So, we’re over 2 weeks into lockdown in New Zealand (and since I last wrote). I don’t know about you, but I’m still feeling so tired and weighed down…. I feel super grateful that I’m safe, looked after, and it looks like I can get all my meds here (even if I have to pay for them), but obviously this is not the trip that was anticipated, and the anxiety I have been left with from cancer means I tend to worry about the worst possible outcomes from all these (not just for me, but for those I know and don’t know) – and it’s not clear when flying home will be the safe option (though Emirates is showing flights to Manchester from 2nd June, but I’ll have to talk to the medics) – was due to land back May 10th. Uncertainty SUCKS and is so UNSETTLING. The insurance company has finally emailed this week to say that I clearly haven’t made a ‘decision’ to stay, but am ‘stranded’ here, so I’m still covered (although they haven’t approved medical costs yet).
Like everyone else, life has not gone to plan recently … The plan for this trip was to:
- Work on a revised version of book;
- Thinking about an associated academic paper;
- Present some talks on faith, media and digital life;
- Develop collaborative partnerships;
- Enjoy a refreshing and restorative rhythm of spiritual life and community.
Over the past 2-3 years, cancer has taught me that life’s plans can be thrown up into the air with very little notice, self-isolation has been fairly normal, you really start to question what is essential (what do you have the energy for/what gets you through the days), and walking around and around the block (the beach is beautiful, but it can feel rather like walking round and round the same block, so I try and find new corners that look like they are miles from others!
New Zealand is effectively in similar weather pattern to UK September – so some lovely days, but increasing chance of rain, wind, lower temperatures. Thankfully have been loaned some warmer clothes, but seeking to make the most of the nicer weather (though this morning I am still in my PJs, blanket on, window open, The Good Place on … can see lovely blue skies) … and get enough ‘fresh air’ to help with mental health and sleep!
It’s been good to talk through ideas with Sapati for some content that he can share online, that doesn’t just add to the overwhelming ‘noise’ that seems to be coming from many places:
So, I’ve been thinking about what I have done out here, as I’m certainly not where I want to be with my book – the plan was around 6 weeks of research and restructuring, then 2-3 weeks of writing (the actual draft is due in May), and obviously most of my talks were cancelled (though some may be replanned for online). This week has started to feel like can do a bit more after the past couple of weeks trying to sort out insurance and anxiety melt-down…
- Got up every day, showered every day, eaten every day, got out for a walk (or swim) every day *this was my basic for cancer treatment, though with less showering
- Read quite a lot of research for my book (though I feel about 3 weeks behind), and worked my way through the old draft and identified what looks out of date/new areas of focus. Loaded it into Scrivener (new software).
- Got over 200 responses to my survey on children and the internet (now open til 18th April)
- Arranged and unarranged a number of speaking events at Auckland, (I managed to do one at Laidlaw), Wellington, Christchurch, Melbourne (same with visit to friends inc in Whangerai).
- Written a chapter about online church and what churches could possibly take forward post-pandemic (within 48 hours)
- Written various versions of a piece on the relevance of wartime propaganda posters on the current situation (not yet been picked up) – put my PhD back online.
- Wrote a blogpost encouraging parents not to stress about screentime in the current crisis (or most of the time!)
- Submitted a pitch for an academic article related to parental mediation and online content – not convinced it will get picked up, but got me thinking.
- Awarded a place on the University writing retreat (obviously not going to happen, but wonder if I can write article draft by 8 June as planned)
- Met some interesting people at and around Vaughan Park (before it shut down for lockdown!), met up with Stephen (Laidlaw) a couple of times, and Philippa (Massey) – there’s been personal support there, and potential academic collaborations.
- Joined offline and offline sessions of worship/discussion – I don’t know about you I can’t cope with all the ‘opportunities’ – esp with time difference and excessive need for sleep (or at least downtime)!
- Submitted a bid to Business Transformations funding pot to interview national church re digital transformation, awarded part of the funds, but unable to take it up as the church is too busy supporting people to go online.
- Worked with JISC to launch a survey re research use of digital … circulation cancelled due to COVID19.
- Two online meetings, and work on social media/cancer bid has continued.
- Two radio interviews (Premier and Coast Access Radio), plus expecting to be a guest on The Tall Man (via Zoom)
- Emptied my emails, including my external examining, and done half my PDR documentation
- Talked to more people than I might usually have! Thankful to Andrew (and sometimes Jane) who check in with each (my) morning to try and keep my head from disappearing down the mental health whirlpool – and those who interact with on social media – I love the Holy Pandemic group!
When I consider that I cried at the airport heading to Jersey last summer, amazing that I managed to get all the way out here so straightforwardly, and still just about hanging on in current circumstances. Thankful for technology so hoping that all keeps going … praying for wisdom from leaders to bring this global pandemic to a halt safely as soon as possible and that we will find a way out of it – with questions about what life looks like afterwards – I hope we will value some things differently…
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.