Saturday, May 16, 2020

Brighter on the inside






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,

Heather


17 comments:

  1. All my medical friends say that wearing masks in public does not make one bit of difference, as they are only useful in a medical environment. They also say that if you are to get close to people you are better to do it outdoors, due to the air circulation.

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    1. I don't really feel like this post is about "To mask or not to mask?" but thank you for your comment!

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  2. My doctor said the same as the commenter above. None of his staff were wearing masks when I went for a checkup. I wore mine because I still have conflicted feelings and mainly just scared of contracting it and then feeling guilty if I don't. Interactions and the wearing/not wearing masks are the same here in the states. Who truly knows what is safest option?

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    1. I think the WHO probably does. And again, this wasn't about whether or not to wear a mask but how each of us decides to move forward.:)

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  3. You make the best choice for you. I'm surprised by the above comments about masks -- everything I'm reading is that by wearing one you are protecting others and others wearing them protect you. Here in the U.S., I will continue to avoid public places, but I have my husband and best friend here with me. I look at this as a short term sacrifice to stay healthy in the long run. But being alone is damaging in its own way. I hope you can find the right balance between safety and the comfort of friends.

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  4. You put into words beautifully what I have been feeling as well. The re-opening makes me deeply uneasy. I worry about the physical dangers, and am saddened by the fracturing of the camaraderie we all had when staying inside. Now we’re all having to make decisions based on having different levels of personal acceptable risk, and I feel like I’m having to stay exhaustingly educated on the latest science so that I can defend my choices.

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    1. This is so well said Robin. I completely agree with you. Especially as the information that we receive is continually shifting terrain. Let alone our interior terrain as well...

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  5. With all due respect, I have not heard one medical professional say masks are ineffective. Rather this is an explanation from a physician, “Wearing a mask is good for two reasons: It’s going to cut down 95 percent of the breathing that sends the virus up to 6 feet away in a room, and also will reduce oral transmission by preventing the virus from getting into your nose or mouth if you touch a contaminated surface and then your face.” You may have the virus and be asymptomatic. Your breathing can pass the virus on to someone else not wearing a mask. It's so easy to wear one when you are out, why not err on the side of safety for yourself and others? This horrible virus has created such chaos in so many ways, let's try to do what we can. Heather, your comments go straight to the heart in so many ways. Thank you for always being able to express these thoughts for us all. Bisous

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    1. I am so incredibly grateful for our friendship and your perspective, always.

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  6. Totally agree. We wear masks in the hospital to protect both ourselves and the patient. I cannot believe a medical professional would say they don’t work, ridiculous.

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    1. I have a hard time imagining that one too. (insert shrug emoji here)

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  7. You've put it beautifully Heather. I think we're all feeling cautious. It will take a while before we get the confidence we had back. And it did feel nice to get the Malta of my childhood back: less cars, less people, slower pace. I will miss it.

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    1. Yes, I can imagine!!! I have had friends in Rome and Venice say the same. And I feel the same about Avignon too even though I will be grateful for the return of tourists for my friends who have restaurants and small businesses.

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  8. I will keep wearing my mask (my workmate bought me a reusable one with a chilli pattern on it, so it looks good which helps) and gloves (so I can alcohol rub the gloves and not hurt my skin) - most people here have ditched these precautions but are respecting social distancing. The in-between times are confusing.
    Most of all though, everyone misses hugging.

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  9. look at the Palace of the Popes and have cheese and red wine at home is not the worst. You are not alone in this situation and it is really not worth to risk your health. Always look on the bright side of life. If not in the moment it definitely will come sometime. Stay safe and best wishes from Spain.

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