Right now, right this moment, what I really want now is something illegal- a hug. In this day of social distancing, in this time of quarantine and lockdown, you should not be hugging someone not from your household. The only other living thing in my flat is a barely surviving daffodil plant, which I may have overwatered.
The last “normal” day I can remember was March 15th. But even that day didn’t feel normal. There were not many tourists in the usually busy South Bank area of Melbourne. By the river, many would be usually queueing up for River Boat cruises up and the down the Yarra. It was Sunday, there are usually many families going for walks or eating out. But not today. I was supposed to meet up for dinner with my friends Ange and Mike visiting from Sydney. But I had a sore throat and the sniffles. I wanted to get better, because these were symptoms for Covid19 and I was afraid. My friends were in town for the F1 race canceled minutes after they landed in Sydney. They too didn’t feel like going out, opting to order in for McDonald’s as the talk of Covid19 turned serious. Life changed dramatically, and continues to change day by day. Five days later, at 9pm on March 20, Australia closed its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents.
For the past thirty days, I had been trying to be ok just like the rest of the world. I felt the mad rush for toilet paper, feeling lucky to have scored one of the last pieces before supermarkets ran out for weeks..I don’t usually eat canned meats or pasta, but I succumbed to buying them to stop going myself from going to the grocery often. To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was preparing for. Typhoons I was familiar with. But how does one prepare to hunker down for a virus. I do live in a small studio flat with a tiny fridge too. I tried to hold on to a daily routine, I continued to get up early, make my bed, do yoga, drink my celery juice (when I had celery), and do my walking meditation by the Yarra River. We are allowed here in Victoria, Australia to exercise outdoors (limited to running, walking or biking).
Social distancing walks are God-sent for this extrovert in isolation. You can walk with another person while keeping 1.5meter distance. I had been fortunate to have one at least every week to keep me sane, and to interact with an actual human being. You can only leave your homes for food and essential shopping, medical care, exercise and work or study.
Every day, I continued to post to on Instagram, even sharing how to do meditate or calm down during a panic attack- two skills helpful during these anxious times. I now spend most of my day sitting on my writing desk, something I hardly did before. I did most of my studying and writing in the nearby city library to ease the isolation of being alone. With the library closed, I had no choice but to face that the isolation and loneliness of working from home alone. But what does a writer write when one by one my editors tell me they can no longer afford freelancers like me. It meant pitching my heart out like my life depends on it. As a food and travel writer, this is a huge struggle. Both industries are suffering immensely from this pandemic. It means thinking out of the box, and even tapping my other interests outside food and travel. It also means applying for writing jobs and even considering any job, fearing I can’t earn as a writer.
For two weeks, it also meant sitting in front of my laptop in days of zoom calls with my yoga classmates. It meant studying the dry business of yoga and work place standards. But I am a visual learner and I need to see, hear, touch, and experience things. There are many things you can learn online. But learning how to teach yoga online does not work for me. It meant figuring out my future in terms of school and rent. Should I defer my studies? Should I move to a cheaper apartment?
My lockdown daily routine slowly took shape. It included daily FaceTime calls with my mom. Sharing at the end of day, I am alike a bright-eyed kid sharing what happened in my lockdown life. My mom was in a similar situation, with no family living with her. She too told me stories. But mainly, the FaceTime calls provided comfort of being there for each other. Frequent Viber calls with my best friend, and seeing my dear dog Spark, also comforted and nourished my spirit. Plus the different zoom and messenger video calls with friends. I cooked daily, challenging myself to feed myself with healthy meals without getting bored with my stash of food.
But there are days when I can’t do this routine. Yesterday was one of those days. I did my yoga. I set out for a walk. Yet again I saw this man lingering by the bridge, who I’ve seem a couple of days now. His vibe feels dodgy. And with not many people going to work and only handful of people going for walks, I quickly made a U-turn and headed back home. Yesterday, I couldn’t sit on my desk and churn out pitches to my editors. I could not adult. My joints felt achy. Wait, am I feverish? Shoot is this Covid? There was a strange Asian lady talking to me outside Woolies 2 days ago. It was in English but I couldn’t understand her. She seemed angry and defensive but I don’t even know her. I take my vitamins for extra measure. I eat lots of bread and pasta. I watch Netflix and downward spiral on mindless youtube videos.
Oh, how I crave for a hug! I grew up in a family that’s not really affectionate. Kissing and hugging siblings were reserved for goodbyes before leaving for long trips away from home. We rarely did it so it felt awkward. Taking the 5 Love Languages Test, my top love languages are physical touch and quality time tied at number 1, with words of affirmation- one point shy of the top spot.
For this very tactile person, a hug somehow glues all my broken pieces together again. Connecting and feeling to close to the other person, I can hear them breathe. I heart their heart beat. And at that moment, I feel comforted and reassured that all shall be well.
I won’t forget the last time I saw my yoga classmates on March 10th. Justyna from Poland, Paula from Brazil, and I got off the tram and walked together towards Flinders Street. I bid them goodbye. But Justyna said, “Give me a hug. It may be the last one in a while.” She was right.
And while we desperately long for hugs, I saw the Victoria Health Officer’s report: Without social distancing, Victoria could be facing up to 58,000 new cases a day at the peak of the virus. 10,000 people will need ICU beds. 7,000 w9uld need ventilators. 650 Victorians would die every day. But because we have been social distancing for a month now. Yesterday, there was only 1 recorded new case of Covid19 in Victoria. For that, I am most grateful. Physical distancing is working. How fortunate we are that rules are in place, implemented with hefty fines, and majority follow. How lucky I am to be here in Victoria at this time, with a capable government leading the state.
In the meantime, send me all your warm virtual hugs. I am sending you all my love from my home Down Under. I do believe energy and vibration can be transmitted and felt from a distance. And I dream of the day, hugs will be allowed again. When that day comes, I will be hugging my loved ones and savoring every moment of it. And for my loved ones far away, I wait for that day we can hug again. I have faith and believe it will happen.
Photo credit for Banner image to Anastasia Sklyar, ctto