24 January, 2022

I need a bigger a support network

Yesterday, it was announced that Omicron is now spreading within New Zealand. We were doing such a good job of keeping Delta away. Since everything opened up (particularly for those with vaccine passes) before Christmas, case numbers have kept low, with an R value under 1. But now Omicron* is here, and everything will change. As I saw a headline this morning, New Zealanders are in for a major culture shock!

In the announcement, the Prime Minister yesterday suggested people prepare for being isolated at home, and suggested we find “buddies” who might be able to go shopping for us. It wasn’t long ago (just over a year) that we were the ones going shopping for my father-in-law, so it would require a change of focus to think of others doing things for us. We are reasonably well stocked except for perishables (I’ve written on A Separate Life about my pantry hoarding instincts), but it got me thinking. Who would be our buddies?

Initially, I thought (rather melodramatically), “we have nobody!” And I felt very alone. My friends with grown kids in the city would probably call on them, or one of their many friends they made through their kids. Their priority would be their kids, their work, and not some lonely old couple out in the suburbs. (I may be doing them a disservice, but it is how I felt.) Of course, we don’t have grown (or any) children, and neither of us have relatives in the city we could call on. Closer friends live outside the city now, so wouldn’t be able to pick up some milk on the way home. Bamberlamb’s post this week about isolating when you don’t have family also highlights the issues we face these days if we are close contacts or COVID positive, and have to stay at home for an extended period of time. As she notes, we are both lucky to have someone to isolate with. Many don’t.

Then I got thinking. I guess we would probably call on a friend who lives in the next suburb, or on one of our neighbours (and we would help them too), or my husband’s golf buddies. That’s a reasonable number of people who live relatively close, and it would be highly unlikely that we would all be isolating at the same time. Now though, as I look at our network, I know that we are not alone. And it has reminded me to reach out to some friends who are on their own, and might need help as well as being able to give it.

Support networks are there, if informally. But thinking about this has certainly reminded me of my intentions to socialise more this year, with the hope of having a wider group of friends in this community. It's important for me in a way it isn't so important for those who are surrounded by their children or other relatives. It won't happen unless I make the effort. And COVID-19 is making the point that it isn't something I can put off until I am older. It's important now!


* Yes, I hear your sighing and eye-rolling. I'm sorry!


  1. Dear Mali,
    about eye-rolling :) :
    you are so lucky with new covid19 cases! Two days ago you had 71 new cases. And we had 14,000 new cases!!
    (not to mention that the population of our country is much smaller than yours).

    But yes, I agree with you... who will be our support network?
    I experienced quite some bad things in the last three years (first a cancer operation and then a severe injury). I came to the conclusion that there are only three people on the entire earth that I can really count on: my husband and my parents. But when my parents are gone (hopefully in a distant future), it leaves only my husband and me.

    And I agree with you - connections are important and we can't put that off untill we are older.

    kind regards.

  2. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, too. I'm part of a Caring Committee for our church ... we call ourselves the Casserole Brigade, because that's mostly what we do. But it's really more about making sure that everyone has people they can rely on, people to talk with when things get hard. It's so important to connect. I'm glad that you were reminded about your people, and reminded too that they will need you as much as you may need them. Sending strength.

  3. For help in time of need you do not need a 'Best Friend'. You need to share phone numbers and text information with any neighbor who has appeared to be a decent person that you would wave at or recognize on the street. Form an informal block support group. NOT to be guests in your house but the ability to ask each other for help.
    Here, lots of grocery stores started delivering food/other things. People offered to add neighbors orders to their own so the total order was big enough for no fee. It was human to human kindness.
    It's like when a natural disaster hits, people help their neighbors. At least with covid the whole block is not apt to be in trouble at the same time as happens with a flood, earthquake, or electrical outage.
    You are way less alone than you realize. (You would help any old person living alone near you. They would also help you. From outside each other's home.)

  4. Helps to have a thermometer and finger oximeter (cks oxygen levels) in house. to ensure you know if/when you need more help. Also just go for the N95 or equivalent from Korea or what you get in NZ. Actually easier to wear than cloth or the blue surgical ones. Always have a spare in your purse in a clean container. Carry extras in your car and have a place for clean versus used in car. I wear a cloth cover over mine that I wash each and every time I use one. The N95 types can be reused up to about 40 hrs if not obvious dirt or relaxed straps. Put in paper bag, close, and let sit for 3 days between uses. Paper bag allows for air flow. You can write dates used and hrs on the bag and then you know when to replace. Especially as not-employed person it isn't hard! Rapidly becomes like knowing where your gloves/scarf/coat are when you live in snow country. Trickier if you have very young or seniors who have become less reliable in your home. It isn't as bad as one might imagine when it becomes routine.
    AND, reduces odds of catching a cold or flu. Hang in. And please keep writing. If people are careful, caring of others, and vaccinated your odds are really good.

  5. To go from almost zero cases to Omicron is definitely going to be a shock for all of you! -- it is so hugely contagious, it's ridiculous. :( Bamberlamb made some excellent points in her post, and the commenters above too. I'm glad you have thought of a few people who could help you out in a pinch. Don't forget that many supermarkets & other stores will deliver -- for a price, of course! I know a few people who have barely set foot in a supermarket since covid began -- they've ordered all their groceries online & had them delivered. We are so much better off than people in the 1918 pandemic were in that respect!

