As I am putting down these words, you need to know that my daughter is behind me, on her two feet like a wobbly little lemur, screaming. Not all too different from pre-lockdown life, but so very different at the same time. I will continue writing this article, utterly unperturbed, because this is the kind of person I have become.
Here are three things I have learned during the lockdown:
3. I am a better mum when I work in an office
Because children, you can shout at me! I do not care anymore! I am immune to sound and emotions! This infernal rhythm of boinging around in a strict enclosure has shattered my will to satisfy your basic needs:
I cannot no longer feed you three different meals three times a day, seven days a week. Therefore for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you will have bread. Just bread. Not sourdough bread. Not banana bread. Just plain brown bread.
I have no more desire to educate you, thus please do not show me any sort of homework. I will burn it. And yes that is what they did in the 3rd Reich. But because I am keeping you uncultured, you will never know that this was once done by the Nazis. Hah, loophole!
And I have realized the uselessness of trying to keep you clean, therefore I will only try once a day. Nobody will see you, nobody will judge me. It is a win-win situation where I have an upper hand.”
Every time I have caught myself thinking all the above and earnestly contemplating these solutions as legitimate options, I have come to the inevitable conclusion: I am absolutely a better mum when I work in an office.
And yet, I remember being at the office – when this concept still existed a long time ago – fantasizing about the idea of taking care of my daughter full time. Whenever I felt driven to the brink of exasperation by the requests of demanding clients (and that happened daily) I would dream of putting on a kitchen apron and opening a big heavy book to recipes for baking these healthy Quinoa, tofu, sugarless cookies for my two cats and daughter.
Well, I can tell you that reverie will not cross my mind for at least a few months!
2 . I hate conspiracy theories
The second point that I have learned during this splendid lockdown is how much I abhor conspiracy theories and those who harbor and humor them – or worse perpetuate them.
A few weeks ago, I was talking smoothly, nearly whispering, to my partner. I was asking him:
-“With all the deaths that Spain and Italy are facing due to the coronavirus, do you think that, perhaps, China did not disclose the correct figures to the world?”
I was utterly ashamed to raise this question. I was making this comment before the media started questioning the official Chinese numbers. I did not want to sound like these people who think that everyone is lying to them about everything, but we should not fear because they behold the truth! (Charlatans!)
Perhaps, I need to indicate that I have lived for over fourteen years in Asia. In the 80’s, I called Hong Kong home for seven years, while watching Shanghai being erected from the grounds, like a grimy, polluted Poseidon rising from the ocean. It was common knowledge that China wanted a city open to the world located on the mainland. Therefore, Shanghai was being built in order to become this superb competitor of Hong Kong, while remaining entirely controlled by this communist government.
Furthermore, when I lived on this island, I witnessed the brutality of the Chinese government during the Tiananmen square protest: one of our Chinese teachers lost her husband in that event. He was a journalist. So although at that time Hong Kong was still under British colonial watch, every inhabitant of this city was observing and scrutinising the tact and diplomacy skills of China.
Fast-forward 30 years later – China still has the same political structure, and it is not a long stretch to think that China may not be as transparent as they say. Having said that, this pandemic has made me doubt my faculties in analysing the situation. I am too aware of all the unknown factors, so much that I would rather take refuge in the sentence hated by most human beings: “I do not know.” Even when I know how the Chinese government manipulates the media, I am so utterly afraid to say something aberrantly wrong on a subject that I have no expertise on, that I would rather admit my lack of knowledge.
I will make guesses, prognoses, and even bets, but each time I read an article I will remind myself that I have selected it because it comforts my opinion on this subject. There is not even a consensus among the scientific community. Only from the community who got their scientific degree from a kinder surprise. Or Dr. Google.
The real truth is that none of us know.
And ah! How humanity hates to hear these four words – as if once pronounced they become an irrevocable proof of our mortal nature… and that truth is the only truth that we are certain of… yet we are unable to handle it. How ironic!
1.It is only when I am alone that I am really free
The last thing that I have learned during this lockdown is that I long for solitude in order to feel free.
Everyone, who is living through a lockdown and not alone at home, is living this extraordinary paradox of being in isolation without the possibility of ever really being alone. I have become depressed because I have found it excruciatingly difficult to not be able to abandon myself in my introvertness: there is always someone in the house!
The French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a play called “No Exit” in 1944. The plot follows three protagonists who are locked in a room – and that is their purgatory. Their punishment is to be with people whom they dislike profoundly. During an argument, one of the characters pronounces these words, ones that seem to resonate perfectly in these interesting times:
“Hell is other people .”
This very well known sentence in France is quite oftenly misunderstood as a generalisation: each time you are in contact with the other, it is hell. There is a subtlety. It is when your relationship is unhealthy that it becomes hell with the other.
Let us exercise our imagination and remove ourselves from the context of self-isolation. If we ever went to see a psychiatrist and told him/her :
-” I live with my family. My partner and I both work from home. We keep the children locked in. But not in the basement. No, they are being homeschooled by us, an incompetent bunch. Oh and we never see friends or go out … unless we go to the supermarket …around the corner. Doctor, I am miserable”.
This – real – doctor would say that your living situation is completely unhealthy; that everyone needs some time off from each other, far from each other. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to spend these days being convinced that “hell is the other”.
During this lockdown, I have inadvertently read loads of posts with quotes on how to be positive and how meditation can allow one to find peace within without needing the physical luxury of being physically alone. Namaste.
Yeah…. but non.
All these happy quotes make me want to open a drawer, go for the Gillette razors, and use them against the veins of my wrists.
I am unable to find solace within my mind.
I want space.
Real physical solitude.
I yearn for bubbles of sanity in the day when I am in pure isolation from the rest of the family. I want to disappear somewhere where I can’t hear them, see them, and smell them (re: that last point, my daughter is one year old.)
You will know that you have hit rock bottom when you start quoting Arthur Schopenhauer lines that you find applicable to your current life. So, from the screaming magma pit of hell called “neverending unsolitude”, here is a Schopenhauer line that sums up my thoughts quite perfectly:
-“A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.”
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