Why do I feel a bit ashamed to admit I’m actually loving life right now?
Granted, this ‘pause’ caught us all by surprise. I felt like a rabbit stuck in headlights for the first three or four weeks of lockdown here in Italy. As a destination wedding planner, I just didn’t know what direction to go, people were looking to me for answers to questions such as; When will it be over? Will there be flights in June? Will it be gone by the summer? Questions I, nor anyone one else, could answer.
Unable to function as normal, I procrastinated over my work. I felt a sense of achievement, if I managed to get through two or three emails, when normally at this time of year, I would be dealing with 60 emails on average per day, plus buzzing around meeting couples, doing venue visits, menu tastings, lots of meetings. But instead I was sitting in my own silence. Waiting. There was no end in sight, it was like falling down a dark bottomless pit.
However, now that the numbers in ICU are dropping and the number of new active cases are decreasing each day here in Italy, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Governments are talking about exit strategies. I’m no longer feeling fear, although very cautious.
Mentally I ‘manage’ the sadness and tragedy of the situation by lighting a candle at 6pm each evening for those who have died, a reminder that they are not just numbers, I then watch the news. I leave the radio and TV off during the day and I don’t read social media news. So my time of sadness or contemplation is confined to that one hour in the evening when I have the candle lighting, and then I blow it out and get on with life.
And that is what I am doing now – life. I’m enjoying having the time to do all the things I’ve been wanting time to do for years. It’s the ‘me time’ I have been craving. My daughter who has been in solitary isolation in London for the last six weeks, is the same, happy as a pig in sh*t. The only issue for her, is that friends and work colleagues, knowing that she’s alone, message her all day asking if she is okay. It’s very nice of them not to forget her, but for the first two weeks, she spent most of her day replying to people explaining she’s perfectly fine locked into her apartment with all her books, art supplies, recipe books and a Nintendo with her favourite childhood game ‘Animal Crossing’.
The author of ‘Moby Dick’, Herman Melville, once wrote a letter to a friend complaining he just could not find time to write about ‘that whale’ because, “I so am pulled hither and dither by circumstances”. Melville said he longed for a big, wide, open stretch of time to create. He called it ‘the calm, the coolness the silent grass growing mood in which a man ought always to compose’.
How many times have we all wanted some ‘Cool, calm, grass growing days’ to pursue something creative or leisurely… create art, write, compose, play music, learn a new skill. How many times have we groaned about it being Monday and wished for a longer weekend? We must all have wished really hard at the same time, and here it is people, the Universe has given us six weeks of back to back Sundays.
Over the last few years the internet has made me feel very unoriginal, I stopped writing because I felt there was nothing left to say, everything seems to have been done before. Not only had everything been done, but I stopped doing creative stuff because I had crossed that horrible line of not creating for the sake of creating, but feeling, if it wasn’t going to bring in an income then it was time wasted. Time was better spent doing the extra 10 emails to get another client. I’d forgotten how to switch off and the pleasure in doing nothing.
In the 24/7 world we’ve been living, silence is difficult to get. We now have the opportunity of silence. A time to rest and create.
We can’t control what is happening at the moment in the world, but we can control what we do with our time and bring something special into our day.
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing again:
1. Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child… writing, drawing, painting, baking, craft – Let that part of you resurface. You don’t have to be the best at it, you don’t even have to be good at it, play with it. Enjoy it, loose yourself in it. Be kind to yourself, give yourself the same encouragement you would give a good friend.
2. Journal or blog – even short notes, we are all experiencing this unique time in history differently. My grandfather kept a diary for part of his time as a soldier in WW1. It has always been one of our families most treasured possessions. I published it some years back. There were thousands of soldiers in the war and each of their accounts was unique to them. Your thoughts and feelings will be a unique part of your family’s history, of the world’s history, so note them.
3. Read – read all the books you have never got around to reading on your book shelves or reread some of your favourites that you haven’t opened in years.
4. Set yourself goals and a routine – If you want the quarantine time to go quicker a routine will help. If you don’t want to feel you have wasted the quarantine time, then setting a goal or two will help.
5. Use all the Christmas gifts you have been saving for special occasions – light the scented candle, use the bath bombs, drink the expensive wine, wear the perfume. This is ‘me time’ we will never get again so make it special.
6. If you feel you are procrastinating and feeling frustrated at not achieving anything, then get yourself an accountability partner. Tell them your three ‘To Dos’ for the day and report back in the evening.
