Here we are. We have an end date. Lockdown will be finally lifted in [insert your country deadline] days.
Do I see a light at the end of the …curve? Sure.
Do I believe the government took the right decision? Of course not.
Is the reopening too early / late / unsafe / loose / tracked / whatever? Absolutely.
Is my opinion fact checked, data driven, and peer reviewed? Certainly not.
Should I stop pretending to be an expert in pandemics and turn to the only thing I might have some authority over – myself? Indeed.
Let’s go, then!
So, am I relieved? Well, uh,…
The reasons of my lukewarm reaction to the end of quarantine are multiple and difficult to explain. In fact, they are not so easy to identify. I would define it as a sneaky feeling of dread, an undercover uneasiness, a vague worry.
No doubt these mixed feelings have something to do with the long tail of deaths COVID-19 is leaving behind. No doubt I fear the huge impact this pandemic will have on our economies and political systems. But let’s look at it differently: is there anything we – as a society – can (and should) learn from all this?
To have a clearer understanding of what I am babbling about, let me take you through 3 aspects that made my quarantine bearable and that I fear I will miss in my life after lockdown.
1. Rediscovering time
Time for your body
After lockdown was announced, I re-aligned my strained self with my body clock. No alarm struggles, no let’s-meet-before-lunch starving, no rush through packed streets, tubes, schedules. Comfortable clothes and pain-free shoes all day long. Warm home-cooked meals to enjoy sitting (what an insult!) at my kitchen table, chewing for longer than hurried 10-minutes-before-the-call lunch breaks. I could go on for ages.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not an argument against busy lives. It’s a defence of less busy lives. I would be able to find something to do even in an anechoic chamber (no idea of what that was before this article!), so no pursuit of laziness here. However, during this societal blackout I stopped chasing time. I began living it. And it’s marvellous.
Time for your mind
Whether you kept working, or working from home, or not working at all; whether you quarantined on your own, or with your family, roommates, dogs; whether you remained calm or started to panic when listening to “war-like” daily news, you had more time to think. And to think about negative stuff actually. I hear you. My mood got trapped in a merciless swing, going from the widespread “everything will be ok” rainbow to my darker “we are done” black hole in less than 60 minutes.
Yet, in those minor windows of peace, I was able to learn new things, nurture my creativity, and come up with new ideas, solutions, sometimes projects. It was the revenge of brainstorming.
Time for your soul
Disclaimer: I am not able to meditate, I don’t practice yoga, even less gratitude. I am helpless. Nevertheless, having more time to spend with myself, I got to know my personality deeper. It came out I have more resources than expected to cope with my quarter-life crisis, for instance. I also tested my limits (loneliness anyone?), which is good in terms of self-awareness. Free from the “normal life” noise, I eventually learnt to listen to myself.
2. Forgetting FOMO
FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. My scariest word ever. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “a worried feeling that you miss exciting events that other people are going to, especially caused by things you see on social media”. While this definition would work as well in this case since the stay-home imperative, I would rather discuss FOMO’s broader and more “existential” meaning. FOMO can be then described as the fear of regret, of making the wrong decision, of losing out. To put it simply, it’s a kind of social pressure. The same pressure that forces us to be always busy, to overwork, to succeed. The fear comes from the fact that you might not meet such high expectations.
The lockdown lifted this pressure. I didn’t feel guilty for slowing down my rush towards the future while the rest of the world kept rallying. I didn’t fear making mistakes or not being as successful as the others. Because I wasn’t the only one to struggle. Because the entire world stopped. I know it’s just a question of time and that my FOMO has simply been postponed, but still. It gave me a break.
3. Sharing is caring
Yes, let’s talk about the overflow of live streams on social networks. Or the amount of endless video calls with family and friends. Necessary at first, nice to have afterward, definitely bothering me towards the end. But let’s be honest: that’s the exact thing that saved me. I have been self-isolating all alone in a foreign country for more than 40 days, I would be lost if it weren’t for the internet and its proactive users. The sense of intimacy when watching people chatting from their living room, the feeling of “we are all together in this”, is what I appreciated the most. Even absolutely out of reach personalities became a bit closer. They are humans after all*. The lockdown helped to flatten something more than the sole infection curve.
*A special thank you to Chris Martin for this.
Does anyone know what the “new normal” will look like when quarantine ends? Nope.
Should we all retain something from these crazy times and try to make the world a slightly better place? Definitely yes.