“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” — Haruki Murakami
Quarantine has, undeniably, turned me into my best and my worst self. Before this pandemic, the future had a somewhat defined shape for me. Now things feel nebulous. At points, I am no longer certain where I would go from here, where the world and the economy go from here, where humanity goes. I don’t think what I valued before will be what I value after. I already have indications that those values have changed. I ask myself why I am suddenly waking up at 6.30 a.m. every day and practicing yoga daily and caring for my body more than ever before. It does not feel like it is just the extra time I have on my hands.
These days, I am taking pictures of trees, magnolias, flowers whose petals are now just beginning to brown at the edges, while feeling grief settles temporarily in my shoulders. Just the way grief does, and from my inability to be inside a store without a face mask. I miss strangers, I miss bodies, I miss festivals, I miss readings and real lectures at my university, I miss the moments of getting no seat on the subway, I miss going to work. I also noticed that I have the weirdest dreams lately. I guess due to my weird sleep cycle. It is universally understood that to talk about your own dreams is entertaining, while listening attentively to someone else talk about their dreams for more than 2 minutes is next to impossible. Having said that, quarantine dreams seem to hold my interest a beat longer than dreams would in average circumstances.
These days, my dreams seem to be brimming with extra weirdness and symbolism. I dreamt for example that I packed my suitcase for a trip to (ha!) Italy while the plane was already taxiing on the tarmac. I also dream a lot about meeting friends. A couple of nights ago I dreamt I gave birth to a cat in a public restroom at the local movie theater. Why? What would Sigmund Freund say about this? Or this rather Kafkaesque dream of me being taken to prison for not wearing my face mask. At the prison, it turned out that it’s not a prison but an insane asylum like in the movie Shutter Island. And I am here because I killed everyone at the local grocery store. Did I just deposit my weird coronavirus-era dreams into a virtual dream catcher?
But these weird dreams may occur because my sleep-cycle is completely off. During the week I used to go to bed at around 11 p.m. and woke up at 6 a.m. Maybe a 30-minute interlude wedged somewhere before of after. I used to sleep deeply without waking up and felt rested when waking up. On weekends I stayed up later and slept in which was fine, too. These days, I tend to sleep in a weird rhythm. Two hours just after 1 a.m., another two between 5 a.m. and 6.30 a.m. I sleep in chapters, in fragments. These days, there is no softness or continuity. Even with this messed up sleep cycle, however, I exist among the living in this new Corona world. In the morning I get dressed, I brush my teeth and get ready without going anywhere in particular. At night, when my son is asleep, I am this other thing, disenfranchised from the swell of standard human behavior. Caught in an expanse of hours that contain writing but no routines and obligations.
I continue to function, more or less, according to the rules of social normalcy. I am okay with the fact that, currently, I am a broken biological clock, a circadian rhythm sans metronome. The world is crazy these days. My sleep rhythm is weird and crazy but this is what it is. In fact, it’s become something of an asset. I have the luxury that this sleeplessness guarantees me something exclusive: a unique, thoroughly intimate relationship with myself. Insomnia and I have become friends, even. We pass the time together and all of it reframes the night until things get back to “normal” again. For now, not sleeping is simply more interesting to my body than attempting to sleep. I savor the extra time to read, to write or to work on my dissertation. Or to prepare elaborate midnight-snacks that I won’t consume alone. Especially if it is something with chocolate.
I have gone through worse, but I have never been a better version of myself. Corona seems like a condition of the world we are forced to live in now, and it may last for longer than I am prepared to handle. But I will power through that, too. Maybe you, too can give yourself the space to let your multitudes exist and offer them compassion: the good, the bad, and the turbulence in between. What? That’s crazy.