Rediscovering Love In The Time Of COVID 19
Today is day number 151 since the start of my ‘semi’- lockdown on the island of Bali.
I have long since lost track of days and have now reached the point where a Wednesday could very well be a Sunday and vice- versa given that daily routines are, on the whole, the same as the day before.
It is also four months since management returned from her place of employment one Friday and casually announced that for the foreseeable future her work would be conducted from home!
I naturally feigned delight at the prospect of her being around the house during the daylight hours knowing full well that my day to day habits would, unfortunately, take an unexpected U-turn.
Once upon a time at 7.30 am a suitably groomed spouse would gather up her work-related bags and head purposely for the door while issuing a series of rapid-fire instructions relating to chores that had to be done by the time she returned at 5 pm.
I do admit to suffering pangs of guilt when watching her stride towards the gate, but fortunately, these feelings would miraculously disappear as soon as I heard the car leave the end of the driveway.
The last few years, living as I do on a sunny, tropical island unshackled from a dull 9 to 5 existence I have slipped not unwillingly into a state of extreme sloth coupled with a healthy dose of procrastination. For a writer, this is, I believe, the perfect recipe for creating one’s magnum opus. ( well, so I have been led to believe.)
Unfortunately, that particular cake is yet to rise.
Until the pesky virus arrived, my daily routines consisted of taking extraordinary long showers while pondering how manufacturers manage to get the toothpaste into the tube; why there is a ‘bendy’ bit on the handle of a toothbrush or spending obscene amounts of time trying to calculate how many squirts of cream one can extract from a single can of shaving foam.
Now, I have always believed that these are important issues worthy of exploration, but, as I feared, management hardly saw these activities as being in any way productive. My protestations that these activities were critical to the subplot of my novel was dismissed as being childish and altogether frivolous excuses for perpetuating what I have become rather adept at, namely nothing!
The blitzkrieg at home began in earnest. A guest bedroom became an office; my desk commandeered from my ‘study’ as it was noted that it had not been used for some time. ( Perhaps it was the layer of dust and the yellowing ‘to do’ post-it notes dating back to 2017 that gave the game away.)
I could only look on in awe as laptops and monitors were installed, the internet providers summoned and ordered to bring the system up to warp speed while impressive calendars and worksheets were affixed to the walls. The online assault was about to begin! I now understand what pundits mean when they talk about productivity.
Overnight our tranquil household suddenly began to operate like a well- oiled machine running at maximum power. Days start before dawn with management heading out in the early morning light for a brisk 10 km run. On her return, after a refreshing shower followed by a healthy breakfast packed full of ingredients that are a mystery to me, she will rise and head off to her ‘office’ to begin her daily assignments.
After a few days of this, I discovered that after several decades of living together, I was a little vague as to what she did during the time she was away from home. For all, I knew she could have been working on the theory of conquering perpetual motion or working for the C.I.A.
There was no such work-related activity as far as I was concerned as the travel industry has of late virtually ceased to exist and there is not much call for stories of faraway places where no one can travel to. Thus, my ‘lockdown ‘project was to create a vegetable garden with the intention that we would become self-sufficient.
Sadly, this is yet to eventuate.
Even so, I would spend large chunks of the day ‘pottering’ among the plants conducting in-depth conversations with the seedlings. Given the vegetable patch’s proximity to her office, I was privy to her online lessons delivered to willing students in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and to remote corners of Indonesia.
Over the weeks, which have morphed into months, I have come to see management in a whole new light. Her professionalism, compassion, dedication and determination to solve complex problems is something I can only hope to emulate.
Her discipline is admirable when it comes to her work as well as her well - being for, on most days when the monitors fall silent she will quickly change and then participate in a 90-minute online yoga session.
We have, on the whole, slipped into a relatively comfortable existence she and I. Over dinners, she regales me with tales of how others in distant lands are adapting to their version of the pandemic. We talk more. Share information on books we are reading. Watch endless series on Netflix and strive to make contact with long lost friends who, perhaps without this ‘pause’ in our lives would be those who have vanished and gone.
I like to think that we care more about each other now without the distractions of the ‘outside’ world. Family and friends have become even more precious and something we both treasure as they are a bright light in what has become a shadowy world.
One day, when this virus has left us perhaps we will yearn for this time that was indivertibly given to us and try to retain the things we learned; compassion, wisdom, love and of course, Hope.
Paul v Walters is the best selling author of several novels and anthologies of short stories. When he is not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali, he occasionally rises to scribble for several international travel and vox pop journals.
Bali. July 2020