I must admit, initially I hated you. I hated you a lot because you reduced me to the small world of my house and garden in Ghent, Belgium. A social life that only revolves around the necessary visits to the supermarket, and that deprives me from seeing family, friends and colleagues, is utterly boring. No going out, no parties, no dinners, no cocktail bars, no concerts, no city trips, no holiday plans, not even some travel for work.
Let alone no hugs, no kisses.
But no matter how painful these last weeks have been, you have also given me the opportunity to grow and to get better at what I am usually neglecting like a pro. Thank you !
1. Escape from routine
I managed to say farewell to my busy daily work routine. I had to because work was on the decline in the first place. Today, I do not feel the need to rush anymore. Being always on the move belongs to the past. With hindsight, I think I want to keep this as such. No more quick sandwiches or pizza lunches in airconditioned meeting rooms, no more sitting behind my mac until my eyes give up, no more working through the night to meet deadlines. What a difference.
2. Being modest
The rules of quarantine and social distancing are the same for all of us. As citizens without medical background, we have the easiest part of the job. Staying home is easy peasy compared to working in hospitals or retirement homes. I am thankful to all those wonderful people, amongst which I have quite some friends, who literally risk their own health and life for others. And I fully understand I am lucky to only have to do the easiest part of the job: comply to the rules.
3. Finding joy in smaller things
I have never enjoyed our garden more than these days. Even the sun has not forgotten us here in Flanders lately. In our family, we are healthy and we are able to help others that need support, mainly the elderly that are completely on their own these days. What a privileged situation to be able to cook nice and healthy meals every single day and being able to share all this. Not to forget my guilty pleasure: having all the time of the world to try out more intricate recipes from my favourite Michelin star chefs Nick Bril, Sergio Herman, Kobe Desramaults, Alberto Adria and Giorgio Locatelli.
I am fInally finding the time to reconnect with all those who are important to me. Picking up the phone is not a loss of time. It now means enjoying precious time. I am now doing more calls and video calls instead of short texts and mails. It is nice to hear again from people I haven’t heard of for months or years, and who all of sudden want to reconnect. Somehow time and distance are not important, friends always reconnect when they feel the time is right. It is a question of finding out what really matters. Friendships which are meant to last, will last. No matter what.
I can suddenly no longer relate to the feeling “I do not have anything to wear!” in the morning when I am standing in front of my wardrobe. I now realise it is the opposite which is true: I have too many things to wear. I feel I can do with less. Much less. Why the f**k do I have more than ten black dresses? Although they are all pretty different, I can only wear one at a time, can’t I? Same for shoes and handbags.
I can still enjoy looking at beautiful pieces of art, design and fashion, however, but today owning stuff has become less relevant to me. What I miss the most are the spontaneous hugs and kisses from loved ones and friends.
6. Me time
And yes, I finally succeed in doing things that are only relevant to myself. Personal things I felt I had to do, but which, unfortunately, I neglected stubbornly: taking better care of myself, both physically and mentally. Today it has become normal to me to take time for myself: running, working on a healthy weight plan, taking the time to relax, to reflect, and even to just close my eyes and do absolutely nothing !
In this respect, I am grateful to friends who regularly said: “Ann, you need to take more time for yourself, you deserve it,” or “please learn to put yourself in the first place!” I can now proudly say: “Yes, I am doing so.”
So, dear Quarantaine, what will I do when you will be gone?
First of all, I will keep on doing all of the above, and maybe I will call all the little things I indulge in “special projects”, because they truly are special and they have to remain special !
And secondly, I will go back to my beloved Rome, Italy, to continue what I have started. I will be so thankful when, eventually, I will see again that fabulous city that also became mine and that I have been missing since February. I will value my “cittadinanza romana” even more than I already did in the past.
In short, dear Quarantaine, you forced us all to listen and to reflect.
I learned a lot and will not forget easily.