My first quarantine essay is about time zones, being an introvert, and how I love staying home while others go out.
I like to cut through Waverley Station on my way through town.
Feel the energy of the people coming and going. Commuting, adventuring, Avenger-ing. I like to stand still while they scurry; it makes me feel grounded, stable, happy for those in motion, wishing the travellers well, content where I am, not far from home, luggage-free. Farewell! Bon voyage!
In normal times, I am Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: staying home to bake cupcakes, she must be dragged to the party. When she goes, she leaves early, content to let the others carry on.
In lockdown, I am Rory Gilmore with the house to herself, happy for a chance to do her laundry. Then Paris and Jess and Dean show up — albeit in this scenario, virtually. When lockdown began, I felt a strange sense of crowding, just knowing that everyone else was home too. It seemed that most people were not happy about it.
Meik Wiking describes the Danish word ‘hygge’ as cosy, but specifically, the sensation of being indoors wrapped in a blanket while it thunders outside.
My hygge is pajamas at 8pm when the city is filling with people just beginning their evenings out. I’ve seen them do this firsthand, a few years ago when Moana came out, and the only after-work screening was at 9pm. We walked across town for the occasion, through crowds of people doing who knows what because they weren’t at the cinema with us watching Moana. On our way home afterwards, there were even MORE people! On the street, at bedtime! It wasn’t even the fringe!
Still. They seemed happy. It appeared that they were partaking in their version of self-care, as distant from my own as it may be.
My hygge is being home on Hogmanay. I sleep well, knowing that Europe’s biggest New Year’s Eve party happens just down the street and I don’t need to shuffle my way home at 2am; I am already all tucked in. I might wake up early on New Year’s Day and treat myself to an extra long self-reflection session in my journal. Ahhh!
I love street noise; it’s a lovely lullaby.
As a kid in Boston, the city noises sang me to sleep. At Oxford I had a room on Turl Street and students would stumble by at all hours of the night, long after I’d settled down from the theatre. I took comfort in their being out there. No go ahead, really, you enjoy yourselves! There’s a particular kind of peace I feel, knowing everyone’s needs are met. The night owls keep the city going. I’ll take the morning shift at dawn.
For most of my life, my best friendships have been long distance.
First because I moved a lot, then because I gravitated towards fellow globetrotters, travellers. I have years of practice, writing letters and emails, keeping in touch from afar, every in-person visit like Christmas, counting down the days. Whether at a Broadway play or the Barnes and Noble Cafe, special.
With experience I’ve found the perks of distance: my favourite being a sense of presence across the globe. I can feel my favourite people, from afar, at different points in their days.
When I say goodnight, they’ve just woken up. I send a wish: Take care of the world, it’s your turn. I sleep well knowing someone else is picking up the intention where I left off, doing her part to stay up and awesome. We hold the world together.
Grace and I record The Art Life at midnight her time and 8am mine. We close each episode ‘From my side of the world, good morning’, ‘…and from my side of the world goodnight.’ That started happening naturally, and it felt so lovely, now we say it on purpose.
I love being home.
I love the simplicity of my days in lockdown. Fewer decisions, basic needs at the forefront. I am healthy, safe, home with my family. My work is online, my specialty happens to be in ‘finding wonder where you already are’. I am prepared. I enjoy the luxury of prioritising self-care, self-evaluation. I am good at this. I love this. But I don’t wish it on everyone. The extroverts are trapped indoors, and suddenly my refuge is a crowded virtual room, on Zoom.
We hold the world in survival mode. Certain types of workers hold it more tangibly than others, and I am so grateful for that. A silver lining is a well-deserved celebration of the work they do. I wish it didn’t have to take a pandemic, I wish it didn’t require so much risk and suffering to appreciate those in healthcare, sanitation, delivery, as well as bakers of cakes that bring us joy, makers of art warming our hearts at home. But here we are.
So… I’m doing great. I love being home. I’m learning so much about my needs, and I love learning. But I want the world to be able to go on. I feel wonderful. I feel badly. I feel your frustration. I feel your heartache. I feel you Johanna. We carry this, all of this, together too. So please know, fellow resident of the world, that I’m doing great, and I’m also with you.
Until the Next Chapter,
P.S. I would love to hear your story too. Please write back, on Patreon, Instagram, or email.
P.P.S. My work in ‘finding wonder where you already are’ is called Everyday Wonderland.