We asked women with disabilities what their daily life looks like during the pandemic. What they go through from morning to evening, what activities keep them busy, what they talk about with themselves or other members of the household, what changed in their daily routine, what their greatest obstacles under the new circumstances are and how they overcome them, what aspects of their character help them or make it more difficult to cope with the situation, what their sources of support are, if there is a good side to what is going on, what new things they have discovered about themselves during the state of emergency, how isolation affects their relations with others, what makes them angry, are their days in isolation too long or too short, what is the first thing they will do when this is over…? This is how the instant column Quarantine Notes on the Disability Portal came to be. Below are the notes of Jelena Rašić, a graduate economist. Jelena is often in the role of live book, who, without a trace of censorship, demystifies various topics regarding the life of young women with disabilities.
I wake up slowly, at seven in the morning, as usual. I don’t know what day it is. I open my eyes, the dog is already jumping on me wagging his tail, he knows it’s time for a walk. He always reminds me that a person should be happy for waking up, for being alive and healthy.
While I am taking care of personal hygiene, I notice I’m all swollen. I stayed up until three in the morning again, those series won’t watch themselves, and as my trainer gave me his Netflix password and SBB (cable channel provider) unlocked its channels, the choice is almost unlimited, and there is plenty of time. I remember the times when I was a high school pupil, then a university student, when I did similar things, only then I didn’t live alone and I didn’t have a dog, so I didn’t use to get up so early. But I’m not complaining, I am glad that I have him. So, then I guess I’m still not living alone.
It sometimes happens that I forget and I think I overslept, because under normal conditions I usually get up at 5:40 for work, I take the dog out for a walk, I make tea, I put on the clothes prepared the previous evening, I put make-up on and the workday starts…But not now, now I don’t even know what day it is, I live a different life now. Life in the time of the corona virus pandemic.
I take my coat, put my sneakers on, from the corner of my eye I see my new olive green suit on the hanger, prepared for work, for which I spent my last Dinar from my pay at the end of February, because it looks phenomenal on me, and it was still the period of sales… My make-up is in its box, unopened. I remembered it the other day, then I cleaned all the brushes, put them away neatly, I made myself up once, just for myself… I will have to do it again soon. I miss these things. I miss a lot of things. But there’ll be plenty of everything.
I go out, the dog runs to his special place to mark it and show who’s the main dog in the neighborhood, he meets neighbor Albert, barks to justify his nickname The Beast, though his real name is Miliša. I take the morning sunlight in, I enjoy it so much these days, it seems like it never felt so good…Neighbors’ greetings bring me back to reality and quickly my main preoccupation becomes the everyday fight against the corona virus. Whenever I go outside, I have a feeling it’s all around me: like being in a minefield, but I can’t see the mine. My only weapon is a bottle of active oxygen in my pocket, and at every little suspicion I might get infected, I spray down everything. Literally everything.
Today, I decided to go to the supermarket. Luckily, I live in a neighborhood where there are quite a few smaller and bigger stores and I always go to the same one, the one that seems to me the cleanest and safest. That’s how I help myself mentally. It’s still early, so there is no crowd. The dog waits outside, as usual, I take a shopping basket, I disinfect it myself, and I always wear gloves and have a mask on. Then I sort of smile: – Hey, there’s a shortage of gloves, I need only one, so each pair I have in my stash will last longer! I try not to think about the fact I don’t have many of them. There will be gloves. There’ll be plenty of everything.
I take a can of tuna. I already have ten stacked in the fridge. I don’t know what it is with cans and our people, it must be those stories from the war during the nineties, that cans were real life savers, at least that’s what I heard (and many others, I suppose), so now these cans give us some security, for just in case or in case they shut everything down 24/7. I also buy two liters of milk, 20 eggs (I always needs eggs if I decide to make pastry), macaroni, sour cream, cheese. I look for popcorn, but they haven’t had it for days. Probably everyone is eating it now while watching movies. No matter. There’ll be some. There’ll be plenty of everything. My neighbor says yeast has arrived. I swear, I wanted to scream at that moment, but I got it together, I am adult, responsible, a person needs to be calm in these situations. Or that’s how they have to behave, not to spread panic. Nor too much happiness. How can you say you are happy because of plain yeast? I get five sachets, they only got dry yeast. No matter, there are so many recipes, so many things to make.
Otherwise, I love cooking, dough always takes time and needs love; though I can already make no yeast breads with different seeds and herbs, rolls, scones, fritters and doughnuts represent a higher level for me and a true art. I get home with two bags. The dog’s not thrilled, he still doesn’t understand why we are always at home and if we are, why we don’t go for walks until our legs start to hurt, then sit at a nice place, have coffee, he gets his water and treat, and then all over again. I enter the apartment, he waits. He looks at me again, confused: – Why is it taking so long? We have our routine, besides hand washing, there is disinfectant for door handles, shoe soles and floor. I clean his leash with alcohol. The bags as well. I spray my coat with alcohol and take it out on the terrace. There’ll be stains on it. No matter. There’ll be plenty of everything. Coats too. Then we wipe each product I bought. He doesn’t like the smell, but he still chases after the bag with the cheese. Then I get angry at him, not because of the cheese, but because I am afraid he’ll poison himself from all those disinfectants and smalls. I can’t explain to him that there is a possibility for the same happening to me too, that we need to be careful. I put the groceries in the fridge. My mother’s coming over today. She is the only person I see, with all precautionary measures. But she doesn’t meet anyone but me. That is all right, I guess.
