By Krisztina Turza
Day one: It’s Sunday and it’s my birthday. I am somewhat disappointed as we had to postpone our tropical getaway weekend up in Cairns/Port Douglas, and nothing seems to compensate for the opportunity lost. Normally, my husband and I would take time off on our birthdays (and name-days, which is equally important in our home country, Hungary) and do a bit of travelling, maybe a long weekend somewhere. So, it is Sunday, the shops are still open, everything is 'business as usual' so to speak here in Brisbane. We opt for one of our favourite places, an Austrian home-style restaurant with amazing schnitzels, roast liver, liver dumpling soups and Esterhazy cake - which immediately take us back home to Hungary. I spend the rest of the afternoon with activities that do not resemble isolation: taking a dip in our pool, going on a walk with my husband and our puppy, talking to my parents on WhatsApp. Although it feels like a 'normal Sunday', the topics and discussions were anything but normal. The Coronavirus has already hijacked our lives and our thoughts, as we go through the death toll of Italy (nearly 800 from Saturday to Sunday), and we can't help but make plans in our heads. As I am sure others have too, locked between four walls, I've made grand plans as to what I can do now that I've suddenly become a 'time millionaire'. I've calculated, that even with 7.5 hours I need to work each day, I still have time for other creative activities, so I'm writing a list of things I'll be doing from Monday onwards. I decide that I'd dedicate one hour each day to dusting off my Portuguese as it is my favourite language in the world (especially the Brazilian way of speaking). Then an hour of exercise each day, which I fear is overly optimistic, but hey, if I can't even write it down on the list, then surely it is not a good start! I then confidently add one hour of creative activity (I have recently taken on a wide range of arts and crafts like drawing with crayons, pottery, sewing... it's all part of my so-called 'art therapy' to spark creativity and joy in my life. Even if I do not produce anything significant, it is the process itself that will help me find my way back to my creative self whom I abandoned when I was about 11 years old). I imagine myself reading one book per week, catching up on all the photographs of previous trips and art gallery visits that I usually process and publish on my social media site with a little description about the trip/artist, exhibition, etc. Then of course, there is cooking. What a perfect time to go back to this activity and prepare nourishing dishes that are healthy (as I, of course, decide after the enormous birthday lunch that I start a diet from.... tomorrow!). As I watch the late night news, I opt for the ricotta strudel (so that I can start tomorrow without any unnecessary temptations) and as I soak in all the negativity coming from the TV screen, the taste of fear is mixed with the taste of the sweet desert and I feel somewhat relieved that despite everything, I still had a decent birthday today unlike many people in other lock-down cities in the world or on hospital beds.
Day two: As I scroll through social media, I notice that many of the places we frequent in Brisbane (cafes, restaurants, art galleries) made the announcement that they would close effective noon today. Cafes and restaurants will be available for take-away, but any non-essential services must be ceased from noon indefinitely. I can't help but think I was lucky to be able to eat out on my birthday only just yesterday. Everything can change within hours, which shifts your perception of reality in a nanosecond. My architect husband has a day-off today.
In the afternoon, I realise I need to pick up some things from a craft superstore (why do we find it challenging to stop ourselves when these urges arise?) as I won't be able to progress with my sewing projects without these items that are absolutely crucial, or so I think. The local Westfield shopping centre is a ghost town. I understand it is Monday and after 3 pm, but hey, I've never experienced this here in Australia. As I head to the craft superstore, I notice that all cafes and restaurants are closed, chairs on the tables, like in an Armageddon movie. The craft superstore is open. I try to keep a safe distance from people around me, but it's impossible. I can't help but think that everything I touch in the store could potentially work as a transmitter. On the way back to the car, I bump into an acquaintance. As we share the news, we try to maintain the recommended 1.5 m social distance. It feels ridiculous and sad at the same time. At 9pm, I remember my list and frantically search for my Portuguese course book and manage to do a quick 15 minutes session. I remind myself, that I haven’t exercised today (other than the 30 mins walk with the dog), nor have I done anything soul-lifting and creative today. C’est la vie I suppose.
Day three: It predicts rain, so I decide to jump in the pool before I start the day. The temperature is now converging to chilly, but I love swimming, it is one of the exercises that I can see myself doing every day. I also tell myself that it is good for my skin, and apparently exposure to cold water can actually help with depression and anxiety. So, it’s really part of self-care and prevention. We have a team meeting online and my boss wants to have coffee boot sessions where we all have our cuppas in front of us as we chat. Another work colleague also suggested to have a virtual coffee catch up for my birthday.
I can't help but think that when we get out of this pandemic, our lives will be different. I am uncertain how, but I have the feeling we cannot go back to 'normal' without drawing some conclusions. Maybe we will work from home more often now? Maybe governments around the world will stop subsidising air travel and decide to support other, greener forms of transportation? Perhaps all these cruise lines that make enormous profit to faceless owners hiding behind offshore accounts whilst emitting a small country’s worth of pollution, will not be deemed ‘cool’ going forward. Perhaps cities like Venice and Barcelona will have the chance to rejuvenate? Maybe some of the cruel and dangerous practices around the world will be put to a stop such as wildlife markets that are quite frankly the breeding grounds for many diseases and viruses? And finally will there be an end to wildlife trafficking? Of course, there are predictions around the '1984 scenarios' with increased state-inflicted surveillance as well. Who knows - we can only guess? But I strongly feel that we need to take this period to reflect on what we want to do once we have the chance to get out back to normality. As for me, I am hoping that I will be able to utilise my time wisely, develop new skills, keep my spirit high, support my family (online) and ponder about ways to support organisations and businesses that I resonate with.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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