A dear friend of mine, who I love for her perfect blend of pragmatism and empathy, gave me two pieces of advice to get through this next three weeks: writing and sleeping pills. I'm starting with the writing.
I've watched friends and acquaintances transforming this lock down into defining moments in their lives - one is writing his memoirs, another putting together research material for a definitive history book, another organising exciting and productive daily 'quarantivities' for her one year old son, another producing incredible 'isolation' artwork.
And me What have I achieved I've methodically worked my way through seven seasons of Modern Family and put on 2kg.
About a month ago when I still had a life (that week alone I was organising two major events in one week, arranging a press conference, running our gift shop and all the sourcing of stock, payments of suppliers, banking and marketing that goes with it and planning designs and logistics for a major art festival and a health and fitness fair), I heard about someone who was ordered by her doctor to go on bed rest for a month, and I am ashamed to say I envied her. I desperately wanted and needed to take a break from the non-stop cycle of my life, the never-ending demands of my professional life which never seemed to give me enough time for my home and personal life. I wanted someone to give me an excuse to just stop for a little.
Be careful what you wish for, they tell you, it may just come true. I'm now on a 21 day bed rest. Along with the whole world.
Of course this is no holiday. This is not the lie-back-and-forget-all-my-troubles kind of break I was angling for (I clearly need to be more articulate in my cosmic messages). It's full of anxiety and stress, from the little things like how am I going to get my roots done, to how am I going to stay alive. With nowhere I need to be and, apart from angst-filled visits to the supermarket where everyone gives each other a wide berth, seeing only two other people who make up my immediate circle, I have a hell of a lot of time to think.
Which is why I have decided to write. And maybe take pills.
I've realised a great deal about myself during the past couple of weeks, and it's not all pretty. I've realised that despite all the challenges I've had in my life, I'm not as strong as I'd like to be. I'm trying to give myself a break by remembering that, like all of us, I'm dealing with circumstances so far out of my sphere of experience, I have no idea how to understand or work through them. I've realised I may have had a bit of a victim complex - I've caught myself a few times thinking 'why me ' - and then suddenly remembering it's not just me, it's literally the entire world and that I am so much better off than many. I've found myself feeling fear and anxiety that I seem to have no power to quell but which settles like a knot in the pit of my belly and then takes a hair-raising roller coaster ride through my intestines. I've found myself panicking about the worst case scenarios which I really have no power or control over but which I agonise over all the same.
But in my vulnerability I've also accepted that it's ok to feel afraid, and to say so. It's ok to ask for help. It's ok to say you're not coping. And to realise the support and love and comfort - from a safe social distance - that abounds.
Another good friend gave me this great perspective: everything that happens is a neutral event. We decide how we deal with it by the energy we feed it. What about death I asked him. It's just an event, he repeated. A part of existence. But as emotional beings we approach it with emotion: our feelings of loss over that person, how their dying will affect our lives, the fear of our own mortality.
With family scattered all around the world, a reality for almost all of us, the fear of death isn't only for us but also those we love and can not be with. But unlike any other time in my life time, we are literally all in this together - and that is simultaneously alarming and comforting.
The downside of the whole world being afflicted, of course, is that there are now no safe places, there's nowhere physical to escape. Until we realise the only real safe and unshakable place is within us, and always has been.
I hope you find your safe place during the weeks ahead, the one that never leaves you and you can take with you wherever you go - and that when you feel you can't find it, you have someone to talk to about it. If I'm in your friend circle, or even if I'm not, I am happy to be that person. I'm still working on pinning mine down, just as soon as I get through this last season of Modern Family and do some more stress eating.