It’s the morning of Day 4 of being locked down in Italy in order to fight the spread of the covid-19 virus, when I realize how profoundly calm I feel. It is a good feeling, and I embrace it, just sitting still and relishing the sound of birdsong in the garden. But there is something oddly familiar about this feeling. When have I felt this way before, I ask myself, and then I remember.
Six years ago nearly to the day, I was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly and unexpectedly, my life had changed. All of the superfluous details and worries of daily life just fell away, and a doctor was outlining the next steps I would be taking. My life, and its outcome, were no longer in my hands; I was now just following instructions as to what to do. And I felt calm.
When the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte spoke on television to the nation last Monday, and outlined our new reality of living a locked down life, I tried to listen and grasp the enormity of what he was saying, in the same way that I tried to shake off the sense of shock and comprehend the doctor’s words when he told me I had a tumor. In the same way that I followed the doctor’s instructions, I was now following the new rules set forth by the Italian government. My life was once again out of my hands, its outcome unsure. The difference being that now 60 million other people were living this same life along with me, while we try to imagine a future when this will all be over.
Today, I can look back 6 years ago, and feel my good luck – I am well, cured, healthy. But today I cannot leave my home unless it is a medical emergency or I need to buy basic food or medicinal supplies, which must be done at the nearest store, and I must carry paperwork to have the right to do that. I cannot see friends or family, every non-essential shop has been shuttered, but wait, even restaurants? In Italy? Yes. So, I stay home, along with 60 million fellow citizens, and we wait and hope. It is all we can do. We watch the number of infected cases of the virus climb, and reassure each other that this must happen before the peak is reached, before things will get better. There will be a positive outcome, we tell ourselves, we will recover.
And then we hear that more countries in the world are heavily infected, and the same strict restrictions in Italy are now being put in place in other countries. A pandemic is officially declared. We are no longer 60 million citizens going through this, and I realize we never were – it is the whole world. And we don’t know where we are headed.
And yet I am calm. Because I think that this virus will touch everyone, and finally we will realize that we are a global community. And the disaster that this virus is causing affects all of us, but unlike cancer, the outcome is in our hands. This is our chance to step forward and create a better world, one of global solidarity.
With love from Italy –