corona diary | 29 March

corona diary | 29 March

This time last year, we travelled to Paris – a delayed birthday gift for our two boys; an early birthday gift for ourselves. At the time, they were used to travelling by car – one of their grandmas lives a 1h drive away from us – but not to being in cars for hours on end. So, of course, before we’d reached the French border, only 40 minutes away, they’d already asked fifteen times whether we were in France yet, somehow forgetting how well they knew the cities we were passing by. And, obviously, as soon as we were in France, every place that looked like it might be Paris was another incentive for them to inquire when we would arrive, as though, with the sheer force of words, they, or at least we, could close the gap between here and there, and reel in the double helix of time and space separating us from our goal.

What I also remember is that as soon as we had arrived, they had all the patience in the world (more than we had, to be honest). Because even though we’d booked tickets in advance, we had to wait, and wait long: for the tube (trains had been cancelled), for the top of the Eiffel Tower, for the boat that would take us along the Seine riverbanks. Neither time nor space felt distant anymore because we had our eyes on the prize.


Yesterday, our oldest (he’s seven) asked me when we would arrive in a time and place that was closer to the past than to the present, a place we call future to make it more tangible than it is when it remains unnamed. He didn’t use those exact words, obviously: what he asked was when all of this would be over, but I understood the longing behind his question. Unlike that time in the car, and many other times, I didn’t have any words on offer that spelled control over the gap separating us from our future present.  I couldn’t say that we’d get there in two weeks, or in 637h14m16s, for instance. I couldn’t even offer the comfort of vague phrases like soon or not much longer now, which we throw at him and his brother every time we get tired of suturing the temporal and spatial gaps they, seemingly, worry about without end. All I could say was it’ll be a long time.  

It’s a phrase I’ve been using increasingly in conversations with my husband and friends. It reminds me of how future-oriented we are, despite highly mediatized calls for mindfulness and hygge. It reminds me of how future-oriented I am, despite claiming I’ve stopped believing in bettering myself in the sense it’s most often used: bettering myself in function of what society deems valuable, and valuable, in society as I perceive it, means useful.

It reminds me that all those calls and claims, my calls and claims – slowing down, living in the moment – are future goals as much as any other goals. My life is a connect-the-dots drawing and they’re nothing but dots amongst all the other dots. And what I want, in the end, is that everything’s connected. I don’t want abstract art but a picture that stands for something, a picture that can be recognized – in all its meanings. Is that why I’ve become so good at putting dots onto the page, at placing them up close to the many dots (let’s face it) already there that I often feel there’s no room left for creativity, let alone for any fun while travelling whatever distances left.

Acknowledgement (painful):

I am a pointillist.

But if the point of the present is the future, if, as Jeanette Winterson puts it so well in Frankissstein, “the future is now, then where is the present?”

And here’s where it becomes interesting: it’s everywhere.

Even though my future’s emptier than it has been in a long time, my present is not (!). Does this mean I am totally zen and in the moment now?

Have we met?

What it does mean, or at least might mean, in the future (wink), is that I(‘ll) look differently at the tug of war between future and present.

I’ll go metaphors one last time today. Yesterday I saw my oldest playing soundrop on our by now almost vintage iPad 1. If you don’t know soundrop, check it out here:

It basically comes down to “dots” dropping into an empty screen. By adding lines for them to bump into, the user creates sounds – music. And it dawned on me (can you feel it coming?): my life is no connect-the-dots drawing. I can’t control the dots: neither the ones already there, nor the ones I want to (but can’t now) put up myself.

No, my life is (or, let’s be realistic, could be) an ever-changing soundrop: if I can’t control the dots, I can at least experiment with how to bounce (them) back.

Current tune: a mix of Tamino, The War on Drugs and Lynn Castle.

© Sofie De Smyter | soundropselfie taken in our living room, today

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