When words fail you in lockdown, let parcels of love speak for you | Deirdre Fidge

I’m sick of texting, sick of reading and sick of asking my friends the same Covid questions - so I now communicate through absurd gifts in the post

I recently posted my friend, who lives in Sydney, a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of Garfield the cat with large breasts. Another, I sent a tin of Spam. This is my new Love Language. I won’t explain why this is funny – doing so will only humiliate us both.

At this stage of the pandemic, as many Melburnians endure a 200-and-something day of lockdown, I am finding myself so sick of words. Sick of condensing an existential spiral into a “fine thanks, you?” Sick of reading transcripts from press conferences that make me want to bop myself on the head with a large shovel. I am sick of emails hoping they “find me well”.

Frankly, I hope your email never finds me at all. Unless your email is going to wrap me up in a big blanket and tell me everything is going to be OK, it will certainly never find me “well”.

As a writer and Words of Affirmation fan, I never thought I would become tired of language. I usually sprinkle “I love you!”s into communication to close friends and family with the force of an industrial fire hose. But the endless stream of text on all my devices throughout the day, for work and play, has exhausted me.

The fatigue has set in: novelty Zooms have worn off, we are more openly dishevelled in work meetings, platitudes have been replaced with authenticity. Over a glitchy Telehealth appointment, my psychologist reminds me that “it would be odd for anyone to be flourishing right now” and we bond over eating curry in bed (a fun new behaviour we’ve separately both begun in lockdown).

I’ve run out of words, especially the ones that have been repeated over and over these last 18 months. They’re all gone. The river’s run dry, the keg is empty, there’s no room at the inn. (See what I mean?) So instead of asking loved ones how they are, I’m asking for their addresses, and sending little gifts.

The phrase “It’s the thought that counts” has never been more accurate or relevant – we are all on each other’s minds, all the time. We just often don’t know what to say. Giving and receiving mail offers a physical, tangible connection that feels surprisingly, desperately needed. It is something to hold on to, a life raft in the form of a pair of socks with rats on them.

It’s not a selfless act: the process of searching for a present offers me a distraction from the world. The ritual of hand-writing a parcel, peeling off the tracking sticker and walking to the happy red post box provides me with a sense of calm, and purpose. Receiving a text that simply reads “hahahaha” confirms the gift has been received.

It feels like we’ve collectively shifted beyond asking how our loved ones are to just assuming they’re feeling rotten. There are situations when words feel inadequate: grief, suffering, pain. In the Before Times, this is when we would gather together. We’d offer a hug or a cuppa or a stale Anzac biscuit and the very act of quietly existing in the same space would provide healing.

We can’t do that right now, so until then, I’m searching for horrible images of Garfield to let my friend know I love them. It’s the thought that counts.


Deirdre Fidge

The GuardianTramp

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