Work, mortality and coffee

It’s been several weeks since my last update and to be honest, Covid-19 has hit my motivation like a punch in the stomach. It’s a shock on a global scale, flooring health services around the world and sending economies into a tailspin. On a personal level, it has made the futures of many of us very uncertain.

I’m one of those. I’ve been a consultant for almost 10 years working on various government and private sector projects. Contractors are often signalled out as indicating an increased casualisation of the workforce. The distinction between casual workers in hospitality and retail, and project consultants like myself is not always made.

A stable permanent workforce has obvious benefits: retaining expertise, sustaining a company’s culture and rewarding loyal employees with a secure and meaningful existence.

However, the rapid pace of change and uptake of new technologies mean it is sometimes advantageous to hire specialists who have worked on similar transitions and can help guide a company with their communications, project milestone setting, and implementation of new IT systems or governance structures.

A consultant’s life

I’ve enjoyed consulting. You get exposed to a variety of corporate cultures, gain experience in different industries and meet interesting people, some who become lifelong friends.

But now I am well travelled, have worked in four cities, and finally want to settle in my hometown, Sydney, maybe in a permanent job!

It’s never a good time to be out of a contract in November, but this happens fairly regularly to consultants and so it did with me at the end of 2019. Interviews and opportunities started appearing in February and March, and just when I was about to be offered a contract, the unforeseen happened, and 2020 will now go down in history. And not because I got a new job.

TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, just before I started writing this post I went to my local café where I normally do my writing. Currently they serve takeaway only but going there has become something of a ritual.

I bought my usual cheeseburger and coffee. When I got back home, as I entered, the stupid door, which is on hinges, bumped my arm ever so slightly, sending the coffee springing out of my hands like a Mexican jumping bean (no offence to Mexican jumping beans – simile was for illustrative purposes).

The unthinkable …

Of course I blamed God and the stupid door. Why does it have to have hinges? Why can’t it be a civilised door that waits until I’m completely in the hallway?

I spent the next 20 minutes going through my paper towels (not a good time to be doing this), soaking up what would have been a lovely flat white.

Next sprinkle some washing powder. Obtain some tea towels and t-shirts from the laundry basket, slightly soak in water, and more floor scrubbing!

The stain in the entranceway is now half-clean, and repeated soaks and scrubs will see it disappear in a few weeks, like the red wine stains which were an inevitable result of my New Year’s Eve party.

Truly a frustrating day under Covid-19 lockdown, with my one outing leading to domestic catastrophe.

I suppose things could be worse. I could struggling for my next meal, unable to pay my rent, in hospital on a ventilator, or losing family to Covid.

My dad’s in hospital having non-Covid related surgery. He sounds in good spirits and I sure hope he stays healthy. He’s always wanted to see me happy and settled. No one wants their parents to leave but Lord Death has lifted his sickle this year, not just with Covid, but with the passing of two of my friends, both still young.

I’m not sure I know how to grieve or handle the end of someone close. I just don’t understand it. Are they completely gone?

A new fad: death

A new fad seeks to open discussion about death. I went to a Death Café in Melbourne last year. I like the idea: frank discussions about passing from this world over wine and cheese.

There’ll certainly be wine and cheese at my death party. And I’m still practising piano, ready to perform my death concert in heaven or hell or fairyland, wherever I’m going to.

But I’ve gone from being Buddhist to more agnostic. I still consider myself spiritual and will probably say I’m Buddhist if anyone asks, especially if I sense they’re trying to convert me. 

Photo: Patrick Wu, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney • Instagram @kindofbluehour

But I can no longer commit to any spiritual position. My best advice to myself: be the best friend you can be to yourself, while remaining humble and understanding towards others. We are but reflections of the great pool of mana, born to experience existence, to see ourselves in others, and to let others see themselves in us.

Thankfully, I have the spilling of coffee to distract me from these meatier questions, from a world forced to retreat within itself, from my recent brushes with the finite nature of life.

I have a good deal of floor scrubbing to do these next few weeks which should distract me from the frustration at being off contract for a long period, just when I was ready to launch phase two of my career. Hopefully this year will get a grip on itself.

And yes, I’m still studying Chinese and will post more reviews soon.

And I’m still looking for a cover designer to redo the covers of my two books.


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