When lockdown including the closure of schools and kindergartens was announced here in France a few weeks ago, I felt like I was about to go to prison.
I love my children. I love my husband. But the idea of us being stuck for weeks in an apartment that had already become too small for four people with all the freedom to exit felt like a too harsh punishment for a crime that I hadn’t committed. I‘m really flexible. But solitude is my daily bread.
And yet, it was fair somehow: we‘re dealing with a global pandemic, it concerns everyone – and should at least not feel pleasant for people like me who are lucky enough not to be affected on an existential level. That’s why I didn’t feel well, but at least I felt like showing solidarity and responsibility complying with social distancing while missing nothing more than a little distance from my family.
I‘M REALLY FLEXIBLE. BUT SOLITUDE IS MY DAILY BREAD.
And of course there was and is the witnessing of the spread’s evolution, the compassion for all destinies that took brutal turns through COVID-19; I see how tragically some of my loved ones experience the situation; people in our family and among friends suddenly were infected, got all well again, but of course we’ve been concerned and challenged. I‘m also getting more and more concerned about Mexico where the president waved two saints’ pictures from his pocket when asked about his strategy.
Perhaps three weeks in the quarantaine, I stood in the kitchen transferring blueberries into a glass – and did so, not as usual by pouring the washed fruits into the container all at once because I had to go somewhere immediately after – but one berry at a time. I wasn’t going anywhere. The late afternoon sun was shining its golden warmth on the glass, and every single fruit looked so beautiful in its light that it gave me the greatest pleasure to adore each one before carefully placing them on top of the others. It was an eternity of pure bliss over the divinity of blue berries.
And: I had more of these. As a global disaster took its course and while I was surrounded by the ever-growing numbers of its raging spread, I had more and more of such quiet, incomparably exuberant moments of happiness that surprised me out of nowhere.
Where I thought the 24/7 family care would be a nightmare and I‘d have no time for anything at all, it soon turned out that I actually had no time to work “seriously”, which is to accept presentable jobs; I also had no explicit time for myself alone. But suddenly there was an incredible amount of time – for everything that has nothing to do with serious, presentable and explicit – like breathing, looking out of the window, reading three pages in a beloved book. In the few minutes between slicing apple wedges for one child and running bath water for the other, in the small break between washing dishes and getting the children ready for bed, there were eternities, and they had something of an absolute, delicious freedom.
I felt free in what had been announced as arrest.
At some point I had to honestly admit to myself that I was doing pretty fantastic in this private and global disaster. That I felt free in what had been announced as arrest. So what do we do when we find out something about ourselves that is really odd? We keep it to ourselves. We don’t tell anyone, pretend nothing has happened. And at some point, while we‘re cutting apple wedges, running bath water and washing dishes, we can‘t help but wonder if we are the only one.
I turned to the most non-judgmental, tolerant friends I have:
“Hey. Everything is really terrible right now. Are you ok? Uh … just for the sake of interest – is there anything, no matter how unimportant, tiny, that you could, theoretically, like, apart from everything that is really terrible, about everything. Anything. Hm?”
All the answers I got started about like this:
“Well, everything is really bad. But honestly…”
I summarise: There are tons of good things to be found in this time, and of course nobody dares to say it aloud, because even for people who are lucky enough not to be affected on an existential level, at least nothing should feel pleasant about it. And yet: slowing down our everyday life brings bliss and presence to our otherwise busy days. We see beauty in everyday things because we suddenly have time to look.
We spend more moments with our children, in the here and now, without thinking about the next task to check off. The simplicity of staying at home and putting first things first bring rest and relaxation from the usual faster, further, higher, better. We see how little we really need, are more grateful for everything that is given to us every day. We see more clearly which people are important to us, with whom we really want to hang out and get in touch when the world falls apart. The cities are silent. We sleep longer. Our jeans are getting tighter and it so doesn’t matter. We don’t meet anyone, nobody – and suddenly we have to be nobody but ourselves. We wonder who we actually try to prove something to the whole rest of the time, and what. We are inspired to play. We are in the eye of the hurricane, the silence is magical. And the silence belongs to the storm, is part of it, just like the raging outside.
IF YOU‘RE HAPPY, PLEASE BE IT SHAMELESSLY. YOUR BLISS IS NEEDED.
I‘m with everyone, who is currently haunted by fears, worries, hit by strokes of fate, despair and panic about an unmanageable present and incalculable future – with all my heart. And I’m also with everyone who doesn’t dare to be happy right now because it seems odd to be happy now. You know what? It’s not. It‘s OK to feel bliss now. I even think that it’s of immense importance to recharge in the slowing down and that we should choose wisely what we are focussing on if we are blessed with the freedom to choose.
That doesn’t make anything less important about what is happening in these turbulent times. That doesn’t make us ignorant. It also isn‘t unfair. It’s the opposite: if one thing becomes clear through COVID-19, it‘s that we are all connected, sitting in different placements of the same boat. And the whole thing has more chances to make it to the shore if there are parts that have resources left, and the ability to pull others up when they can’t do it by themselves. We need individuals who look at what is breaking down from a healthy, strengthened, confident perspective. Those who are understandably overwhelmed by the challenges of this indescribably charged time, who do not have the opportunity now to gather strength and creativity, courage and inspiration – need least others who are overwhelmed; they need people who have enough strength left to keep themselves and others afloat and who have some creativity and inspiration to offer.
Therefore – if you can: Look out the window, count clouds. Play hide and seek with your kids, sleep, dance in the rain, eat too much ice cream. Enjoy yourself. If you’re happy, please be it shamelessly. Your bliss is needed, now more than ever.
Image: Original by Michael Dziedzic // Unsplash