To the brain, pain is pain, regardless
I’ve been spending the past few weeks in France, exploring cities like Paris, Brest, Rennes, and St. Malo. I’ve traveled through time and space to do so, all from the comfort of my writing chair here in my house in Sweden. No flights were needed, no train rides, although I’ve experienced the passage of time from regular trains to France’s modern TGV high-speed trains. I’ve had to re-experience the death of people close to me, and it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, with a lot of painful moments, but what is fictional pain, and is it different from “real” pain?
I’ve been to this place many times, mostly in my imagination, but also in real life. It blurs the lines between fictional pain and the real one.
A long-held dream
To write the story of Michel has been a long-held dream, ever since he had to be “killed off”/written out of the novel about his boyfriend Haakon in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. Michel and Haakon fall in love, but their love gets in the way of the novel’s grand scheme of travel. Besides, with a great love story, it would’ve been a very different book, and not the one to be written then. Michel passed away, on a bench in Paris, on November 29, 1986, and Haakon embarked on his journey around the world for many years.
But Michel never really let go of me. And even though I’m not in the business of telling you which of my books is my favorite (that age-old question every interviewer asks), I can easily attest to the fact that Michel always was one of my favorite characters, and that hasn’t changed as he’s finally been allowed to tell me his story.
The sadness of letting go, again
When you start to write a book about someone you’ve already killed, you realize two things: a) writing an ending worthy of Her Majesty‘s approval will be hard, and b) it’s going to tear open old wounds again. I knew it would be a painful task at times. It’s also challenging to write a story where the actual death is part of another book, published years earlier. I had no interest in including that very scene again and had to find ways to deal with it. I hope you’ll enjoy how I’ve dealt with that sad day.
It’s been an emotional journey for me, to get to know Michel better. While it was plausible enough to have him die from the complications of his HIV infection, it was 1986 after all, but it’s a different thing to learn just how he did get infected in the first place, especially given his young age. Michel’s youth turned out to be very different than I had imagined, despite the guidance–limited as it was–from the original novel. To flesh out Michel’s parents, his friends, and to learn more about his life in the city where he grew up.
The pain of a character is my pain
I shed a lot of tears when I write, and I laugh at times. Michel is a dark story, given the ending, and the topic, but it’s also a story full of love, full of hope, and to see that Michel’s chosen family stood by him through thick and thin, that they provided a support net throughout was a pleasant surprise. I sometimes wonder just why the loss I feel is so strong, so palpable. These are, after all, just fictional characters, it’s fictional pain. They’re not real, they have not lived, they’ve never interacted with me physically. And that is true of course.
True is also that the memories of our actual life are shared in the same place as the memories of everything else, movies we’ve watched, books we’ve read, or books we’ve written. Chemically there is little difference, and if you’ve ever studied the concept called “false memories” you’ll understand just how real even fake can be. Indistinguishable for our brains. Fictional pain it may be, but it hurts just the same.
I for one spend a lot of time with my fictional characters, and to complicate matters further, those characters do spring from real life to a degree. Not that I could tell you the exact composition of each character’s personality, life experiences, etc., but I know that each and every one of my characters also includes a pinch of my secret sauce, to make sure they are life-like. It is that combination of real life, real people, real places, real emotions, real experiences with a pinch of the secret sauce that makes for realistic characters, and the pain I feel when they suffer, and the immense feeling of loss I sense when they die.
A word of caution
Knowing how our brain works, how easily we are absorbed into a story when reading a sequence of black letters on paper, and just how realistic that feels, I worry about the announcement from the Zuckerverse yesterday. While others have written books and made movies on the subject before (in other words, I’m far from the first to realize this risk), it scares me to think that we one day soon will be able to actually disappear into a virtual reality world.
Our eyes are so important to our brains in terms of how we experience our surrounding that it frightens me to think how easily people will be absorbed by virtual reality apps, and how easily they will be manipulated. At least I always know that my characters, as painful as their loss may be, are a figment of my imagination, but what’s to say that things you “see”, things you “experience” are not? Especially if you’re not adequately prepared? A scary prospect.
