I hope you’re doing well, the Fall is off to a good start, that the summer brought you some fun and relaxation, time to just forget all your problems and do things you enjoy, and now the kids are back in school, you’re back at work, and I hope you’re busy with some exciting projects and plans. And in many places, countries and cities, the acute phase of the Covid crisis is easing a little, due to vaccines, masks, and sensible practices that have become routine for us, and are easy to maintain.
In many, many cases, these long Covid months have separated us from people we love, and want to spend time with. I was separated from my children by an ocean and a continent, and the fallout and dangers of Covid 19 for fifteen very long months. With restrictions, curfews (at 6pm in Paris for a while), and lockdowns, my world and my social life dwindled to nothing, and is still very limited, in terms of who I see, and how much I go out, and only outdoor dining. Many people are still not back in their offices, and are working remotely, people have moved away from the cities where they lived and worked before the pandemic, so there seem to be fewer people in our lives. There are also fewer social activities and opportunities to meet new people with reduced social lives, but in spite of that I have been struck by renewed contracts with people I haven’t heard from in a long time, who suddenly surfaced to inquire how I am. And by sheer happenstance, I have connected with new friends who are a real gift in my life, and were totally unexpected. Unexpected romances and relationships have started in the same way too for many people. Life does go on, even if temporarily on hold and different than it was before.
Work, professional activities and our jobs still bring us into contact with new people, even if only on line. Particularly in the creative fields, we are all starving for contact with other humans and experiences, which we need to fuel our inspiration to create, whether it be music, art, design, or literary. Every artist, designer, or writer I have spoken to is suffering from their diminished opportunities for inspiration from a broader world. I struggle with it myself, my life is much quieter and more isolated than it was before Covid. We are all anxious for that to improve, whether creative or not, but I think people in the arts are really feeling the lack of daily stimuli.
The flip side of that quiet coin is that we are doing less in the world, in order to be careful and mindful of Covid. Every day requires decisions from us of what is worth the risk, and how much. It’s a movable marker that changes day by day. And I certainly see fewer people, and do fewer things outside my home now, in order to be responsible. With fewer activities, I have written more, but I also have more time to reach out to people I know, on line, or respond to people who’ve reached out to me, whom I might not have taken the time to correspond with before. But with a little more time, and hungry for that human contact, I’ve been more open to new connections, which in some cases have turned out to be a real blessing in my life, and enrich it immeasurably. It’s particularly fun to ‘meet’ other creatives, in a variety of fields. And I’ve met all of them by accident because of Covid, so the experience hasn’t been all bad, and some of my already existing friendships have deepened in the stressful war-time atmosphere that has impacted us all.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a museum in another country contacted me, with time on their hands too, they had gone through their archives to ‘clean house” and discovered that my grandfather had loaned them a small painting for an exhibit many years ago, which somehow got forgotten, never got returned, and was still at the museum. My grandfather had died shortly after, no one knew about the loaned painting, and they never claimed it. It wasn’t valuable, but it belonged to his heirs, which was me. They contacted me and offered to return it to me. I didn’t fall in love with the painting when they sent me a photo of it, and decided to donate it to the museum since it had already been there for years. They were very pleased and the curator who had made contact is a lovely woman, and we’ve had a wonderful correspondence that has gone on for a year. In non-covid times, I would never have taken the time to get to know her. Buried under mountains of work, meeting deadlines, travelling constantly to see my kids, I would have made a fast decision about the painting and let it go at that. Working from home, the curator had time too that she wouldn’t have had otherwise. It has been a lovely exchange now for a year, and we hope to meet one day.
And I did a crazy thing, during one of the lonely lockdowns in France. My favorite series cheered me late at night when I was anxious and lonely. One of them is a British show that I have loved for years. The sound of the actors’ familiar voices was comforting, alone in my apartment for 77 days. I did something I’ve never done before. I researched the woman who created it and writes the show, got her address from a friend who works in TV in London, and wrote the first fan letter I have ever written, to tell the writer how much the show has meant to me. I would NEVER have done that in normal times. But suddenly, living daily with a lot of anxiety and fear, we are more open and more vulnerable, more emotional, and aware of things we paid no attention to before. It had never occurred to me before to write to the creator of that show, although I’ve loved it for a decade and watch it faithfully. But suddenly, in the craziness of the pandemic, it seemed okay to reach out, so I did on a sudden impulse one night. Much to my astonishment, she answered me the next day, and she had been reading my books since her teens. We had a powerful mutual admiration for each other, had a million things in common, and she has become a fantastic friend, although we still haven’t met. Our birthdays are even one day apart. She writes me hysterically funny letters, and our shared view of the literary world and the world of TV has given us a lot of laughs. She is a kindred spirit, and I adore her. Wow!!! Imagine if I had never written to her. She is a huge gift in my life!!
And along the way, I did a collaboration with a young Irish fashion designer, whom I’ve admired for years, and presto magic a new mutual admiration was born, across miles and generations. We did a podcast together, and the collaboration was a wonderful experience!!! Right there, I had three new friends, without ever leaving my house or meeting them. And then a fourth, an artist in Germany sent me a pastel portrait of my late son Nick as a gift (because she had spare time too), which really touched my heart, and we have corresponded too. She is incredibly talented and a lovely person, and she is currently working on a project for me, that I plan to give my children at Christmas.
And in addition to that, an artist in San Francisco whom I have admired for years, but haven’t seen in a long time, reached out to me. I have many many of his paintings in my home, but we had lost touch. He wrote to me out of the blue, and said what a hard time he was having painting in the pandemic, and what a challenge it was to create in a vacuum, isolated from people and the world as we know it. I answered immediately and shared that it was hard for me too. (All the people in the arts who have written to me have said the same). I shared my own experiences with him by email, and the exchange helped both of us, and inspired us. I was SO happy to have heard from him, and so grateful that he’d written to me.
So even though we are alone more, and spend more time at home, and the pandemic has been isolating for many people, even most people,—-flowers pop up through the snow and ice, and bring spring back into our lives in the frozen winter we have lived for eighteen months. Email has certainly helped us reach out to others, this would all be a lot worse without it. (I accidentally spilled a glass of water into my computer a week ago, and I panicked at the loss of contact for 3 days. The internet is a huge blessing right now, and keeps us connected to others and the broader world.)
I am so grateful for these friendships that have appeared, flourished, and the old ones that have survived or been reborn. we are social animals and need other humans, but in the midst of the silence, the darkness and at times the loneliness, some wonderful friendships (and even romances) are born. And I am SOOOO grateful for that, and for the old and new friends in my life. And I am certain that these friendships will last much longer than Covid, and be stronger than they would have been, because of it. So some good has come of the challenges of the Covid crisis after all!!!Have a wonderful week!!!