Confinement, day 13

The loneliness didn’t fully hit me until I started baking again today.

 

Lots of folks on social media/in general are baking nowadays (as further evidenced by the lack of flour at the markets). It makes sense, honestly. Baking is comforting, it’s warm, sometimes sweet, rich, or just so carb-y you want to keep going back for more. It’s the kind of food that turns your tummy into a soft pillow you just want to rest your hands on in satisfaction, preferably as a precursor to a nap.

 

 

But baking–at least for me–is something that’s shared.

 

 

I used to bake pretty regularly back in Boston. This was partially due to my living situation at the time, but also having a full sized oven plus a ready group of friends/fellow grad students/co-workers who I could gift some of my goods to played a rather sizable role. The last time I really baked here was when I made my (3 layered…yeah) carrot cake for my birthday back in November. Even then, though, I had an apartment full of people ready to dig into that cake with me.

 

 

Now? The first thing I thought of when I pulled my cornbread out of the oven was ‘How the fuck am I supposed to eat this by myself?’

 

 

It’s strange for me to realize how much more pragmatic my line of thinking has become lately in light of all this. As much as I want to use this time to try out a new cake recipe or revisit a favorite cookie, I would also have to be the person consuming all that afterwords. And the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t shake the thought that I didn’t want to be the only person eating those things.

 

 

It didn’t help today that I accidentally knocked a bit more baking soda into my batter than the recipe called for–but I wasn’t going to be throwing any of it out, of course–as well as slightly overfilled my skillet, causing some batter to bubble out during baking. I was stressed, for lack of a better word.

 

 

But baking isn’t supposed to be stressful, right?

 

 

And so when I took that pan out of the oven, and even after I tasted the cornbread and found it still tasted perfectly fine, the only thing I felt towards it was frustration.

 

 

Yes, it was partially because I was disappointed in my little blunders, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that part of me was also disappointed that I didn’t have someone physically in the room with me to laugh about this with. It’s one thing to post about all this on Instagram after the fact; it’s quite another thing when someone else is there to react with you in real-time, and possibly help turn your mood when you goof up a bit. And to be honest, with the way things are going, that’s what I am genuinely terrified about: being alone for so long that the possibility for shared physical presence–not to mention intimacy–with someone else becomes its own kind of fantasy. Unattainable.

 

 

I ended up cutting the cornbread up into smaller pieces and storing them in a Tupperware in my fridge. I’ll have one for breakfast with some yogurt tomorrow. And the next day, and so on until it’s all done. Moderation is key for me. I am already terrified of the ramifications of this extended alone time; I don’t need to add any fears about what all this comparative inactivity will do to my own body image to the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confinement, day 10 – 12

So, I caved and baked cookies today.

 

Sablé cookies, to be more precise. Essentially, they are kind of a mix between a basic butter cookie and shortbread (though I will say my preference is more for those that lean towards the latter), and the basic recipe is simple enough that customizing it is a breeze. I added lime zest to mine.

 

 

Truth be told, I chose to make these because I was missing my weekly sablé and coffee stop at La Fontaine de Belleville yesterday, and needed something to lift my spirits. Granted, the sablés I made today were not quite the same as the ones I have when I’m there, but they did the job fine. And anyway, you kind of have to take what you can get now.

 

 

The confinement has also officially been extended till at least April 15. I love that phrasing: “at least”. At this point, we all pretty much know that it’s going to go on longer than that, but it’s almost amusing that there’s this little game of anticipation happening. Almost.

 

 

Humor is another one of those things I’ve been finding in odd places nowadays.

 

 

It also has yet to dawn on me that my dissertation defense is in just over a week. I still have yet to make a powerpoint. Thankfully, the weekend is coming.

 

Then again, as one of the cashiers at the Middle Eastern epicérie where I stopped by to pick up some essentials after my larger Monoprix haul pointed out after his colleague wished me a good weekend after ringing me up, “Il n’y a plus de weekends”, “There are no more weekends.”

 

 

 

 

Confinement, day 8 & 9

Things I wish I had with me, part 2.

 

3. Mesh for my windows so that I can open them without worrying about unwanted visitors coming in.

 

And no, I’m not just talking about flies or other insects; I’m talking about pigeons.

 

That’s right, today a pigeon almost flew in through my open window while I was teaching. I think I have mentioned before what a precarious set-up I have regarding my standing desk, so you can imagine how quick I was to reach out and slam that window shut, leaving the almost intruder staring suspiciously at me from my window sill. Too bad, pigeon. Today is not the day my computer gets toppled over by your stupid choices.

 

It’s strange, but I can feel myself almost getting used to this being by myself for an indeterminate period of time thing. Not sure I should be worried about this, but here we are. In any case, it’s better than stress. I think constantly reminding myself that me being inside means that maybe, eventually, hospital staff won’t feel as overwhelmed because the outbreak has slowed down has helped. In any case, it’s a better source of motivation for me than thinking “Oh I better do this because I’m following the rules.”

