The unprecedented global lockdown that we are all experiencing has given birth to new routines and a sense of reality too foggy for our taste. Most of us are monitoring our days with curiosity, bewilderment, joy, and anxiety, observing the unfolding our emotions, meticulously documenting the details in our social media.
Many of these descriptions reveal hardship of an intensity that should not be underrated. Others are narratives of solidarity, self-sacrifice, devotion, and commitment, destined to be perpetually shared for years to come as a reminder of the beauty of our humanity. And then, there are those short, everyday stories, seemingly mundane and inconsequential, that delineate our present life and possibly resonate with most of us. It is on such stories that we chose to focus on this article. Having collected numerous thoughts from different countries and cities, we share here a short collection of experiences and memories. We regard this as a tribute to Life which, despite our efforts, always surprises us.
I isolated myself at home for almost two weeks in a row. I was not sick but felt that working, entertaining myself, and exercising within the walls of my apartment was the responsible thing to do while we all get accustomed to this uncomfortable confinement. When the food supplies finished, I finally had to venture to the nearby supermarket. I got dressed, put my shoes on, and realized that this action – usually performed automatically – felt strange and surreal. I thought it was only me, but I recently read an article by Pedro Almodóvar commenting on a similar bizarre sensation inspired by the same cause. It still feels weird.
I always thought of myself as "young". Suddenly, with this virus, my age became a number that categorizes me amid the vulnerable ones. I still feel young. It is probably a mistake.
These days, I have found out that engaging in manual endeavors – drawing, knitting, shorting things in the house – has a soothing effect. On the other hand, any activity that requires mental effort feels difficult and unfulfilling. I was surprised that I need to process the emotions through the movement of my hands, rather than the mind.
I have always been a planner: maintaining order was vital to me to deal with the uncertainty of life. Now, it is impossible to make any plan. I finally have to embrace chaos and learn to go along.
I was always afraid to take a sabbatical and allow myself the freedom to think. Now, even though I work from home, I have been offered the gift of time. I found myself engrossed in business books, and I think that, when we go back to normal, I will pursue additional studies and a new career.
A few days ago, I was in a neighborhood minimarket in KSA, and, as there were not many people, I started conversing with the guy who was helping me with my bags. I asked him how his family was coping with the situation and if he had news of them. My heart ached when his eyes watered, as he remembered his loved ones, separated from him for an unpredictable amount of time amidst an economic meltdown that may prove to be devastating for them all. I felt ashamed of myself for never having paid enough attention to those people who surround us and help us with the small tasks of life. They appear to be nameless and often pass unnoticed, but they hide a story behind the smile. Perhaps one of the blessings of this crisis is that we are invited to recognize and appreciate everyone around us and remember that our life would not be the same without them.
In our apartment building (in the UK), the tenants had never engaged in lengthy discussions or relationships with each other. Our interactions were limited to brief "hellos" when our paths crossed, or minimum exchange of information on a WhatsApp group we had formed for building-related purposes. Still, when one of the residents informed us that she was having mild symptoms of the virus, the whole group got activated. Suddenly, task-lists were created, and volunteers surfaced to undertake them, to help with shopping, childcare, or other activities of everyday life that could not be handled individually as before. This experience has been a live example of how people in need come together: a story that I will never forget, just like I will always remember my fellow tenants who have now become my friends.
I have an urge inside me to talk to people over the phone or video calls more frequently than before, while exchanges of messages have been limited to the bare necessities. Not only I long to hear the voice of friends and family, but, more importantly, I want to share with them, through the energy of my voice, the love that I feel for them all. I am less productive on work-related issues, but I spend ample quality time with people that matter. And, as the days pass, I realize that words, wishes, or phrases that were commonplace, almost trivial before, now are meaningful and important. "How are you?". "I am fine". "I am healthy". "I miss you". "Stay safe". "Take care".
I have been living downtown a major European metropolis, and for years I had been suffering from a pollution-aggravated cough. The recent pause on most human activities has not only led to empty streets but also a cleaner city, putting a stop to my cough as well. I wonder how I will go back when all this is over. I will probably miss our lockdown days.
For the first time, I realized how much time I am wasting every day commuting to the office. Now, I am enjoying the opportunity for some much-needed introspection or activities I had been putting off for years. I may be restricted inside my home surrounded by uncertainty; yet, I cannot ignore the profound joy that I feel thanks to this new-found freedom.
Share with us your quarantine stories. What you feel and go through resonates most possibly with the rest of us, so let's exchange those details that keep us connected. Undoubtedly, they will turn into fond memories we will keep reminiscing when we travel again, as we walk on a hiking path, relax around the fire, or enjoy a road trip to faraway lands.