When Things Start Looking Up

Nevermind Monday, shops in Brussels are open, the French are allowed to venture as far as 100km away from their residences and Ana De Armas and Ben Affleck have taken the very retro, very pre-pubescent route to publicly exclaim their going steady by purchasing matching heart necklaces. The type that you split in two and give the other half to whoever shared the last slow dance with you at middle-school disco. Because love.

The opening of the shops could not have taken place any sooner, because this happened today: I was queuing for my coffee on the street in the morning. A mail delivery man walks by, turns, and exclaims joyfully “Madame, here’s your parcel now that you are here!” I shot a quick side-eye around me, signifying “I honestly have no idea who this person is”, but tucked the package under my arm nevertheless.

Inside the coffee place I’m told that’s pretty good service and also how much do you actually order online??? I explained a tad more than would have been absolutely necessary, and was reminded that the first step is denial.

While the Brussels lockdown as such is not yet finished, given that the most hardcore part is behind us (before the next flare-up, obviously), I already share some of my observations from the confinement:

  • First two weeks passed by me waking up every morning to stare at exponential curves from around the world. I bought more tinned food than was absolutely necessary. I subscribed to far more online exercise classes than was absolutely necessary. I subscribed to many, many international newspapers and magazines, all of them absolutely necessary.
    I ate none of the tinned food. Instead I went on an odd mania of batch-cooking and baking, which lasted about a week. I haven’t baked since.
    I attended one online exercise class. Everything is now unsubscribed.
    I went off Twitter completely, until this Saturday, and decided to stay away.
    I went out for a walk every day.

  • Weeks three to five: I start online-classes with my pilates teacher twice a week. I keep my daily walks.
    I am frequently frustrated with myself because I feel I get nothing done. I start distracting myself by sewing face masks.
    The lows were a bit deeper than before, always caused by the fact that I feel I can’t get my chicks in a row. Every time I sit down to write, a nausea sweeps over me “no-one’s going to be reading anything ever again” and I would be embarrassed of the text before a single sentence has been written.
    I buy ice cream and return to watch Big Little Lies box-set.
    I start meeting friends more often online.
    I have violent dreams. I order new bedlinen in case it would help. It doesn’t.

  • Weeks six to eight: I still haven’t eaten the tinned stuff because I get almost everything I eat from the small delis nearby. I spend a lot of money on food, but on the other hand it’s pretty much the only thing I’m spending any money on.
    I have huge problems with concentration. I feel like there are a million things to do, but I fidget around the apartment like a madwoman.
    I think about Jeff Bezos and other injustices of the world excessively much and decide to boycott Amazon. This boycott lasts one week.
    I try not to think about anything, because everything ends up in a desperate “nothing will matter anymore” Apocalypse in my head.
    I listen to so many podcasts. I read all the time, but cannot focus on anything.
    I freak out regularly just because I realise that I haven’t freaked out about my own future more regularly.
    I keep up with my pilates classes and walking. I realise I haven’t progressed with the tap choreography and this stresses me out.
    I knit socks like a maniac while I watch a documentary-series about NBA-basketball. Everybody will get socks for this Christmas. Everybody.
    I cry at anything from cat videos to documentaries.

  • Last week and this: As most lockdown days are identical and bleed into each other without much external stimuli, having a good day or a bad day very much depends on which way my head decides to go. I am starkly reminded of this whenever I reach out to friends: the world almost always looks completely different after another point of view/reality check.
    I am constantly aware of my privilege and how comfortable my life is.
    I take in news about the easing of the lockdown rules with mixed feelings: joy to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Anxiety, because it all means that the normalcy will (maybe) return. I am not sure whether I can carry on with my not knowing what I want to do if the whole world is to restart at the same time. What if I’m not done yet?

    Then today finally arrived.
    I go and buy new notepads and fancy pens.
    I prepare for my reunion with Brussels Waterstones on Thursday.
    I google pictures of young Robert Redford.
    I am very content.

5 thoughts on “When Things Start Looking Up

  1. So good to read your posts, you should write for a living ;)) Love your sense of humour. Well it’s comforting to read I am not the only one fidgeting around, reading a novel, while checking the news on the Guardian, while checking posts and lives and stories on Instagram, while cleaning, while brushing my teeth, while trying new recipes, while… shall I go on? Take care.


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