Whatever you do, be gentle with yourself, don’t feel you have to be constantly busy, but find something that brings you some ‘Me Time’ joy everyday.
Not being creative for the last few years had left a void in me. I could use the analogy of a jigsaw with a piece missing, but it was more like the puzzle had been made in the centre of an extendable table, then the two table leaves were pulled apart and the whole middle of the jigsaw had fallen through, just leaving the jagged frame of the edge bits.
Starting this blog gave me some focus from day one of quarantine, it has been often the only productive thing I managed to do. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to write it, other days I have had to push myself to find something light write about.
I woke this morning to find this page had reached 600 followers, I’d just like to thank everyone for liking and sharing my posts and the encouraging comments, it’s made me discover my long lost writing voice again. So thank you
Today was our weekly grocery shopping day. My third time out past our gate in nearly six weeks and I’m exhausted, it was like going on a mission to Mars.
First challenge was to find the hair dryer rather than let my hair dry naturally, Corona virus is serious but going out with wet hair is probably more risky in the eyes of Italians. Second challenge is to find a bra, I haven’t worn one since my last outing to the shop over a week ago. Third thing is get my gloves and mask, we only have gloves in one size, large so no matter how I try to make them fit I have flappy bits at the tops of my fingers. Then we get the shopping bags and get our carefully prepared shopping list.
We need our passports and our self certification forms.
Keys, wallet, phones and we’re off. Except we’re not. The car hasn’t been used in a week and has an old battery which is now flat. So it’s put on a charge. We both go back into the house and let our adrenalin subside over a cup of coffee.
We get going just before lunch. Only one person per family is allowed into the shop.
As I’m approaching the trolley bay I see another two people getting out of cars heading towards other trolley bays. It’s hot and there are already six people in the queue so I speed up. One of the other women sees me and is thinking the same, we’re now both doing fast trots to our chosen trolley bay.
I have my XXL gloves on and I get to my trolley bay first, insert the coin into the trolley release and one of my flappy bits gets stuck in the slot but I keep going wrangling the trolley out of the bay. My phone starts ringing. I see the others are gaining on me time wise, I am closer but I don’t want to be obvious and sprint to the queue so I decide… to skip. I haven’t skipped in 40 years but hey I’m skipping along into the queue, everyone is looking.
I get to the ticket dispenser just before the other woman and grab my number ’27’. Masked and sunglasses on, neither of us can read each other’s expression. My phone is buzzing again, my flappy bit is still trapped, my dust mask has moved up my face to mid way under my sunglasses and is sticking in my eye. It’s 22 degrees and I’m wearing a wool jumper, I hadn’t really thought my wardrobe choices through. I finally get my glove released without loosing a rubber finger. I pull the mask down to get some air and to save an eye. This in turn yanks my hair the elastic has entwined around on the back of my head. Phone is ringing again. I open the phone cover to see it’s my mother. I try to answer but of course with the rubber gloves on the phone won’t take my thumb print ID nor will slide to answer work. I’ve missed an earlier call from her too I notice, she’ll have to wait.
Just at the point I am thinking I am going to start melting in my jumper, my number is called.
First stop the veg aisle. They’ve great walnuts here, perfect for banana and walnut bread. Bag them, weigh them, take the label and stick on bag but now my flappy bit is stuck on the label and the bag. I automatically try to release it with the other hand and now I have flappy bits of both hands stuck on the label. I’m now standing shaking a bag of clacking nuts attached to my flappy bits, sunglasses fall back on nose, I pull my hand away to push glasses up while thinking ‘Don’t touch face’, bag rips nuts fly all over the place.
I give up we don’t need nuts that much nor any other veg that requires labelling. I grab pre packed and labelled fruit and veg and some frozen. It’s like being on Trolley Dash – concious there are 10 people waiting to come in and only five people are allowed into the shop at any one time so I’m rushing around getting everything on the list. My phone starts to ping continuously. I’m picking up more things that are not on the list than that are on the list. There’s really fast music playing, do they do that on purpose to speed us up? Ping. Ping. I’m thinking I don’t want to have to do this again next week so I’m buying double of everything. By the time I reach the wine aisle I’m loading bottles into every conceivable space left. Ping, ping. We have enough, I’ve had enough.
