Melanie Mullan

Reflections As We Move Into The Next Phase

About three months ago I made the perfect pot of rice; each grain was fluffy and the distinct holes in the bottom of the pan were a joy to look at. I had never thought much about the process, but on this occasion it stood out. My friend and I marvelled at the joy well cooked rice can bring. I remember that evening well, because it was the last time I managed to make it properly. As the country shut down, so did my ability to cook rice. 

At the beginning of lockdown I had high hopes for how I was going to spend my time; the books on my bedside table grew as I was finally going to have the time to read more; my room had never been more organised, or clean, as I created a space for myself to work in for the first time since I had become self-employed; my piano keys were put to work for the first time in months as I spent hours teaching myself new pieces and perfecting old ones. My walls were full of pages of ideas as I brainstormed my way through the first couple of weeks – and then it all stopped. 

Morning runs were replaced with trying to get a couple of hours rest to make up for the previous nights nightmare-filled sleep; afternoons plotting and planning were now filled revisiting childhood movies that I knew would not unsettle me – there was a sense of security in those couple of hours as my mind struggled to come to terms with the uncertainty of what was happening in the world. The books remained untouched. Cooking skills that were once taken for granted were now letting me down meaning ambitious dishes were abandoned for the reliable potato waffle, as no sauce was able to hide the fact that I was crunching my way through another bowl of undercooked rice. 

My daily routine became less about being busy and more about coping. I allowed myself endless amounts of One Tree Hill, Mighty Ducks 1, 2 and 3 and Disney Plus while using the minimal steps from my bed to a chair every couple of hours as a form of exercise. I allowed myself the tears of fear, loneliness and feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis. I allowed myself the comfort foods of potato waffles and pasta smothered in parmesan cheese as much as I liked, and as I continued to allow myself to do these little things, my mind started to recover and discover once more.

The following weeks, and months, gave me the time to enjoy the little things once again. The arrival of the post man each day, each letter or parcel bringing a little joy; the rainbows that sporadically appeared in my room as the light changed throughout the day; the joy when a dinner turned out better than expected or the days when the sun did not stop shining. I discovered that Tuesday’s With Morrie is as good the tenth time you read it, or listen to it, as the first time.

I was reminded of the importance of conversations whether it was through letters, phone calls, WhatsApp or video calls. Evenings were filled with catch-ups as I was given the opportunity to chat with friends in different time zones, conversations that would never had happened had life carried on as normal, be it with a quiz or not. I was reminded of the importance of listening as each person shared their news and worries and we celebrated the little wins that each week brought – there was comfort in knowing that no matter how I was feeling, there was always someone who felt the same. Family time was spent with food as I chatted with my nieces on FaceTime over lunch, while my parents and I spent one evening dining together over Zoom and our WhatsApp group was filled with numerous bread-making attempts.

I was inspired by the endless amounts of creativity that people have to offer as new projects and initiatives began to appear, each as amazing as the other, as artists showed their resilience and took on new challenges with their work be it in music, art, photography, design and many more. As a result, I fell in love with creating again and my camera came out for fun rather than work.

I learnt that ignorance is not bliss as the Black Lives Matter movement became a prominent part of our lives and forced me to check my privilege and to educate myself on a topic that I had not realised I had been neglecting for so long. It taught me that I will never have all the answers, but I need to be consistently educating myself and others on racism, especially here in Ireland.

I realised the power of being alone. Whether it was sitting on my bed as the sun beat on my face through the window, or walking the beach – a 2km radius I definitely took for granted – I was able to find comfort in being alone. It didn’t take away the longing to see loved ones, but it made the days that bit easier.

I found my voice again and started to write once more. I learnt to say no, an ongoing lesson for sure. And this week – thanks to over-the-phone help and guidance from my brother – I learnt how to cook rice again. 

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