Unlocking Paris: Remembering confinement

56 days in confinement and today marks the start of deconfinement (a word my computer spell check does not recognize). If I’m honest my life won’t change much except the fact that I’ll no longer need a permission slip to leave the apartment.

The virus isn’t gone. We still play a role in keeping essential workers safe. Restaurants have not reopened, with the exception of take away and delivery (note: please try to order directly through the restaurant wherever possible so they don’t lose money to the 3rd party apps). There’s no word on when cultural institutions will reopen, when I’ll next go to the cinema, or to the gym. For now I’ll keep getting my exercise in the comforts of my living room, hoping that my floorboards stay where they belong.

Logistically we need masks when we go into stores and shops. Starting this week you’ll need an attestation (permission slip) to ride the metro, proving it’s required for work. I’ve come to realize that 46-day transit strike this winter was good training for a post-confinement world. We’re not allowed more than 100km without a valid reason, majorly curbing travel. (As it stands I don’t see myself hopping on a plane for at least a year).

Schools for young kids are reopening, but classes will be split into smaller groups, who will attend twice a week. I haven’t heard about the reopening of parks, but some streets will become pedestrianized, or at least will lose some parking in favor of enlarging sidewalks. I currently love walking outside and looking at everyone and realizing, “you’re my neighbor.” I’m hoping that post-confinement allows me to continue to walk down the middle of the street, a favorite pastime I developed while in confinement, as I embraced the spirit of my city as a living movie set.  (I shared more on that sentiment in this piece HiP Paris compiled about the first thing Parisians will do after lockdown.)

While it may seem strange to get nostalgic about lockdown, a lot of really good things happened during lockdown too; growth in unexpected ways. I put together a list of 10 things I want to remember about lockdown.

  1. The creativity was insane. “Creative constraints” at their finest. I loved seeing people all around the world reinventing simple tasks, and having fun with it. My friend Emily and I pretended to be “Slackbot” for each other every day during our daily check ins over text. 🤖 Yes, we became human bots! (John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” episodes each week did such an amazing job of capturing all of this.)
  2. It’s possible to smile, laugh, and find joy even in dark/hard times. The two are not mutually exclusive. The former helps get us through the later and makes us stronger. We can help rise each other up on days one of us is down.
  3. Small things can amuse me to no end. We can easily overcomplicate things, so this was a good reminder to find pleasure in the simplest things. Allow yourself to not take everything so seriously.
  4. Showing up and starting is the biggest battle, but it helps to have a reason to. Every weekday morning I started “commuting to London” for Writer’s Hour where a bunch of strangers show up and write together. Knowing you’re not alone is so powerful and the chat box helped keep us accountable.
  5. Good habits can serve you well. I didn’t let myself snooze on week days, instead, waking up at 7:10. It was a habit I’d spent years perfecting, and I wasn’t about to let it go now. During lockdown I started doing a 1-min plank + 20 push-ups every day. It was the only thing I did every day besides brush my teeth. It made me feel stronger inside and out, and took a whopping 2-minutes out of my day. For a long time I rebelled against too much structure, but in time alone, I saw how it can serve me well.
  6. Journaling is incredibly therapeutic and a great way to start the day. Do it long hand and don’t edit yourself. I plan on keeping this. It helps process. (And was even the first version of this post where I just vomited out any and all ideas.)
  7. You can do/achieve things in crazy contexts. For years I’ve wanted to host people and have friends over more often. It makes me laugh so hard that I did this over and over while in quarantine! I even managed to launch my own series of workshops—something I’ve wanted to do for far too long—in quarantine (I ran Write Your Own Rules SEVEN times and my Make a Map! CreativeMornings virtual FieldTrip TWICE; on top of it I did a couple other new workshops for clients, and am part of the ReWilding Virtual Retreat that kicks off this week.)
  8. You can connect with strangers and meet new friends even in lockdown! I attended several parties where I only knew the host and was in awe of what a nice time I had chatting with people around the world who I didn’t know, and didn’t know me. I also hosted a virtual apéro where two friends met, and one ended up baking a birthday cake for the other the next day.
  9. Connection is key. It’s fun to connect people who don’t know each other but should. Lockdown was a good reminder we’re all looking for connection. I also managed to fit in a high school reunion with friends who haven’t all been together since college, and caught up with a cousin I hadn’t seen in over a decade. It turns out that Zoom has a lot of cool features to help facilitate connection too.
  10. Be your full self. I love how quarantine removed the shields of perfection, making us all a bit more real and vulnerable. It’s how we were able to better connect with each other. When we aren’t our full, true self, that’s when we get in trouble. It’s OK to go a bit crazy. Heck, I made a few hundred people draw maps on bananas—and they LOVED it!!

Over the weekend on Instagram I posed the question, “What would you title this chapter of your life?” as part of my “Quarantine Questions” series (in case you missed it, one of the ways I kept myself amused was painting my nails a different color ever week!). The responses were wonderful and wide reaching, providing a reminder that this experience was not the same for everyone. I shared my ideas in the post, but ultimately I ended up with the title, “Anything is possible” to embody the experience for me.

Quarantine was strangely full for me. With fewer distractions and phone scrolling (a habit I had to do a lot of work on early on), I still found it hard to get to bed before midnight despite rarely leaving the apartment. It wasn’t a race to do more or fill a weird time with something to do, but days passed strangely fast. I wanted to read more but never could find the focus (or maybe I really just wasn’t excited about the book I was reading). Quarantine was really about saying YES to opportunity, taking risks in the ways I could, and helping bring a bit of joy and positive spirit to those who were having a harder time. I was able to use my training as a self employed person who already worked from home and put it to good use.

It’s wild to think that two and a half months ago I never would have imagined I’m writing this post today. As hard as it is, I still have faith that the world will come out stronger from having lived through this shared experience together.

Even though we’re getting unlocked today, the journey is not over. Please stay safe. Respect distance. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Repeat.

The last page of my “official” quarantine journal. Perhaps I’ll keep it going. Maybe I’ll let it go. Time will tell…

To stay up to date on what’s happening in France, my favorite Twitter accounts are from reporters @john_lichfield, @kimwillsher1, and@PedderSophie if you want synthesized reporting in English. You can also stream France24 (English channel on YouTube).

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