Quarantine Diaries: Day 53

13 May 2020 // 20 Ramadan

the details of my day are not worth mentioning. it was no different than yesterday and the day before and the one before that. i have nothing to say except this:

when lockdown started in mid-March, we were stifled with uncertainty and ignorant of how long it would take to get back to our lives. we were all baffled and in collective distress. the imminent threat and consequent anxiety were rippling all around us, invading our minds and permeating our homes and ghosting our streets. for the first time in our lives, we were all feeling the same emotions, thinking the same thoughts. we were separated and in isolation, but none of us was alone. we were all understanding and understood. those of us that didn’t get infected by the virus, they were sure sick with its looming all around. the thing with this pandemic is that it clogs our minds before clinging to our lungs, and sometimes it fails to infect our bodies but it surely succeeds in disrupting our lives. at this point we just held our breaths and waited for April.

when April finally arrived, we were only faced with disappointment and there was no sign of getting out. some of us took hold of their pens and filled their papers till they ran out of notebooks. some of us stocked up on canvases and turned their homes into galleries. some of us read book after book while some could not turn a single page. some of us spent all their waking hours switching between bed and the couch running marathons on Netflix as an attempt to escape the reality of the rising numbers and gloomy predictions. many of us cleared our desks and sat there facing those inanimate screens that were the only form of contact we had with the world. all of a sudden a lifeless object fed our need for human contact; it kept us alive and sane behind those locked doors and between those lonely walls.

we said maybe Ramadan would be it. it would come and bring the airs of Heaven along with it. it came, it blessed our hearts and cleansed our souls, but it kept us home, praying in the solitude of our tiny rooms. we prayed like never before. millions of us, scattered across the globe, asking God for the same exact blessing in a hundred different languages. we whispered to the sky incessantly like birds chirping at the crack of dawn and went to sleep with surrendered hearts.

we kept holding our breaths with the hope that May would bring our release from our homes — those houses of ours that started to feel too small and suffocating for our arms and legs that yearned to stretch and move. May came and it only succeeded to dishearten and disappoint. do we have any more hope left for June? i think we need to stop holding our breath and just breathe in our safe homes and befriend our new close allies — our masks and gloves — until our collective human fate makes a turn for the good and sees the light of day at last…

A Blessing in Disguise?

Photos by @wanderwithnada

I’ve been anticipating the indescribable joy that would overfill every heart in the whole nation when they finally tell us the condition of the virus is under control and quarantine is over and we can go out whenever we want to wherever we want with as many friends in the car as we can fit…

You know how when the electricity goes off and it stays dark and hot for a while? We find ourselves gathered in the dark, lighting candles and blowing air with random objects… Just when it’s about to get really frustrating and uncomfortable, the light suddenly comes back. Joy and gratitude envelope every single cell in our bodies and we all feel giddy and smile so big and some of us even hug it out..! Then, with the company of our grateful hearts, we all go back to our rooms and carry on living our evening where we left it.

That’s what I imagine it to be like when the spell of the virus is over and quarantine becomes a distant bittersweet memory — a memory that we still can’t comprehend how we managed to go through without completely losing our sanity!

Light would come back to every house and every mosque and every street and every school and every university and every gym and every restaurant and every mall and every airport; and most importantly, hospitals would finally restore their calm and safety. We would no longer hear multiple ambulance sirens every day…

Those of us that were staying at home for however many weeks will burst out onto the streets with euphoric smiles and laughter; and those of us that were risking their lives to keep us all safe will finally get their rest (and free coffee for the rest of their lives, I hope).

It’s as though God wanted to us truly feel the love that ties us to one another as families and friends; to remind us of the innate solidarity we share with our fellow humans — a kind of solidarity history will brand as new and never seen before. A solidarity that overlooked politics and nationalities and races and religions and preexisting disputes and merely did the most human thing to do: to help.

This crisis has planted in us a newfound appreciation for our planet that we’ve been mistreating for decades. I, for one, foresee unimaginable good coming out of this unforeseen crisis.

Transmutation

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How can one feel so lost, yet know that this is the state that they are meant to be in at the given moment? So confused, yet know that this veil is only obscuring clarity for a short while? So broken, yet know that every whole and enlightened soul had their pieces scattered and threads torn apart before they were rebuilt into the loving wise humans they became?

Tell me, am I as lost as I feel?
Am I as confused as I feel?
Am I, oh God, as broken as every inch of me feels?

Four Years

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1101 pm
1460 days later.
3rd of October 2019.
this evening 4 years ago,
i was in a hospital room
lying on a bed next to yours,
listening to music
to mute the fear
of what could happen to you
during the hours of the night.

it’s 11 pm now.
i remember switching turns with mom
to hold the oxygen mask
over your nose
because it bothered you,
but we had to secure it
because your body needed it.
my eyelids were getting heavy
and my arms started to ache.
you moaned from exhaustion
and cried silently at times.

i gave you oxygen
hoping that you’d sleep
and wake up better tomorrow.
i didn’t know
that you were going
to take your last breath
just a few hours from then,
so early in the morning..

it’s 4 years later tonight,
but the hospital scent
and the heart monitor beeps
are as vivid and real
as though no time has passed,
as though it’s happening right now..

