THE NOSTALGIA OF LOCKDOWN
As most of us are easing our way back to our pre-lockdown way of life, some of us are already looking nostalgically at the days of lockdown, and are trying to make sense of the feeling of foreboding that accompanies our reticence to come out of the lockdown firing on all cylinders. Painful as the curtailment of our freedom of movement might have been, the lockdown paradoxically also came with a sense of freedom since it disturbed our sense of time and the necessity for punctuality.
Living in a village on the outskirts of Nicosia, I was almost always in an eccentric trajectory, feeling the constant need to make it to the city, to work, to the center, on time. The lockdown came with a concentric trajectory; it allowed me to feel more at home in the village, more relaxed when going for walks, more in tune with nature. It allowed me to look for and find for the first time some αγρέλια (wild asparagus); it allowed me to pay more attention to turns of phrases of my co-villagers that are precious («εν αροθυμάς;» instead of the Greek «δεν φοβάσαι;» which means “are you not afraid?”) and which I would have probably not paid any attention to in my pre-lockdown rush; it allowed me to get back into reading novels and got me out of vegging out on the sofa swiping my phone till I fell asleep; it allowed me to spend time playing with my two girls without feeling guilty that work is suffering because of it; it allowed me to spend one lovely evening after another with my wife trying out new recipes, playing tavli, sipping wine in the garden, liberated from the minutiae of everyday life and from the pressure of how to fit into our already busy schedule the endless social commitments. In short, it slowed me down and reactivated some good, old habits.
One of the books that I read during this time is a yet-to-be-published novel by my good friend Louisa, a book that took me to another era of the island, the 1920s and 30s where things were naturally slower. A coincidence perhaps, but a meaningful one, nonetheless. Time keeps haunting us. It made me think about the fact that in Greek we have 3 words for time, ‘ώρα’, ‘χρόνος’, ‘καιρός’, all denoting different aspects of time, and succeeding only in confusing those who try to learn Greek, but never managing to make us, Greeks and Cypriots, be on time. I think that during lockdown I was transferred from ώρα (used for short spans of time) and χρόνος (measured and quantitative time) to καιρός (long, idle, and qualitative time).
As we are easing our way back to our pre-lockdown reality, I must confess that despite my guilt because of my privileged circumstances, my nostalgia for my idle time is already kicking in. I learned not to trust nostalgia because it is generally deceptive, but I am in two minds about this one. I think my nostalgia is real this time.