 

It taps into more of my need to spread care, to make sure others are okay.

 

 

And the State and its ordonnances have nothing to do with that.

Confinement, day 7

Well, I finally did it.

 

 

I finally gave in and made pasta.

 

Cacio e pepe, to be precise (though I did have to substitute Parmesan for pecorino…and I also added peas and red pepper flakes at the end…so…not exactly traditional).

 

Even with the modifications, though, it was an admittedly very comforting bowl of pasta.  Actually, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I made pasta at home. Wheat-based pasta, I mean. I kind of started cutting it out of my regular rotation a couple of years ago when I was working to get better results on my workout regimen, and I just, never introduced it back.

 

Time went by surprisingly quickly today. Maybe it’s just something about Sunday…

 

Or maybe I’m starting to get used to this being indoors indefinitely thing.

 

 

I really hope it’s the former.

Confinement, day 6

My knees are aching from sitting too much.

 

As soon as this has all blown over, I am going to take the longest walk I’ve ever taken around this city. And I won’t wear headphones to listen to music or a podcast while I do it, either.

 

 

A friend of mine started a dance challenge on Instagram today. I got tagged in it, and when I went to pick out what song to dance to for my contribution, I landed on “All of Me” by Tanlines. Well, I say “landed” but what I really mean is that I picked the first acceptable song from my liked tracks on Spotify, since I didn’t want to take the time to go through the entire list. It had been ages since I last heard that song. Listening to it felt quite good though, and after dancing around for a while, I have to say, I did feel quite a bit better.

 

 

Actually, speaking of music, it’s so odd not hearing any waft up from Café Cheri. The only sound I hear right now is the periodic lite banging of my bathroom door (it doesn’t close properly, and I leave the window in there open a crack to air it out…and it’s windy out).

 

It’s funny, when I woke up this morning, I distinctly remember the first thought that ran through my head was that I’m 30 years old. 30. I don’t think I’d thought about that since my 30th birthday back in November. Strange how the mind tends to fixate on otherwise minor or mundane details in times of stress. I can’t even say why I’ve been thinking about this, other than the fact that in no way do I feel 30. Maybe it was just the number that my mind was drawn to–this one constant, unchanging thing that will always be the same no matter what nonsense happens elsewhere. 30.

Confinement, day 5

My graduation ceremony was officially postponed today.

 

I had a feeling it would happen–I mean it makes sense right now, right–, but it still…sucks.

 

 

And anyway, I should still feel lucky, right? I’m still going to defend, it will still (hopefully) go well, and I’ll still have a degree come spring.

 

 

 

But if things felt like they had all the fanfare of a deflated balloon before, now it’s like a balloon mixed with a bag of sand. I wanted one last moment of pomp and circumstance. Now it just feels like this whole thing is going to just waft away. And maybe it should. There are more important things than a dissertation about theatre, after all. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether or not there’s any usefulness in what I’ve been working on, if it could do some good somehow.

 

 

It’s just…I wanted something to go right, some good news. I feel the circumstances of the current state of the world are threatening either to pull me apart from people or otherwise make any maintenance of connection more difficult. The first is hard, but the second…I really hate the second.

 

 

 

I did go outside for a bit today though. Just for some grocery shopping and then it was back inside for at least the next week, but it did some good. Rumor has it this confinement will end up lasting longer than the initially announced two weeks…but we all already knew that. If it ends up going until May, however, this weekly outing might end up being a bigger relief than it already was today.

 

 

It’s not easy being alone with your thoughts all the time. Have to stay strong though…

 

 

 

 

Confinement, day 4

As much as I almost hate to say it, I honestly think the thing that’s helped me get through this week the most has been teaching online.

 

I mean, it kills a couple hours a day, at the very least.

 

 

 

Tonight during the 20h00 applause for the healthcare workers, I saw the neighbors who live across from me for the first time. Well, saw them clearly, more like.

 

They’re a young couple. I was already leaning out my window when they finally opened theirs. We didn’t greet each other; there was just a moment of acknowledgement. The girl started clapping, and I put my phone away (I was filming the scene right before then) and clapped along with her. A moment of solidarity.

 

 

I keep seeing photos and videos of people outside, flaunting the confinement measures in an attempt to prove how overblown this all must be and how invincible they are. I mean, I won’t lie, given how lovely it was out today, I would also have spent the entirety of my afternoon outside, and yet…here I am.

 

 

And normally, I’m all for pushing boundaries, especially when those boundaries are set in place by a system that I fundamentally disagree with. But these are not normal circumstances.

 

I want this to end sooner rather than later, though I know we’re in for the long haul. But every day this selfishness keeps happening is another day (at minimum) the rest of us will have to spend almost entirely cut off from our surroundings.

