The last two weeks were difficult, and Corona had nothing to do with that. A lot has happened, some of it sad, some of it good, some of it funny, some of it stressful, and frankly more than should be able to happen in your life when you barely leave the house or interact with the world outside. But it served as a good reminder: life didn’t stop, or pause. It’s still happening, differently, and in some ways less visibly, but definitely still there. And it will continue to be around, regardless of how long the current shutdown lasts.
On some days I got everything done: I finished something for uni, cleaned the apartment, fixed the WLAN and got the scanner to work, went for a walk, cooked, baked, replied to mails, did the dishes and laundry… the day went past in a twelve-hour blur of productivity. Other days just sort of happened, without me doing much of anything. My activities started to get a bit restless and haphazard, with me prowling around the place looking for distraction. Which is how I ended up listening to some comedy Christmas music, and playing ping-pong against the wall for an hour while contemplating life, and ducks, and hyphenation. But that’s ok.
As an act of self-care I started making it a point after that to do more stuff without a clear purpose, without high expectations. Because now seemed like the time to combat my perfectionism. I started writing passages from Harry Potter into the shape of a four-leaf clover, but if I’m honest I’m still pedantic about that. So I got out an old Strickliesel I was given as a child. Every few years I pick this up and add a few centimetres. It’s still the same ball of wool I used originally, and that doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Just as well really, because I have no idea what to do with the final product. I make no plans for it. I don’t need it. I also practised juggling while hula hooping. And in spite of some slight improvements I continue to be bad at it. In fact I don’t mean to be good at it, much less perfect. I have no intention of jump-starting a belated career in the circus. I just want to be able to do it. Acquire a skill, be ok at it, and move on.
While focusing on such little things helps me, I still worry. About the state of the world at large, about the germs potentially around me, and about everything in between. I’ve started to avoid most of the news, I rarely turn on the radio or other news media. Instead I’ve made significant progress down my list of things to watch and read. I’ve seen some great movies, and some bad ones, and I’ve started (and stopped) watching about six or seven different shows. But I’m a bit more careful about what I watch in what mood. I normally don’t deviate much from my plans, but I don’t have to watch Les Misérables when I’m feeling melancholy and depressed. It’s perfectly ok to discard my plan – made in the morning when I was still cheerful – and instead rewatch Toy Story.
But it doesn’t quite distract me from sometimes missing things. I miss not having this thing to worry about in addition to everything else. I miss not being worried about encountering people on my walks. I miss not seeing people sewing masks for themselves. And even though I text with my friends, talk to them on the phone or via video chat, I miss actually being in the same room with them, face to face without being dependent on technology as an erratic and wilful mediator. I miss making eye contact without glances flicking in between someone’s eyes on the screen and the camera lens. But maybe that’s also a good thing, to notice what you miss I mean, even when it hurts. It can show us what we want to prioritise in the future, and it keeps us from getting too used to this new normal, from normalising the current state of exception, because much like the hectic buzz and the wastefulness of the world that was ‘normal’ before, this has to be temporary. It can’t go on indefinitely, something’s gotta give.
The plug in my sink has said ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ for years I think, but this week was the first time I actually really noticed and read it. It’s normally rather more encouragement than I need while brushing my teeth or washing my hands, but right now it seems more fitting than ever. And there’s an obvious metaphor about things going down the drain, but I choose not to read it that way. ?
So carry on staying healthy and safe and @home,