1258 pm
1461 days later.
it’s the Fourth of October again.
a Friday this time, not a Sunday.
i’m sitting on the pink couch
that used to open up to be your bed.
i feel numb, like i know nothing
that could make me feel something.
i don’t know what this means.
am i desensitized from all the grief?
or healed from it?
what do you think?

it’s 330 pm now.
i’m in a café, reading a book.
four years ago at this hour,
strangers were filling our house.
i was locked in my bedroom,
in utter shock,
writing meaningless words
on sticky notes,
wondering where you were,
what was life and what was death,
and what exactly did it all mean..

when i did come out,
i saw grandma downstairs.
i noticed her eyes weren’t lined with kohl,
and i realized
that this wasn’t just a bad dream
on a Sunday morning sleep-in..

my tears came in waves.
sometimes
i looked blankly at a wall
as tiny tears streamed down my cheeks,
and sometimes
i weeped and fell to the floor
from the weight of the grief
and the heavy presence of your absence
in this house.

it’s different now.
you know how it is.
you prefer it this way.
and i think i do too.

we’re united
as pure souls.
grief and longing
are not the rope that connects us
anymore.
it’s deeper now.
so pure, it’s ineffable.
words don’t do it justice.
it’s out of language,
deep in the soul.

only you and i understand it.

My Love, İstanbul

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by Emre Gencer

I find myself a seat in the corner of a coffee shop; brown table, wood everywhere, the aroma of coffee and caramel filling the air. I place my book on the table or on my lap—either way my neck bends so low it aches after a few pages—and I lose myself in a different world, touching the pages as though caressing a lover. Recently I’ve been double-pretending; the first setting is that of the novel I’m reading, and the second is İstanbul. Wherever my body happens to be, my soul is nowhere but in İstanbul, all day and all night. This she-city; my loyal friend and my enchanting lover, my mind’s remedy and my heart’s home. I am under Her sky, my skin absorbing the life radiating from Her sun, my consciousness expanding in Her language, my feelings expressing themselves in Her tongue. İstanbul is the lover I never got to meet in the body of a human; She’s the beloved to whom all my love poems are about. İstanbul is both a manifestation of my soul and a being all on Her own. I don’t know where I end and She begins. I have never loved as fervently and wholeheartedly as I have fallen for Her. It is the waters that soften Her edges that are the blood that swirls in my body. It is the echoes of Her past with all its tragedies and triumphs that engulf me and make me believe that life is worth living, no matter how long it takes for it to feel like so. It is Her complexity, Her fascinating identity, Her secrets and hopes and memories that have slipped into a haze of amnesia that I most relate to… It is the voices of the souls that have taken Her as their home, both as a blessing and a curse, that fill my mind as I pretend that the corner I’m sitting in is on Her land, by one of Her flowing waters or in one of Her cafés. This is what keeps me thriving as I count the days to have Her air be the oxygen that kisses my lungs; to have the chirping of Her birds be the pleasant sound I wake up to in the morning and the flirtatious song of Her shores and rains that I go to sleep to at night.

On a Plane

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by Vincent Versluis

On a plane, I am nowhere and everywhere all at once.

I am not the person time and space dictate that I am. Instead, I am a combination of all the versions of myself that I have embodied in the 18 years of my human existence. It’s 2017 rather than 2019—my happiest year rather than my most challenging yet; it’s a long summer vacation rather than a fleeting spring break; I’m going to a new city and sleeping in a hotel room rather than home in my own bed; I’m content rather than floating in a sea of melancholy; and instead of completely lost, I am grounded in my trance of not being in one fixed spot on the planet. Instead of it being a few weeks before my 19th birthday, it’s a few weeks after my 30th; instead of anxiously standing at the beginning of my life, I’m in the middle with the satisfaction of having fulfilled significant accomplishments and lived some of my dreams; instead of being just a student struggling with her sense of self, I am the strong independent woman that knows, accepts, forgives and respects herself enough to cast away the shadow of darkness that had been weighing over her for way too long.

On a plane, I am no one and everyone all at once.

Note To Self: II

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by Casper Nichols

I am finally confronting the rebel within me and waking her up to the fact that it is not physical freedom that I lack, but rather, psychological freedom that resides in my own mind. Yes, I am the prisoner and the imprisoned. I hold the key, even though I’ve locked myself in and thrown it away.

‘How is that?’ I ask myself.

‘Well, here’s how. First, let’s get the paradox of the key out of the way. I have the key to the door of this cell. Where is it? Look under the bed, in the drawers, in the books. Oh, don’t waste your energy looking in the wrong places. You are the key. You are your own salvation. You. It’s all you. You put yourself in here, and only you can get yourself out. You think you need a key of the material realm—driving license, your own apartment, sufficient financial independence—yet that’s no true key! Those attainments are beyond the door whose key you hold! Those dreams of yours will not be the cause of your happiness nor the sign of your freedom. They cannot be! Because they are not the source. They go through a process of manifestation, and that process’s first step is your psyche. So stop fiddling and quarreling with the outer world and look within for a moment. You need to heal the mess inside to produce a beautiful life on the outside. You are the cause, and the manifestation of your dreams is the effect. That is, you must be free on the inside to live that freedom on the outside; you must have a garden of joy for a mind to have a garden of happiness for a life; you must feel whole on the inside—compassionate and self-forgiving—to have a meaningful life. It all starts within. You are the first step. And if you neglect to start from here and go on your way to bring about your visions on the superficial realm of the material world, then, oh dear, you would be destroying your soul and killing yourself with all that effort and dread day in and day out. When you start your journey from the right starting point, you not only guarantee your arrival, but you also get to reach it through the easiest, least resistant, most divinely guided way.’

‘Easy and divinely guided? How?’ you ask again.

‘You’ll have the company of your wise soul; you’ll have your connection with your Loving Creator.’