I had been dreaming of taking a week off life: you know, the sort of week in which I wouldn’t have deadlines looming over my head, wouldn’t have a barrage of emails to answer, wouldn’t have any meetings to attend, and where I wouldn’t have anyone expecting me to make any sort of effort… Just some downtime spent on Netflix or reading rather than rushing about.
Until two weeks ago, that was nothing short of a fanciful dream. Then, since the first case of Coronavirus in Malta was announced 18 days ago, everything changed: all the flights are cancelled, bars and restaurants are closed, the roads are much, much less congested, and, for some of us, work has all but seemingly evaporated.
And, what’s worse for me is that once I got the time off I had so yearned for, I realised that I couldn’t really afford it financially and that I didn’t really know what to do with it, anyway…
So I started sorting out my wardrobe, and transferring the spices I had in bags into glass jars, and watching videos of people who live on farms, and – oh, my God – having to think about all the things I always put on the back burner because life was too hectic, thank you very much.
It really is a surreal time and, as the days go by, things, instead of becoming clearer, are just becoming more opaque: will any of my loved ones die? What would I say to friends if they lost loved ones, seeing as a physical hug is akin to murder right now so I wouldn’t be able to give them one? Am I imagining it or is my throat sore?
And what if I die? What will I be leaving behind?
The saddest part of it all is that this is just the beginning, and what’s to follow will get worse before it becomes any better: the time we spend outside our homes will become shorter, it will take us longer to see our families and our friends, our purses will become much lighter, and our thoughts – or, at least, my thoughts – are bound to get darker.
And yet, in a world that feels like it’s on the brink of collapse – at least, socially and economically – we need to find space for some sort of silver lining. And that silver lining has to be the fact that we are being given a blank slate on which we can write a new, post-Coronavirus reality.
This is the time in which we have to start appreciating jobs which have, for far too long, dismissed: the stackers and cashiers at supermarkets; the teachers in schools; the journalists who keep us informed; and the creatives whose work we are now consuming like a pack of hungry wolves.
It is also a time to realise that we always need to plan for the future, and not only by having some money set aside for a rainy day but also by being more present in the moments we spend with our nearest and dearest because, hey, we never know when the last time we’ll see them is going to be.
And it’s a time to count our blessings, too! How lucky are we to have a home to be isolated in? How lucky are we to have money to stock up on food and order take outs on a whim? And how lucky are we if we live in a loving home? Can you imagine what life is like for those people who are abused in their own homes? Who have nothing to eat?
And do spare a thought for people who have had so much ripped away from them even before all this happened: Miriam Pace’s family, who has been left without a mother and a home; Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family, whose fight for justice continues unabated.
Yes, there will come a time when we clink our glasses again – humanity has survived much, much worse than this – but before then, I think we all need to use this time to look inwards and figure out what it is that really matters to us when everything else melts away because the absolute worst thing that could happen is for us to waste this bittersweet opportunity we have been given.