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My new relationship due to COVID-19

BY GAYLE KIRSCHENBAUM | They ask how I’m doing.

“How is life in confinement?”

They want to know as they’re also experiencing it. Some are alone, like myself. Others are with a spouse, a lover, a roommate, parents, siblings, pets, including cats, dogs, birds and fish.

Some have palatial apartments with views of Central Park, the Hudson River or the Statue of Liberty. Others are cooped up in a one-room apartment with only two windows facing an airshaft, as I am.

Many have discovered new recipes; some are learning a new language or finishing a draft of their novel. And then there are those who are struggling to concentrate, can’t get their work done and want to kill their partner, who is too close too often for comfort.

I’m fine. Yes, alone. Yes, no pet to hug. Yes, no view of the streets, only of the windows of the parallel hall.  Once people used to walk through that hall. Now, it’s silent, still, no one is seen.

We’ve been warned not to leave our apartments without wearing a face mask and gloves. Only one person is allowed in the elevator at a time unless you are family living together or housemates. There is no congregating in the lobby.

If you’ve ordered food from restaurants or groceries from the market, they are left outside and you are called to come down and pick them up. No one is allowed in the building that doesn’t live here, other than the mail person.

We have 383 apartments and take up one square New York City block.

My photo exhibit is hanging on the walls of the gallery hall off the main lobby. Since it’s a new and makeshift gallery, my photos are literary hanging by a thread — a nylon thread used for fishing. To hold them flat against the wall, we used Velcro and double-face tape. Several have worn and those photos are leaning forward and dangling.

It doesn’t matter as much now since no one other than the occasional person from our now-limited staff or a tenant passes by. I check the exhibit on the rare occasions I go out to buy food or for a bike ride. My hands push back the framed photos, hoping they will stick on the aged tape. They do, however, for a short time.

I often wonder if I should take the exhibit down. It was due to come off the walls March 31. I stop myself from doing so since I’ve heard from so many before we were locked up in our homes how much they enjoyed them.

And where would I put them now? I sold several but the buyers can’t come and get them now, so I’d have to stack them in my apartment. Have they been exposed to COVID-19?

Two people already died last week in my building.

I suppose I could wipe the photos down with disinfectant. Why? Why take them now. I’ll leave them for the time being.

To answer your question, how am I doing? I’m doing well, actually, quite well. I don’t have anyone to fight with. No one is getting in my way. I’m used to working alone.

I have a new relationship. It’s with my apartment, the place I ran from all the time.

Now, I have sunflowers in a blue vase and yellow chrysanthemums in another blue vase. In between them is a handmade decorative green-and-yellow dish propped up on a little wooden plate holder with baby’s breath flowers behind it. They’re on the counter in front of my window.

I love looking at this colorful display of textures and life. I no longer miss not having a view. I’m doing well. Thank you for asking.

Kirschenbaum is an Emmy-winning filmmaker, TV producer and writer. To see her 2017 TEDx talk “No More Drama With Mama,” click here.

9 Comments

  1. Carol Eckman Carol Eckman April 19, 2020

    hi Gayle,
    you are not alone. the whole world is in this with you. solitude is familiar to you (as it is to me). took a look at your great photo exhibit. we have been to some of the same places. Punta Arenas is fantastic. during the summer months, the wind can become so strong that they put up ropes for people to hold onto as they navigate the streets. it used to be the world’s greatest supplier of sheep’s wool. hope you had time to visit the precioso cemetery, with its rows of trees. (maybe you already have done or know all this.) i would go back in a flash.
    keep on keeping on. maybe see you on the bike path along 2nd ave. i am the woman with grey/white hair & a blue helmet, maybe singing something obscure. wave at me!

    in sisterhood,
    Carol Eckman, aka Alas poor Yorick

    • Gayle L Kirschenbaum Gayle L Kirschenbaum April 21, 2020

      Carol, Thank you for kind remarks. Yes, traveling is in my soul. This has been an interesting time stay put and learning many other things including more about myself. Appreciate your looking at my photos. I have more things coming starting this Saturday. You find me on FB or through my websites if interested. Otherwise, perhaps on the bike path we shall connect. Take care and stay well.

  2. Reba Cole Reba Cole April 19, 2020

    Once again you have made us all a part of you. Gayle, I have always admired you and look forward to seeing you when you come down to see Mom. Your photography is beautiful and soothing to the soul. Be well. Stay safe. Love you. xoxo

    • Gayle Kirschenbaum Gayle Kirschenbaum April 21, 2020

      Thank you, Reba. You are so kind and generous. Hope you a feeling better. Sending you a hug.

  3. Seward Hung Seward Hung April 21, 2020

    Dear Gayle,

    I’m not in your building but I have a good friend who is and naturally, I took an interest in your article, which in turn led me to your TEDx talk about winning with your mother.

    That brought to mind an old proverb: “Winter always turns to spring.” Most people who hear it can guess its superficial meaning, as in “your problem is bound to clear up sooner or later, so be optimistic,” and are content with that interpretation.

    However, the deeper meaning is, in my humble opinion, more in keeping with your journey with Mom. We can while away the Winter blaming others or we can look inside ourselves and courageously reframe our torment. If we dare to work on ourselves, Spring will be all the sweeter when it finally comes.

    Both your article and your TEDx talk reminded me to keep developing myself while isolating at home, so that when the pandemic finally eases, I’ll have learned a thing or two about how to change my karma (or “reframe,” as you put it). In fact, the longer the wait, the more I get to change my karma, so what’s not to like?

    Though we’ve never met, it was a real treat to read your article and hear your talk. Thank you for your encouragement!

    Seward

    • Gayle Kirschenbaum Gayle Kirschenbaum April 21, 2020

      Thank you, Seward. Yes, it’s a good time for us to work on ourselves. You might enjoy seeing my film which was the predecessor to the TED talk called LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! It’s on Amazon.

      Would like to invite you to a free webinar I’m giving this Saturday about forgiveness and as it relates to now. Here’s the link. Hope to see you then.
      https://bit.ly/2VpTqqs

      • Seward Hung Seward Hung April 21, 2020

        Thank you very much, Gayle. See you at your webinar Saturday.

        Seward 🙂

  4. Gayle Kirschenbaum Gayle Kirschenbaum April 21, 2020

    Thank you, Seward. Yes, it’s a good time for us to work on ourselves. You might enjoy seeing my film which was the predecessor to the TED talk called LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! It’s on Amazon.

    Would like to invite you to a free webinar I’m giving this Saturday about forgiveness and as it relates to now. Here’s the link. Hope to see you then.
    https://bit.ly/2VpTqqs

  5. Andre Block Andre Block April 25, 2020

    I really enjoyed this essay. And I appreciate you for sharing. I also learning to love things I have somewhat neglected. My mind, and my body’s abilities to overcome and inspire has been neglected for far too long.

    This was a very inspiring read.

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