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Life in the Time of Coronavirus (2)

Posted on Apr 14, 2020 by

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Continuing my little project about life in the time of Coronavirus, here are the next four stories, coming from the Netherlands and US. The idea behind this project is to illustrate how people cope with the current situation, how their lives have changed and how they see the future.

Just normal people living normal lives.

None of the pictures are mine — they were provided by the person telling the story. Now, let’s dive in:

Elena, Houston, Texas (US)

Instagram: @mariasando

The best thing about the isolation for me was realising after the first day or two – which were really hard – that although I’m the kind of person who gets cabin fever easily, I can actually do this. I can establish a routine, mostly around my creative endeavours, and keep myself entertained for weeks at a time! The worst thing is missing my family, worrying about them, and not being able to travel to be with them. I also don’t like not knowing when this situation will end. But in a way that is forcing me to live in the present and take things one day at a time. My routine for spending my “free” time consists of doing lots of work. I am a full time artist and writer, so I do the type of work I would normally do, except I focus more on creating than on selling these days, which is very freeing and makes me feel a bit like I’m on vacation. There are two highlights to my day: writing fiction in the morning while enjoying my coffee, then in the late afternoon painting for my friends and collectors via Facebook Live. I take my meeting with them seriously, shower, put on makeup and fragrance, try to wear something pretty. It cheers me up to talk to them and knowing that they like to watch me paint gives me a sense of purpose.

Elena 01
Working station
Elena 02
Holly, the biggest dog in the universe, presenting the newly published book

Tea, Haarlem, the Netherlands

Instagram: @culturetourist

“How are you? “

Such a simple question. Yet, I’m not sure how to answer it lately.

Yesterday was precisely three full weeks since my family went to self-isolation. Three weeks since I last went to the supermarket and spent some time among the people. It’s a strange feeling. And it feels like each day and week brings new whirl of emotions. During the first week, everything seemed new. We weren’t learning only how to deal with the situation. We also learned what the situation was.

I was nervously checking the news all the time. And read numerous angry Facebook arguments about the government measurements, and if they are sufficient or not. I saw so many bitter posts about groups of kids being seen playing together in a park. None of these made me feel good. Pandemic soon became that invisible monster that was peaking behind my shoulder. When I saw projects I was working on being closed down, my travel plans being cancelled and my move to another continent being put on a pause, I started to realise this is not only affecting our health but our lives on a much bigger scale.

I was stressed.

But towards the end of the first week, I realised I should deal with the new situation and create a new reality. New-normal. I slightly changed focus on my blog, writing more about art. Something I thought people will find quite relaxing in this new situation. It was surely something that was calming me down. We created a new reality at our home. My husband became (this time quite literally) stay-at-home-dad, home-schooling our kid and taking care of the household. Each day around 4 pm I would stop working and then we would exercise, meditate, cook, play and do all the different new-normal things.

Things felt better. We were calmer. That worked for a week. I started to miss my usual-normal then. I wanted to sit in a busy café and have my favourite latte macchiato. I wanted to jump on a train and go somewhere. Anywhere.

I was stressed again.

The third week started with me trying to make this new-normal into my usual-normal. I went shopping. Virtually, of course. I had many co-working days. Virtual, of course. I have daily virtual chats with my family. Since they live in another country, that’s actually something that’s my usual-normal. And it felt nice.

Tea 01
Tea 02
Sunny balcony

Nesli, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Instagram: @neslihasacamera

This new lifestyle people are trying to adopt now (social and physical distancing, staying home etc) is quite similar to my life before corona. If you have social anxiety and recurring depression, this is pretty much how you live your life. So for me there is not much to cope with. It is funny to see how people can easily go crazy staying home without socializing longer than a couple of days.

I live with my boyfriend and — unless a couple really cannot stand each other — having your own personal spaces solves the problems created by being around each other too long. I know that Amsterdam houses don’t always offer massive spaces but doing the best out of what you have is the key. Also, I appreciate living on the ground floor and having a garden even more these days. Being able to go out for fresh air in your own private space without physical contact with others is one of the things that I took for granted before all this.

