Lockdown Reading

With our return to ‘normal’ life seeming to stretch out further and further into the distance, our day-to-day life can seem uncertain and often times despondent. I know one thing I have found comfort in during this pandemic is reading literature; fiction or non-fiction, contemporary or historical- just anything that helps me put my phone down for an hour and stop reading every doomsday notification from the perpetual news cycle.  

And I’m not alone, I read an article this week that stated over 200-million print books were sold in the UK in 2020, the first time since 2012. It seems we are all finding some relief in the escapism reading literature offers. More than a simple boredom breaker or a healthier alternative to staring at a screen all day, reading fiction provides respite from our rather surreal reality. 

Becoming consumed by a narrative has helped me recover a sense of continuity when I’ve felt adrift, provided a space to become mindful and reflect on the issues or topics raised in the text, and often just provided a much-needed laugh. I think this is a unique ability of literature, and the arts- they help to heal culture. We look to literature and the arts to reflect on what it means to be human, and in these bizarre times this function is of particular significance. Literature and the arts provide an antidote to the isolation and hopelessness we can all relate to nowadays, ultimately helping us reconnect with ourselves and one another. For me, more time to read over this past year has been my silver lining. 

Silver Linings, Part One

I’m from a part of Denmark with a deep fondness for understatements.

Did you just have the best night of your life? Then it was fine.

Are you convinced that you got an A+ on your latest exam? Then it went okay.

Is there a world-wide pandemic, killing thousands of innocent people? Then it’s træls.

“A bit of an annoyance” might be how you’d put it in English.

But it’s okay to think that this pandemic is more than just træls. It’s okay to hate it, to complain until your face turns red, to reach out for help. It’s okay if you have trouble seeing any silver lining.

That is, however, what I will focus on for the moment – my personal silver lining.

Covid took the freedom to travel away from me, and boy, did I feel it.

But it also reprioritized my time. I was in Indonesia when the pandemic hit. My mother asked me to come home, and I did. Once there, I had two options.

I could either move into a friend’s empty apartment (she’d just moved in with her boyfriend), or I could rent a room at my brother’s. I picked the latter. An empty apartment sounded lonely in the midst of a national lockdown.

Moving in with my brother also meant moving in with his girlfriend and their two sons. My nephews, whom I’d rarely seen – I’d been too busy seeing Spain, Singapore, Australia. But now I had plenty of time to spare, and I wasn’t going to waste it.

Okay, that’s a lie. I wasted a lot of time. Mostly on Netflix.

But I wasn’t going to waste all of it. I was going to learn Spanish and the piano. I was going to write my own book and translate others. And I was going to spend some quality time with my nephews.

Of course, nothing ever goes entirely according to schedule. I didn’t write that book, and both my Spanish and piano play is… let’s go with rudimentary.

But spending quality time with my nephews was the most important thing anyway.

I have a relationship with them that didn’t exist a year ago. They ask their parents to call me. I know that the oldest loves dinosaurs and that the youngest loves to get into trouble.

I didn’t know that a year ago. They didn’t ask after me a year ago.

And that’s my silver lining.