“We’re in this quarantine for a reason,” my friend Enrico said to me during one of innumerable late evening venting sessions via What’s App. I’ve been meditating on his words during my daily terrace sessions because I am of the mindset that people, obstacles and circumstances arrive to help us evolve. I believe extreme learning of this vein calls for less fear and worry and more hope, love and humor. Think carpe diem or better yet, the Swahili phrase “hakuna matata” which was made popular by Disney’s “The Lion King” and hails a “no worries” outlook regarding one’s troubles. Or there’s always my version, “Corona Matata.”
It’s been a wild ride, even if the admissions booth is at the bottom of the stairs and the fun begins in the kitchen and ends in the living room. On top of all the cabin fever there’s plenty of seriousness to go around and it’s often hard to keep the story straight. Misinformation runs wild like the mouths of certain politicians who try to use the situation to their benefit. And elsewhere the elite find new ways to hold on to their money while the poor don’t get the treatment they need.
But come on. It’s not like all of this dysfunction is new, it’s just been amplified by a global pandemic.
I’ve lost track of how long we’ve been in super-restrictive quarantine here in Emilia-Romagna. I do know I’ve had ample time to reimagine my wardrobe which now consists of:
1. My sleep pajamas;
2. My after I wake up pajamas because my sleep pajamas are wrecked; and
3. My after I work out pajamas because I can’t contaminate the other two pairs.
So… maybe it’s more like “Lion King” meets “Groundhog Day.” Quarantine (obviously) isn’t my months-long activity of choice, but I have to admit something: I’m not hating all of it. Luckily (or not), the so-called “phase two” Italy will move into on May 4th is a contradicting, confusing half shuffle away from full-blown quarantine. But I understand the need to be cautious and I’ll be able to relish things for awhile longer. It must be noted I’ll also finally be permitted to dusk off my bike!
So “Corona matata” is really a tongue-in-cheek way to find perspective and reasons to smile. For example, I’m beyond sated by the fact that my “earliest” mornings now begin around 8:30 a.m.
And how fond I’ve grown of the two humans who were first roommates but then became family and fellow compatriots in this surreal, silent war. Same goes for the two furry companions (Gaia and Ciro) who keep me sane with their antics, cuddles and the occasional notable event that breaks up the never-ending Wednesday feeling.
Cristina: When did we last order vegetables?
Me: Well, I remember Ciro had just vomited on my bed…
I also enjoy standing in the middle of the road at night for kicks enveloped in deep silence under a night sky devoid of airplanes. It’s not something I thought I’d find myself savoring but there it is because life has been shaved down to its simplest bits.
In my past life I remember dreaming I was one of the people lounging about in the park as I raced from one thing to the next. Now I splay out on the terrace, the grass or a clandestine park bench every single day. Because I am in charge of what fills my waking hours and that’s no small thing.
And although the real life aperitivi (happy hours) will be a thousand times richer, the regular online ones have kept me sane and smiling:
Furthermore, it’s been inspiring to watch society adapt and transmit hope and joy through flash mob patio concerts, group meditations, silly videos and hand-drawn messages and art. It gives me hope that we might also manage to sculpt a better world in the near future.
It’s true that the future is quite gelatinous and on top of it I’ve got a healthy drizzle of unfathomable Italian bureaucracy and disorganization. For about two years it’s like I’ve been roosting at the base of a volcano that could erupt at any moment and in July it will all come to a head (again?). I must however thank the same system that’s complicating my life because I’m able to Corona matata the hell out of my predicament. I strangely feel as zen as an Italian jellyfish touring the now crystalline Venetian canals.
Speaking of nature, it certainly needed this pause. Or to be more specific, it needed us to pause.
Because the people in charge were like, “Sh*t, I don’t know how to fix the climate. We’re screwed.”
And Coronavirus was like, “I got this.”
Dolphins now flit about the canals of the nearby Costa Romagnola since the boats have stopped circling. In America the blanket of smog over Los Angeles has receded and herds of elk stroll the shores of the Oregon Coast. Elsewhere sika deer wander the streets of Japan’s Nara Park and wild boars run through Barcelona, Spain. Without our heavy footprints everywhere the earth has rebounded and it’s a powerful message about both human impact and nature’s regenerative power.
But what happens when the world opens up again? I see the Coronavirus as a portal and when we come out the other side I hope the human race doesn’t just go right back to its usual tricks. I get it: change can be scary and so we crave our comforts, but we’ve been largely programmed to connect solace with material goods and wealth. To start perhaps we could stop expecting instant gratification and learn from nature which has a season for everything. Imagine, you’re like an antsy flower under the snowpack in January…
You, the flower: Winter sucks! I am so ready to feel the sun on my skin.
Nature: Tough titties.
To put it in Coronavirus terms, if we can wait months to hug our friends and family again, I think we can chill the f*ck out and not get the latest iPhone 84 delivered in two hours. Or we can learn to reuse and repair the things we already own instead of being so eager to trade them in. We can get by with fewer choices, a smaller space, not as many cars, one less trip across the globe. Like it or not, it’s time change our approach.
Because in case you live in a hermetically sealed plastic bag, Covid-19 is shaking up the entire planet and the ripples will be lasting. No matter if you’re on the “it’s just a crappy flu” side or the “it’s real life ‘Walking Dead’ out there” (or somewhere in the middle), we’ve need to embrace that normal has gone out the window. So “Corona matata” is more than a silly way of finding perspective and just getting through it — it’s about getting to it.