The Covid Diaries - Letter to my sis

This lockdown has shone the light on some important life lessons, not least of which is the importance of staying in touch with you. Perhaps this letter will connect us and provide us both some relief. Forgive me if it depresses you.

The irony of being in the same place but not together is not lost on me

Dear Felly

I woke up a few minutes ago, in the dead of the night, overwhelmed by a deep sense of emptiness - and feelings of loss, loneliness and trepidation. It is like someone, or something, has opened my belly, ripped out my innards, creating a void that is now sucking my soul into empty space.

The pressure of this vacuum, this nothingness, is sucking the life out of me with oppressive force.

I do not recognise this feeling at all. Never have I felt despair and helplessness in equal measure. For the first time in my life I feel I'm not in control of many things, except the pen I'm holding and the thoughts running through my mind.

I want to call to check on you and the family, to hear your voice and get to know how you are doing - but it's in the middle of the night and I do not want to wake you up.

This lockdown has shone the light on some important life lessons, not least of which is the importance of staying in touch with you. Perhaps this letter will connect us and provide us both some relief. Forgive me if it depresses you.

Oh, my sis! We have not seen each other for six months now. Had I known that a killer virus would drive a wedge so sharply through our worlds, I would have spent two weeks of Christmas holidays with you. I would have told you how much you mean to me every-day of the week. 

But I took it for granted that you would always be there. It just goes to show what a mistake thinking like this is!  

I have a new routine. Out with the 'gym, work, home' habit. In with working away from office and creating a completely new habit. I have learnt new words: telecommuting, Zoom, MS Teams, freeze! My home life and my work life have merged into one and the same thing. Like a mixture of oil and water. It would have been easier to separate them if things could settle - with the oil moving the top. But the constant perturbations from my work and the pressure to deliver is preventing any settling. 

And family? The irony of being in the same place but not together is not lost on me.

I have 'converted' our dining table into my workstation, to avoid a fight with Taku over access to the study room table. Do you think it’s the right decision? Anyhow, I would never have won the battle for the study room table. And even if I had ‘won,’ what kind of a father would that make me? One who neglects the future of my child for the ‘greater good’? Isn’t the pursuit of happiness for our children and family the very reason we work so hard?

It's amazing how much we are readjusting everything!

Even more intriguing is how much my work is expanding to fill up the time. I'm in my office by 08:00hrs and leave around 19:00hrs - often wondering where my day has gone. Time has shrunk and going through my day feels like completing a marathon in two hours. 

Yesterday was especially hectic. A cold, wet and dark British day. As if to remind me to be grateful of the privileges of my warm house, the trees outside swayed violently as nature blew strong winds through Cambridge. As I looked out the window, I quietly hoped that wind would blow away this Covid19 crisis. I could not feel the trees’ pain – but could certainly hear the cries and whistles of leaves and branches cutting through the silence of the morning.

I brew coffee before diving into a new virtual world. There I met many of my colleagues. Hour after hour of meetings went by. I barely had time to think. The highlight was a teleconference with Dr. David Nabarro, one of six Special Envoys appointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. He gave a powerful talk on Covid 19, describing the public health measures underway. 

'It is not like Ebola, or HIV so do not describe it as such' he advised. I was struck by a question from one of my colleagues on the origin of the virus. Dr. Nabarro indicated that scientific consensus is that the virus spilt-over from animals to humans. It is very unlikely to be a laboratory accident. 

I had four meetings thereafter. I didn't realise it was late until Taku came to offer me some food and check if I wanted to go for a run. We usually go out once everyday on a mandatory run. It's our only time to exercise. The only time to put behind us the worries and uncertainties of the current situation and enjoy the fresh air, watch the softly alluring contours of English farms and enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, there was too much headwind and running would have been foolhardy. 

Nonetheless, it was time to leave 'the office.' I tried to stand up but my knees gave in. That feeling of emptiness was weighing heavily on me. But how can emptiness weigh so heavy? Taku came over and helped me go to my bedroom. I remember his words as I slowly fell into a deep sleep: 'dad you are stressed. You've been working super hard these last few days and you are not eating properly. Take it easy...'

He is right. I should take care. And I hope you are taking it easy too. I love you.

Max