Getting back out there…

This post has been a long time coming, but sometimes life throws us curve balls which put us completely off balance, and the past weeks have been just that.

I cannot say that I was completely removed from society during this isolation period. There were days I just had to leave the house and go to the office. And if I’m perfectly honest, between all the Zoom meetings and calls I had been having, there were times I wished I really could get completely away from people. A remote island with no internet connection or phone service. Just a writing pad and pen, a good book, and a couple of cocktails…

The working from home look… trying to look semi-decent for all those zoom calls

Life has very much changed in just a few months. I’ve been so busy and mentally drained over the past weeks, that I haven’t found the time or energy to write. As soon as I stepped away from my work desk at home, I just wanted to leave the house and try to give myself a mental break. To a certain extent the releasing of these COVID restrictions seems to have come at a perfect time, but that doesn’t mean I felt comfortable or ready for that transition.

One thing is for sure, I was dying to get my hair and nails done! I couldn’t stand the white hair sprouting out all over my head or the sight of my ghastly terribly bitten nails. The white hair started sprouting for me when I was about twenty four.. I’m not old, I promise! As for my nails, I’m a nail biter through and through. My mum tried everything over the years, including putting chili on my fingers when I was little to stop me from biting my nails. To this day I even bite my acrylic nails, but at least those are hard enough to take some abuse and still look half decent. I don’t even need to be nervous to bite my nails, although when I am upset, the biting intensifies. Anyway getting back to my main point, yes I couldn’t wait to see my hairdresser and nail technician, but I was still nervous about going out and meeting more people then was absolutely necessary. When I did however, I have to say, it did feel good!

My first appointment when businesses started reopening was with my nail technician, and the experience felt surreal. I literally didn’t know how to act, waiting at the door to receive instructions. Putting my personal belongings in a plastic bag, washing my hands (again) and using sanitizers, being behind Perspex and inserting my hands through a “hole” was strange. With my clumsiness you can just about imagine how many times I hit my freshly painted nails whilst trying to get my hands to adjust to this new system. I did however feel relatively safe, which gave me courage to go out more as long as I kept taking the appropriate precautions.

Next up was my hair. Lord knows how eager I was for this appointment. I just couldn’t get my head around the idea of spending two straight hours in a mask though. I truly admire all the people having to spend full days with their face trapped. It is not a comfortable feeling, at all! One thing I really enjoyed though, was the “intimacy” of the experience. Over time, our beauty up-keepers tend to become friends. We end up opening up to them about pretty much anything. I’ve known my hairdresser for about sixteen years and he’s literally a friend who I thoroughly enjoy chatting with. So having all his attention and being able to chat freely for the duration of the appointment was naturally rather pleasant.

The only other place I dared go to apart from visiting parents, was my brother’s new restaurant/bar. Food and wine testers were needed, so hey, it was only right to volunteer my services no? I was surrounded by family and for a few hours there, it felt like a return to some semblance of normal. Over the past weeks we’ve visited this newly done up seaside restaurant in Marsascala quite a few times, and it has been absolutely lovely every time. The wonderful meals, delicious wine, the beautiful views and just the overall relaxing/fun environment, they were truly a godsend. I simply must harp on a bit more about the amazing wine selection from which to choose. Anyone who knows me knows what an absolute wine lover I am (I think my true calling was to be a sommelier). Going here has truly been a great way to take a break from the stress and worries of the day to day routine.

One thing that’s really getting to me in this post-COVID “new reality” is the waste we produce as a species. The ‘use everything once’ and ‘use disposal items where possible’ will surely have terrible negative repercussions! In a few months our world has shown us how fast it can heal when we stop infecting it. And yet what did we start doing the minute we started reducing measures? We started producing more of what suffocates it – waste. Be it the use of gloves, masks, plastic bags and only god knows what else… I’m sure that if we think a little harder for alternatives, we could easily come up with solutions that are less harmful to Mother Earth.

