So after 8 weeks of lockdown, we are embarking on “Phase 2”, the slow reopening of Italian life, the economy and the business of “getting back to normal”.  In my mind I see those time-lapse videos of springtime flowers bursting through the soil, first weak and fragile sprouts shoot straight up, determined to burst open and soak up all the sun….

Then you venture out and you realize that, try as you might, “normal” really doesn’t exist anymore. You realize how important good dental hygiene is when you re-breathe your own breath and the dangers of chewing mint gum under a mask, especially if you wear eyeglasses…Walking up a hill (there are many in Trieste – but I live on a street called THE HILL to the Promontory) makes you realize you should have worked out more and played less Animal Crossing.

People wear their masks (most), some, also wear gloves. They (not all) are diligent about social distancing while others return with a reinforced sense of entitlement and aggressively invade your space. You struggle with whether to say something, or not, when you see breaches in behavior. You realize that you have to really “up your eyebrow game” to convey what maskless expressions once made immediately clear….

ph. ilpiccolo

2020 was going to be a big year; we had planned big birthday celebrations, an anniversary milestone and a destination wedding, now all of those have been celebrated quietly while the wedding is likely cancelled seeing as international air travel will be highly restricted and even if we could fly to the U.S., we would probably face 2 weeks of quarantine on either end.

Because the local golf course has been closed since the start of the lockdown, my husband and I have spent every weekend cleaning house. Evenly splitting the chores, I dust and vacuum, he mops and sanitizes. I do the laundries and he irons (he finds it relazing …SCORE!) You’d be surprised at the number of steps that housekeeping racks up as well as a significant calorie burn! Finally this week we got news that sports are being  started up again. Finally we can trade our brooms and mops for clubs!  And my cleaning lady called to say she can come back to work. At first I was excited, I was looking forward to this for a long time. Then we began to ask ourselves, “How”. Do we take her temperature every time she comes over?  What if she gets sick coming here (my husband has continued to work part time out of the house), what if we get sick through extended contacts (she lives with family who have all sorts of jobs and may come into contact with many people). For now we say thanks, but we’ll wait.

And what about golf? Yes social distancing is easier with this sport than with others but new guidelines say we cannot touch the flag stick or the hole…good luck getting your ball out! Couples who have gone through the lockdown together can play together (my husband has a single digit handicap and let’s just say I am at the other end of the spectrum!) Also I cannot go 18 holes without a “pit stop” but the clubhouse will be closed so there’s that dilemma….

Then there’s the text from my hairdresser. I look at my roots growing in faster than those time-lapse flowers, having already attempted an at home dye job only to turn myself from blonde to brunette in less than an hour. “If you want an appointment can call in next week”, they said,  but I wonder: do I want to go sit in a salon for an hour and a half? How many of us will be there? Will we all be quietly freaking out? Maybe I can try another at home experiment…

These next few weeks will be a game of weighing the risks. Not just to ourselves but to those around us, and to those who have put themselves at risk to help us all through these difficult months.

“Quarantine fatigue” is real. On the one hand I cannot wait to resume a life that is “normal” but all the restrictions, the still very real risks, the obstacles to normalcy make it hard for me to force myself out of the house for anything other than the essentials.

Yes, of course we should be brave, but we should not have “bravado”. Yes of course we should support our local businesses but at the same time we need to remain vigilant and take precautions.

Friends who work for government agencies or large corporations have told me that their internal messaging is that NOTHING will go back to normal and it won’t be until mid 2022 or 23 when that happens. My financial advisor said that his research says economic recovery will take a decade. And until a vaccine comes out, the fear of a second tsunami remains…

Then I think of our first responders and how very little we know about what they saw and went through. So many of them have died, so many are burnt out, so many have PTSD from this experience. Is it really time to get back out there? Is the healthcare system any more prepared than it was before? It sounds like we still have dizzying shortages of PPE and test kits on both sides of the Atlantic.

I have a sense that in Italy, we are more keenly aware of the risks and that there is a greater sense of caution, even on behalf of the politicians as compared to what I hear and see happening in the States. One needs only to watch CNN to see the frenetic rush to re-open in spite of still rising cases and hear reporters compare it to the scene from JAWS, where the mayor of Amity prods the frightened couple to get back in the water where somewhere a great white shark awaits.


That shark is still out there…and until there is a vaccine, and a reliable test, and universal protocols and stepped up preparedness in our hospitals I think I will continue to experiment with hair coloring at home, improve my baking skills and continue to work on my Animal Crossing Island rating a little longer.



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