There's a spotfire in my head, and our home is burning, too

There’s a spotfire in my head, and our home is burning, too.

Nothing I write feels ‘worthy’ of the page or screen right now. How could it? Our country is burning and our ‘leaders’ credibility even more up in smoke.

People all around the world share our despair and are donating money and time and proceeds from sales and events, and we’re all crossing our fingers and hoping this is the moment of constructive change the experts have said we must confront.

But little old me has his own shit going on, still, and always. The things that confront me are still there, and now this independent weather system of a frightening firenado (it’s a word, now) looms and hovers.

How can I be helpful to the people who need our help? And how can I be helpful to myself and my loves, and not be overawed by a world which feels like it wants us all to die?

I’ve been heartened during this haze to see a lot of focus on the mental health impacts of disasters. My social feeds have been flooded with useful information and reminders from a raft of organisations and experts, from BeyondBlue to Headpspace to SANE and even government departments.

“Natural disasters can be stressful and traumatic for children, young people and adults, with impacts on mental health and wellbeing”, says BeyondBlue on its BeYou microsite.

National treasure Magda Szubanski and ‘Eggboy’ Will Connolly joined forces to launch a fundraiser to help cover the costs of mental health services to impacted people and communities. Their gofundme appeal stands at nearly $140,000, almost five times their original goal of $30,000.

“This is for long term help with trauma and mental health support. Let people know that long after the fires have burnt out, we will still be here to support those who have suffered.

We feel that lots of money is going into short term help but we need to be there for these people for the long haul as well. It is going to be very hard for them in the coming weeks, months, years”, the pair’s page says.

Incredible. What beautiful people. And a beautiful country and community.

It feels trite and self-absorbed to even think about the things on my plate at the moment. But I must, because they’re not small or insignificant: a community training venture, divorce proceedings, care arrangements for my children, budgeting and re-budgeting so I can keep our tummies and memories full as well as the wolves at bay. Doing what I know helps me stay even.

Managing myself is something I’m continuing to get better at, and I’ve lately had to draw on and really test out my abilities at this. I journal, I focus on the things my kids are doing and enjoying, I garden, I cook and bake, I run, and I read.

Having actual conversations with actual people is often hard and overwhelming. I’ve shut myself away a fair bit over the past few years, in part for self-preservation, and also because of social anxiety. That’s not to say it’s always difficult – but it’s often overwhelming. I push myself and feel good when I do.

I recently posted about this on my personal Facebook account and asked people to let me know if they’d like to catch up in person and have a conversation or do something. Owning my personal game of hide-and-please-don’t-seek-me felt good, as being open usually does for me.

So I’m scheduling in some coffee and chat dates with friends and family, and continuing to push myself outside my comfort (safety?) zone. That’s where the real living and growing happens, I’m told.

ONE BILLION ANIMALS have perished in these fires. Nine zeroes!

A third of the entire koala population has been lost – most tragically, most of those on Kangaroo Island, where chlamydia wasn’t the threat to them it is on the mainland.

Entire towns have been razed, the air in our national capital was, for quite some days, the WORST IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Sydney and Melbourne and even New Zealand, have been blanketed and choked by the smoke from fires they can’t see except in videos and pictures.

As always, Australian people and communities, and good people from around the world, have rallied to support each other. #emptyesky and #spendwiththem are helping to showcase the goods and services of businesses and people in fire-affected areas, and helping them stay a little closer to afloat. Companies are pledging to spend their corporate events and conferencing budgets in the regions who’ve been decimated by the lost summer of tourism.

It’s so inspiring and heart-warming to see these people do these things and lift each other up.

And so shattering and heart-breaking to know this need could have at least been reduced, if decision-makers spent less time being a celebrity waterboy and sports cheerleader, and more time listening to experts in their field and planning for the present AND the future.

My tasks and my challenges feel insignificant by comparison. But they are the things I can control and influence, so that is where my time must go, and is going, lest I let it all catch flames and burn me down. 

Originally published in The Westsider.

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