NOTE: Wrote this a few months ago for my friend K but thought I should document it for posterity on my poor little blog that I seem to ignore.
As we steadily approach 90 days of quarantine, I would like to invite you into my home and share a glimpse of how our little family of four copes on the day-to-day. It may be relatable; it may be underwhelming. I suspect the latter. But that is ok.
We are homebound, urban-dwellers living in tight quarters with a newly-inducted nine-year-old, a formidable four-year-old and my partner-in-crime, who despite being on-call all day consulting and alleviating client worries, is our household’s front-line hero. He is sent out to the trenches every two weeks. He waits hours in line to get our groceries and then returns to cook for us. Back at home, 9 and I discuss books and the world as her new age has brought on a heightened sense of emotional and worldly awareness, fueled further during times of a pandemic. 4 on the other hand, well we’re finding it is easier to let him run amok. He’s taking a sensorial approach to his education. We’ve brought ‘forest school’ indoors. Can you describe the texture of your nose-excavation? Wonderful! What is that unique and pungent odour emanating from your derriere? Ah yes it does smell like lunch.
My role throughout all of this has been the maker of lists, the opener of a thousand tabs on any given device (in the guise of research) and the baker of brownies. The latter being my strongest asset, and the one thing that brings calm and control to the household. You may have heard the saying; Bend the knee to the bearer of brownies. No? Well, you may also have noticed I did not mention cleaning. Praise be.
As I sit on my bed, in well-worn pajamas, lap top ready I reflect on this last (almost) quarter of a year on life in unprecedented times. During the first month the nights brought on anxiety, as I absorbed the onslaught of death and disease from every news channel. The days were about taking back control. We showed support; rainbows on the window, cheering on the balcony, clanging pots and pans for our pandemic heroes. I threw myself into the children’s online school, supported them creatively with enthusiasm. I succumbed to TikTok; we went for nature walks. Cooking at first was fun, as we tried out new recipes. Organizing, became a tangible way to feel that control. Netflix binge. Zoom chats and House Parties sparked an endorphin-induced euphoria. But like any good high it all came crashing down.
Month two I realized that staying at home for us, the pandemic privileged is a comfort, a haven. For far too many it is not. This hits at my core. I realize that in the absence of going out and being able to help in a physically meaningful way, like our front-line heroes, we resort to putting pressure on ourselves, the productive vs the unproductive. This has become another kind of burden. I am just as complicit in it as the next person.
This next phase, however, has drawn me inward. I do not feel compelled to be a part of the video chats. Perhaps it is the zen-like state that lingers for a little while after Ramzan and month-long fasting ends. Perhaps it is the natural next step of the human condition. Doomsday arrives and we are swept away in it, chaos takes over, we are afraid and look up to our leaders to guide us. If we are fortunate enough, they make us feel safe and inspire us, if not they instill fear and misguide us. Then a moment arrives. An internal eye awakes. You take a step back outside of the din. All is quiet. You become a voyeur to your surrounding. Everything and everyone seem absurd. History is on repeat. The players all the same. Life, death, disease, war, rags, riches, injustice, inequality, world domination, human abomination. The depletion and destruction of all that is good. You think, what is your life’s purpose when the universe no longer has any meaning?
Then I hear their names. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. And many, many more. Their lives had purpose. Their lives had meaning, equal to yours and mine. I feel the ground shift. I hear the call of a siren. Now is not the time to be silent. Watching the people gather, listening to the voices rise suddenly illuminates the beauty of the human condition. It is in its ability to hope, its resilience, in being able to live and survive and fight for what is right, knowing death is watching and waiting. We are all on a quest for the inherent good in each of us. Our individual actions give us the purpose we seek. Let us use that individual power to uplift our brothers and sisters who have been carrying the burdens of injustice and trauma for far too long.
I look at 9, who switches off lights in unused areas to conserve energy, who has the greatest empathy you can possibly fit into her tiny frame, whose understanding of the world is equality and kindness for all, irrespective of race, gender and orientation. These are her core beliefs. I must believe that the world she grows up in will be brighter with her championing for it like she does now.
This is my hope and what I cling to as we inch closer to the day the world allows us back in. This is my much-needed time-out, to ponder and reflect on past mistakes, to reassess who and what I assign a value to, to unlearn the prejudices I inherited, and learn how to be free through the eyes of the youth. We the privileged (if you are reading this, know you are the privileged) owe it to the world to return to it with the promise of better. We must strive towards that promise, with the understanding that there will be days we fail but we must be able to accept those failures and carry on resolute on that path towards the good. But we must start now.
“Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present”
“Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore, we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about.”
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