Confinement, day 3

I sat in my armchair and read for two hours today.

 

I tossed my phone onto the bench I normally sit on, far out of reach. I needed to quiet my brain down.

 

 

The sun was out. It was warm, so I opened the windows. I could still hear faint sounds of traffic, but mixed with those were also the sounds of birds, of neighbors popping up to their roof for a quick cigarette, of someone shaking a rug out their window. I could even smell the aromas of something really nice cooking from one of the apartments below.

 

 

And I felt myself relaxing, my brain quieting, my teeth unclenching–I’ve noticed that’s a new stress indicator for me now.

 

 

But my legs still crave stretching. I’m not sure that will ever change. Have to stay strong though, for however long this lasts.

Confinement, day 2

Things I wish I had with me, a growing list:

 

  1. My flute

 

All this talk of using the time we have while in this situation to learn or improve upon a skill/ability, and the one thing that came to mind for me was this instrument I hadn’t seriously thought about picking up again in years. And there was even a minute where I thought I had it stored somewhere here. But I was misremembering. It’s perched on a closet shelf, but that shelf is in my childhood bedroom in California.

 

 

Teaching with zoom has yet to result in the chaos some other of my colleagues were experiencing, but I felt the distance more with my students this time. In my literature class, the spontaneity, the free flow of conversation was gone, and all I felt was dead air. And then I felt as though my capabilities as an educator were being tested.

 

In between classes this afternoon, I went downstairs to take out the trash, and lingered in the courtyard a bit longer than usual. Most people had only been in isolation since Monday, but I’ve been inside four days at this point (yeah, the count in the title is off, but mostly because I chose to base it off of France’s official confinement start time). I needed to let my whole body breathe in air…yes, even the slightly smelly air next to the trash bins. Standing at my desk is all good, too, but my legs needed a stretch. I miss walking already.

 

I didn’t stay out too long though, maybe a minute. Enough for a brief respite before running back upstairs because the reminder of why I need to stay inside–because it might help save someone, or at least slow things down a bit–never leaves my head.

 

But then it’s in the silences once I’m inside that I think of the other thing I wish I had, and that maybe I’ll write more about one of these days…

 

2. Direct human contact.

Confinement, day 1

Today, I had to chastise a student for videoing in to our virtual classroom while they were DRIVING THEIR CAR.

 

 

I think that short statement is enough to give a reasonably accurate description of this first day of a “yet-to-be-determined” lockdown.

 

 

Overall, not too bad…yet. I made sure to do my morning workout as usual, as well as keep to the rhythm of my morning routine as best I could (including showering and putting on a proper shirt instead of slugging around in sweatpants) so as to have some kind of normalcy in my day. One admittedly nice thing was that I was able to actually do a longer (and more intense) workout this morning, since I didn’t have to deal with the added stress of catching a train. Yay.

 

 

First day of teaching on Zoom was…interesting. It went alright in the sense that the technology worked fine, and discussion was able to be facilitated in a way that didn’t turn into total chaos, but not even an hour in I was already getting this strange feeling in my stomach…like something was not quite right. It’s partially the screen and the fact that all of us are so removed from each other spatially (and to a degree, temporally) when normally we are in the same present spatiotemporal moment in regular class time.

 

 

In short, I think I am really going to miss being in front of my students. And it didn’t quite hit me until I was in front of my 12th graders.

 

 

To be clear, one of those 12th graders was also DRIVING THEIR CAR WHILE VIDEO CALLING (yeah I’m going to keep putting that in all caps), but this particular class is still very special to me for several reasons, chief of which being the fact that they are the first class I will have seen from 10th – 12th grade (the high school here is 3 years instead of 4). The thought that we may not have another in-person class together is something that I am going to likely be grappling with even more as the days (or weeks…or months) continue on.

 

One thing that helped get at least some semblance of being in a classroom though was creating a sort of “standing desk” situation by placing a stool on top of my coffee table, two puzzle boxes on top of the stool, and my laptop on top of the boxes. Honestly, anything that keeps me from sitting down all day is a godsend at this point as far as I’m concerned. Because sitting has meant nothing but restlessness…and stress. I tried reading a bit…it didn’t work.

 

 

My other strategy: yoga in the evening. Who knows, maybe I’ll become super flexible by the end of this (unlikely).

 

 

And if all else fails, there is always the option of sticking my head out the window briefly and letting some of the fresh air and echoes of the sounds of the city in. It’s getting very quiet here, the kind of quiet that I normally only hear on Sunday mornings. An anticipatory, yet also melancholy quiet.

 

 

But a necessary quiet. Our individual actions can end up determining the magnitude of the wave that’s about to hit. It’s our responsibility to take care that those around us stay safe.

 

 

In the meantime, there’s always group video chats with friends over drinks to keep spirits up.