I’m penning this blog post on Freedom Day. Is it ironic? You could say that. Truth is we are probably the luckiest people to experience a pandemic ever in the history of the world. Since the pandemic of the Spanish flu in 1918, advancements in healthcare, technology and medical research have been our greatest progress and what make the biggest difference in outcomes. I guess you could say we’ve never been more equipped to deal with something like this. I do not know much about that world, it feels far away and I trust the powers that be to make sure its working to the best of its ability to get us through this (because I have no other choice than to trust).
I can, however, talk about what I experience in my day-to-day life. The biggest luxury that makes this so unique to any time in the past is definitely the internet. With this, we are connected even if we are far away. We are connected to instant news, we can work remotely, we are connected to each other, we are constantly entertained, we can have deliveries of any sort to our front door (and thank God for that, a lifeline for some businesses)…so one could say it’s never been easier to live through a pandemic.
Regardless, it has not been easy. I’ve been observing my days and moods lately and I’m impressed with how something happening on such a macro-level is effecting my daily life while nothing too bad has really happened yet in my world. However, the threat, the looming threat of death and despair, the fear of the pain to come, the unknown – that alone can dishevel us and cause an upheaval in our mental well-being.
I find myself driving (because I still go into work and I am lucky to say so) and (apart from LOVING the no traffic life) I get an urge to stop at my local coffee shop or call a friend and ask her for a quick drink. Then I feel this pang of panic when I realize I cannot do that. That place is closed. My friend can’t come. Something so simple, so tiny can’t be done. It is gone. And we don’t know how long that’s for. I feel sad in these odd moments when I realize something I took so for granted as always being there suddenly is not any longer. Like a child whose parents are having a fight and can sense the tension in the air, I feel unsafe, unsteady in the usual comforts that disappeared. I mean for businesses to be shut down – businesses! When we are a culture who would literally kill for money (recent construction tragedy comes to mind) and something bigger than that actually showed up and shut us up, shut us down. That is pretty awesome and scary when you think about it.
So then I get days when I manage not to think about it. I am caught up in the joy of this slower life. It’s like my days could have happy background music as I do all the things I was too tired to do in my usual drained life; I exercise, I meditate, I read a book, I sleep when I feel my body needs it, I cook nutritious food my body wants, I move at my natural pace and this feels like a gift. What are we meant to learn from this time? What has mother nature so wisely brought to us? La-di-da, dare I say…bliss?
However, just as these days and moments come, they go – usually due to some odd unexpected moment of shock that triggers my trauma and fear response. And I go back to hyper vigilant and overthinking. Like today when someone said, “Well we’re all going to get it eventually” and I just wanted to barricade myself at home.
In the beginning of this, I used to read many articles, listen to the voice clips, and try to prepare myself with information. An illusionary sense of control. I was completely immersed in social media, I would share every important bit that came my way in an attempt to help my family, and friends armor up too. Until I realized that half the shit I was reading was FAKE and I worried them for nothing. So I stopped sharing. And eventually, I stopped reading. I realized I needed to get out of the social media world a little bit more and just get facts, “How many people today?” and “Any new measures I need to know?”
Some days it feels too depressing to even work on this blog post. Or work out. Or find meaning. Or do anything. And I find it comforting to read things like this that give me permission to do just that:
The fact that we WANT a slow spread is mindfucking in itself. All I want is to brace myself and go through it quickly and then see what remnants I’m left with (the way I deal with any trauma) – but this is not the way this is going to go so I need to develop a new way of coping.
Finding meaning, it is one of the stages of the grief, the last stage and I find myself hopping and skipping through the different stages (denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance…) at different moments. It seems that many have skipped to finding meaning pretty quickly which can be seen as really beautiful….or really naive since, as we say in Maltese, “Il-kbir ghadu gej”….and if we STILL derive meaning from all this after that, then that will be truly special and, hopefully, long-lasting. We are in the build-up to the trauma, which is in some ways traumatic in itself. It is easy to be grateful now, it is easy to find the positive and sometimes it is not so easy – and we have not even been met with death yet.
I wonder sometimes how this huge world-wide experience is impacting some brains out there who are thinking of innovations that could change the way we live and work, what new creations are being concocted in someone’s brain and if we will indeed remember life ‘pre-corona’ and ‘post-corona’. In many ways, I hope so. Let us be real, we were living a horrible life in terms of stress, busyness, pollution. Now I wonder how I dragged myself to a lecture three times a week after a full day of work, out till 8pm, expecting to learn when I am exhausted. Now, I sit in my home, with a cup of tea in my home-clothes and listen to my lecture – I hang the clothes or wash the dishes in our break. Why haven’t we always done this?
Many of us who have travelled to certain places in the East have experienced what it is like to live slower lives, more at our natural pace, to feel true freedom albeit possibly at the expense of other luxuries (cause it is never all perfect and rosy anywhere). Nevertheless, I do believe we are already sick – sick in mind, sick in lifestyle, sick in body in many aspects, sick in values. Money and greed has taken top place and the only thing that could ever knock it out is a pandemic like this and thank God for that. It gives me faith that at least we are choosing life over money, that we are being reminded of what community means when we have lived so long in an individual mindset, that we are re-evaluating our lifestyle and being forced to slow down enough to realize that we were not okay.
Having said all this, I keep in mind my privileged position. I am not stuck in a children’s home unable to see my family members, I am not a healthcare worker facing suffering, fear and death daily when I go to work, I am not living at home with my abuser and rapist and I am not homeless with no place to go. I have neither lost my source of income and have to figure out how to pay my rent and feed my children. I have no dependents; I have my own home and private space since I live alone. I am privileged. I am scared. I am anxious. I am riding the wave of the collective trauma and taking it day-by-day, moment by moment.
Oh, and the arts! Thank goodness for the arts. The creatives, the expression, the beauty in the darkness. I’ll leave you with a quote from Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who wrote the book “Man’s search for meaning” in which he writes about what he learnt from this experience and gave an important contribution to psychology….