I sit down with the three munchkins at the breakfast table, planner at hand, ready to work out the computer timetable for the day. After having marked down each child’s class planning for the day on the dedicated white board and done some mental gymnastics to make optimum use of the devices available to work through the clashes, for a moment, I long for the “normal” pulling out of bed at 6 in the morning, breakfast and running out the door to join the throng of vehicles that make up what we used to know as the morning traffic. For I need to confess, a month into the confinement, I am exhausted, mostly mentally.
2020 was supposed to be a year of transformation. I had resigned from the office that was like a second home complete with a second family in December, by which time I was looking forward to embarking on the “freelance” experience, ideal for me, especially with the time flexibility that comes with it. I barely had time to enjoy it that the novel Coronavirus reached our shores and here we were, all bundled at home, not knowing where to begin to make sense of it all, especially with a frontliner spouse. At first, it was easy to be upbeat, just like the first few days of a long holiday: a break from the routine, until we go back to normal. Then, like a smack, comes the realization that “going back” is not going to be an option.
It is erroneous to believe that once the confinement is over, we will be picking up where we left. That would mean not acknowledging that this period has had the effects that it has had on us, inadvertently or directly. This confinement is preparing us for a new normal, only, we have no idea how it’s going to be. After the breads have been baked, the kitchens have become our new hip place to be, the spring cleaning done, the light in spirituality found, discovering that too much time with one’s kids is a huge sanity test, we can no longer gloss over the fact that this pandemic has not altered but changed our lives almost completely. For a good chunk of our population, this is the first time many have come face to face with a possible shortage of food and movement restrictions that we had, until now, seen applied in war torn countries. This period has given us the opportunity to sieve necessity from luxury, which may have an impact on our life after confinement, the degree of which is yet to be determined. While on one hand, we feel at one with the world, with the confinement experience joining the club of universal experiences such as motherhood, marriage or even that of in laws relationships, on the other, the mind gets boggled.
This period has been particularly trying with the avalanche of information that have been coming from left, right and centre. Social media, as usual has become the repository for all kinds of experts and sometimes misleading or unfounded information. The comedians whose shows we delighted in watching suddenly no longer hold the same appeal, in the confines of their homes, without the studio cued laughter and applause, making us ponder on how our brains are impressionable. There comes a point where the mind is on the edge of the cliff of sanity, where the dark is only a thought away. What if the conspiracy theories that are being shared are true? How reliable are the local official sources of information that are shown on TV every evening? Do we trust them or do we question them? Are we being shown only part of the picture? Is there something way bigger lingering out there? At some point, to maintain my sanity, it had become crucial to filter these pieces of information, make informed readings of what I was watching and keep the critical eye and ear sharp. For if this is the end of the world as we know it, sanity, critical thinking and clear mindedness are going to be the riches that we will need to survive, even more so as the coming months unfold.
For now, as our forte as human beings is to adapt, I keep on doing precisely that, until comes the time when we will be released, literally and when we will take with us the experience of the confinement period to go on with our lives. Until then, as far as I am concerned, as has been the case in times where I have felt overwhelmed by the world, I run to take refuge into the arms of my first love, my own world of books. At least, for a few hours, I get immersed into someone else’s life because mine has become too much to bear, and when I emerge, I am somehow better armed to take on whatever the outer world is offering at that point. Until comes the next wave of overwhelming feelings that requires refuge into the beautiful world of words and stories once more.