I’m heading back to Rennes. Michel’s mother wants to talk to him, and I have no idea what she has to say…
Have a great weekend,
This feeling that the pandemic is crushing something within me is overwhelming
I’m not one to complain. A lot. I do, of course, like all of us, but I’ve born the cross of the pandemic like the most patient of gods on their way to Calvary. I asked myself: why complain? It won’t change the course of things? I certainly won’t feel any better about it. Or so I thought. I’ve tried to keep things together, I’ve worked from home while watching others continue to go to the office (even though they didn’t “have to”), I endured continuous Facebook posts by acquaintances flaunting in the face of social distancing with pics of hugs and parties with friends, smiles all around. I watched daily press conferences, studied medical studies on variants, memorized incidence curves and comparisons between nations.
I still got the effing virus
To add insult to injury, our son came home with the virus in early December and we all got sick in the span of three days. When it happened, I went into automaton-mode, looking after child and husband, their complaints about my tasteless cooking, headaches, and fevers, while secretly freaking out about my physician’s warnings about day seven. Alas, we all got lucky and day seven came and went without any shortness of breath, blue lips, or ambulances. We recovered and have the antibodies to prove it.
Yet still, we wear the face masks on public transport and watch on while others don’t, we share the responsibility of school drop-offs to avoid extra travel, we order groceries online at extra cost to avoid crowding stores, buy stuff online to avoid unnecessary travel or visiting stores. All the while I see those Facebook posts, the pictures from cafés and bars, umbrella drinks, and smiling friends sitting way too close to each other for comfort.
Suddenly you find yourself facing another human being
Yesterday I combined a trip to pick up the kids from school with a necessary store visit. Online results and phone calls had not yielded the necessary results and a physical visit was necessary. Walking through a mostly empty furniture store (not unusual for 3 pm on a weekday even in pre-pandemic days) my eyes were like a radar, looking out for potential risk factors, other store visitors, potential health hazards. My visit was unfruitful, but utterly exhausting because as I was leaving the store I came across a couple of hinders in the shape of homo sapiens sapiens, standing stupidly between couches and sofas. Trying to squeeze by, turning my head and torso away from them, as to avoid breathing in/out in. their direction as the space between us was less than the prescribed two meters, I felt the adrenalin rush, the fear (stupidly and needlessly) of this sudden brush with my potential demise and my entire being suddenly seemed to scream: “Just get me fucking home. NOW!”
I wear it because I am responsible, not because it’s enjoyable
I’m so done with this pandemic
Weäre coming up on the first anniversary of our “shelter at home” orders: March 17. Not a date one easily forgets. And I am so done with Covid-19, corona, the virus, this pandemic, these “particular times” or whatever other stupid euphemism you wish to use to describe the existence we’ve all endured these past twelve months. I want to host a dinner party for good friends, talk about highs and lows over a good bottle of Amarone, I want to hug my best friends again, kiss my husband without fear of death, hug my kid more often, more naturally, the way we used to before he turned into a walking death trap for his parents. I want to travel again, sit in crowded airline lounges drinking their cheap wine while waiting for our flight out into a world of adventure. I want to walk on crowded streets of cobble-stone in ancient cities around the world, sit in bars and sip champagne and watch passers-by. I want my fucking life back.
Not wanting to sound ungrateful, of course. We’re alive and healthy, we survived the bug without any lasting symptoms. We’ve not (yet) lost any close friends or loved ones to it, and we have enough space to. call home that I can sit in three or four different places at home for my meetings without disturbing Alex in his. Compared to those who must brave the world every day, who risk infection, every day, we are lucky indeed. Lucky to be able to afford online grocery shopping, lucky to be able to work from home. Lucky. Unlike the millions who’ve perished. Yet still, mentally, this has been a rough year. I have been unable to write, unable to create. And I know that millions and millions are hurting, worse than I am. Much worse.
So here’s to you who doesn’t give a shit
We’re so close to the end of the pandemic. Vaccines are coming, death rates decreasing. All we need is a few more months to hold out, as rough as it is. I’m a grown-up. I’ll keep wearing my face mask even though it makes me sneeze and my glasses fog so I can’t see shit. I will stay away and social and physical distance until the government says “it’s over!”, I’ll follow rules and regulations until they’re lifted, and I’ll be thankful and take my vaccine when it’s my turn. But to you who doesn’t care, doesn’t believe, or can’t be bothered, please enjoy my beautiful middle finger right there in your face. By now I will have unfollowed you on my Facebook and I will not reach out to you after this pandemic. Obviously, we’re not meant to be friends, because I expected more from you than you’re capable of delivering. I wish you well in the future as your subconscious grapples with the deaths and the suffering caused by your egotistical behavior. I doubt you’ll ever realize the cost you owe society.
