Coronavirus. I’ve intentionally not addressed it here or on Instagram because, well, everyone is talking about it. It’s all we read, see, discuss, and often, try to avoid. It’s on our minds constantly. But today I want to talk about it because lots of you have asked how I’m doing over here in Germany and well, I want to pull my head out of the sand and say something.
It’s strange. It’s quiet and empty on the streets most of the day. Here in Germany it’s not such a big deal as it is in Italy, China, America… But it’s still felt, you still worry. We just had nearly 4 weeks of lockdown, which was was rough. Things have lifted a bit, but still, we can’t go to or host parties, no concerts or fests can take place, large stores and malls are closed, gyms and schools are closed, no classes or workshops, all of the design fairs for most of the year are canceled, it’s a mess.
Everyone you pass in the grocery store looks at you with suspicious eyes, you return the same uncertain gaze – “Are they infected, will they sneeze on me, will I be next?”. I feel like I live in a very strange Sci-Fi film only I’m REALLY living in this strange time and I don’t know when life will be back to normal. Those good old days when you wake up and decide to see friends, colleagues, grab a coffee in your favorite cafe, ride the subway, sit in conference rooms with others, play with your kid in the playground, hug your grandma. My son hasn’t hugged or hung out with his grandmother in a month. He also hasn’t seen or played with any of his friends from kindergarten. That’s rough when you’re six. It’s also rough when you’re not six. I’m a highly sensitive extrovert who loves to hug and touch everything and everyone, so I’m struggling…
In a strange (perverse) way, Corona was sorta exciting at the beginning.
It was, let’s face it, bullshit aside. Kinda like when a hurricane is expected and you’re following the story on the news. You have this strange feeling of excitement coupled with intense fear. It’s sick, but it’s human.
I remember growing up in “hurricane alley” on the beach in South Carolina and each Autumn, we waited. We knew hurricanes would come, and we always lived in fear of the “big one”. We had some major ones when I grew up, followed by intense cyclones that would rip apart our neighborhoods. I remember one day a hurricane came and flooded our neighborhood. I waded in water to my thighs to go visit the neighbor’s kids. Alligators swam in the streets along with fish and water snakes, some highly toxic. I also remember the tornadoes. All of them.
I’ll never forget laying in an empty bathtub when the “sound of a freight train” could be heard. You knew the tornado was there, it was coming, and as you heard the destruction around you, you could only hide inside of something very heavy that would most likely keep you also held in place so that you wouldn’t blow away. Once when I was around 12, one hit our neighborhood and after it left, I walked outside to find sunshine and total stillness. Yet, around me, I could see destruction. Cars tipped over or thrown down the street, houses flattened, neighbors crying, ambulance sirens filling the air. That day we were lucky, 75% of our neighborhood was flattened.
People died. Our home was untouched.
I have to admit, even though I grew up around natural disasters and know the power of nature, I still had a strange sense of excitement when I knew a storm was coming. All the kids in my school did, so I wasn’t the only isolated weirdo who felt that way. It’s strange, how humans are, isn’t it? But you know what, the moment you HEAR or SEE the storm, it’s totally different.
That’s kinda like Corona. When it wasn’t in my neighborhood, it was a little bit exciting to hear about this virus, before reports of people dying started to surface. Then the news went very, very sour after the first death toll numbers from China started showing up. I felt scared and sad, but even then, I felt separated emotionally. I still had my life OVER HERE. It wasn’t going to come to ME.
Did you feel the same?
Then it came to Italy. It affected my friends there. And the businesses that I love. I definitely felt sick to my stomach. Salone, our big European design fair, canceled for April. Corona felt REALLY real then. Yet, Germany still didn’t have any lockdowns in place, so I naively thought, “That’s Italy, maybe it will stay there and end there.” Nope. Then Salone canceled again, for Fall 2020. Suddenly a strong truth rose to the surface.
We were/are screwed.
It’s been about a few months since then, and we’ve been on lockdown for 4 weeks, which will extend into the first week of May, and they will reevaluate things. I look forward (so much) to the weekly grocery store run that we do as a family. It’s the only real social life/excitement that I have these days. We visit the city forest about 3 times a week (it’s behind my house) for exercise. But it’s always so mobbed with the rest of the residents in my city that it doesn’t feel completely safe. We started driving out to the countryside to deserted areas to bike and walk, and breathe. Yesterday we went to the lake, it was wonderful. We all pray this ends soon but inside, we know it won’t.
