Stay home. Socially distance, isolate, quarantine. The whole world is doing the same thing right now. It’s crazy to think about – no matter your nation, or beliefs, or age, or status – you are inside.
I asked the question “Are you spending the time of social distancing alone, or with someone” today in my story. Most people are with someone – family, boyfriends, roommates. But about a quarter of us reported to be alone. Isolating with others is very different from isolating solo – and I don’t think of us actually chose it this way. But unless you were already living with someone, you can’t now take the risk of being near the people you love – you are a potential danger to everyone.
Since my divorce, I’ve grown very comfortable being alone. In Paris, I had completely embraced how selfish and untied down I was. I loved how no one had the ability to affect my mood or day, no one’s alarm woke me in the morning or movie-watching kept me up at night. I didn’t have to check with anyone before I made plans or decisions. I wasn’t remotely jealous of co-habitating couples. I didn’t envy their proper homes and giggling babies when I was out at night in Paris being kissed on bridges and caressed in cafes over creme brûlée… But oh, how that changes once you’re starring at the same, four walls all day, alone, and rendez-vous of any kind are officially canceled.
Suddenly, I really wish I had a giggling baby to spend these days with. Even a crying baby! I want a live-in boyfriend to cuddle me midday. Ideally a hot, shirtless one but at this point, I’d take anything. I want a roommate, even if she didn’t do her dishes and left her stuff everywhere. A dog, at the minimum. A massive, curly, goldendoodle. Someone to isolate with.
What do I have to keep me company…?
Memories, I realized.
As a writer, I write down everything. I notice everything. Little details that other people would glaze over, I note with such precession I can close my eyes and relive moments. And that’s what I have.
So though I am inside, I can take a morning walk down Rue Bretagne – though to be honest, I’ve never just walked it – I sort of skip, dance, and twirl down it. Though I’m not there now, I can feel the sunshine on my skin as I make my way back from ballet class at the Centre du Danse Marais. I can smell the chickens hypnotically roasting outside Stevenot, I can see the pastel-colored pastries being arranged behind the glass at Foucade. I can hear the high-pitched voices of little, French children playing in the Square du Temple Elie-Wisel. I can smell the wonderfully delicious stink that alludes from Fromagerie 39 on the corner of Rue Charlot, I can hear the bustle as the stalls start to open at the Marche Enfants Rouge. I can see the red and white bistro chairs lined up outside Le Progres and hear the Parisians complaining in between puffs of cigarettes and sips of coffee.
And then I can cross and continue onto Rue Froissart until I end up on Boulevard Beaumarchais, in front of the big, green double doors that I call home. I can feel the cold metal on my fingertip as I type in the code and push the enormous door open. In my head, I can take the spiral, wooden stairs two at a time to the second floor and fiddle with the lock as the song I’m listening to fades out of my airpods and begins playing inside from the Kilburn in the salon. I can hang up my coat on the rack and feel my mouth twist into a grin and continue into my tiny, sun-filled apartment. Then I can hang my bag on the back of the little chair, and slip out of my jeans and back into my ballet shoes. And I can dance, alone in Paris.
I was devastated to leave Paris, but I knew I had to put the safety of my family and myself before everything. This pandemic is so much bigger than ourselves, and our desires. Priorities have shifted to family, health, and taking care of each other.
On the way to the airport back to the U.S. someone told me to only take the positive with me when I got on the plane, and those words stuck. I thought I’d spend the whole flight sad over saying goodbye to everything – my dream apartment, my jobs, my ballet class, my momentum, my friends, baguettes. Most of all baguettes. So instead, I spent the flight smiling. For eight hours I closed my eyes and relieved every happy moment I lived and felt gratitude for it. I remembered how much I built, and started, and lived, and accomplished in just six weeks. This is not the end of that life, it’s a pause. I’ll get back there, and when I do, I will love and appreciate being healthy, and happy, and in Paris even more – if that is even possible for me.
There’s a bottle of champagne in my suitcase that I brought back from Paris. It was a housewarming gift when I moved into my apartment. It’s a much fancier one than any I would ever buy myself, so I was saving it for something special. I wasn’t sure what that was, but I kept it in the fridge – chilled and ready for the moment I wanted to celebrate something monumental.
Now, I know just what that moment will be. The DAY this is over, I’ll be on a plane back to Paris. But before I leave for the airport, I’ll pop that cork, watch the bubbles spill down over the side, and then drink the whole, damn bottle.
If you’re alone in isolation – yes, you will Facetime with friends, and family, but there will be many hours you are just solo. So isolate with your best memories, isolate with your imagination. Use this time to really focus on what, and who makes you happy, and then start creating a plan about how to get those things when you’re freely back out in the world. Use this quiet time, because it is sometimes eerily quiet, to read, and write, and grow, and create.