I have yeast now, I’ll make rolls, I’ll send some to my brother, this makes me happy. Mother’s here, no kisses though. Honestly, I’m not the kissing type, so I don’t mind. While I wait for her, I visit social networks, I answer my messages. There are dear people I talk to daily, it’s important for me that they’re all right. Or I call my friend to see how she is. Or we laugh, send each other funny pictures about the corona virus everyone is sharing these days on social networks. I think this is good. Humor will save the world, and if not, it will make it more bearable. It’s good that after years, my father answers the phone when I call him. He didn’t want to before all this. That was a big surprise for me, during this time, the period of a virus. I wanted to see if he’s all right. And he is. I am glad, as he’s in the risk group, those over 65. Now we talk, that is, I talk, he listens. Perhaps I need to tell my father things, it doesn’t matter that it’s not two-way communication. I don’t hold a grudge against him, I’ve grown up, I forgave everyone everything, life goes on. It’s going on now too, though it seems to me we’re on a short break, but still it continues.
I can smell the rolls already. I am so proud of my little masterpiece. We drink coffee, mother says a new series started, called Kalup (Eng. Mould) Finally, the 3500 Dinar package has paid off, now I can really watch tv, and even have the option of rewinding, so we start watching the show. It’s not such an interesting topic. Actually it is, but not for the time of corona. All the same, we watch it. When she comes the next time, we will watch the next episode. My mother has to get going at around 3 p.m., the police curfew is from 5 p.m. I pack the rolls, every last bit, I don’t want to eat too much dough and put on weight, I look just great to myself now. I miss my training sessions. Physical appearance is just a secondary motive for training, I feel the pain in my shoulders coming back, and I don’t have a place to get all that energy out, good or bad. I do exercises at home, but it’s not the same, but I do try to stay active.
I take the dog out for the second time, ten minutes, the same routine: short walk, long and detailed disinfection and the same look on the dog asking what is all this for.
I followed the news and read comments on experts, politicians, diaspora, other countries, conspiracy theories before… I no longer do that. I don’t know if that is good, but I know I am calmer. I read the news ticker when the evening news are on and that’s it. I respect all adopted measures, whether they’re good or not, I don’t know, nor do I consider myself qualified to comment on them. I admit, it was very hard for me when they banned the evening walks for pets between 8 and 9 p.m. Then I decided not to read news comments anymore, I was really surprised to see how people are still glad about the misfortune of others. Even at times like these. I don’t know when they’ll realize they are just poisoning themselves this way and that if someone is in a bad situation it doesn’t mean it will get better for someone else. What’s this comparison with elderly citizens for? We’re now moving from comparing children and dogs to comparing pensioners and dogs. I will never understand why people make comparisons like that. Everybody is in a difficult situation now, some more, some less, and everyone has their own problems, so why wouldn’t we solve some of them, if we can? My dog and I have wonderful neighbors who show solidarity with all: they help elderly people, with the groceries, have understanding for us dog owners. There are always good people around and there is always a solution. We replaced the evening walks with going out into the yard, and we, of course, always clean up any mess we make.
As we’ve been in a kind of isolation for days now, I admit that, reading news on the internet, I also got interested in work on myself, now that we have time to dedicate to hobbies, reading, inner peace…I cleaned the apartment. I cleaned it before too, but I think now I took more time. I organized the closet, books, smaller items. But I do this regularly too, so I wasn’t sure what exactly I was supposed to do. Then I simply stopped thinking about it, because it made feel nervous and uncomfortable. I do whatever I feel like doing, if I feel like doing it. This is also some kind of work on myself: letting myself be unburdened and relaxed. I cook, sleep, watch series; currently I am watching season five, episode two of a show about a female prison. Now psychologists would probably say this is a consequence of being in a prison of sorts. Who cares, I don’t burden myself with this, the only thing missing is the popcorn. But as I already said, there will be. There’ll plenty of everything. I wanted to use the time in quarantine to quit smoking, to do something smart. I didn’t. And I say: I don’t want to burden myself anymore. With anything. I respect the prescribed measures, I take care of myself and others when it comes to preventing the virus from spreading, but only I decide about what I need or I should do with myself, within my four walls, and in myself. Mostly in myself. In truth, that’s how it should be even when the quarantine is over. It’s not so bad, on the contrary. We can do anything, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize other. That is why I am going to continue with my serial shows, regardless of comments on what we should be doing. As I said: there will be plenty of everything, all the things I miss will be there again. Let’s stay at home, so that we get to these things soon.