Some of my dear, close friends have corona, even a family member. I just recovered from a four-month-long bacterial infection in my lungs (that ended mid-February right when corona hit Germany). I feel vulnerable because my lungs are still weak, so I have taken extra precautions to not go outside except when I really must.
Corona is a serial killer.
It’s stalking people around the world, in my country, in my state, IN MY CITY, I hate this thing and want it to end. I hate hearing about it. I’m tired of the conspiracy theories and lies and fake news too. I’m just tired of all of it. I am tired of feeling like I’m on house arrest. I hate watching my son feel lonely.
Yet, with all of this Corona craziness around me, I feel strongly and intensely focused on my goals, my life, my family, my work. I have ZERO distraction, I have found a beautiful new side of myself that has been hiding for years. The Holly that was once so fearless, so full of adventure, the Holly that just jumped in and did things without planning and strategizing – and still got it right. I’ve changed a lot for the past two years, working back in the corporate world again with my magazine. I’ve enjoyed it, but being back in corporate 10 days a month reminds me of the things about corporate life that I was happy to leave in my past when I left in 2005 to become a freelancer. I love the balance of both worlds, but if I had to pick one, I am happiest when I am left on my own to do my thing as a freelancer. My team seems to know this and they let me do my thing because micromanaging me would kill the entire project, and I think they know that by now. HOLLY magazine is beautiful and inspiring but it’s been a hard adjustment for me, and there are some days when the only thing that motivates me to stay on the project is the end result – the inspiring magazine that we create together that definitely makes us all proud to be a part of. It trumps the sometimes corporate pain, though some days the pain can really feel heavy and hard to take and most of all, frustrating. And to be fair, I know my team also feels the same pain, many of them are free birds at heart (like me) and I sense their frustration.
Aside from Corona, my work, my family… What else can I say? I’m staying positive, enjoying all of the sunshine we’ve had for the past month almost non-stop (even if only through the window or on the balcony), and I’m looking ahead to when I can see my friends again and have an excuse to dress up.
I’m extremely keen to get back to the salon, my hair looks horrible lately – like hay – and I’d really love to get a regular gym routine down and use the sauna. But for now, I’m really working on enjoying what I have. I’m able to spend 24/7 with my little boy, which has had its share of frustrations for us both, but has been absolutely awesome for the most part because starting in September, he’ll be in first grade and that’s it – no more little boy home with mama anymore. Something that has been a big part of my life – him – will be a schoolboy and becoming more and more independent and that’s something that Corona gave me – a gift in disguise, that instead of being in kindergarten full-time up until primary school begins, he’s home with me and we are really close and our relationship has deepened a great deal. He has been home all of the time, all to himself, and it’s a good thing for him right now because he needs me. Blessings in disguise are all around me if I just look. Sure, I have little cash flow at the moment like I once did, but cash means nothing ultimately – it’s the hugs from your children, the chats with your husband at 2am, it’s the long baths and the face masks while reading books that you haven’t read in years.
I’ve also baked about 8 cakes in 4 weeks, so I’ve gained about 10 pounds but I’m happy so who really cares. My butt may be bigger, my so is my heart, my intuition, my passion for work and family, my love for my home, my relationship with my blog and Insta followers is bigger and better, and I have a greater appreciation for the little things that I’d not paid attention to at all pre-Corona.
COVID-19 is horrible, what else can I say or add, really? But at least each of us has the power to take something good from this strange time, to be positive regardless, and to make our day valuable and meaningful. We have a chance to come out of this better people, don’t you think? Maybe new things can come up from this that wouldn’t have existed before. Perhaps we will be smarter about our business. Or pregnant (ha ha) or divorced (oh no) or something else that only time at home could really bring. Maybe we’ll have launched a new idea or business, maybe we are forced to do business differently, maybe it’s time to try something new because no one is really looking anyway, everyone is distracted – you know, the C word.
Like Betty said in season 3 of Mad Men that always stuck in my brain, “Only boring people are bored”. Stay creative and curious, limitation fosters creativity so see if you are able to make something wonderful come from your current limitations… We can’t just go back to normal life after this. I want to believe this time was worth it somehow. For me, I’m gonna make it worth it. What about you?
Thanks For your time, dear readers. Stay safe, positive, and smile.
(Photography/Styling: Holly Becker.)