Probably for the best.
Thoughts after our first trip abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic
I wasn’t sure if travel summer 2020 was a good idea, but weirdly, ever since the lockdown began mid-March, and I saw how airline after airline stopped flying to Gothenburg, I began to long. More than ever before. It was almost as if the mere fact that I couldn’t fly made me want to fly even more. We had been in Switzerland for a week for ski week in February and had made preliminary plans for a short trip to see my husband’s mother and some relatives over Easter, none of which materialized due to a national travel ban. But apart from Easter, we normally don’t travel until the summer. Yet this year, I longed and longed.
My immediate family, what’s left of it… With only one parent left, we want to make sure our son gets to spend as much time with his grandpa as possible.
Homecation, the new normal
Our government informed us early on that we shouldn’t expect a normal summer and that it would be most likely that we’d have to vacation at home, i.e. in Sweden. As the summer approached and after our previously made plans had been canceled we decided that we still wanted to travel to Switzerland, but replace the week of a previously planned cruise, we decided to show our son one of his two native countries. We had also planned for a few short trips across the border to Italy but had to cancel all but one of those (more about that later.)
After having spent several months talking to my dad on Facetime, we were looking forward to seeing him again, and for our son to get to spend some time with his only remaining grandparent.
Same, same, but different: rules
Unfortunately, this pandemic has shown just how little the world cooperates. Not just within the WHO framework, but also within the EU. Every country did their own thing, which was okay given how quickly things escalated in the beginning, but after the Italian shutdown, I feel the EU should’ve sat down and begun to plan how to do things in a more concerted way. To see borders closed and fences going up in the middle of neighborhoods that had worked as one for decades was weird. The blame-game across borders which is still ongoing is even worse and will damage European relations for a long time to come. Yet, weirdly, as I look at the different countries we’ve been to, the rules (post lockdown) are largely the same, with a few differences. Here in Sweden, the elderly (70+) are still in lockdown and aren’t supposed to meet their kids and grandkids (and most certainly not hug them.) In Switzerland, this restriction was removed as part of their opening up of society. Therefore, we had no ‘legal’ hinder to go visit my dad who just turned 79. But we were careful, of course, because we really didn’t want to risk his health. No hugs, no handshake when we arrived, and my dad’s house is littered with soap and hand sanitizer.
Same, same, but different: hotels
We traveled for a week, by car. We figured it was easier than taking a train since Switzerland requires face masks and those things itch after a bit, so we only wore them when necessary and mandated. Social distancing works well, wherever we were, but how hotels organize things is very different and it was interesting to witness the differences, what works and what doesn’t.
Buffets are a challenge, of course, and I think most of us will see buffets through different eyes. Our first hotel, one we’ve visited many times before, kept the buffet, but added single-use gloves (few used them) and hand sanitizer and a one-way system. It didn’t really work because if you needed something from the “end” you didn’t really want to wait in line for everyone else to have gotten what they wanted. Another hotel we visited had adopted a different system, spreading out the buffet throughout the breakfast room, allowing people to spread out more easily. All food items were either covered with lids or e.g. plastic foil.
Another hotel we visited had abolished the buffet and replaced it with an a-la-carte menu. You ordered your breakfast the night before. Drawback: deciding what you’ll likely want to eat the next day and remembering what that was in the morning. I was lost. LOL, but the presentation was great and the food delicious.
Same, same, but different: face coverings
First time in my life I had to wear one of these.
I’m no fan of them, I’ll admit. Yet we ordered a few the other day for future use, and we obviously follow government recommendations and mandates. I can barely go on Facebook anymore as the debate from the US is simply disgusting. Yes, we can argue the scientific value of face coverings in this pandemic, but once a decision is made, you follow the rules. Period. You don’t murder people or steal just because you disagree with the respective laws. But yeah, America…
We first experienced face masks when we boarded our flight to Switzerland. I was happy to take it off to eat and drink but put it back on once I was done. On our trip to Switzerland, the masks were merely recommended. On our way home, they’d become mandatory. Things change all the time.
