I have made this story into twenty-seven different drafts, and in twenty-seven different ways and for twenty-seven reasons, I couldn’t get the words to breathe until today. This day marks my 28th day in self-isolation. Yeah, 28. And to be honest, I don’t know how much of this quiet I can take anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. I have the best people as neighbours & friends. I get those regular video calls & texts from people who just want to be sure I am doing okay. I am struggling for my exams-prepping time with the entire staff at Netflix. I take the daily 30 minutes-break outside more seriously than I take my diet. To keep fit, I dance/jog/cycle. To stay sane, I stay away from conspiracy theories and the whole hula hoop of trying to understand everything happening now. So, yeah. It has been tranquillity all around. Except that this city is slowly becoming a shadow of what it used to be.
It’s a tough one to assume that crisis builds strength/character. I have grown to watch it reveal a lot about a person, a people, a nation, a race, and the inequalities in health and economy of the world. I have seen it change people for good or bad, but mostly for good if they are willing to empty themselves. I have seen it break men, more than I have seen it build them up. No one ever prepares enough to lose a loved one or anyone for that matter.
In as much as this COVID-19 has been nothing short of a global menace, I can’t fault the fact that it has created refreshing mindsets in people. And while I still can’t give a name to this uncertainty, on a good day I wake up calling it a half-baked peace.
CLIMBING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
When I ask most people how they feel about the virus, the lockdown, self-isolating, social distancing and all of that, the response is “It’s alright, it’s fine, it’s good.” I am no genie, but this reply has always accompanied “how are you,” and till date has never led to anywhere. For most people, it is how they mask the feeling of uncertainty. Usually, if you say that you are okay, the “supposed” concern is redirected. You avoid the next questions of “what happened?” “what is going on?” “Is anything the matter?”
I usually ask to know, and I wait. I wait to hear something brave. Something relatable. Something human, something real, something that acknowledges that everything changed all of a sudden, something that highlights how much Life has changed & will change, something that offers renewed faith, something that feeds into an almost good day and makes it better. I ask, and I wait. For someone straight or bent enough to say — these times are trying, and I am afraid that some people would fall through the cracks.
A month ago, I came across a street poster and on it were the words, “no one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep.” I thought the copy was fancy and all, but I never thought of how much it would fit, in days to come. There’s so much time on our hands and less peaceful sleep. It is almost like we are battling to stay safe, stay at home, look alive, prep for exams and meet deadlines.
I know it might seem odd, but I miss the noise. I miss the nightlife. I miss being in the midst of a crowd. I miss the enthusiasm and adventure that comes with each day. The smiles from random strangers. The limitless movement. The warm hugs from friends. The real-life connectivity. I can’t say I miss the rainfall here, though I miss the one at home. It moves with the wind, bent branches, thunderstorms, lightning and beats loudly on rooftops and I know it might feel strange, but on most days, it brings a good night rest.
SOMETHING MADE, THEN MADE TO SURVIVE
I think the fantastic thing about being human is that most times, the things that we feel would break us if they happen, never turn out to be as bad as we imagine they would be. Somehow, our skins always stretch to make less of every trauma eventually; no matter how big or small. The panic of this virus is something I have seen fade slowly in people.
The ability to share our personal stories keep us connected and our susceptibility makes us all equal.
Gradually, we acclimatize. We learn to survive, regardless. To move through, to hope, to pray. And while some struggle to show discomfort in crisis, others own the imperfection. It is the unequal surrender to nature and breeding. But, this is Life, and it is more significant than anything we think we know of it. Everything comes undone, eventually.
A TEA PARTY OF KEEPSAKES
I have a friend who is super crazy with capturing moments in photographs and videos, no matter how relevant or irrelevant you assume that point in time to be, she never seems to care. Naturally, I am too aware of my fallibility as a human and my beautiful uniqueness, ever to be a critic of what another might find intriguing, so I paid attention. As much as I loved photography and videography, the need to capture the significant with the sacred was a knowledge I had to acquire.
Levithan painted explicitly, the beautiful and ugly side to memories when he said: “It scares me how hard it is to remember Life before you. I can’t even make the comparisons anymore, because my memories of that time have all the depth of a photograph. It seems foolish to play games of better and worse. It’s simply a matter of is and is no longer.”
The essence of capturing time-events-moments, I had to review during this time. I am grateful to have had moments before now that were greater than this, but I am most grateful to have documented most of them. Memories are the best keepsake one can ever own. They are not all soothing, but the first thing you learn about Life is that you can’t get to the good without the bad. Whether they are the ones we build between the moments of our time here or the ones people carry in them of us, they are always what’s left when nothing’s left. They are the divinity we give of ourselves and hold of our loved ones and the ones we once loved. The time capsules that bear the moments we shared a bit of who we are with the world. They are what holds us together through times of struggle or leaves us undone.
THE HAVE(S), AND THE HAVE NOT
To survive in this period, one needs a positive perspective towards the social, economic and political aspect of the things happening around you or an indifferent one. There are way too many conspiracy theories and other things in play, to get you either fretting or stressed.
Everything is trying to get your attention at the same time. 80% of your emails are either trying to sell something to you or assist you — the limited & distance one. It is mostly for documentation. On the internet, everything is either reminding you of the importance of staying kind, safe & not tapping out or trying to shame you for being human enough.
TO BUILD A LIFE
Sometimes, the acceptance of things begins when we wield our choices around them or if we can rename them into familiar things, so feel free to call your shots here. See this as a map to something, not all things. You have no need moving further if you are seeking for anything else, but an understanding. I write. You think.
There is not enough time to do anything, even if you get a new deadline. The brain always finds a way to accommodate things, as they spread farther away from its original timeframe. You think you have two more weeks, so you relax. Suddenly, three days before the new deadline, you are still editing your work. It is a funny struggle. A realization that time is quite a hard vector to control, once there are no enforced deadlines or schedules.
I have heard enough suggestions on things to do to use this new amount of time. Activities like table tennis, journaling, reading, learning a new recipe/skill, working out, getting in more sleep, eating healthily, watching movies/documentaries, listening to music, and creating something (anything). All these things are good. They do bring some sunshine into the day. Makes you appreciate a lot of things for being and having been. The very thought that we all need each other, to say we truly lived.
No man is an island, and as much as we brand independence, everything we desire leads us back to a particular type of dependency. Love, trust, loyalty, communication, building a dream, building a home, building any human ship, etc. Just about anything. Even the Life we build, the careers we propel, the goals we push and the connections that make us who we are, have the prints of everyone we ever met, loved and indeed known, all over them.
With something to eat, something to do, someone/some people to love, a source of peace and a good dose of human interactions every day, it almost feels safe to say that humans can survive with less of the things we often stress over. But, then, we live to learn and unlearn things.
TO LIVE A LIFE
One thing I can’t pretend about this time frame is that everything is perfectly alright or going to feel the same after now. It will not. And the conversation that it might, only means there are either things we haven’t considered enough or acknowledged yet.
We can’t wish or talk the virus away, believe me, I have done heard enough. Even science is a moving snail. But, you can pray and keep the faith. You can show up. Hope for the best. Show sincere support to one another. Give kindness where it is needed. Do the best you can. Offer forgiveness to anyone who asks and keep some for yourself. Show love and appreciation. And understand that you don’t always have to understand things for them to be. You can choose just to live this Life at this moment. You don’t need to adapt to it or act like it can’t be better. You don’t need to move like you are above it. You just need to stay safe, stay alive, and be alert.
PS: Put on a smile. Your yard people (neighbours) did not do anything to you.