Words and illustration by Sonja Morris
Day one: In just one week, life for almost every single person on the planet has changed dramatically. All of our hopes, dreams, and plans are underscored by a giant question mark. Just two weeks ago, life in my beautiful home city of Lisbon seemed pretty normal. The change of seasons had arrived and with it beautiful, luminescent spring days filled with the promise of new beginnings. Magnolias are in full bloom with the yellow flowers of spring just starting.
I had just returned from a travel adventure to Costa Rica, the first such adventure in many years. It has been a tough two years where my marriage of 20 years imploded with a number of challenges. My ex-husband and I recently sold our home and it felt good to have a little money from the sale to enjoy the freedom of travelling again after a long hiatus. The solo trip to Costa Rica helped a great deal in restoring my confidence to step out into the world again. A year ago I decided to go and live by myself in a cottage in the mountains of Portugal. It was a time of healing and solitude and I was looking forward to moving back to the vibrant city of Lisbon and starting to live life amongst people again. Now I find myself glued to the news headlines, back in the mountains in a remote village three hours from the capital trying to come to terms with a further season of extreme social isolation. Fast wi-fi and FaceTime is a poor substitute for real life interaction with other people.
Day two: I feel like I am walking and thinking in circles that expand and contract as the day wears on. I have a lot of work to do at the moment. I am an illustrator and I am also a teacher. I coach English proficiency students online for a few hours a day and I am also working on an online arts project for children that has a lot of challenging aspects. Growing an online business from the ground up takes a lot of time and energy. I speak to students around the world from all walks of life in my online teaching classes. I have had a huge uptick in business English students who are professionals working in multinational companies, needing coaching for the emergency contingency meetings that are taking place all over the globe. Some of my students have simply burst into tears during our classes from the unprecedented stress that current events have placed on them. No one knows what to think or what to do next. University students are left wondering what the future holds and exam candidates have no answers on whether they will be able to write their English Proficiency exams or not. Everyone is afraid of a giant economic meltdown. Some people are hopeful, seeing an opportunity for a new way of doing things in the future with many more people working from home. I had a Zoom session with a London art director today. We both acknowledge that the landscape across the creative industry is one giant chasm of the unknown. I spoke to a lovely English student from Lombardy this morning who is a medical professional at home on maternity leave. The situation in Italy is untenable in the hospitals for her doctor friends and colleagues. My youngest daughter aged 12 has come to live with me during this period of isolation. Portugal is in lockdown and no one knows how long the schools will be closed and when there will be a semblance of normality again. I will have to homeschool her and am not sure how to fit her lessons into my day´s work.
Day three: Today I woke up grateful that my youngest child who suffers from asthma can be here in the mountains with me. My oldest daughter aged 18 is in Lisbon with her father. I am worried about them and I am not sure when the girls will be able to see one another again as trips to Lisbon are on hold until the pandemic crisis has passed. The government has declared a state of emergency here and full lockdown measures are in place with the contagion increasing exponentially. I am grateful for beautiful mountain vistas, long bike rides and time to reconnect with my youngest child, but I am fearful of what is in store for us economically here in Portugal. Tourism is a mainstay for so many countries and it is going to be very hard for middle class families to get ahead in a giant economic downturn here. I am not sure what to do next. Do I carry on working like mad to launch my business in a few months or do I scale back and just try to enjoy time with my dog and my daughter? I try to shut out the news but I need to know what is happening. I think of all my friends and how we are all affected in so many ways. One of my oldest friends has a very successful business with painting workshops in the South of France. Her business has been wiped out overnight. I find peace in listening to old Gospel albums when I am at my desk illustrating. I guess the fear of the unknown is what is most overwhelming for all of us now all over the world as we face a global crisis of unprecedented proportions, that shows all of us in no uncertain terms how fragile we are in the scheme of things and how inherently fragile the systems are that we have constructed around ourselves.
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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