I think it makes sense to have that extra layer of protection in crowded spaces, such as airports (as abandoned as they are), shops, planes, or public transport. We complied using surgical masks we bought at our local airport in Gothenburg (the only place I’ve found them since March, excessively overpriced.) Sweden, along with other Nordic countries, does not yet mandate masks because of the lack of clear scientific evidence of their use, but I think we’ll need to change our approach not just because covid-19 is different from the flu, but also because of all the asymptomatic people not to mention all the covidiots out there, i.e. people who are sick yet insist on going out. But if you travel, bring a comfortable face covering (or four) along to use. The blue paper surgical masks are itchy and uncomfortable (my ears were going stir crazy having to bear both the rubber bands and the rims of my glasses.) Besides, if we have to wear a mask, make it part of your personality, your style.
Same, same, but different: uncertainty
Traveling is always accompanied by a certain level of uncertainty. You never know what might happen simply because countries are different. However, this year, even traveling to a country you know very well (I was born and raised in Switzerland) is accompanied by weird flukes. When we booked our trip, we knew that we were “allowed to”, both by the Swiss and Swedish governments. However, when we flew, the Swiss government had announced a ten-day quarantine for Swedish travelers, due to the high infection numbers in Sweden. We arrived two days before that rule went into place and didn’t have to. But it basically stopped our plans to travel to Italy because we didn’t really know if my husband would’ve had to quarantine after a day trip as he has no Swiss ID. Our son and I do, we would’ve been fine (silly, right?), but it just wasn’t worth the risk.
To make matters worse, after a week in Switzerland, the Swedish government “retaliated” and removing the green light from Swiss travel. Kind of nice when you’re already there. Our insurance was no longer valid (if anything had happened.) A few days before we returned to Sweden, the Swiss removed the quarantine for Swedish travelers and I expect Sweden to once again allow travel to Switzerland when they review their decision in two days. Silly, but that’s Europe 2020 for you.
But if you travel this year, this is something that might happen to you, as additional examples in recent days (UK, Spain) have shown. Things are very volatile and you better be prepared to pay your own medical bills or buy new plane tickets last minute. I am impressed with the Lufthansa Group’s decision and their “promise” to always bring you home. What it’s worth if push ever came to shove is a different story. There’s plenty of small print one cannot be bothered to read.
Same, same, but different: conclusions
We had a good vacation. We spent lots of time outdoors, we made sure to travel safely and avoid crowds. Sadly you can’t really avoid all the covidiots everywhere, but a good stare usually stops them from coming too close. We were well prepared and healthy and made the most of the time, and coming home after three weeks once again proved a well-hidden point about travel: you appreciate your home so much more.
Have you been traveling this summer? Plan to? What are your experiences?
Stay safe out there…
The pandemic and the state of the world killed my muse
You probably saw my post last week about the art project that I’ve been a part of. It’s been a welcome escape from my regular writing. But even though the post is long and includes several poems, I haven’t “really” written anything substantial in the past three months. Most of the poetry included in last week’s post was written prior to the pandemic. I just can’t seem to be writing fiction anymore. The state of the world, and how quickly it is descending into chaos is deeply disturbing for a soul like mine, and the pain metaphysically alters my ability to concentrate and write.
The hunt for good news
March 17, 2020, the date none of us will ever forget. The day things went sour here in Sweden and elsewhere. The exact day may have varied. It was sooner in Spain and Italy, later in other geographies. Two-and-a-half months later, we’re still in the middle of this pandemic and I find myself staring at the statistics from the Johns Hopkins University ten times a day (at least), looking for hope, looking for the graphs to turn downward, the number of cases to drop, etc. Alas, so far, no such luck. As a European with tentacles all over the world, I follow not only the European numbers, but the American ones as well, and the signs are deeply disturbing. I won’t get into a numbers game or even try to understand how the numbers relate and compare (or not), as even my own country’s numbers can’t be taken at face value. Changes in testing, ramping up testing, changes in who’s tested, and so on and so forth obviously impact the graphs which still look worrying from the outside (if you don’t know how to interpret them.) Good news is scarce these days, but it’s out there, at least with regards to the disease, in Europe.
