Locked-down with Me, Myself, and I
When Lockdown was first announced in Berlin, where I live, I thought it was the best idea to beat this virus that started entering our vocabulary last January, February, time.
Then all my business contracts got cancelled.
Fear started to kick in, not just around myself, but everywhere I looked and listened.
Staying home has become a normality, and the idea of going out for a walk, to get fresh air and extend my visual horizons beyond the flat screen in front of myself, has become important. I keep forgetting to put my shoes on and go outside.
Here, in Berlin, you can venture out into the street and meet five people. Meet in a house with five people, too. This morning it was announced, everybody has to wear a mask in any area that is obviously busy with shoppers and walkers.
When I’m at home, I’m writing or reading. To make use of the time is important. To do something of value is imperative to keeping the mind occupied and sane. Boredom is the enemy.
Boredom creeps up on you. It isn’t always a case of doing nothing at all, and then experiencing boredom because of that. Boredom is when we do things to kill time, meaningless activities that don’t feed the brain with nourishing ideas.
Boredom can be a little like melodrama. An activity can look like something, then when you involve yourself in it, it turns out to be a vacuous waste of time. The act of creating drama in daily life for the sake of it. Hoping for a thrill.
I sit down and write. Writing is an ongoing activity of discovery. It exercises the mind’s ability to articulate thoughts, it helps me to use my memory, and practise creativity.
It also means that I’m writing more short stories and itching to sit down and carry on with my novel.
I can only start if I know it’s the type of start that won’t stop — writing a novel is hard. Bits and pieces of novel are like sewing a patch quilt, I don’t want a patch quilt. I want a novel, at the end of the hard work.
Writing makes you think, and when you’re alone — except for three cats, one of them on her sick bed — you think a lot. Lots of thoughts about people meeting each other, memories mixed with present ideas, you construct small stories and feel-out ideas on paper, make notes and run out of note paper. There’s a good reason to put on my shoes and go out. Get note paper, cat litter and coffee.
When I go into my kitchen out back, I make a coffee, notebook handy, thoughts of the book I am reading, then allow my mind to wander through the streets of Berlin and into the past. Ideas pop up.
Sometimes, I’ll think so deeply that I have a frown on my forehead, other times, I let myself speak my thoughts out loud. When the thoughts of character or situation are interesting I end up gesticulating a little, you know, like an Italian does with his hands. Then I turn my head, look through the window and see that my neighbour is sitting at her kitchen window. She is watching me talk to myself. If I pretend there is someone else in the room with me, out of her sight, she might just believe it and stop thinking that the guy in that square of window light is mad as a hatter. I stop throwing my hands around, and start to think again, keeping my lips tightly closed.
Sometimes, this alone all day, is a godsend. Other times, I try to invent reasons to call a friend, or to suggest a video chat. But I hate these video chats, I’m worried they will become all we’ve got as a social life.
When my partner comes to visit, all the way from the other side of Kreuzberg, I love the way she looks. Her hair catching the light, changing shadows around her face, the twinkle of the kitchen light in her eyes. You don’t get that on a video chat. Even her voice sounds smoother, lovelier, and friendly than a broken digital voice on video or mobile phone. I’m falling in love with her again. I was always in love with her, but this time it’s deeper than ever.
Being alone, just me, myself and I, is a challenge to my mind. Will I go nuts? Or will I discover new things about how I feel — like falling more deeply in love?
Love is good, so is keeping a good stack of notebooks around the house.