And now, now that I have the choice to move, everything feels all wrong.
I don't know how to explain it other than stating it really simply: I am scared of le déconfinement.
Since Monday the 11th, my region in France is largely back to "business as usual." Not completely. Restaurants and cafés are still closed, larger stores and movie theatres. My job. But the rhythm has completely shifted. I could feel it building in the days beforehand like a heartbeat thumping louder and louder in my chest.
"Liberté!!!" was scrawled largely in posts all across Instagram on Monday. The energy felt desperate. It made me angry, confused.
Where do we go from here? Do we stay in? Do we go out but carefully? I have long been a believer of the first but I have been listening to those who lean towards the second. If I fought hard to stay in France it is also because I admire and adopt the French joie de vivre, literally translated as "joy in living." "Will you never go to the farmer's market again? Really? Get fresh food? Support our farmers?" So I did, gloved and masked but I did. And how sweet the first cherries taste, how tart the tomatoes, the grassy perfume as I break them from the vine.
Is it worth it?
That is the question that I asked a friend of mine (at high risk) who was considering taking public transportation into town to get her hair done. Is it worth possibly dying over? Asked in that manner, the answer seems obvious (or so, at least, to me) and yet it is now a question that we can potentially ask ourselves throughout our day, every day.
It feels like lead, like kryptonite. So I am going to have to learn to live with this indecision to be able to feel free in my heart. Because I don't want to be frozen. Now more than ever I want to live. Of course I am going to want to support my friends when their restaurants re-open. Am I really supposed to not start dating again for a year or two? I cannot begin to express how much I long to be held, to make love. And yet this is just as basic a wish for pleasure as my friend's. How do I balance the conflict within me about this? Literally, how do I do it?
Yesterday, I needed to go to the pharmacy and when I stepped up to the counter, I could tell that the two beau gosses who run it were happy to see me. Their smiles showed in their eyes above their surgical masks. So yes, it felt good to be seen again. But after, as I made my way down the main street, I was so saddened and nervous about the throngs on the sidewalk all around me. The vast majority were not masked, nor social-distancing and I felt like a fool - albeit an intelligent one - as I dodged and weaved, waited and waived strangers past me in an ungainly dance.
It is exhausting, this permanent state of alert and I felt so relieved to come home. These four walls that have protected me and have been a haven. Despite all of my dreaming, it feels brighter on the inside. I know that I can't stay in here forever and I truly don't want the world to become my enemy. Our world I love so dearly. So, maybe tomorrow I will go to buy peonies like I have promised myself that I would. As part of the lucky ones still here, I have to continue to find my way as I go. With anxiety, with forgetting through laughter, with burnt flecks of hope or judgement despite my best intentions.
For now, I will take what I can. Please help me stay present and enjoy what I can.
I wrote this a few days ago and yet again, it already seems quite dated. Elements are colliding swiftly here, each person in their own corner, yet overlapping as we open up. Yesterday, I felt too penned in and so made the quick walk to the L'Ile de le Barthelasse which looks back upon the Pont d'Avignon and the Palais des Pâpes. From my isolated patch of fresh cut grass I watched from a distance the groups of students laughing, smoking weed, playing music. So many people. And yes, very, very few masks. We will see how it goes and what as individuals we are willing to risk. Each person will make their choice and I am really trying to shift away from judgement. It serves no one. I see that now. But the emotional terrain has been bumpy. It is deeply uncomfortable. Will the land that I so tentatively put my foot upon hold? These past few days have felt like breathing lightning as I wake up to change, without choice. I try to understand the well and the why of my decisions and dreams. In talking to my Mom last evening the phrase came burbling out, "It's been two months since I have been touched by someone."
It has been two months since I have had physical contact with another human being.
Is it worth it to take the risk? In the long run, it might be too risky for me not to try.
Thank you so much for all of your positive response for the audio recordings. So I will continue them for the moment when I can.
In English, you can listen to it: here.
J'ai fait une traduction à la pif pour un ami, on peut le écouter (malgré les fautes): ici.
I just read this article in The Atlantic on how "quarantine fatigue" is real and that pandemic shaming is pointless and found the perspective to be quite helpful.
Let's enjoy what we can.
Please stay safe, know that you are loved and hold on to the good things.
With bisous from Provence,