Turn off the news…
I also spend some time on Facebook, staying in touch with friends and family around the world, and my stream includes a lot of “other”, political memes, articles, and whatnot. That’s usually more disturbing than anything else. I read a lot of newspapers, too, from local news from Sweden to Süddeutsche Zeitung, FAZ, the Guardian, the Independent, CNN, The Washington Post, etc. I like to be informed, I need to stay abreast of what’s going on. Recently, good news has been scarce, or they drown in the pile of manure that is headlining. The first commercial rocket to bring people to ISS, an amazing feat, yet who cares? Instead, it’s hashtags like #ICantBreathe or #BlackLivesMatter which take up all the oxygen in the room, not to mention the evil that currently resides in the White House in Washington, and his utter lack of empathy for those less fortunate.
I wish I could turn off the news, ignore it, but I can’t. I need to know, I need to somehow feel, believe that the good of humankind will prevail over the evil. Right now, the optimist within me is desperate, losing hope. The signs are bad. Facing climate change, facing the biggest global unemployment since the 1930s crash, all of this coupled with an unprecedented divide between the haves and the have nots is not leaving me much to be optimistic about.
Even in a relatively healthy society like Sweden’s, the signs are troubling: our elder care and our healthcare system is anemic, having been deprived of much-needed resources for decades. Doctors don’t have time to visit patients, we send people home too fast, too soon, and what was once a retirement home is now a hospice where people go to die. Is this what we envisioned when the law was changed in 1992? Hardly. But that’s the reality. We pay our nurses so miserably they flee in droves to work in Norway instead. The same with doctors who pull insane shifts in ICUs to cope with things.
My mind keeps reeling: what will the future hold?
So I don’t write. I worry. I think. I try to come up with ideas of how we can overcome the situation. What can we do to fix climate change, fund our healthcare, get people back to work and create a society where everybody feels needed and is valued, regardless of how they look, appear, or whom they love? Is this really too much to ask for? I worry, and while I worry, I can’t write. Who knows when I’ll be able to listen to my voices again, to hear them speak to me, loud enough for me to hear them. Two things need to happen: either my voices start to speak up, speak louder, or the noise around me needs to quiet down. Right now, neither seems likely.
How do you cope in these crazy times?
I will miss you all!
I’m struggling for words, hence the above title. I just cannot express appropriately what I feel, still. Maybe it is still too raw, too fresh. Yesterday saw the conclusion of a project that I have been a part of for a long time, first as a translator of some official documents to accompany fundraising efforts and later, intrigued by the concept, having applied and having been accepted, as a participant. “To write for dance and to dance written text” seemed such an intriguing project for a novelist such as myself, especially in the context of the LGBTQ context it was founded on. I simply had to be a part of it and I guess the “powers to be” saw the passion in my application.
Three Swedish authors, three international authors, and the dance company Spinn
On September 19th, we kicked the project off over a cup of coffee. Little did I know how it would affect me. The final performance yesterday is still swirling around in my head, deeply affecting me emotionally. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up again this fall, post corona, for hugs and much needed personal thanks to everyone involved. It goes without saying that I am greatly indebted to the organizations that have funded this project, enabling me to spend time expanding my artistic horizon, returning to poetry after all these years.
In the following, rather than expressing how I feel, I would like the art to speak for itself. First, you have a video of the final performance yesterday, which included two works of me, a poem I wrote about four months ago, I feel love, everywhere, which I wrote off a clue from my writing buddy Claire Carter, based on two of her characters. Secondly, there’s the live improvisation that Claire, Rannhvi, Izabell, and I did, a conversation of poetry and dance toward the end. Following that, I have included the video that Izabell and I created inspired by Matt–More Than Words, and finally the actual poetry I wrote as a part of the process. Enjoy! 🙂 Maybe in small doses. It’s quite intense…
Live Performance from the Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg, May 28, 2020
Eyes open, wandering
Mouth open, drooling
Pain, constant pain
Muscle spasms, cramps
No way to speak
Moaning, groaning, wailing
Behind those eyes,
Is there a mind?
Thoughts, ideas, dreams?
