We’ve been in lockdown for about a month now. I wouldn’t really be able to say. Time flies when you’re having fun, eh. Turns out it also flies when you have a job to do, and so does your spouse, and you have to do it while looking after small children. The woman who normally looks after them had to stop coming for a bit. Wel, actually, she didn’t have to – I am a diplomat, so I could have written a letter saying she has to come into work and that would have been fine. That felt like cheating, though, so we made her stay at home for a month. This week the banks have opened again so we brought her back, three out of five days. We asked her if she wanted to or if she prefered to stay at home, but she too missed the kids. She’s been looking after them ever since the oldest was four months. At least it means for three days out of five we are getting work done in a reasonable concentrated fashion. The other two days, we just make do because we felt it’s a crisis and it would be nicer for her to spend time at home as well.
This lockdown honestly feels quite like a holiday. A holiday in which I work day and night, sure, and in which all boundaries between work and time off have been dissolved even further; but mostly a holiday in which I get to spend so much more time around my children than I usually can. My spouse hates working from home, hates everyone being at home, they’re honestly too asocial for this kind of a set-up. But me? Sure, I don’t get to see my friends and family – but that is my normal, I live a continent away from them. Sure, I don’t get to see my colleagues or my terrible boss as much, and it’s odd and unpractical and I miss them (boss excepted), but truth be told I would rather be with my family than my colleagues anyway. The local economy has taken a terrible hit, and we are not sure my spouse will keep their job, but my job is well-paid and very secure – no-one fires diplomates, and in a crisis we’re more needed then ever – so I don’t worry about finances. We just gave the nanny a 10% raise to compensate for the devaluation of the local currency and we are still paying the cleaning lady we haven’t seen in weeks. Back home, half my friends have seen their hours cut or are out of a job. I am so grateful now that I got out of academia into the civil service.
I have people I worry about back home, family members and friends in vulnerable categories. I wonder how many friends I have that are in vulnerable categories that I don’t know about. At the embassy, we have spent so much time the past weeks bringing back our compatriots to Europe, and SO MANY people have underlying conditions, you just have no idea. But I look around here in my jurisdiction, with no health care system, no social security, no real way of making this work except self-discipline to control to disease and reliance on each other to make up for the job and economic insecurity, and I’m grateful they’re in Europe. I think living here really makes me realise that we can’t control life anyway; it was an illusion all along; but we all get a chance that we may live and that’s a gift. Maybe that’s pollyannish, but maybe it’s an understanding of who we are in this world and who we’re not.
When I was small, I read in a book that the greatest mercy of fear is that it only comes in waves, it goes through you and then it leaves your body again. For me, at least, that’s true, even about climate change, which freaks me out a lot more than corona. So it’s here, we’ll have to get through it, and then we will get through it, and then we will have come through it.