I walked past one of my favorite coffee shops the other day. It just reopened the other day and has been closed since March 14th. I could barely recall what it was like to go there. I used to grab a coffee on my way to work. If I ever missed a morning, the shape of the day was incomplete. And here it’s been two months without it. I tried really hard to remember what it was like going there and then experiencing the simultaneous thrill of being dressed to go to work and the anticipatory buzz of imminent caffeination, and, for some reason, I even recalled this one memory of sitting in the back of the shop, writing and reading.
While thinking about this, I experienced a new sensation where suddenly, life BC (before corona) was not a memory the same way all the other ones were. It was a different entity. Almost like someone else had lived it. There was no through-line, stringing past experiences together with current reality, weaving it into the sweater called Me. Have you felt this way at all? Now that I think about it, I bet this, the finite separation of time: before calamity/after calamity, is the way a lot of people feel after they have encountered a significant bout of isolation and loss of “things”. For me, I am able to recognize who I was before this loss and I am still connected to who I am now. Things have changed but it is all good. #f***thatfacemaskthough
But the reason any of this is noteworthy at all is because I am not grieving or suffering. At least I don’t think I am. Am I? Do I really miss movie theaters? I have known for at least the last four weeks to throw the term “back to” away when discussing the topic of “normal”. There will be no going back. Only toward, forward, to something ….. I guess, New? Different? I am not really sure. Maybe this sudden red-sea-split of time is necessary, I thought while doing my daily Power Yoga Hour at home trying to gaze at my navel in Downward-Facing-Dog. What I am trying to say here is that I liked how a lot of things were in my life; my life before the pandemic. I would not mind going “back to,” instead of “toward.” Not all of it, but some of it. One thing I know for sure though: I won’t stand in line in front of any store to patiently wait to clothes-shop. Because I like to stop and think and sit still and discard the excess that I owned which Corona made me realize again.
But you know what? I have been doing all that while still missing some things in my life. And keeping this in mind, I am good. We are good. I am tired of excavating even though it served me well for a while. At least I am harvesting what is good, thinking less about the things I want to change, the things I look forward to change, and more about the things I had and knew and liked before the lockdown. Like, for example, work: colleagues, friends, the “team” – all of it. This world I get to have that is mine and independent of my “family duties”. It adds dimension and perspective and endurance to the relationships between these walls I call my lovely home. It also adds a bit of a thrill. The extent to which I used to look forward to Friday/Saturday nights to go out for dinner. Damn, we had it good.
No, still have it good. We went to the recently re-opened Zoo in Vienna last weekend. While my son played, I sat on a bench and watched someone’s child collect branches and then rub them against the soil, cleverly turning a stick into a pen to write in the dirt which reminded me of a Kurt Vonnegut quote I find myself coming back to every time simple pleasures trump complicated thoughts: “If this, the stand-alone satisfaction of sitting on the grass with my kids, isn’t nice, what is?“
Time is different now. And maybe I am grieving how it was before because I know it won’t be the same. It can’t be. Even if I tried to restore the past, it is not only too far removed from the present, but it is also too foreign a concept. Talking about time, after ten weeks of quarantine, there have been quite some changes in my head. A minute used to be sixty seconds long. My “After-Corona”- brain thinks this could be spiced up a bit. A minute can now either be one hour or two seconds. A day used to be 24 hours. Remember that? Now it seems like the day is over as soon as I first ask myself, “What time is it?” Do you know this feeling when it is still ten in the morning and you are on your phone and suddenly it is eight at night? The weekend is almost over but it actually didn’t exist anymore for the past ten weeks. I might have found myself going to bed on Friday and I would wake up on Monday with a vague memory that I might have watched all seasons and episodes of “Workin’ Moms”.
Lastly, let’s mention a month. Months used to be pretty inconsistent. Some months were 28, 29, 30, or even 31 days. This seems all too confusing, so now every month is four days long. This way we will all get to the end of a month and think: Wow, that felt like it was only four days, which used to be one day of a week, but is now just 1/90th of a week because a week is a year and a month is four days.
Hysterical but life is so weird sometimes. And with this in mind, everything will be alright after all.