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HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: The peculiar pain of being far from your loved ones as the world closes down.

I can’t think about it too much, or I’ll cry.

And this week, if I start crying, I might not stop.

I know it’s not just me. It’s all of us. Everywhere.

My parents are 16,986 kilometres away from me today and the world is closing down.

My brother, his children, his partner and her children.

My best friend, who I love like blood. Her husband, all of our oldest friends.

They are all so far away. And I couldn’t get to them if the world was ending. And it isn’t. But it feels like it is.

So, I can’t think about it too much, or I’ll cry.

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It’s not me. It’s us. Australia is a nation of migrants. With the exception of our First Nations People, the world’s oldest continuous living culture, we all came from somewhere else, once. Traces of us are all over the world.

Today, 20 per cent of Australians were born overseas. If that number includes people whose parents were born elsewhere, it goes up to almost 50 per cent.

We are a global country. And we have just been cut off from our roots.

It’s absolutely necessary. It’s absolutely right. And it’s heartbreaking.

I can’t let myself go to the dark places in my mind. We are all trying to stay in the light.

In the dark places, I imagine not being able to say goodbye to people who mean the very most to me. Of not being able to help and comfort them.

I imagine the loneliness of isolation without all of your family members around you. I imagine the fear that must be creeping in. The fear that we are all trying to hold at bay.

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In the best of times, migrants carry a full pocket of guilt about those they left behind. We dip into it to punish ourselves for all the important times when we weren’t there. The milestones we miss. The loads we leave to others in our absence.

For some, moving countries was an active choice for a different life. For too many it was a desire for a life, full stop. For safety and liberty, freedom from oppression. Others were following easier things: love, career, money, adventure.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, where Holly Wainwright, Mia Freedman and Jessie Stephens discuss how to deal with social distancing and distract ourselves from all of the anxiety-inducing headlines at the moment. Post continues below. 

Either way, we’re prone to a melancholic kind of nostalgia for a life lived elsewhere. And right now, that feeling is curdling to a tight little ball of anxiety and dread. It’s a very particular kind of pain.

So. We stay in the light.

In the light, we can self-medicate with communication. Family Whatsapp groups filled with pet pictures and ridiculous memes. FaceTime wines and coffees. Global comparisons of toilet-paper panics and lockdown tips.

In the light, this weekend I’ll be having a kitchen disco with my best friends, because that’s what we do when we’re together. Drink wine and play bad music and make ourselves ridiculous.

In the light, I’ll be making my children FaceTime their grandparents more often with stories and puppy appearances, even though, at ten and seven, my kids have only a tenuous grasp on the panic that’s gripped the world and is squeezing tightly. Thank God.

And in the light, I’ll be holding my own, Australian family close and inhaling them and reminding myself that this is my home. These are my people, too, most of all.

But also in the light, we’ll be careful what we share. Because it doesn’t take much for the darkness to start its creep. Already, this is happening. News of a worrying cough. Of a fever with a ‘but it’s fine’ kicker. Word of a diagnosis three degrees of separation away. Two. One.

It’s what all of us are facing. And we’re spread so thinly, so far apart, but we’re still in this together.

I can’t think about it too much, or I’ll cry.

So I’d better call my Mum.

You really should, too.

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Feature Image: Supplied. 

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