trying to extricate myself. And I was right. It was the hardest thing I've ever done but it was worth it. Now, as I watch the glittering green water flowing in to the bay I feel my mind expanding with the freedom now granted to simply be myself and something more, there’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude and relief at having released myself from the shackles of something compromising and destructive. People talk about living an authentic life. I used to wonder what that meant.
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