Paris Diary: Is this the After?
Getting out of the house is a contra-pandemic paraphernalia pandemonium.
- Total Shares
Are you a worrier, or a warrior? A planner, or a procrastinator? Does it depend entirely on the day? Or, like me, has the pandemic laid bare unanticipated (not always pleasant) traits?
On the first weekend of The-After (although who knows if we are truly in ‘the-after’, or making a pit stop at a refuelling station to be thrown right back in the middle), like every long-deprived Parisian, I set out to claim my piece of sun under a cloudless indigo sky. Getting out of the house is a contra-pandemic paraphernalia pandemonium. When and how had I (known for my dangerously free spirit) become this paranoid? Outside didn’t get any easier. The few neighbouring woods and gardens that were open, were already swarming with people – begging the question how far is close enough? And how soon is slow enough?
A week into confinement, a fairly new but close friend in Paris, laid her cards on the table, “If something happens to me, or my husband, will you take my kids and vice-versa?” It dawned on me, I hadn’t made contingency plans of my own. Utter stupidity, considering we have no family, or childhood friends that we could reach without taking a speed train, or flying (and where, exactly, was I going to find either of those in these times?). I quickly said yes. Both she and I must have slept easier that night. Although, I had been sleeping pretty soundly, given that the world was probably coming to an end. I’m aware that is a grotesque overstatement (a virus does not get to end the world, even if it leaves it unrecognisable). But, what about you? Did/do you believe it’s the Armageddon? Has your anxiety crippled your reason?
There are those of us who’ve been feeling anxious (some have managed to keep it better confined within themselves, while for others it has wreaked havoc within confinement). Then there are those of us who felt almost the opposite of anxiety and slipped into a lulled meditative state, listlessly wandering through the confines of our being, accepting the oddities of the age with abnormal tranquillity. Well, turns out that a lack of any heightened emotion is a tell-tale sign of your mind sedating itself to rise above the ocean of apprehension that is swirling inside. And all this while, I was thinking I had achieved a state of bliss, with just one session of virtual meditation and lots of wine.
The hamster wheel we have come to accept as successful living (decades before we were forced to lock ourselves and our demons indoors), has left most of us acquainted with low-lying stress and mental fatigue. Without our usual escapes and excuses to distract from the unease that fills us, many of us are silently falling apart. It doesn’t seem like the ideal time to address our deep-rooted trauma, or our minor niggling issues, so we suppress and soldier on. Is there a point to anything, if we are not right in the head and the heart? Anxiety, like Covid-19, is an invisible predator that reveals itself with apocalyptic scenarios playing in your mind – shortness of breath, lack of sleep, lethargic inertia and a host of other symptoms that can quickly overwhelm you.
Like any big city girl with ambitions, in “The-before” I was a ball of angst, ready to burst an artery at the mildest provocation. But in an emergency (usually), I thrive. I’m the person you want to be stuck next to if it’s the last day on earth. On all other days, steer clear. And yet, in this mother of emergencies, I am not thriving like I thought I was. Every time the last person on my (very short) list of lifelines, whom I call to clear the cobwebs of my head, lets my call go unanswered, my chest tightens and butterflies behave like enraged bees in my gut.
Suddenly, I realise I’ve not been answering a whole lot of calls and maybe I’m the lifeline for the person on the other end. I make amends by calling back. Reassuring someone else, being the bouncing board for a change, feels great and for a moment the butterflies fly off. (Note to self – reach out, but also remember to be reachable).
In between spraying the taxi clean, as I traverse across town for an in-person meeting (a whole new realm), I look up and see the beauty that Paris is. The streets are almost empty, yet alive and it is May. The month of May! This is when artists and writers fell for Paris. That most marvellous time of the year when, literally, the whole world comes to experience it – making Parisians grumpier and ruder than normal. You can’t blame them, when they have to jostle millions of tourists greedily staking claim to a city’s delights that should be theirs for the taking. Let it be known – in the year 2020, summer in Paris belonged to Parisians and no one but Parisians.
The taxi stops and, as I exit, I furiously fumigate and disinfect. This is the behavioural norm in the new normal, I mean the new world. As Jimmy Kimmel spelt it out, “It might be new but there is nothing normal about it.”
The carefree me will resurrect as the worrying warrior, who does whatever it takes (without compromising my sanity, or dulling my desire for life) to stop that damned second wave from coming because I want that hallowed Parisian summer of 2020.