This story is partially inspired by our old office pet (we shared a co-working space with Narelle back in 2019), a red Betta fighting fish whose entire world was the bowl that we put him in. Fish are cold-blooded creatures who depend on their environment to regulate their internal body temperature. We are a lot like Xiao Hong in some ways – without the outside world – travelling, dressing up, going out, being around people – to validate our identities, our concept of self is fragmented.
Our cover mermaid, Narelle, is no stranger to confronting her demons. “I’ve been trying to allow space for my subconscious mind to roam more freely. A lot of the answers to our blocks or our traumas exist there, but our conscious mind suppresses that in favour of Right Now, in order to function in our jobs or socially. Now that we have the space, I’ve been trying to deal directly with the messier and heavier things. People think going inwards is supposed to be this beautiful revelation of spirituality, but it’s more like trekking through a forest of your biggest fears. And there’s a surreal grounding to it when you actually get there.”
We are without our usual distractions, routines, escapes, and structures that once enabled us to look away from ourselves, our wounds, or the unjust systems we exist within. We’re left to face ourselves in the looking glass, including the parts we don’t like. The shadow self – our crutches, our biases, and our privileges. When external action is limited, we are encouraged to turn inwards, learn, and unlearn.