If there is a point that COVID brought home, it is to further reinforce how crucial family is to me. Family has always been super important to me, even at times when I felt like the black sheep of the herd (practically all through my teenage years). This period when I was required to spend time away from them and a couple of other episodes we encountered along the way, have really brought home the message that I’m absolutely nothing without my pillars. I’ve never made as much effort to spend as much time with them as I can, as I’ve been doing over the past few weeks. We’ve been going over to our parents, finding excuses to ask my sister to come by with my nephew, exercising my cooking skills to invite everyone over for Sunday lunch, and doing whatever possible to be around them. This is something I’m truly cherishing and hoping that I’ll never forget it.

Going back to the office did not feel “as great”. Whilst it’s always lovely to be around my colleagues, I truly had gotten used to working in a quieter environment and being able to concentrate. My concentration span just about matches that of a five year old, so trying to focus on complicated tasks in a noisy environment never came easily for me. Now that I’ve spent around three months working in a quiet office, being in a room with other people and trying to keep focused is more challenging than ever. On the days when I’m at the office, I’m going home feeling drained and suffering from terrible headaches, so I think it’s going to take a while to adjust back to the way things were before.

Still miss this view when I’m not at the office! This is the entrance to Malta’s Grand Harbour

On days that I’ve been to the office, I’ve also tried walking around Valletta a little and on one occasion even went for after work drinks. Activity during the day in our beautiful capital city does seem to be increasing. But I have to say, compared to the way it was before, shops and restaurants still seem to be struggling. What really astonished me was walking around Valletta at around six in the evening and finding most shops, including those in Republic Street, closed. The city felt like a ghost town with streets practically empty. It’s been a couple of weeks since restrictions on shops were lifted so I assumed it was business as usual for retailers. Clearly I was very wrong! Going for a drink at “the pub”, as it is usually referred to, a place that’s always bustling with activity, also felt rather strange. We sat at a table outside, whereas usually we’d all be standing and it would be almost impossible to make your way through the door as the place would be packed with people. A waitress came over to take our order and we genuinely asked whether we could order nibbles as we weren’t overly hungry to order a full meal. We were told that nibbles would be brought to us for free. Completely taken aback, we just uttered thank you. I assumed that nibbles meant maybe a few peanuts to go with our drinks. We were actually brought plates of food: some typical Maltese “hobz biz-zejt” (bread with tomato paste, olive oil, salt and pepper), chicken wings, yummy potatoes, and I’m sure there was more but I cannot recall what else we were offered. We left the pub a couple of hours later feeling pretty much stuffed, and paid just twenty two euro for four cocktails and two small bottles of water. That’s absolutely unheard of!

*Note to self, I need to take photos when I’m in Valletta

I have the deep rooted feeling that life post COVID shall be forever changed in some way or other. People keep referring to this as the new normal. I’m still unsure of how I feel about all that. All I know is that it seems that everyone is putting quite a bit of effort into adjusting. We’re JUST trying to get used to going out again, and getting used to being around each other. And now the ports have reopened, and we once again have to adjust to be aroun4d even more people. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet and am wondering whether I’ll be retreating back to my nest. All I currently know is that I always think twice when deciding whether to go anywhere unless it is absolutely necessary. I’ll probably stick to the most familiar territories for the time being which leads me to feel somewhat trapped. I’m still craving to go abroad for instance. I’m not exactly comfortable with booking a random holiday at this time, so I’ve been hoping for a possible work trip or two in the coming months, to have a valid reason for traveling. Yet all those prospects seem to have been postponed for the time being, adding to the trapidation.

All that being said, I still prefer quiet, relaxed, and intimate gatherings. If I’m meeting friends, I’m definitely opting towards being a small number of people and properly catching up with them rather than meeting with a large group. I am definitely still enjoying the quiet evenings at home, as well as the nature walks, and most of all (although they’ve been rare and far apart due to the windy month we’ve had), the Comino trips. It seems that the social introvert is not fully over this isolation business as of yet.

Oh, and don’t for a second think that these days have not been filled with clumsy moments as well, but that I’ll save for another post 😉

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