My mind is full of thoughts, ideas, dreams
I dream of walking
Walking toward you, touching you
There is so much I want to say
So much I want to tell you
But I can’t
I am a prisoner inside my body
But I see you
And I love you
I am human
I am Matt
I am more than words
Other poetry I have written for the project
Cowering in the Dark
Cowering in the dark, alone
A chameleon, hiding in plain sight
At first, you can’t see it, the light
It cuts through cracks in the dark
Extending toward you, caressing you
Dare you reach out? Dare you touch it?
In time you step out from that dark
and as you spread your delicate wings
Your soul takes flight, at last.
I feel love, everywhere
So good, so good, so good
I feel the beat
I feel the heat
Pulsating, through me
Calling your name
I can’t see you
Bodies, all around me
Moving, moving, moving
dancing, grinding, sweating
Calling your name
I can see you
Dancing, dancing, dancing
Your face, your eyes, your smile
Calling your name
Turntables at my fingertips
Beats, beats, beats
Pulling you across the dance floor
Closer, closer, closer
You and me, together
I feel love, love, love
Glitter of the disco ball
Colors of the rainbow
Recorded for Improv Session, May 27, 2020 (This text is likely going to be re-written and edited for further use)
Flickering faces on a screen
Socially distanced togetherness
Quarantined in a closet with windows
I may talk to you, even see you,
But I can never reach you
Like a childhood nightmare long ago.
I watch your every move from afar
A distant voyeur
I see your hair
Those lovely eyes
And how you look at me
Through that screen in front of you
Can you see me?
Do you even care?
I watch you, I see you
As you swirl, twist, turn
But do you see me?
Distance, Closeness, Intimacy
How can we bridge the gap?
Will they ever let me out of the closet?
And when they do, will I dare?
Live Improv Session, May 28, 2020 (This text is likely going to be re-written and edited for further use)
Flickering faces on a screen
Socially distanced communion
Separated by PPE, glass or space
Quarantine be hallowed
Isolated in a closet with windows
I may talk to you, even see you,
But I can never reach you
Like that childhood nightmare.
I see the glass, beyond it the sky, the sun
Oh, that look you give me,
I miss your touch
Your silky lips against mine
Your caresses, body against body
Dance for me baby, dance
I feel like I’m in an aquarium
Surrounded by glass, freedom beyond
Yet here I am, drowning in water
I want to shatter the glass, the fish tank
I dream of the beach, waves coming ashore
Lapping against the warm sand.
Can you see it?
I see your swirls, your elegant moves
Our electronic Togetherness
A dreamscape, a Tsunami of emotions
Let us break out of the confinement
Find a Secret pathway
I long to be with you again
Don’t deny me this one thing. HOPE
A great big thank you!
Finally, a great big thank you to The Region of West Sweden, The Nordic Culture Fund, and the City of Gothenburg for funding the project. How lucky am I to be able to get paid to do something that gives me so much joy? A big thank you to the Writers’ Center West Sweden (Hedvig & Kristín) for organizing it and allowing me to be a part of it, to Danskompaniet Spinn (Veera) for working with us on this, and helping us expand our horizons, to the dancers, particularly Rannvhi and Izabell, for working with Claire and me, to the other writers (Sara, Hilding & Elias) for all the discussions, the open dialogue, and your creativity, and last, not least, to Claire Carter, for putting up with me, and literally blowing up any preconceptions I had about poetry, dancing and expanding my mind and my creative courage like the big bang. Your thoughts on the influence of text and dance, the interdependence between the two, has been mindblowing and I can’t express just how much it has influenced me. The project that Izabell and I did about Matt had not been possible without that, and I doubt our improv session yesterday either. Thank you, all, from the bottom of my heart.
Hans M Hirschi
This year will see a different Earth, regardless of how we feel about that
This is the third month of the Covid-19 pandemic here in Sweden, and while we have reached the plateau and our state. epidemiologist informs us that our R-number is below 1 right now (meaning that each sick person infects, on average, less than one person) we see no end in sight. Our rules of social distancing, no-travel, work from home, etc. are still in place and today, I feel a great deal of sorrow. Not only is it the fact that there seems to be no end in sight (experts speaking that this could be going on well into 2022 depending on when a vaccine becomes widely available) but the psychological effects of the pandemic are palpable, everywhere.