I’m one of that “lucky” crowd that can still work as usual from their home using their laptops. I even have the feeling that I’m being dragged into more meetings than normal, because it became too easy with all the conference call platforms.

What annoys me the most about this situation? Being extremely careful around people and seeing that not everyone acts with the same level of care.

I try to take at least a walk every day, which makes me more active than I was before corona. As weird as it sounds, emptier streets and people staying distant makes me want to go out more. I have also realized, I don’t even have this need to go to a bar and sit on its terrace. All I need is to take some wine (and sometimes even gin & tonic!) and try to find an empty bench by the canal or a quiet spot in the park to sip my drink and read. No having to deal with waiters, orders and bills, or sitting side by side with loud strangers, it’s close to perfect!

The highlight of the day now? Being able to go for a run in the morning before my work starts. Of course, running these days means: avoiding the busy parks and going for empty streets AND making weird circles to keep 1.5 meter distance from others! For me, running on weekday mornings was impossible before corona measures, when we had to go to the office. Now I do my running, come back, take a shower and sit behind the computer — on time — with my coffee and breakfast. No wasting time with getting ready for work and making the trip there!

The worst thing about the isolation is not being able to go to the movies which I enjoyed a lot, but it is not that bad really, I can still watch many movies on streaming platforms and using my cinema card. The best thing is that the world has finally stopped to take a break and everyone started living my usual life.

Nesli 01
Chilling by the canal
Nesli 02
Nesli 03
Ballet class at home

Sumbal, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Instagram: @smash.the.stigma

My name is Sumbal. I am a mental health activist and an educationist by profession. I speak publicly on events about mental health and continue to work to break the shame behind all mental illnesses. I like meeting people from various line of work, culture and background in my spare time. For me it is very important to talk to people and just reach out to them so we all feel connected. I like to read, paint and write as it has always calmed me. Staying close to nature has helped me heal.

Living in The Netherlands has brought me closer to nature and made me fall in love with it all over again. It also helped me connect to my inner being. And then we were hit by this global outbreak. We are in the 5th week of lock down and heading into 6th.

Things have changed. For all of us. Plans have been cancelled, events have been delayed, flights have been cancelled. Amidst all this I want to remind myself and all my readers that HOPE isn’t cancelled, and so is LOVE & KINDNESS. Never forget this.

This whole situation will affect everyone and interestingly enough everyone will experience this differently. Some might not really mind staying home at all while others may suffer a big deal out of this. This is a time of uncertainty and not everyone can adapt to this with ease. I have since discovered that many people I know around me are battling with anxiety, grief, depression and poor mental health. You never know what others are going through unless you ask.

There are days when it seems all fine and smooth until the dark clouds hit and leave me feeling hollow, empty, lonely and full of unspoken/unexpressed grief. In those days I have no energy to move, dress up, eat or even shower. Everything seems gloomy and confusing with all sorts of fears, anxiety, thoughts of all kind and loads of sadness. On sunny days, I do things which I like & enjoy more. I connect with my tribe and my heart keeps telling me that this will end, this is not permanent.

Then there is this constant pressure for being productive during this by all circumstances just because we have all this time on our hands now — it drives me insane. We are programmed this way, we are constantly struggling to just prove ourselves. If your only resolution at present is to come out of this at the end, with your family, alive and well, that’s OK. People will die — but not because you didn’t learn to bake a pie or paint a masterpiece.

My take from this is that there’s no right way to feel right now. We are all in a giant rollercoaster, unaware of when the ride will end. But please, know that support networks can be very valuable in this. My experience has taught me to open up and it showed me that I am not alone.

Things that may help:

Going for a walk while taking care of all protocols and safe measures.

Listening to music.

Doing breathing exercises.

Meditate. Try daily.

Taking breaks while WFH.

Try to stick to a certain routine, this may give you a sense of control and calm your mind.

Add to this list whatever you feel like doing at your own pace and in your own comfort space.

Wishing love and light to everyone reading this.

Sumbal 01
Sunshine and tulips keep me going through this
Sumbal 02
I am reading these days

Stay tuned for more stories and make sure to follow Amsterdamian on Instagram and Facebook for daily stories about life in the Netherlands.



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