Revelations In Isolation
Tenia Christopoulos reflects on how the pandemic has been a catalyst for positive change, and in that sense truly embodies the Easter spirit of renewal and rebirth.
An old friend called me from southern California. She unnerved me. She complained about this period of isolation, whining about her lack of freedom, being home with her husband, the boredom of a life by the pool, her lack of manicures, her Amazon orders which were arriving late. Her overgrown garden. Her son’s music.The first of many realizations hit me like the wind, almost knocking me over.
My initial reaction of annoyance was quickly replaced by sorrow. Perhaps she was experiencing the worst fate of all: an inability to be grateful. Depression leads to this state. One cannot feel gratitude.
There is just no joy. And one sadness and upset leads to another, resulting in anger, frustration, unhappiness and then guilt.
I was not born with depression. I thank the universe for this. The smallest things make me happy. It is just simply the way I was born. I didn’t learn how to be happy or optimistic; I suppose it is a genetic thing.
But I will say this, now, after a month of quasi-quarantine: there are lessons all around us! I am going through a continuous period of revelation, of what I call lessons. At the risk of sounding weird, I will call them messages. Laugh, if you want. But I feel bombarded with moments of sensuous beauty. These are mixed with meanings, those which I ascribe to them. The meanings are my own. I give no advice to others.Metaphysics never really interested me. But interpretation does.So here we are. No stores, no shopping, no material pursuits. No chatter in restaurants and cafes, no visitors. No travel, no boats or planes. We are in isolation. In stillness.
A few years ago, the center of my life, my love, my husband, died. He had given me a sparkling diplomat’s life, he had given me this nation, Greece, this home, and the most passionate love I had ever known. Life swirled around us, in Washington, in Jakarta, Bali, Australia, Tasmania, Paris, Brussels. We flew. We danced through twenty years. And then it was gone.The state of sorrow and grieving is one thing; chemical depression is another. My mourning was painful, like cut glass to the heart. A song, a scent, even a taste could set it off. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t write. I forgot names, plots of books, friends, even words. And, worse, I didn’t care.
And then, this Coronavirus. I want to preface this. This disease is taking hundreds of thousands of lives. Everything has been pushed to extremes through this suffering. We acquire masks, but the essential masks have fallen. Many of our emperors wear no clothes. There are not enough beds or ventilators in the most developed nations. The medical experts are ignored and our politicians become pseudo-gods. The center cannot, and does not, hold. And chaos is released. I am not insensitive to the victims. But I am not discussing the disease itself. I am discussing the “isolation”. Another lesson: how labels and words can brainwash. This word is anathema. This word means that we are totally cut off from everything we love and need. Why, then, for me did this new life experience arrive like a deus ex machina? This expression is often defined as “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.” Unlikely, indeed.
I walk slowly, unhurried, through vast fields of wildflowers in the foothills of a mountain range, Hymettus, I never noticed before. I see flowers, as if for the first time. I am enveloped in color and scent. Wisteria petals rain down on me when the wind blows and form a carpet of purple in my garden. The earth smells of new beginnings. I listen to bird songs. Opera makes sense to me now. I walk by the sea. How did I not know that the sun on waves is like a thousand diamonds? How did I not know that I would treasure this image more than actual diamonds in a forgotten safe?And the harvest of the earth! I see no one. I stop the perennial and dictatorial dieting. I taste marmalade again. And butter melting on toast. Mushrooms. Gelato. The sun came back! I am focused. I am writing. I am laughing and remembering and I no longer feel that familiar pain. These gifts are coming from somewhere. I will never know from where. And it doesn’t really matter to me. These are small revelations. Mine are not yours, but they are, somehow, universal. Easter is here. I am convinced that all people everywhere understand this, in one framework or another, with or without religion.
We do not survive without renewal. This is the meaning of resurrection, of rebirth. This is my revelation and it means everything to me. I have survived and, even finer, I feel a tremendous sense of energy, joy and rebirth.