As with many people’s quarantined isolation, the days just fold in on themselves, the normal markers of time vapourized. The basic activities of self-care, sliced into ten minute intervals serve as an all-encompassing distraction that starts to have almost surreal effects. One is grateful for the respite that repetitive activity brings: shovel food into mouth, wash dishes, check temperature, swallow pills with water. You cannot control the egregious incompetence of the structures that, you cannot control the tragedy and loss, but you CAN control the number of times you gargle in a day. Some days are good, some days royally suck, but taking the day in intervals helps each day wash over you in a benign acceptance.
There’s a hollow thump in the chest. A heart-ache for connection of the tiniest intimacy. A shared smile, a kiss on the cheek, hands squeezed in understanding, a brief pinch on the arm as a friend whispers an inside-joke, hugs, hugs, HUGS. There is no craving more ravenous, than the physical presence of my loved ones. (Heck, for now I’ll even settle for a frenemy!)
Poignant nostalgia layers itself onto the daze of quarantine. A twinge of regret is felt, for every past joy denied, every laughing moment not cherished, every opportunity for fun and adventure missed. There is a renewed determination to grab this god-dammed beautiful life by the horns once this dark period passes, to look at it straight in the eye and holler, “YES!”. It harks back to a quote I heard from TV mini-series, Olive Kitteridge, “Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.”
Reality TV is America’s best export. It should be played at all hospitals for Covid patients because reality TV is really the best escape from reality itself. It’s so much more enjoyable to contemplate whether Kim K is going to face-smack her sister for borrowing her favourite nude bodycon, rather than worrying whether we’ll surpass record Covid infections tomorrow.
But what has changed the most? Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I’m grateful for all the people and things I have cried and laughed over. Gratitude is the force that keeps me trooping on. I’m grateful everytime my oximeter reads 99, everytime my thermometer beeps under 100, grateful to be alive in this beautiful mess of a world. Compared to what most people have suffered, I’ve gotten off easy. The toll this has taken on our country will have repercussions for years. Thunderclaps of grief seem to echo around us everywhere, but somewhere in there, the gratitude even for the little we have left, is the healing.
And finally, though I have been impotently raging at the callousness of those in power, I am unspeakably touched and humbled by the kindnesses of those around me - sending food, offering help, planning my entertainment, checking in. The world is jolted by events that are wonderful and terrible. While some men play politics, others are on relentless 18-hour shifts, doing the best they can do to make sure a patient sees another day. I can't reconcile the contradiction, but I know the bad does not cancel out the good. Life is so beautiful, and life is so brutal. Yes, life will break your heart, and life may take everything you have and everything you hope for. But in the darkness, even there, there will be beauty, and there will be love. And every now and then, it will feel like enough.
A response to this is The Artists’ grief Deck. which is a set of 60 ‘flashcards’ that are individually designed by artists in collaboration with grief workers. One side displays an original artwork and on the reverse is a ‘grieving prompt.’ These are memorial and processual actions that give you something to do – a gesture, a tiny performance, a movement, an act of mindfulness – in memoriam of whose loss you are grieving. Try it out and share with loved ones.
To Read: We found a story that takes us as far from here as possible: The South Pole! This one’s a searing essay about intimacy and Antarctic exploration. It weaves together three disparate threads — a messy divorce, a trip on a cruise ship to South Georgia, Douglas Mawson's return trek from the South Pole in 1912 — which expertly bring the writer home to acceptance. "I imagine my marriage like an archipelago I have laboriously mapped: Greater Anxiety and the Lesser Anxieties, the Duplicities, and beyond them Cape Adultery"
Consider your conversations with friends and loved ones, how you enter the conversation with historical knowledge of a person. You already have a set of assumptions about who they are, and how you perceive what they are about to tell you is shaped by this knowledge. But what if there was a different, more effective way ? This piece explores how a suicide hotline volunteer learned to communicate in an entirely new manner through her work dealing with strangers in crisis. And perhaps a lesson on how we can better listen to those we care for.
To Calm: If you’re bursting with anxiety, worry, and the burden of several potential losses, it might be time to just give yourself just 60 seconds of reprieve. The nifty, meditative website lets you type all your worries inside the moon, and watch as it slowly disappears into the tiny pinpoint in the sky, surrounded by relaxing music and the assurance that in the end, everything will be okay. Even if things on the other side of this will not be as okay as they were before, we can still allow ourselves the 60 second release of all those stresses, so we can clear our minds and trod on.
To Watch: The legend and force of nature, David Attenborough just dropped another documentary on Netflix and as avid fans of his, as well as the planet, we can’t recommend it enough. His films are always a joy to behold, accompanied by the velvety rock, soothing tones of his narration. Watch ‘Life in Color’ for the awe-inspiring majesty of its animal subjects, and you will not be disappointed.
To Subscribe: Go for the science, stay for the sex! It’s time we take our health out of the hands of WhatsApp University and Gwyneth Paltrow’s woo-woo promises and put it firmly in the hands of kick-ass female experts. Especially when it involved women’s health. The Vajenda is an evidence-based newsletter for reproductive and women health matters. It’s the next evolution of a Dr Jen Gunter’s effort to fix the information gaps in medicine - because you can’t be empowered about your health with inaccurate information. To start, read her epic takedown of GP’s “logic” and her claim to have a post-covid detox recovery diet.
To Learn: If you’re at home and fretting about the state of hellfire on the outside, perhaps it’s time to quieten those anxieties through caring for and nurturing the plants that hopefully pepper your home (and haven’t been killed yet.) This gorgeous guide gives you detailed instructions on how to care for various types of plants, and should be a first step in turning those black thumbs into green fingers.
To Download/Listen: We mentioned Radio Garden as one of our favourite sites for a listening experience. Well now they’ve launched apps for Android and iOS. So you now have an interactive map of the world with indicators for thousands of radio stations. You click on one of the green dots and suddenly you’re listening to radio from that part of the world. The sound quality is remarkably good and there are a number of features to enhance the listening experience. If you’re isolated or trying to find ways to kill time - this has been the most delightful time-suck. We’ve spent hours listening to music from Africa, the Middl East, and Scandinavia. Check it out if you haven’t already.
To Life Hack: Most of us are in self-imposed or state-sanctioned lockdown to quell the surge of the virus, but there are workers in essential services who are manning stores and making sure meds, food and groceries are delivered home. In addition to a tip, a ”Thank you very much" or "I appreciate your efforts” to folks who are making sure the world is still spinning, makes someone feel like they’re appreciated, and perhaps sucks up a little dread out of the world, filling that void up with hope.
To end, a poem to go with our current situation by Noor Hindi.
BY Noor Hindi
We’ll wake up, Sunday morning, and read the paper. Read each other. Become
of each other’s stories, a desperate reaching
for another body’s warmth—its words buoying us through a world. We carry
graveyards on our backs and I’m holding a lightning bug
hostage in one hand, its light dimming in the warmth
of my fist, and in the other, a pen, to document its death. Isn’t that terrible?
I’ll ask you, shutting my fist once more.
In interviews, I frame my subject’s stories through a lens to make them digestible
I become a machine. A transfer of information. They become a plea for empathy,
an oversaturation of feelings we’ll fail at transforming into action.
What’s lost is incalculable.
And at the end of summer, the swimming pools will be gutted of water.
And it’ll be impossible to swim.