The torch was aflame by the light of the rising sun atop the monument to the Bastille and it called to me, four kilometers from my home, on my first post-lockdown run. I had descended the canal past the cobblestones and empty beer bottles of our old neighborhood. I ran through the vendors setting up the outdoor market near our old, old place on Rue de Crussol. I retraced my footsteps from countless morning runs down past Bastille along the Arsenal to the Seine.
Time has a habit of covering up the past. We are fortunate enough to be able to forget lest our regrets and hardships overtake us. It’s astonishing in hindsight that I hadn’t seen anything other than our immediate neighborhoods for two months. What’s more astonishing is that I can hardly remember the 40 days of confinement that we spent in our former apartment. We’ve only been in our new place for a little over two weeks and it feels like it’s the only thing I’ve ever known. Running the old routes brought back neural links to the past that had been buried under the stress of the pandemic.
I turned around to run back up and a stiff north wind – the one that carried me so effortlessly down – pushed back as if to show that deconfinement is not going to be that simple. We’re going to have to work for it.
Deconfinement takes some getting used to. I struggle to remember to put on a mask each time I leave the house until I step outside and see only eyes and hair. With the sun coming out people are going to have strange tan-lines. Social distancing dictates a constant awareness of surroundings. People present a paradox: it’s reassuring to see so many out and about yet each one is a potential contaminator. A fast walker, I find myself stuck behind families and meandering groups. There is no way to pass without breaking the distancing.
Grocery stores are still low on pasta and canned goods. The home improvement store is out of most gardening products. We want to plant a little herb garden for my son to tend, the only seeds the store has are Italian parsley (the shitty parsley) and some random aromatics that I’ve never seen before and don’t know how to translate.
We worked through the day with the babysitter taking care of the kids. The difference is monumental. My wife and I are both able to stay on calls all day long, pump out presentations, and respond to emails without tiny fingers reaching for the delete key. We’ve grown accustomed to constantly muting our calls. I was on a call for half an hour before I realized that I wasn’t on mute – good thing I kept my thoughts to myself.
We will be working like this for the foreseeable future. As business gets back on track my company is preparing for the return, but not before early June. There is a mandatory medical consultation and a webinar about security at the office. The real question is childcare. My son’s school just announced that they would not be opening on the 14th as planned. My hunch is that the kids are not back in a classroom until September.
Logistically that represents a mighty challenge. Our babysitter is not available indefinitely since she has family obligations too. The next few months will continue to be a balancing act of professional and familial responsibilities even as the world is supposed to get back to normal. At least now we have time to catch up and focus on strategy instead of reacting.
My buddy stopped by with a few l’Instant IPAs yesterday evening. It was amazing how the lockdown has rendered so simple an act – being able to swing by – feel so exceptional, so joyful.
This extra appreciation will fade. We will soon take for granted certain pleasures in life like we did before. All the more important to pause and take note in order to appreciate it as much as possible.