At this point, five days in of being stuck at home but who is counting, I can curse in headlines, right? The rules are out the window, there are no best practices, the protocol is to wing it like a pigeon on wheels. I have spent the majority of today oscillating between my son’s room and my living room where I have set up my desk to write and work. My son has been acting out, which is not surprising because we have been home for five consecutive days taking distancing and the quarantine pretty seriously in as cooperative a manner as is possible. I am learning from him on a daily basis. He is both, introverted at times and extroverted, meaning his energy is derived mostly from interaction with others (single child) and through the lens of his current social circle (me: his mom). This energy is building, and building some more, but it cannot be dispensed, so he is acting out. As such, he has endured two silent treatments in the past 24 hours. In some ways retreating to this makes me feel like I am surrendering, waving the white flag, giving up. We are keeping our routine of getting up, having breakfast, taking showers. Having a designated place to be alone and to set (emotional) boundaries. But I am reaching my single-parenting limits. I knew that having a child was going to test my resilience. That ideally, it would have been wonderful to commit to breathing through discomfort, but that in practice, it would be far more challenging. I did not know, however, that my child would, at a tender 6-year-old, be so acutely aware of the fact that he was testing my resilience. People, I am newly convinced that manipulation is a genetic mutation.
The rest of the day was mostly spent grinding teeth, making zucchini spaghetti and lathering the aforementioned in a creamy sauce between skyping with my parents, being on the phone with a Canadian bank for 50! minutes, texting with friends, slack conversation, cleaning my son’s room again (it looks like a meteor hit it), my hair getting pulled out by my son (he was giving me head massage to relax), cleaning the entire apartment, doing laundry, cleaning the windows and answering a curiously high volume of emails from this blog. Per the food preparation, by the way, how do you, while trying to get anything done at home, take care of your child also make three nutritional meals and clean pots/pans/dishes without watching the entire day pass you by feeling like you have run a marathon only to find you basically have not moved?
And to this point, if we are truly headed towards “we won’t be permitted to leave our homes under any circumstances that are not essential), how do we move? Do you move at all? For example yesterday, it was borderline. I needed to get some groceries, too so we decided to talk a little stroll around our lovely neighborhood. Just to see how things are. Or how things were. We walked to the closest playground which was closed of course. My son lost it at this point. He needed to run around. Like NEEDED it if you know what I mean. I bribed him with ice cream from the store so we moved on. He ran around a rather huge water fountain at a public place that looked deserted. Then a police car stopped next to us and asked where we are heading. The officers told me to please just go shopping and straight back home. I felt like a prisoner.
In regular “before Corona” life, leaving work typically connotes the end of the day, and even if you are freelance, there is some semblance of structure that separates working from home, from living from home but when there is no leaving, how do you demarcate? A bath? A glass of wine? A scheduled FaceTime plan with a friend or family? Reading? (G-sus I am reading so much these days) All of the above? What about starting your day? Do you just charge in, or are you keeping to a morning routine that facilitates the preservation of normal as you know it? And all this is what YOU try to do for yourself. Now add a child to this mess. Or children. Me, I could stay in bed all day with books and coffee. My son, not so much.
I know the situation is escalating. That the circumstances are dire, that the projected number of Austrian deaths, both direct and indirect results of the virus are staggering and painful. And every time I sit down to write something, I freeze for a minute and ask myself what I could possibly have to say that’s worth being heard. When things make it past publish, that’s because I have put the doubt on mute, assuming that if I so badly desire not ignorance, but some sort of distraction, then perhaps you do, too? I know you know this, but these times are unprecedented, and it feels like an obligation of this platform to commit both the service of keeping you company, but also of absorbing and applying your feedback. What drives my desire to get the hell up and write every morning is exactly the same as it was years ago: I find the story in what it means to be alive right now. This means I have to sit and think and feel my way through incredibly uncomfortable fire hoops of analysis sometimes to come to terms with the harrowing recognition that I have only successfully accomplished the task if I am sure I feel like I just ran a marathon even though in the realm of physical space, but as mentioned before, I haven’t moved an inch. Or maybe I have moved an inch playing hide and seek with my son, I don’t really know, but here I am. Here we are. Trying to find the story in what it all means to be alive right now. And you know what it means to be within this squiggly creases of my brain inside my head behind the wrinkles on my forehead (they are actually indentations of experience) on the pillow of my bed, holding a cup of coffee, in the middle of Vienna/Austria, stocked with cans of Käferbohnen (some type of Austrian bean that is amazing), liters of almond milk, yes: toilet paper, and week’s worth of produce in my freezer and fridge to put to work to feed my son? It means……. It means…..
It means that I have been sitting here, stuck at this inflection point for exactly 57 minutes trying to detangle the wires of what is probably very simple. I have no fucking idea what will happen next. I don’t know how my child will achieve the stimulation and energy dispensing he requires every day for the next… for the next…. I don’t even know how long this will last! And honestly, I don’t even think I should scratch this surface yet. I have no fucking clue what the future of my personal life looks like in this spiral of felt unproductivity.
The thing about living in a city like Vienna is that our respective experiences of it are collections of the places we frequent. And without our places, the constellation of our experiences don’t point back to anything tangible. They are just memories, and we have nowhere to go. But home. It is just that in a city like Vienna, when home isn’t a house with a backyard, those places are it for a lot of us. Typing this made me sob. Those places are it for a lot of us. Those places and the people who run them. And the people who run the people. They become family. What happens to them? What are we going to do now? Honestly, we are in the same boat, you and me. Directlessly coasting around the same forlorn island trying to answer the ultimate question: how am I going to make it through this madness a little more palatable? Don’t tell me to meditate and breathe deeply Instagram. You don’t do this anymore after being in the same room with a six-year-old for 24 hours straight.
But hey, I will make the best out of this and keep trying to find the story in what it means to be alive. Being alive is pretty awesome. Then I will tell the story and think voraciously about how to make the next day a better one by exploring the spooky, old basement of my apartment building with flashlights.