I don’t know whether it is because I have a family tendency towards anxiety or some Cold War imprinting where we learned we could all be blown to smithereens at any moment. But, in the back of my mind, I have been readying myself for Armageddon since childhood.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have weapons stashed away or house foundations of toilet paper and Spam (although I have thought of it). I’ve just been mentally preparing.
So, when COVID-19 hit, I was not really taken by surprise.
I spent days training myself to swim like a dolphin in my childhood – in case pirates kidnapped me and threw me overboard, bound hand and foot.
I worked out how to survive a shark attack by poking its eyes and pushing the big fish backwards so it would drown. I thought through how I could cheat death in a plunging elevator by jumping in the air just as it crashed to Earth. (Yeah, I know, neither would work in real life.)
I got my sister to tie my hands behind my back to practise threading my feet and legs through. That way, I could put my hands to the front and untie the rope with my teeth.
As an adult, there have been daydreams of how I would save my family if it all went to shit. Could I cycle to my Father’s if the roads were blocked or if there was no fuel? Could I bring his generator here? Could I collect rainwater? Could I turn our small backyard into a vegetable patch? How would we feed pets?
If there was a war, could I take my children and hide in the bush … or central Tasmania?
When I worked in the city and Pyrmont, I would work out how long it would take me to swim to McMahons Point on the other side of the city if there was a terrorist attack. I would find my children in their city school and guide them home to safety.
I’ve always bought too many clothes but never felt guilty … because there was a thought I would need them when disaster hit and we were all stuck with what we already had. I avoid debt and only feel comfortable having a bank balance that will keep me going if I have nothing else.
I’ve considered how I would keep my sanity if I was locked in solitary confinement for years (art, reading and yoga), how I would deal with the guilt of causing a deadly car accident (leave the country and devote myself to good works where I could be of some help) and pondered whether it would be more bearable to be blind, deaf or completely paralysed.
I memorised my children’s distinguishing marks in case I had to identify them in the dark.
I realise this makes me seem completely paranoid, but I assure you that I am not. It is not that I believe these disasters will happen or that the thought of them fills me with fear. It is just that doomsday prep is where my mind often goes to when I am daydreaming – when I am not working out how I would spend my $40 million Lotto winnings, or designing my perfect home or lifestyle, or formulating thoughts that become blogs.
And it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.