Isolated for weeks with no end in sight
While we’ve been lucky here to have avoided the most severe “lock-downs”, the rules here in Sweden are less draconic, but still: our airport had one flight per day for 7 weeks, we’ve worked from home for almost two months, theaters, playhouses, the opera, and all concert halls have been closed for as long. We had to cancel attendance at birthday parties and some planned dinner parties with friends have never made it out of the planning stage. And while our government is proud to claim that the avoidance of a total lockdown enables us to sustain our restrictions for a much longer time, I’m not sure I even want to contemplate another two years of this. I can’t even see summer coming without a trip to see my dad.
I’m not alone. I think loads of people feel the same, and while 99.99% of us follow the rules, some “idiots” have taken to the streets to complain loudly, armed to the teeth, which says a lot about their true intentions. But even regular people around the world probably wish we’d wake from this nightmare, that we’d be able to attend concerts again, go to the movies or drink a beer in a bar. Alas, that day eludes us.
The victims are found everywhere, from mass graves to the gig economy
Now, I mustn’t complain. There are people who’ve lost their jobs, their livelihoods, their homes. I have friends, family in much worse situations. I watch on in horror as mass graves are dug around the world to dispose of bodies nobody’s claiming. Not just in the slums of the poorest cities in the world, but in the west as well, e.g. New York’s Hart Island. For weeks, my most visited website ahs been the Corona page of John’s Hopkins University and every weekday at two pm I’ve been tuning into the press conference of our authorities to get the latest “scoops” in the fight against covid-19. I haven’t written a word of fiction in over two months. My mind just isn’t in it. I do grocery shopping for the elderly on the island which is super rewarding. Yet, looking back, my own life hasn’t really changed that much. Yes, I’ve lost a major consulting gig with great potential because of the pandemic, I probably sell fewer books because of covid. But my husband still works, our son is still going to school, and I’m used to working from home, have done it for a decade. My life is not much different than it was compared to last spring. What’s changed is the perception of it.
For the hundreds of thousands who’ve perished, and their loved ones, reality HAS changed, and this new reality is grim. For those hanging on to live in ventilators around the world, fighting for every breath, this new reality is about life and death. For people struggling to put food on plates, the new normal is anything but normal. For companies trying to stay afloat without their customers, covid-19 is a game-changer. This pandemic is altering our societies, our economies, and our way of life forever. And I doubt it will ever go back to the way it was before, and that makes me sad.
Is there a silver lining?
We don’t know what the future will look like. Will the clear water in the canals of Venice and the dolphins stay? Probably not. Will the people of Delhi be able to enjoy blue skies even after the pandemic? Not likely. There are reports of wildlife reclaiming their habitats as humanity (temporarily) retreats. Sadly, chances are the backlash will be swift. Although, there is hope. There is hope that the people of Venice will get used to seeing dolphins and will want them to stay and enact measure to protect them and the clear waters. There is a sliver of hope that the people of Delhi will cherish seeing the blue skies above them and will enact legislation to protect the environment. There is hope. For Mother Earth, our environment. There is hope that fewer planes in the air will help the climate, that politicians will make sure that the post-covid society will be more gentle to our planet.
Once upon a time, going places. Taken 30,000+ ft in the air.
In psychology, grief theory suggests a number of steps to go through: rejection, anger, depression, bargaining & acceptance. It would seem that I’m in the “depression” stage, right now. Eventually, you might see me talk about how “amazing” things were in the past (not sure though), but there will be a time when we come to accept what has been will never be what is, and I presume that is good. The world has always been changing and throughout history, events like pandemics have always altered societies, sometimes for good, sometimes not so much. But change is inevitable. It is up to us to make the best of the situation. I for one hope that we see a gentler, more caring society emerge, a society where we invest more in healthcare and the common services we all share and cherish in this difficult time (schools, elder care, libraries, etc.)
I will travel again…
I miss traveling, weirdly enough because I’m not supposed to, not because we had to cancel any trips. But I know that I will travel again. The wandering gene within me has not been switched off. And whenever, and however, restrictions are loosened, I know I will be going to the airport and board a plane to elsewhere, to meet new people, experience new things. Until then, I have Instagram and my friends around the world. As any seasoned traveler will tell you, anticipation is one of the greatest perks of travel. My next trip, to the undiscovered country, has me in anticipatory stitches right now.