They are times of sadness
I feel like someone is spitting some extra loneliness on my heart every time a notification about new virus containment measures pops up in my phone. Do not misunderstand me: as the coronavirus situation continues to be a cause for concern, I will carefully follow all the restrictions in order to protect vulnerable groups and make sure the healthcare system can cope.
Coming from a country where wearing a mask is compulsory everywhere –even inside restaurants whilst waiting for the food to be served,– I could only become conscious about strangers’ facial expressions upon my arrival in the Netherlands. Individuals lowering the corners of their mouth. People afraid of being too close to other pedestrians. “A tinge of sadness hovers in their faces,” was a common thought of mine. There is scarce debate about subduing this other pandemic: they are times of sadness. Can sadness be a political outcome? Or, are we as individuals the one and only responsible of our low mood?
As the Times publishes referring to a couple scientific studies, it is well-documented that natural disasters, wars and other mass traumas can lead to significant increases in population-wide psychological distress. Weeks or months of anxiety, fear, sadness and social isolation can take their toll. Nevertheless, I wonder whether this other sorrow that overwhelmed many, but which is not necessarily diagnosed, would appear in the future historical archives.
It may seem that we are sad because we are no longer able to gather together and have dinner with all the people we love around the same table; we can’t French kiss, not even kiss; we can’t toast and share a drink on a party night; we can’t sweat during music festivals or regret we didn’t manage to get a ticket for a concert; we can’t walk with our grandparents without some fear; we can’t enjoy the explosion of life that kids represent when leaving from the school door; we can’t make love with strangers, not even meet strangers. Nonetheless, this is superficial melancholy –sometimes regarded as a luxury for those who already had food, shelter and health. But I am concerned about the sadness that has taken root in the soul; and that will may not go away when circumstances change.
In the meantime, I will try to make the most of these times of retreat and reflection. I will try to forget that the phone notifications may pop up in any moment to tell me that I should wall off myself a bit more. And I will try to maintain our hope cherishing the love of the ones that are around me and spreading smiles to strangers, the people I walk by in the streets, those in the supermarket or my unknown peers at university corridors.