After the events at the beginning of March, I decided to put my regular Monday Postcards on hold for a bit and write updates about my daily life during the coronavirus (Covid-19).
This thread will be updated regularly (I aim at daily updates). It starts with the most recent entry at the top. I have also written a longer part about my past weeks in Thailand, right after the outbreak of the disease. (Read more about it in the Post about Week 1 of Social Distancing.)
I would like to use this thread to share the knowledge we have gained in Asia over the past weeks – how did we live, cope with fake news, and how or social life changed. I know for a lot of you, especially in Europe and the US, this is a very new situation. It is for me too, I just had a bit more time to get “used” to it. (If you can ever really get used to it).
I called it the “No Panic Diary” because I want this to be a “virtual discussion”. On the one hand, I share, rant and also calm down by writing. On the other, I would like to give you a platform where you can ask, share and discuss about the current situation as well. It is a very new situation for all of us and maybe this diary helps us to connect and support each other. If you have any questions, you can comment below these updates, send me an email or contact my via social media. There are no silly questions and I am happy to talk.
First and foremost, do not panic, stay calm and stay at home! Please follow the instructions by your governments and be smart.
Day 24 until 28
This week I was not the most disciplined when it comes to this diary. When I decided to write it, I wanted to not only share what is going on every day during social distancing but also how I feel about it. As you may have inferred from my Monday Postcard this week, I was not really in the mood to write.
Under normal circumstances, writing is kind of a therapy for me. When I write my thoughts down, I get more clarity, I can manage my emotions and I just have a different perspective on things. But this week, I felt like doing nothing. I did finish the basic tasks I needed for work but with everything else, I just did not feel like it. I tried some illustrations instead and failed. I worked on some blog posts, but stopped mid-way. Instead of pushing myself, I decided to just accept it and give in.
I have been overly emotional, I overreact to things and jokes I would usually brush off or counter with a witty answer I take really personally. I do have a tendency of thinking way too much about everything. But during this time of social distancing, it is worse.
It even reached an extent that I took it personally that members of my extended family who disrespect social distancing rules, because “they won’t get Corona anyways” and because they are ignorant about the risk they pose for others. Just because they are bored at home, they risk other people’s health and lives.
I think there are two reasons for my reactions. The first one is that I am a bit selfish: The longer people ignore the social distancing rules, the longer I will not be able to return to my normal life, travel to Thailand and also catch up with the partner organisations of Pelagona in person. The second one is less selfish: I am worried. Worried about people dear to me. I could just explode when others expose them to an unnecessary risk. Well, I not only “could” explode, I actually did multiple times. I yelled, I kicked people out of the house. Sounds crazy but, unfortunately, it was the only way to protect others. Let them call me crazy for reacting that way, I can take it. Even though I am Austrian, I have the temperament of Southern Europeans and will not hide my emotions.
However, I realized that for my own sanity I have to manage my worries and my fear. I think we are all scared – even if most of us would never admit it. This is new and uncertain situation. I have also made the experience that those who need to be protected do not want to be labelled as “high risk”. I can totally understand it. Until about a month ago, the “boomers”, people aged 60+, had been the most active “older” generation ever. And suddenly they are made to feel vulnerable, weak and old. I would probably not like to be labeled like this either. My parents probably feel that I am policing them and they made comments that I should stop telling them how to live their lives. I think no generation wants to accept when the roles slowly reverse and their children have to start taking care of them. For the “boomers” this change come all of a sudden and, naturally, their resistance will result in heated discussions with us.
Over the past days, the narrative in Austria has changed. Suddenly, it seems Austria was a safe haven. We are being compared to other European countries, because “we are doing things right” and our curve seems to be flattening. Flattening the curve is a good development. But sometimes I have the feeling we are being overly confident. We see the news from Italy, Spain and France. Why would it be different here? Are we not just behind time-wise? I am not an expert in statistics or virology, but I am not sure if it is really such a good idea to pursue a narrative of “after Easter, we will be slowly back to normal”. I am worried that people do not take the pandemic seriously, that we become complacent and that we are suddenly hit really hard.
