Quarantine Journal

Alina Gufran
5 min readMar 22, 2021

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In March 2020, I began writing a Quarantine Journal. A year later, I’ve decided to post excerpts from it.

March 18th, 12:30 am

I don’t know what’s happening. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Just when I was convinced shit couldn’t get wilder, it did. And, I suppose that’s the way life is, or at least that’s what my therapist has spent a year and a half talking to me about. Three deep breaths, turning inwards, connecting with what’s inside of me, not craving, not needing, not wanting, not aching, no attachments. Just an inhale and an exhale. Don’t lay your shit on anybody, don’t be an inconvenience, don’t think about your parents’ broken marriage or your string of failed relationships, your gnawing insecurities and your baseless fears that you’ll never be enough. Just when I thought I was grounding myself in the present moment, I’m forced to recede behind a screen, forced to think of a future when I could move about easily, where I don’t have to live paycheque to paycheque, where I could have a nice home and finally stop being some boy’s manic pixie dream girl whose problems become way too real the minute she decides to open up. Stay in. Stay in, swallow your pride, swallow your ego, annihilate any sense of self, morph, become a sponge, absorb everybody’s bad moods, be the good friend, the solid friend, the stable friend, don’t ask for too much, don’t reach out when things are hard. People laud me for only reaching out when I’ve figured things out. It’s exhausting. Nobody has time for anybody. We think we do but we don’t. Nobody really wants to listen. So, I listen in the hope that somebody else would return the gesture. Try and be the best I can be so I can feel a sliver of the love I’ve been chasing as a child. Who fucked me up? Who fucks us up? Shut up, your interiority means nothing when the world is collapsing. “You’ve been dealt an unfair hand: you’re brown, you’re a woman, you’re Muslim.” So, I read and I listen to music nobody else does and I date strange men, against my best instinct, hoping that the friction would polish me but it doesn’t. Sometimes, it feels like it does, at parties or in new relationships or in certain moments that come forth with startling consonance and clarity, it feels like all the pain and disappointment and the heartache has been worth it. But, the rest of the time? Not so much. I’m going to turn twenty-eight in two months and I have nothing to show for it except parents who can’t stand each other, a family whose foundations were never quite laid right; in the post-apocalyptic world, there’s no room for sadness. My therapist teaches me to not seek a home anywhere but inside myself so I accumulate — I accumulate intellect, kindness, a dissolution of ego, friends, lovers, degrees, continents I’ve lived on, clothes, lipsticks, recipes, heirlooms, bad hairstyles, mood swings, niceties, playing to the gallery and its attendant exhaustion — I collect it all, bit by bit, like a magpie fucked up on some substance, hoping to kindle an inkling of what home must feel like. I wish somebody would hold me, hold a mirror to me, tell me I’m enough but that’s the game, that external validation game that’s both sweet and bitter, and necessary and superfluous and the constant push and pull that comes with it.

March 19th, 12:30 pm

This time two years ago, I was acutely depressed. I’m not quite sure how it came about so suddenly, so surely. I couldn’t get out of bed for days, I spent my time withdrawing under the covers, face turned away from the window, any inkling of the sun irritating me, sleep sitting on my eyes like stones. An ex I’d briefly dated officially and then unceremoniously dumped for a man I thought I was in love with but now only feel a vague irritation and familiarity towards, turned me to a neuroscientist who broke down depression scientifically — in a way that was easy for my sluggish brain to digest. With modern society, environmental stressors are in the range of anything from being honked at to a passive-aggressive colleague, the body goes into the fight or flight mode and produces excessive cortisol as a result of the same. The same response as what the body had when we were confronted by predators and natural disasters, hundreds of years go. Years and years of functioning in a hyper-capitalist society, trying to make a living out of being a writer in the 21st century and the almost comical delusion of that endeavour, of the ever expansive glass ceilings and the heartbreaks and the religious divides and the cultural differences and the immigrant woes — all that cortisol I can now feel recede from my body bit by bit. My chest still feels tight, still the heaviness, my mind is still torn between wanting to be alone constantly and wanting to be around people, I try and learn how to not take my moods and emotions so seriously, I understand how deceptive their nature can be, I am acutely aware of man’s self-serving nature as I witness my own self-serving nature, I am acutely aware of my hunger for love, hunger for its declaration as some sort of a contract, hunger for somebody to tell me they’ll stay except somebody did promise me that and they didn’t. All our known constructs are collapsing — stories seem to serve no purpose. Everything seems excessive and trite. I want to burn my to-do lists. What have my to-do lists managed to achieve except a heightened state of anxiety? I want to nap, drink a coffee, switch to a diet coke, cuddle with the man I can’t bring myself to inform of my love even during a pandemic but instead I just smoke another cigarette and hide behind computer screens. If not now, then when?

March 20th, 7:00 pm

Things that seem absolutely useless and unnecessary currently: literature prizes, dating, fashion, poetry journals, poetry in general, influencers, larger social circles, fake niceties. Things that have gained importance: music, meditation, calling your mom, neighbours, reading novels, yearning, dogs, people helping each other, kindness when it exists even without the construct of mutual reciprocation. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but we as people lie a lot, tend to embellish our truths with exaggerations, lend our lives a sense of importance especially now, at a time like this when our mortality is staring us in the face — limp, a humiliating reminder of the little we’ve achieved as individuals or people or lovers or even as a race. Some people turn to religion, handing over the larger decisions that never quite seemed to pan out the way they thought they would, consequences they thought they weighed and believed would turn in the favour. People collecting in throngs and chanting to some invisible deity.

Everyday, a new barrier of civilisation collapses. Today, it was full frontal nudity, drinking water out of wine glasses and extending strands of dropped hair as friendship bands.

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