New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown came as a shock to me. I didn’t know democratic governments have the power to tell an entire population to stay home. I’m not complaining, but personally I’m more a proponent of the model used in Sweden. Immediately after the announcement by our prime minister, my employer told me not to return to work for the foreseeable future. I tried arguing I’m completely risk-free, living in self-chosen isolation in a forest, in a “bubble of one”. But you cannot reason with fear.
Stages of grief
The first week of lockdown I cried a lot and worried about money and the state of our world. However, my regular routines of freewriting, breathing exercises and attention-training kept me anchored while enabling all feelings to wash through me. Feelings associated with change and a fear of death, passing in phases roughly mirroring Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ model of the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness, Acceptance (not necessarily in that order).
I resisted the urge to panic-buy, though when it was time for my monthly shopping trip to the nearest town, I did find myself buying extra flour, rice, lentils, canned food and coffee.
I felt nostalgic a lot and reconnected with old friends and “zoomed” more often with my brothers on the other side of the world, or phoned friends living nearby.
Urge to “know” in uncertain times
It was strange to me that I didn’t want to create any mosaic art, nor music, things I do on a regular basis. Especially when I saw so many people around the world being a lot more publicly creative. But I wrote daily and sometimes danced around the house. I reorganised the furniture. I cleaned areas of my living space I hadn’t cleaned for a while. I also voraciously consumed the news, trying to fulfil this modern human urge to “know” in times of uncertainty. I initially spent too much time on social media, until I realised the toll this takes on emotional wellness and focussed attention. The world has become even more unhinged than it already was, but that doesn’t mean I have to.
Thriving against the odds
It makes me happy to see nature is always pumping on and thriving against all odds. It makes me sad that I can’t see people’s faces when they wear face masks. It makes me sad I cannot spontaneously hug strangers. It makes me sad people are even wearier of each other than before.
The coronavirus is not our enemy. What we’re dealing with is a consequence of our own disconnect from nature and our disregard of the natural cycles of life and death. What’s more, there are far bigger threats: droughts, pollution, inequality and humanity’s adamant disregard of other creatures’ and plants’ habitats and way of life.
Beauty out of chaos
I’m pessimistic about the state of our societies and the survival of humankind. I’m optimistic when I think about the force of nature. It will always be here and forever create beauty out of chaos, and chaos out of beauty, while maintaining the true balance in life.
© Sitara Morgenster
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Written for Black & White Oman magazine online (“Corona diaries”-series)
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