I’m in the pay queue. Ping. Number 28 reaches the queue just after me, she only has a few things so I wave her on in front as is customary in Italy. Ping. Well that was a wasted rush, I’m thinking she’s probably looking a bit smug under her perfectly fitted surgical mask. I’ve been using the same builder’s dust mask for all shopping trips and it’s on it’s last legs.
I check my phone, the pings are from a relative who has found pics of when we were young and has decided to send all 16 of them during my shopping trip.
My phone is ringing, I can see on the screen it’s my mother again. Anxiety is rising, something must be wrong. Ping, ping. I pay for the avalanche of shopping and exit as quickly as possible. I hear Ronan before I see him, revving the engine like it’s a getaway car, masked and gloved adds to the feeling we are doing a bank hoist rather than a grocery shop. My phone is ringing as I load the shopping bags into the back of the car. “Oh for f**k sake!” I mutter into my smelly mask.
Ronan sensing I’m distressed over something, gets out to give me a hand, not thinking about the flat battery. “NOO stay in!”, I shout slamming the door.
My flappy bit get’s caught in the door handle as I am saying “Go, go, go, keep the engine running”.
He jumps back in, starts the dying engine.. and automatically drives off?… my flappy bit still attached. It stretches about a foot and then pings off my hand. ‘Ping, ping’ goes my phone. I steer the trolley back to the bay with my elbow and my covered hand where fairy pools have now gathered at the top of my flappy bits. Husband cruises the car park and comes back for me. I’ve picked up the coin with my uncovered hand. Crap, I’ve fallen at the last hurdle.
We have hand sanitiser in the car and so I dose my hands and my phone in it. At this point I have missed six calls in the space of 30 minutes from my mother, so my shaky hands slide all over the phone trying to call her.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, skipping the greeting.
“What’s wrong?” she responds.
“What? You called me six times.”
“I called you six times ‘cause you didn’t answer so I was worried something was wrong. Nothing is wrong here, what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing is wrong here either. I’m out shopping I’ll call you later.”
I’m a bit annoyed, “Honestly, I thought as an adult I wouldn’t need to tell my mother whenever I left the house, especially as I live in another country.”
Bloody hell, that was so stressful. I’m glad that we are home and have enough to eat to last probably two weeks so I won’t have to go out again. While himself unpacks, I call my 23-year-old daughter in London and wonder why she isn’t answering… so I call her a second time… and a third. “I was in the shower, why are you calling so much, what’s wrong?” … And that is when I realised I had turned into my mother.
CHINA: Hi Guys, it’s me China.
USA, UK, EU: Oh, hi China how are things?
China: Things are good… well actually, they’re not really …
UK, USA, EU: Oh what’s up?
CHINA: Well a few weeks ago we were having a Christmas dinner party and … do you know Wuhan?
USA: Wuhan? Yeah the one with the nice big buildings, but has that quirky little market with the cute animals, yeah we know her.
CHINA: Yeah well Wuhan sees herself as a bit of chef, she’s not good at it but we don’t like to insult her, anyhow she brought over one of her experimental dishes and now a lot of people are really sick …
Rest of World: Oh no that’s terrible. What did you say to Wuhan?
CHINA: We’ve locked her in her room and told her to think about what she has done.
Rest of World: That’s a bit extreme.
CHINA: Yeah, but she’s taking it well and staying quiet. Got to go, chat later.
Rest of World: See ye China, tell Wuhan she’s in our thoughts and prayers.
CHINA: Will do, thanks, bye.
USA: That’s terrible about Wuhan isn’t it?
UK: Yeah. Anyway where are you thinking of going on vacation this year?
USA: Oh we’re going to Italy, we love Italy.
UK and EU: Oh we’re just back from a ski trip there it was great.
ITALY: Hi guys! Just overheard your conversation, that’s great you are coming over, we love having you all here. Although we don’t really like the big unhealthy cruise ships, which dump 3,000 people here in the morning who scurry and scurry back to the ship by 7pm. They don’t stay in our hotels, don’t eat at our good restaurants, or properly experience Italy and they just buy crap souvenirs made in China …
CHINA: Hey I heard that!
ITALY: Well the stuff you make is very production line isn’t it? Not like our craftsmanship. But you know we love you China, you send us so many tourists too, you are the only one that goes into the fashion houses and actually buys all the weird cat walk stuff that Gucci makes.
Rest of World: We thought you were gone China, to look after Wuhan?
