If you are like most of the people during this time, then you spend the largest part of your day worrying. If joy were a sound, then now it is the sound of the song that fades away in a crowded place, as we walk away – further and further – from the singer.
You are not quite sure when you have forgotten how joy looks like. You try as hard as possible to remember, but this comes to your mind: exponential-growth curves. Masks. Hands. Soap. Hand sanitizer. Aerosols. Distance. Social distancing. One meter, two meters. Social isolation.
Alone. Even when living with someone. Lonely.
Where is my joy? – you ask yourself.
I am not sure where your joy is sleeping at the moment, but I think I have an idea when you lost it. You might have forgotten about joy’s existence when you heard about the first contaminated person in your city. Or, when you found out your favorite restaurant closed down. Maybe when you realized that the situation is so serious that all of a sudden you became overly dedicated to your hand hygiene. And very likely, when you could no longer avoid the fact that it might take a very long, long time until you get to see many of your loved ones – friends and family – again.
I won’t lie to you. Some days are really hard for me. You would think that staying at home with your loved one will somehow bring you closer, but the truth is that when you spend so much time together and you see each other’s every move, you cannot even ask your partner what he has done today. The silence somehow gets to fill the air in the flat which once used to be the home where you would come in with an accelerated breath because you biked and ran up the stairs so fast in an anticipation to hug him and tell him “I have to tell you how cool my day was”. Now, quiet. Quietness is probably joy’s biggest enemy. So, what is joy’s biggest friend?
Joy thrives in noise, cluster, colors. It loves even tears, if you share your tears with friends. Joy adores music, flowers, warm meal, and a friendly ear. Joy is the fifteen-minute yoga routine you did this morning and the half-an-hour bath you will take tonight.
I know you are rolling your eyes now, I can vividly see you in my mind. You think “here she goes with all that stay positive, be grateful bullshit we hear so often. How am I supposed to stay positive or be grateful right now?”
Yes, really. How? That is the question.
Here is how I try. Sometimes I fail, but the crucial point is: I try.
I call my family as often as possible. My parents hear I love them and encourage them to walk in the fresh air. They see I care, and through my care I still manage to find purpose in my day. It gives me strength.
I talk with my sister as often as possible. Sometimes we cry. But, above all, we strengthen the bond of sisterhood. Sometimes we laugh about the fact that her kids find every corner in her flat and have this magical ability to destroy a perfectly-arranged place in less than a minute. I do not think I will put my PhD diploma in their hands when I get it. At least, not until they are 15 or something.
I find it quite amusing that my niece is convinced that she can eat on her own, although the smashed fruit that my sister prepared ends all over my niece’s face. And all over the floor. Anywhere, really, except in her mouth. I think she might listen to Beyoncé after my sister puts her to bed, and my niece then goes like “Woke up – flawless. Ate up – flawless. I am a strong and independent baby-girl and I will eat on my own whenever I want to.” Go girl! I see you doing this and I get happy too.
On the other hand, my nephew now knows what “lamp” and “nose” are. My sister has trained him to show towards the lamp and towards the nose when she pronounces these two nouns. It might be a bit mean that she asks my nephew to point towards the lamp and his nose like ten times a day, but he is such a happy kid that he would not mind to do it even twenty times, if asked. I see him doing this and I get happy too.
I talk to one of my dearest friends as often as possible. She sent me flowers today and an amazing card and she brightened my day in the best possible way. I was preparing for breakfast when the postman rang and asked me to open the door for him. He said he had a package for me. I said I have not ordered anything and asked him at which name is the package addressed. Had to hear him struggling until he pronounced “Kafedjiska”. That was already funny. And then, here he comes, with a bouquet of flowers and a big envelope with “Ivona Kafedjiska” standing on it. Oh, people, the joy! It takes so little for so much joy. Especially nowadays.
I welcome back coloring books. I follow the shapes and paint them in any way I want to. The calmness and joy start to flow through my blood as my minds drifts away from all the pain in the Word.
I write, paint, read. Oh, I write so much! Post it notes, neat notes about the scientific papers I am reading. Small quotes, big thoughts. I write so much until my hands and mind enter this cathartic experience of the subtle art of not giving a fu*k anymore about all the horrors in our world nowadays. What gives you this feeling? What is your “writing”?
I take care of and admire my plants. Honestly, plants give me such a joy and consolation. Sometimes I lift a pot up and hug it. Do not laugh, I am not crazy. I do not expect the flowers to hug me back, but I still feel hugged. Every time when they grow an inch or two or when I see them coiling towards the Sun, I am reminded they are alive and breathing and supporting me so subtly. I just need to slow down, stop for a second and remind myself about their change. And how through change they grow. They tell me: nothing is permanent. Even we change every day. This situation you are in at the moment will change too.
I find joy in every comment, every read, every subscription on my blog. It is not vanity. It is someone calling from somewhere: here I am and there you are, and I see you. And I see them and we bond through our mutual love for the written word.
I find joy in arranging my working desk and then sitting down and doing my work. The victory of overcoming procrastination. The immense joy that comes from learning something new. From putting my brain to work.
I find joy in my morning coffee. In the smell and taste that convince me that with the help of this elixir I can conquer to World. No worries though, I prefer to sleep until late on the weekend so I ain’t got time for conquering this big, blue, beautiful planet.
I find joy in seeing Felix in the kitchen making Raffaello cookies because he knows how much I adore them. He can just buy them, but I know he tries to make the gesture more meaningful.
And here comes something truly special: I find joy in putting my freezing feet between my boyfriend’s thighs every night when we go to sleep. This action warms my whole soul, not just my feet, and I can forget for a second about every worry. This is how I let myself slowly sink into the land of dreams.
Do not get me wrong, it is not like it is rainbows and unicorns all the time. I reach for these strings of joy and hold on to them as if they are a rope thrown at me while I am laying on the bottom of a deep, dark well. But, I grab these strings and keep on reminding myself to hold on to them.
I hold them and then I breath. Be patient – I tell myself and I tell you. Take care of yourself. Find joy – in every form, in every corner, in every day. You might find it a tiny bit easier to go through your day.
P.S. If you missed Part I of my “The quarantine stories” series – check it out here.