‘I Love I Hate I Miss’ is one of my favourite slogans. In time of quarantine it couldn’t be more appropriate, so many are the things I love, hate and, especially, miss.
20 Mar 2020. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt for good over the past couple of weeks, it’s that I’m not a home office person. I knew already, in fact. I’ve never requested home office, even though at work I’m allowed two days of home office a month. I know I don’t ‘function’ that way. I’m one to get up in the morning, have my breakfast, and head to work. I like the work environment, I like having people around to interact with if and when I have or want to. Not too much interaction, just the right amount. I work with cool people, that makes it easier.
Everything is different now. We’ve had forced home office for almost two weeks, and this regime will probably go on for at least another five or six weeks, in the best-case scenario.
My last day at work was 11 March. It was a Wednesday, and it was a very ordinary day: lots of things to do and take care of, lunch and coffee breaks as usual, the everyday jokes and chats that always make my day brighter and happier. The only unusual thing about that day was that, at the end of our shift, my colleagues and I said to each other ‘See you on Monday’ instead of ‘See you tomorrow’. We were all having planned home office on Thursday and Friday. It had been planned in advance to see whether such work regime would be a viable option in case the Coronavirus outbreak made it impossible for everyone to go to work.
We didn’t see each other the next Monday. Over the weekend the Czech government imposed stricter and stricter quarantine measures in the country, which meant shops and restaurants would be shut down indefinitely, people wouldn’t be allowed to go out unless it was to go to the supermarket, and so on.
Being home all day every day means having a lot of time to think, which is good, but also not good. I’m thinking a lot. I was already thinking too much even without the quarantine regime, can you imagine now.
Or maybe I’m just mildly confused by this whole thing, which is hands-down one of the most incredible ‘things’ I have ever been confronted with. I, as many of us, was used to reading about such major events in the news. Things like this would always happen elsewhere, not where I was living or studying or working. Always elsewhere, preferably on the other side of the world. They were distant in space, so they also felt distant, somehow.
This is different. This is happening everywhere, so it’s also happening here, where I live and work. I see things with my own eyes. The few times I’m out of my flat I see people wearing masks, latex gloves in supermarkets, scarves around their faces…
It’s mostly masks, though, especially now that wearing them is mandatory in the Czech Republic, and you simply cannot walk around, let alone board public transport, without one. It’s soon going to be a trend, a fashion thing, and some people may even have their own small stock of masks to match their outfits with.
You already see tons of colours and patterns around: bright shades, polka dots (always a favourite), funny animal faces… You name one, someone has it. A friend and colleague of mine made her own from a T-shirt with a ‘No thanks’ writing on it, so her mask literally says ‘No thanks’. It’s so like her. I think she knows it suits her.
I’m often thinking how this whole thing will change all of us, how it has already changed us, and how our lives will be different once this is all over. I’m wondering whether it’s teaching us something about ourselves and others: what we really want from life, what really matters, who we’re truly missing, and who we really don’t miss that much after all (and, in some cases, surprisingly enough).
I wonder whether it will make us more honest with ourselves when it comes to speaking our minds, and telling people about our feelings and thoughts instead of keeping it all in as if there was something wrong with it. I mean, look at us all now: all of this didn’t happen because we spoke our minds or shared our feelings, so doing that can’t be that bad, after all.
I wonder how it’s changing me. I know it is changing me, that I can already feel. As to the ‘where it will take me’ question, I really am in the dark. I don’t know, and right now doesn’t feel like the best time to ask myself this question, because I don’t have answers anyway, nor would I know where to find them.
I’m thinking how it’s changing Mum, Dad, and my nieces. I’m wondering how my nieces feel about school, because even they miss school, and that’s something I never thought Giulia (the elder) would ever think, let alone say aloud, in her life. I bet she never thought that either. I’m thinking how I would feel if I had to go through this as a student. It must be tough on them, too.
I’m thinking that I miss the outdoors, nature, and all the trips I had already planned for the next weeks and months, but will happen much, much later instead. Today was the first day of spring (the equinox came early this year), soon we will be moving our clocks forward, and the days will be so much longer. We will have to spend so many of them inside.
Sometimes I think about all the things I will do and the places I will visit once this is over. I literally picture myself doing those things and visiting those places. I think about it, and I can’t wait.
I’m also thinking that, all in all, these days I’m grateful Grandma is not here anymore, so she does not have to live through this, because maybe it would take her too, and she would be in such pain. I remember when she had to wear a bubble helmet in the hospital, and I wouldn’t want to see her like that again. So if she and her tiny lungs were to be endangered by this, then she did the right thing by just falling asleep for good that afternoon of 7 April two years ago.
I’m thinking that, yes, of course it sucks for me, but then I read about Italy, and all that is going on there, and I realise I am lucky. And I don’t mean that I’m lucky because I’m not there. I’m lucky because so far all my family in Italy are okay, and so am I, and so are the people I care about here in Brno and all over Europe and Australia and the rest of the world.
I’m thinking that it breaks my heart to read and watch the news about my home country, and what people are going through, and the harrowing, heartbreaking stories that are told every day, and the figures getting higher and higher, like they’re unstoppable. And, no, the families of the victims or the seriously ill right now don’t quite care about the lower pollution levels, and how clear and blue the Venice canals are. I mean, it’s all amazing and beautiful in that sense. It’s just not much of a soothing thought for all.
I’m thinking that I miss everyone and everything I have in my ‘usual’ life, even the people I usually struggle to put up with, even the things that drive me mad on a daily basis multiple times per day. Because all of those people and things are part of my life and, though I do complain about it sometimes, I really like it out there, always.
I also think that I know exactly who are the people I miss the most, and maybe some of these people (there’s quite few of them anyway here) know that they fall into this category. To some of them I’m telling that I miss them (I cannot help it, I have my cheesy moments), while to others I’m not, either because I can’t or because, as I said above, we’re used to holding back our feelings and thoughts when we fear they might be too real or they would expose us too much – what’s ‘too much’ anyway?
But maybe these people know even if I’m not telling them. Or maybe that’s just a story I like to tell myself, because it makes the burden easier to bear.
I’m telling myself that, when this is all over, I should tell these people how much I missed them, how much I missed not seeing them and not sharing all the little things we’re used to sharing (almost) every day.
And maybe they will reply that they, too, missed me and the same little things I missed about them. Or maybe they won’t tell me, but I will read it in their eyes, so I will know anyway. And if they didn’t miss me, well, that won’t change the way I felt about them. I will still tell them I missed them. Maybe I will tell them one more time.
I’m thinking that I hope this whole thing won’t change me too much, but there’s only so much I can control. I just feel what I feel, the rest is damage control.
I’m thinking that, despite everything, today I bought soil, vases and seeds, and tomorrow I will be planting paprika seeds, and transplant my daisy plant to a larger pot. So hopefully the daisy plant will grow flowers, and the paprika seeds will grow into plants. I’ve never had green fingers, but I will give it a try.
However it goes, as the Italians say, ‘andrà tutto bene’. Everything will be alright. We shall cope with this, but we shall not get used to it. This is not life as I know and love it, so I’m never going to say that I’ve got used to it.
Because this has to end, at some point. And, when it does, we will be ready to go out there again. And we won’t be afraid.