    Anonymous above has some great advice. Right at the beginning of covid, I read an article that prompted me to stock up some of the basics that you'd want to have on hand if you were battling a cold or the flu -- a thermometer (I don't have a pulse oximeter yet, but it's a good idea), acetominophen (Tylenol) & ibuprofen (Advil), cold pills, cough syrup, throat lozenges, saline nasal spray, etc. (I recently realized that most of those things that I'd bought in March 2020 had already expired!! and went out & bought snme new stuff.) I keep our masks (we have an assortment of cloth, medical/surgical and N95-equivalents) in a basket in the closet where we keep our coats, near the door, and I have Ziploc bags with extras in my purse and in the car. It does become a habit!

  6. Totally get that WTF feeling, Mali. Not unlike Klara we've been at severe Omicron transmission risk here in northern Nevada for the past month-plus. It has felt like deja vu all over again. Two plus years of near house arrest for this asthmatic put me in a deep spiral the week few weeks. In a weird way, the six months of minor freedom from May-November after our vaccination felt like terrible tease. This is what you *could* have, ah but not so fast!! And, in the heart of winter with all manner of respiratory risks. Sigh. You'd think I'd be better at coping ... but there are all sorts of triggers buried in this pandemic, aren't there??

  7. Dear Mali,

    I admit brewing similar thoughts about not having any friends, so I understand <3. My family and close friends all live a few hours from us. I do have new friends in the region but they don't live in the same town and also, I haven't known them for as long as my old friends, of course.

    At the same time, our first lockdown weeks in March 2020 have shown that it is perfectly feasible to look after each other in the neighborhood. We did the grocery shopping for our elderly neighbors for a few weeks and I am sure they would do it for us in return, too. Of course we have some provisions down at the cellar. I also found out that it works perfectly fine to have things delivered from the grocery shop – we tried that one when in quarantine in October 2020.

    So... in the end I know we'll be fine. We won't starve. BUT our network IS a lot smaller than the one of families with kids, that's for sure! I realized that when our very new neighbors with four kids invited us for mulled wine in December (we met safely outside) and had quite a few guests they knew from kindergarden and school... probably more people from the village than we got to know in nine years! When this pandemic is over, I want to join a choir. A regular activity with local people should help, shouldn't it?

    By the way: our infection numbers are that high that I know a lot of people who caught the virus this winter. Luckily, none of them has/had severe symptoms. Both my sisters and their families had it. My (online) Pilates teacher had it. Co-workers had it, too. There is one advantage for the CNBC: Most people get the virus from their kids since it circulates at school. And we didn't get it so far... fingers crossed!

  8. As much as COVID has polarized and separated us, it's also made us see just how interconnected we are, and to be more intentional about those interconnections. Starting....now!

  9. Lots of great advice here, Mali. One thing I would add (along with another plug for N-95 masks or KN-95s at minimum - don't waste time with anything else, especially not with Omicron) is to find some good, reliable experts on social media to follow. New Zealand has always looked like it is being run by adults to those of us dealing with 'leaders' who don't want to lead in a crisis and who repeatedly (repeatedly!) fail to learn from their mistakes. But if NZ public health decisions start to diverge from best practices, it could be helpful to have some trustworthy people you're following to help signal this. I have a collection of people on Twitter I follow (probably around 15 in total), all Canadians: infectious disease specialists, statisticians, frontline healthcare workers. Thanks to them I knew COVID was airborne mid-last year and my family switched early to KN-95 masks before they were hard to get. We also stocked up on rapid tests before the rush.

    Some of the people I follow are labelled 'alarmist' by government supporters, but their modelling and predictions have always been better than the government's, and, most importantly, they are all advocating for transparency. They're not trying to hide data and when the government does, they make sure to tell the rest of us exactly what the government is doing. I don't think any of them would be that useful for you since your experience is so wildly different, but I'm sure NZ has their equivalents.

    Also, is grocery delivery available where you live? We usually do curbside pickup but we tested out a delivery option last week as a trial run in case we have to isolate unexpectedly and the fresh food runs out. It was super easy.

  10. Thanks everyone for your suggestions. We have most things already (I don't have any N-95 masks yet), supermarket delivery is available, etc. We're lucky that we have a government that actually made a list of things that we should all consider stocking up on too, and reflected your suggestions. We are fortunate that we also have the advantage of learning from experiences elsewhere.

    And so far, our govt has been following public health advice, and our media is reporting the advice of all the experts, both those who have the government's ear (most of them) and those who don't, and they don't hold back on criticising the public health advice or decisions if they think they are wrong!

  11. Oh, no! No eye rolling or sighing, it's amazing that NZ has managed to evade COVID for the most part so far. Stupid Omicron. Agree with everybody--KN95s for the win. They protect you as much as others. They filter 95% of particles. I have been wearing one in a school FULL of students and FULL of COVID and, knock on lots of wood, have not gotten it so far. We did grocery delivery when this first started and then again with the Delta surge, and now I go but at odd times. We actually asked when deliveries come and then we come that night (for us we've had good luck Wednesday and Saturday nights). I'm sorry it feels so panicky, I get that totally. It is good that you have each other -- that makes it easier to be isolated. Oh, we also stocked up on frozen foods so that we'd have veggie options if we couldn't get to the grocery and also things like soups in case we got it and needed easy but nourishing options. Good luck, thinking of you!