Strangeness in my mind

During the lockdown, I was thankful that I had not lost track of my days in a week. As I occupied myself with  some work from home, I found  that the line between my home and work became blurred. Most days, random  thoughts glided through my mind, at times crystal clear but very often fragmented. On days when I felt rather on edge due to lack of control over what was going on, I made cookies using an easy recipe that was no brainer. To me, any flour recipes with butter, coffee, chocolate or raisins cannot go wrong. When I could use the time to read those books that I had been meaning to read or halfway reading them, my spirit would be lifted. Though I do miss a good conversation over a meal with a friend or two,  I do not mind the isolation except for the bit where work and office are concerned. Aside from books, what has kept me sane is my espresso coffee and our dog, Holly. 

I started reading  ‘Writing with Intent, Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005’ by Margaret Atwood. In the author’s introduction, the following passage resonates with me:-

“ Everything we do is embedded in time, and time changes not only us, but our point of view as well. Also you find out what happened. One year’s prophecy becomes the next year’s certainty; and the year after that , it is history. How could I know, when visiting Afghanistan in 1978 — six weeks before Muhammad Daoud was assassinated, initiating the chain of events we’re caught in today – that this beautiful, strange country would become unrecognizable over the next twenty-five years? We’re always looking over our shoulders, wondering why we missed the clues that seem so obvious to us in retrospect.”

Such an insightful statement. It makes me wonder about the saying hindsight is 20/20. As we navigate ourselves through the uncertainties and gloom that has the threat of CoViD-19 permeating our daily life, most parts of the world are in either full or partial lockdown. Every day as  I receive more information about how easily the coronavirus spread, I find myself being so bothered about the hygiene around me that there is no turning back. I miss those days when I would not look at my shoes and think about what lurks beneath them as I would happily swap one pair for another depending on the occasion and how they made me feel. If I could travel back in time, I would tell my young self to be more prepared for this pandemic. Each day, I take a walk with Holly and the walk helps to kick start and anchor my day. When we stroll along the street, she is chuffed despite the lack of activities in the neighbourhood.

Circle of life

Here is a excerpt from  False memory, a fiction  written by Dean Koontz.

“ When she realized that the dog had finished his toilet, Martie slipped her right hand into a plastic pet-cleanup bag, using it as a glove. Being a good neighbor, she neatly collected Valet’s gift, turned the bright blue bag inside out, twisted it shut, and tied a double knot in the neck.The retriever watched her sheepishly.

If you ever doubt my love, baby boy, Martie said, remember I do this every day.

Valet looked grateful. Or perhaps only relieved.

Performance of this familiar, humble task restored her mental balance. The little blue bag and its warm contents anchored her to reality. The weird incident remained troubling, intriguing, but it no longer frightened her. “ Excerpt From: Dean Koontz. “False Memory”. Apple Books

This is how you lose track of your time during the day.

Wash your hands. Did I read somewhere that you should wash your hands every fifteen minutes? I suppose as frequently as you can. At the beginning of the lockdown, I remember watching a video uploaded by WHO and since then, I had been making sure that we would spray sanitizer and wipe down every packet of stuff we have purchased from the shop and remove the plastic wrapper if there is one. The routine is tiresome but we want to be safe from all that microbes that might be lurking on those packages.

Oops, did I spend 20 seconds washing my hands? Let me wash again.

The same 20 seconds rule must also apply for the sanitizer to work when wiping down every item we bring into the house. 

Spray, sanitize, wash hands with soap and make sure you wash and clean your hands thoroughly.

How about commonly touched surfaces like the taps, doorknobs and switches?  Yes, that too. Again more spraying, more sanitizing and wiping down with alcohol-based cleaning solution.

Hey, you cannot use the same wipe or the same cloth, you will be transferring the germs from one surface to another.  Use tissues?  Oh no, that’s so wasteful, so not environmentally friendly and so uneconomical. Your mind tells you not to think about environmental issues so now we have gotten rid of plastic and we are dumping tissues? I tell myself tissues are recyclable and the garbage bags we use are recyclable. Perhaps you can use the cloth, then you have to wash and dry the cloth, you think about water usage. Perhaps you can soak all the dirty cloth in soapy water, you imagine all those microbes dancing in the pail. Of course, you think about the environment when you feel compelled to throw away some good plastic bags just because you need to remove the contents as told by all the information fed to you and me. I shudder to think about where all the discarded disposable masks will end up. Am I just performing the procedure for a false sense of comfort?

Silly, you just make sure you wash own hands and avoid touching your face. Oh, that hair in my face, I just flipped it away, was my right hand clean?  Silly you’re supposed to always press the lift button or turning the doorknob with one hand and leave the other hand clean. But I cannot recall which hand  I  use to open the door or press the lift button, the strand of hair is tickling,  I cannot ask you to push it away for I cannot trust another person’s hand.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. How long are twenty seconds, you are told you sing Happy Birthday twice, how many birthdays have passed. Twenty seconds when a zillion thoughts vanish from your head, have you scrubbed your hands clean? I notice that my hands are dry from all the washing. Remember don’t touch MEN,  mouth, eyes and nose. It is time to drop the bad habit of touching my lips when I speak and rubbing my eyes when eyes are tired.  Wear your mask.  It helps to keep your hands away from your face when your mask is on.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. All that blabbering, all that in your head.

Here is delivery.

Every packet of stuff you have bought online or received seems to be staring at you, daring you to touch them, open them without wiping any sanitizer down. Does your sanitizer contain 70% alcohol? Yes, that too. Is it safe to breathe in all these alcohol-based sanitizers? 

Marble gorge at Taroko National Park

Then I stumbled upon the Spanish film TOC TOC. The movie is about OCD patients. How relatable. One of the female patients has a career in the laboratory, she has seen all kinds of microorganisms under the microscope. The cleaners threaten to complain to the Union when she starts mopping the floors despite their protests. The therapist is actually amongst the patients, pretending to be one of them, but the patients do not know. It is hilarious and it is a reminder that I do not become overly obsessed about those microbes. Sadly I can no longer be taking off my shoes without imagining them swarming with germs or lounge around after returning from work without hurriedly heading to the bathroom for a good shower head to toes. 

Arundhati Roy has written an excellent article in Financial Times, stating that the pandemic is a portal between the old world and new world. click Here is an excerpt from the article.

Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality,’ trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” 

We are going through extraordinary times. Perhaps the world needs some sort of resetting hence the pause caused by the epidemic is necessary but not all setbacks are equal. When  I find myself bothered by the presence of microbes, I watch Holly who seems to sniff at everything like she is Inspector Clouseau and how she skips and yelps when she is about to step out for a walk whenever she sees one of us picking up the leash. I find myself drinking my coffee and tasting my wine and food with more intent.

There is a kind of strangeness, something is brewing, it is certainly not coffee.


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