Part One, A time to pause
1st April 2020 | Author: Bianca Skilbeck
For the last few weeks, with the exception of collecting essentials, my partner and I have been self-isolating, along with our cat who it would appear was born for this.
I think this feels like a strange time for a lot of people. Challenging, to different degrees and for different reasons. Frightening. Curious. Unique. Perhaps not like anything that many of us thought we would ever experience in our lifetime.
It’s strange because our way of life as we know it, has been turned upside down. People are isolating in their homes; working from home and studying online. Overnight, businesses by the thousands are being forced to close their doors. International travel is no longer an option, the borders are closed. We’re all being told to keep a ‘social-distance’ and visions of normally bustling cities across the world, are beamed to us through our screens; showing empty and hollow streets.
I am reminded of the opening scene of one of my favourite movies; 2001 sci-fi/thriller, Vanilla Sky, where Tom Cruise’s character, David Aames, wakes to find himself in an empty Times Square in New York city. The scene shows him driving, then running, with fear and desperation through the empty streets. The viewer is drawn in to this sense of a complete loss of reality and aloneness which is too big to comprehend. The scene ends when Cruise wakes, hyperventilating and sweating to his alarm clock; the voice of Julianna, played by Cameron Diaz who is telling him to ‘Open your eyes’. This is a reference to the title of the original Spanish version of the film, ‘Abre Los Ojos’ and a theme of the movie. It’s an eery and apocalyptic foretelling of what’s to come in the movie’s mind-bending take on an alternate reality.
With all of the changes that we’re undergoing on a global scale, we can make sense of why this is happening. We’ve seen the devastation that some countries have experienced and we know that if swift and efficient action is not taken, that we too could hold the same fate.
Nonetheless, for many of us, our daily reality which has suddenly shrank to the walls of our homes, may seem far removed from the scenes we see projected to us through our screens. We can understand that what is going on in the world right now is bigger than any one of us, and right now is a time to all get on the same page and fight this together. Yet the silence of self-isolation, may for some, feel deafening.
There is a sentiment at the moment that ‘we are all in this together’
I think on some level there is truth in this. I am strangely (and perhaps oddly) comforted by the thought that literally every single living person who I have ever met; every person I’ve seen on TV, every celebrity I’ve admired, every author whose book I’ve read, everyone in the world right now, is experiencing this same sense of uncertainty. This same sense of having to adjust to a new normal. It’s a peculiar thought that if I think of anyone in the world, anyone; I know with almost 100% certainty that today, they have spoken about, thought about and likely changed some or all of their lifestyle, around this global pandemic. In a sense, we are all going through the same thing and we are more connected than we ever have been before in this shared experience.
Yet on the other hand, in many ways, this sentiment that ‘we are all in this together’ does not ring true for many. I have a number of friends and family who are sole traders or run small businesses, who having put their life savings in to what they do, have been devastatingly affected by this crisis. They’ve had to let go of employees and there is a feeling for them that their future right now hangs in the balance. I have friends and family whose jobs in the service industries have vanished in to thin air overnight and now they’re questioning how they will pay their rent or their mortgages. Friends and family whose life savings have plummeted in the share market, or other now uncertain investments.
Are they experiencing the same reality that someone with stable employment and money in the bank is experiencing? Maybe not.
There are the people who might have even less than hope that their business or their savings can be recouped. People who are living week to week, who have been forced to travel from supermarket to supermarket, just trying to get the bare essentials; coming home empty-handed and broken hearted. People who live alone, who are now even more isolated than they were before. Maybe they have access to the internet but it’s not a guarantee. There are people living in violent homes, where a daily sense of safety is not guaranteed, who have even less places now to feel safe. There are people who have no home at all.
Social distancing, for some, is a merely inconvenient, yet essential compromise. For others, it’s a privilege that only ‘others’ can afford.
For me, this crisis has highlighted the inequality in which we live. It has also highlighted the important roles that financial security, health security and social connection, to name just a few, have on our sense of wellbeing and mental health. We humans are an interconnected species, and we truly do quite poorly when we’re isolated from our support systems. In fact, so poorly, that we simply cannot disconnect from our support systems for too long, we wouldn’t survive.
With all of the doom and gloom that we have been surrounded by, I have also been heartened to see around the world, signs and messages of people finding innovative ways to adapt, connect and survive.
Suddenly we’re all becoming more tech-savvy than ever before. Like a rebirth of sorts, we are finding new and innovative ways of surviving and adapting to our changing circumstances.
Whilst I’m not going to tell you how you should be managing or coping with the current climate, here are some of the things that I have experienced, noticed or thought about recently which have given me ‘food for thought’.
- I have become more conscious of connecting with the people that I care about; checking in with texts or surprise calls. What have I found? People are usually delighted that I have thought of them and cared enough to check in. Intuitively, I always knew this would be the case, but why haven’t I done this before now? Pride? Fear? Apathy? I’m not sure, but I can see that I am living more in the moment now.
- I too have been surprised by some spontaneous connections. The other day a friend who I haven’t seen in a few months called. Just “because”, no other reason. It honestly made my day.
- As a way of getting some fresh air and moving my body, I’ve been going for a daily walk. Interestingly, this has not felt like a chore, but something I look forward to. A walk, just for the sake of a walk (Disclaimer, this is not a recommendation, rather a personal observation from my own experience. If you want to walk, great. If you don’t want to walk, also great. You do what feels right for you).
- On my walks, I’ve noticed more people in the streets than usual. Kids riding their bikes and families spending time together. It reminds me of ‘the way things used to be’, a sort of renaissance of simple pleasures.
- I’ve also noticed little signs and displays that people are putting in their windows. Teddy bears for the kids to spot on their walks. There is a community spirit that wasn’t there before.
- Restaurants and cafes in my area have been particularly innovative, setting themselves up for takeaways and adding new services. My two favourite cafes in walking distance have turned themselves in to local grocer’s, selling fresh bread, milk, eggs and fruit and vegetables. I don’t know about you, but finding ways to support small business is much more appealing to me than going straight to the huge supermarket conglomerates.
- People have become more conscious than ever about supporting their locals and their neighbours and looking out for one another, through apps like ‘Nextdoor’, or even popping a letter in the letterbox or connecting in groups on social media.
- Aren’t online video conferencing and communication platforms wonderful? The other night I had ‘wine online’ with some friends. My family and I connected with a Zoom call. Some Facebook groups that I am a part of have started having weekly Zoom meetings and we’re meeting people online in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t have, all from the comfort of our own homes.
- Speaking of our own homes, has anyone else not gotten out of their pyjamas in weeks now? Um, yep, guilty as charged! I am loving wearing my casual clothes around the house and just allowing myself to rest
- I bought a new car at the end of last year, and sadly it’s not getting much of a workout these days. BUT, I am thinking about the impact our current situation must be having on the environment and I am hopeful that this will be the turn of a new way of living. I am hopeful.
So with all of that being said; with all of the heartache, distress and unease that we have been experiencing, I know that there are also some silver linings. I’m not saying that I’m always able to focus on them or see them, but when I do, I know I feel better.
Perhaps after all of this, as the dust begins to settle one day, we will be able to remember and we will all be prompted, to ‘open our eyes’.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this 3 part series, dedicated to the 2020 covid-19 pandemic.