Last Monday, May 4th, Italy started Phase 2 of our lockdown. I woke up early that morning to the sound of cars outside my window. After living with silence for well over two months, the gentle whir of the few cars passing by woke me up. Never before had I realized how that sound was the background soundtrack of my mornings.
Just as the restrictions came upon us in stages, so will their removal. This phase allows for a very limited set of businesses to start work again. The rest of us, however, are allowed out only to exercise and visit our loved ones, one at the time (you can imagine the lively discussions as to who could fall into this group. Does your lover count? Your second cousin? Your drinking buddy without whom you couldn’t get through life?).
Like a child anxiously waiting for Christmas morning, I was beside myself with the anticipation of getting out for my morning power walk. And it was glorious, being able to walk around the streets as far and as long as I wanted. I felt as though I were breaking free.
There were fewer people than I thought, although, admittedly, it was early in the morning. But there was still a percentage of the people who were out without masks, or rather, often wearing their masks on their chins, running, or strolling and chatting in little groups as if all was good. At first, I just ignored it, but the more people I saw like this, the more anxious I became, trying to work out routes with not too many people around. The majority of the people were all in masks, just trying to get fresh air, but still….
Each day more and more people have ventured out. Many that I spoke to shared my feelings: joy of freedom tinged with apprehension. After living in a cocoon for 10 weeks, was it going to be OK to venture out? Were we being paranoid or cautious? Milan’s mayor, in quite colourful and forceful language, had to threaten people that he would close back up the Navigli area, a favourite spot for “aperitivi”, because of the partying crowds, many of whom were unmasked.
I know that, like me, the whole population is much more emotionally ragged than we were two months ago. After months of isolation and self-restraint, the impulse to indulge, just a little, is pushing us. We all want to just hurry up and move on.
I remind myself that like most transformations, this transition process is iterative. At the beginning of lockdown, I had to spend time going within and anchoring myself. I find that I’m now repeating the process as I enter the next round of the cycle. How do I go out (literally and figuratively) into the world? How do we move forward personally and collectively without leaving collateral damage?
I have always found Italians to be resilient and able to withstand even the toughest ups and downs. It is this spirit that I am relying on – the conviction that, in the long run, “tutto andrà bene” – it will all work out. We all have to work towards it; I certainly will.
But for now, I’m staying home a little while longer.
All the best,