The narrative is based on the fact that we are facing two challenges at the same time: first, the pandemic itself and second, our economies. The lobbies of all the major industries are becoming impatient. The economic consequences feel much more imminent than the disease, as the curve of new infections is flattening. We all know of someone who has to close their business and probably will not open up after the crisis while many of us do not have an imminent Covid-19 case in their families or circle of friends. But we need to be very careful not to make premature decisions. I do not have a secret formula how we should fight the pandemic while at the same time keep our economy running. If I had one, we would all not sit at home.
This new narrative also enforces the resentment of those who are forced to be looked after. Even though I try to relate to these feelings, it is very hard for me to keep hearing “we need more infected people, then it is over” or “it’s not that bad, we’ve seen worse”. I think it is quite clear now that this is not j”ust another type of flu and that people would die anyways”. It should also be clear now that we cannot even count on immunity. (If you want to read more about why herd immunity is not being pursued by most governments anymore, you can check out the article “The Hammer and the Dance” which was recommended to me by a friend with vast experience in the pharmaceuticals industry. The first part is a bit outdated but the important part is the one about the strategies governments could or have decided to pursue.)
If these were discussions with anyone – strangers, friends, basically people outside of the risk group – fine. I would probably not care. (Maybe I would, a bit…) But if this comes from people about whom we worry about, it is really tough. But for my own mental health, I need to take a step back. I am doing everything I can but I cannot keep obsessing about everything I see as a potential threat. I have decided that I really do need to practice what I preach: Take it day by day and take a step back and stop obsessing and worrying (or, if I cannot completely stop it, significantly reduce it).
Even though I have been feeling a bit off, this week also made me appreciate the little things again. Nature is taking back its territory. I have rarely seen that many rabbits around. A deer family casually walked through our gate to explore the garden. The stray cat which started coming back to our house at the beginning of this social distancing period is still regularly coming to eat. And the birds seem to chirp louder and even more beautiful than in the previous spring seasons.
Random acts of kindness are much more visible. Some children made chalk drawings in front of their great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ houses. I also see that we have learned to reconnect again. Austrians are not known as extremely friendly people. If you ask the supermarket cashier: “How are you today?” (like in America), they probably think you are crazy. But now it seems that everyone shows more interest. People engage in conversations – mostly corona but also personal ones.
This was a rather detailed and very personal post. I was debating whether I should share it but I figured many of you are probably in a similar situation and may feel the same. (At least I hope I am not the only one who is currently in a state of mind which is completely atypical of myself.) As always, I look forward to your views and I am happy to discuss!
Enjoy your Easter weekend (or Songkran, if you are in Thailand)!
After I published my Monday Postcard yesterday, I received many messages from you saying that many of you are in similar state of mind. Similar to me, I learned that many of you were in a bad mood, grumpy and unproductive but without one particular reason. Furthermore, everyone told me that they are aware that this is not a “real” problem. I was a bit relieved to read that I am not the only one. And I can relate to this feeling of being in that state of mind but at the same time feeling guilty about it because it is a luxury problem to have.
I am a very passionate person when it comes to politics. I have always been. At high school I ran for the student committee, my high school graduation paper was about feminism and politics and I was toying with a career in politics in my early twenties. I am very vocal about my views (most of you will have experienced this in my weekly Postcards) and I also enjoy discussing political topics with those who might not agree with my point of view.
But over the past days I have stopped listening to the news and to press conferences. I feel that most of them repeat themselves and if there are new regulations, it seems they are being communicated but then taken back or changed the next day. Many of us feel paralysed. Every day we wait wait for news, for new instructions about what we need to do and what we are not allowed to do. I think it is some kind of self protection. Most of the news are still very scary: be it the number of infections and the lack of hospital beds or the rumours that our borders may be closed for months.
I decided to start this week a bit slower, listen to my favourite music and work on tasks which are a bit easier to work on.
Week 4 of social distancing. The past three weeks, I worked a lot, rediscovered the joy of baking and being in the garden. However, the rollercoaster of the past weeks with my return to Austria basically over night, the government regulations and all their affects on our private and professional had an affect on my mood. It took me a while to admit it – especially to myself – and I wrote about it in my Monday Postcard.