A Year Without Handshakes and Hugs

By richard | 09/04/2021

We are over a year into the pandemic that I wrote about for the first one hundred days, and stopped writing about because I thought that the Swiss Government was getting close to eradicating the disease, or at least getting it down to 0 new cases per day. Do you remember June 2020, when we actually thought the pandemic could be over by August? Unfortunately we’re no in April of 2021 and the pandemic is nowhere near over.

Today, upon news that a royal individual died, and upon realising that the Social media landscape and British media would be filled with this news I decided to take a twitter break, while morbid twitter marked the passing of this individual. I may seem apathetic and cold, uncaring, or even unsympathetic because I do not want to mark this event but I’d like to bring something to people’s attention. I’m between work contracts. I haven’t hugged or shaken hands with adults in over a year. If I was to grieve a stranger who had a full life, and lived to a good age, then how should I feel about my own life, and my own age? If I was to feel empathy, then I would destroy my own ability to cope with pandemic solitude.

A year with hardly a meal with others, with hardly an evening drink with others, a year without a single climbing trip, with no hiking trip with strangers, with no activities. The pandemic is not over, and neither is the solitude. We are still a year away from a normal summer, if we’re being optimistic.

Normally I would have spent the last three or four weekends going hiking and climbing with people, but this year I have done none of those things. I have walked in solitude, in loops of 10-15 kilometres where I live and in the process I have seen interesting things.

Today I saw a sign that gave the distance between Geneva and Lausanne in terms of Lieues (leagues). I walked down to the lake because I thought the high wind would give nice waves but no such luck. It’s funny to see the distance measured in such units.

This year I have already walked for over 160 hours for a distance of over 800 kilometres and the fourth month of the year has only just started. My walking has continued, despite the pandemic, and despite how theoretically unappealing walking is, around here. In fact walking in this area is nice and there are plenty of routes to be explored and with the seasons, the landscape changes with each passing week and month. Some months you see the start of one crop and the end of another. You also see mice and other rodents flee to safety. There is plenty to see. I also pass the time with podcasts and audiobooks, so although the landscape and route is the same the walk is different every single time. Contrary to popular belief daily walks, within walking distances of home can and are fun to do.

People may dislike that I don’t want to mourn a death, but in the middle of a pandemic, our ability to cope, or not cope, is based around what we prioritise, and what we avoid. By avoiding grief and mourning, we avoid undermining our own happiness and on that topic I want to take a quick detour.

A few months ago I read a number of articles that made me think of pandemics, depression and homesickness. I love the idea that people, during a pandemic, are feeling homesick for the way of life they want to return to, the friends they would like to see, and the things they miss. A pandemic is like a trip, and it takes time for people to adapt and get used to new environments.

I saw that people are meeting by a lakeside tonight, and if we weren’t in a pandemic then I would consider it, but because we’re in a pandemic, and because I want to avoid catching Long Covid I am not exposing myself to the risk. I also think that it’s easier to remain in pandemic solitude, than to yoyo into and out of it. I prefer to keep things stable. At the current rate of vaccination we may have another 70 weeks to go in Switzerland.

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