CHINA: Yeah, I did but I needed to come back online to tell all of you that it’s not just the people who ate the food that are getting sick, it’s anyone who has been near them, it’s like a flu and it’s spreading like wildfire, we’ve locked everyone in their rooms. I’ve really got a go now and build a massive hospital, catch up later bye.
USA: Oh that sounds awful, really terrible, China, we’ll send you over thoughts and prayers, that should help.
UK: Is China gone off line now? … I think she’s being a bit dramatic, I mean it is just a flu.
ITALY: Guys, the top of my leg isn’t looking too good. I think it may have an infection.
EU: Oh that doesn’t sound too good, you look after yourself.
EU: I mean it.
THE NEXT DAY
ITALY: Sorry, I know it’s really early to be calling you all. But the top of my leg has got much worse, it’s really infected, it’s really, really bad. I’m doing my best but I need more medical stuff. I’ve been talking with China and she said things are improving there but the only cure is for everyone to stay home and away from each other for at least two weeks. So we’re all going to go home, close our doors and make pasta. Is anyone there? Is anyone listening?
US, UK: Yeah, yeah (yawn emoji), we’re here.
UK: Look Italy stop being so dramatic, it’s just a flu. Between you and China, honestly! (eye roll emoji)
ITALY: Guys, I think my leg might fall off, look at the pictures I’m sending you. It’s spreading so fast and it’s spreading in your direction.
US: Italy what’s happening to you is tremendously terrible, I’m putting some thoughts and prayers in an email now and sending them to you. I’ll have a look in the medicine chest and send you some Band Aids if I find any … You will be okay by the Summer though won’t you? Because I have a vacation booked and I would be so disappointed if I had to cancel. So hurry up and get well soon… so I can go on vacation.
ITALY: Guys, you really need to wake up and prepare yourselves, you were here on ski trips weren’t you?
UK: Yes, yes, we and the USA, have a few people with the same flu you have ..
USA: You mean the China Flu?
Rest of World: huh? No it is called Covid-19. We didn’t blame you for the Spanish Flu did we?
USA: The Spanish Flu was from Spain.
Rest of World: No it wasn’t, it started in the USA you just named it the Spanish Flu.
UK: Look we’re all in this find mess together, we’re all just going to have to catch it, take some paracetamol and tally-hoo.
USA: Hey no, I have a better idea, I own this chemical that cleans fish tanks but is good for Malaria too so we should all take that.
Rest of World: But this is not Malaria… or a …fish … tank?
ITALY: EU are you there?
Italy: China are you there? I’m sorry what I said about the things you make, and I know you are still suffering but could you send over …
China: Yes, yes, I’m here. Sorry I wasn’t talking much, I was busy packing up several planes full of stuff for you. Ventilators and doctors on the way now.
UK, EU and USA: zzzzzzz
I’m thinking of starting a campaign to rename Covid-19 the Hippy Virus. It’s a very unique virus as it is changing the life of those who it doesn’t even infect – it is turning us all into hippies.
It’s fatal spread is also having a Ying Yang affect, by spreading ‘Peace and Love’ throughout the world.
Think about it, when else have leaders called warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against something we can’t even see?
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
As least two long term feuds have complied (I’ve lost the report of the names of these but if anyone finds it please send on). Conte, the Italian Prime Minister made a similar appeal on US television last week.
Nearly the whole world has slowed to a stoned pace.
Governments are giving a basic income to citizens to save them from hardship. Hospitals are being built at rapid speed and much needed medical equipment and scrubs are being made by companies that were once focused on luxury consumer goods. Temporary homes have been provided for the homeless. It’s quite amazing what governments can do when there is a sudden urgency. Long term social problems have been dealt with. Citizens are volunteering where they can.
It has grounded air traffic and stopped mass tourism, reducing carbon emissions and waste. There is an undercurrent whisper about the world having time to heal.
On an individual basis, people who never before gardened are growing vegetables, people who have never baked are making bread, people who have never cooked are quickly learning because they cant go out to eat.
People are discovering the joys of boredom again. Old hobby boxes are being dusted off, there’ s a burst of art and crafts and musical instruments reemerging.
Yoga and meditation are now daily practices for those who never ventured there before.
Material wealth, celebrity status, influencers, are all lagging behind in rank of importance to the everyday person; shop assistants, garbage collectors and of course health workers are the new heroes.
And last but not least; Women are discovering the joys of being braless and not having to wear makeup everyday. Need I say more to convince you? Yes we’ve all been infected by the Hippy Virus.