So, I know there’s a typo in the title of my last post, but honestly, I don’t really feel like correcting it because sometimes it really does feel like we’ve been stuck in this mess for 250 days.
That being said, given that the situation has not changed much here yet (though deconfinement will slowly–hopefully–be starting on May 11), anyone who is reading this right now is probably wondering “Effie? Why are you writing right now if your life has basically been one endless string of sameness for the past seven/going on eight weeks?”
Good question, hypothetical/invisible reader.
The short answer: I had a mild anxiety attack last night.
The longer answer: I haven’t been sleeping super well these past few weeks, and frankly, the mounting stress from being inside all the time has a lot to do with it. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go parading in the streets, demanding that hair salons and restaurants and bars open up so other people can put themselves at risk for my illusion of “comfort”. But I will be honest here and say that it is getting increasingly difficult to stick to the rigidity I imposed on myself when I first went into confinement.
To give an example: a couple weeks ago, I added a trip to Mamiche, a boulangerie just shy of 1km from my apartment, to my usual grocery run. The walk there took me and the two friends I was doing my socially distant shopping with all the way down to the bottom of rue Faubourg du Temple, right up to where it crosses boulevard Jules Ferry and then ends at Place de la République.
This is a walk that I normally take very regularly. It’s part of my usual early Monday morning walks to the gym, my excursions to the library, the main artery through which I access the rest of the city (well, for the most part, anyway). I could feel the muscle memory in my legs pulling me forward as we reached the bottom of the road that day, and then, at the same time, it hit me that it had been almost two months since I had last walked that far, since I had last extended my spatial radius beyond my now-routine grocery stops. The city has become smaller for me, in a way (and there are some potentially good things about this, but I’ll probably get to those another time), and I don’t think I realized the extent through which I would have to go about “taking it back”, re-appropriating this manner of existing or walking in an urban space I had come to know almost like the back of my hand until that moment when I both wanted to freeze and turn back and also drop my groceries and keep. Fucking. Walking.
I didn’t do either, obviously. I settled on a very large cinnamon bun instead. But that moment has been eating at me lately, and that destabilizing feeling of confronting the unfamiliar in what should be familiar ended up coming back again last week when those same friends and I coordinated a taco run to El Nopal (the first time I had grabbed food that someone else made to-go rather than making it myself in…about as long as this quarantine had lasted). In both cases, the necessary adaptations and limitations to our social interactions didn’t necessarily help things: say hello from a distance, no hugs of greetings or goodbyes, orbit around each other while walking down the street as though there’s an invisible wall (or alligator, if you’re in Florida) separating us.
Sometimes, I wonder if these in-person yet very limited interactions are helping or hurting things. I want to say the former, but I am also someone who (as my dissertation, and literally almost anything else I have worked on will attest) is very intuitively aware of limits/rules/regulations/structures intended to orient or impede natural and sometimes instinctive behavior. I don’t want to hug my friends because I don’t want to put them at risk in case I somehow am an asymptomatic carrier, but this mental reminder to not enter into contact has its own darker side: it reminds me of how solitary I am now, and how long it’s been since I last felt the pressure of physical contact with someone else.
This solitude came to a head last night. I was scrolling through my instagram and noticed so many posts about the New York Times’ Cooking section sponsored “Big Lasagna Night”. Basically, everyone makes an absolutely epic looking lasagna following a particular recipe, and then at 7pm Eastern Time (yesterday), all the lasagna makers and their creations would gather together on a live stream and feast…together but apart.
And I wanted a lasagna. But the only thing that I could think of, the one thing that was just nagging me was that I didn’t want to make a whole lasagna for myself. I wanted to share my lasagna. Hell, I don’t have nearly enough fridge space to store a leftover lasagna, even if I had made one. Sure, maybe I could have strategized and somehow planned things out to make a perfect little lasagna for one, but that’s not the point of a lasagna. A lasagna is ultimate comfort food, yes, but part of the joy in making it is knowing that you’re about to share in that comfort with others, that you will all dig into the same groaning baking dish, and that a little bit of the love you put into making this incredibly involved dish will get passed on to someone else.
And that’s when I cracked.
I managed to get to sleep last night eventually (mental exhaustion post-crisis tends to help with that), so I was at least able to convincingly pull myself back up to teach again this morning. If nothing else, at least that’s a break in the monotony of the everyday now (though the stress of needing to be ON IT, mentally, hasn’t been helping much).
Before I drifted off though, I did have a small moment of clarity, and that was that I missed writing here. Even though my thoughts are more ramble-y than usual, there is something therapeutic about writing all this down and shooting it off into a very public online platform for who knows how many (ok, like…4?) people to read. And on that note, I think maybe in the next few days, I’ll finally get around to doing what I told myself I would do, and kept coming back to last night: write posts about my dissertation, about the unanswered questions in my dissertation, basically, anything to keep at least some part of myself back in the theatre (at least until they reopen again).
Oh, and hopefully my next entry will be less morose.