I can’t fix this virus, and I can’t fix the fear that comes with it. But the Germans seem to have got this thing figured out, so I decided to make up a new German word, and maybe that can fix something.
You know how the German language has words that English doesn’t have that really seem to fill a niche? Words like:
- Gemütlichkeit (enjoying a cozy evening at home with friends or family, or alone with a book in your comfy chair)
- Schadenfreude (feeling joy at your enemy’s pain)
- Wanderlust (the desire, nay, the urgent need, to travel, to roam, to get the heck out of here).
My new German word is Coronapeinlichkeiten, and it means “little embarrassing things we did during lockdown.”
Maybe you’ve done something you’d already like to forget.
We’re tense, and we’re doing things we normally wouldn’t do. Then, we feel bad about ourselves.
- Some of us are making banana bread and consuming the entire thing, solo, in one day
- Some of us are texting our exes
- Some of us are cutting our own bangs
In regular times, we wouldn’t do those things, but we’ve entered a whole new phase of dystopia. All bets on normal behavior are off. We spend half our time doing weird stuff, and the other half of the time feeling bad about it.
That’s where Coronapeinlichkeiten comes in. We’re going to cut ourselves some slack. These are scary times. People are dying, and the healthcare systems are overloaded. And dying is just the Big Worry. There’s still the precarious state of everything else –rent, jobs, bills, being stuck with our loved ones, or being far away from them.
We’re also tense.
- We’re snapping at our housemates
- We’re spending more time online than we usually would
- We’re writing an I-shouldn’t-have-said-that reply to that irksome guy on Facebook
And then we feel bad.
You know what I did this week? I got really mad at pigeons. I was out for my less-than-1-km walk, missing my friends, missing les bisous and hugs and sharing a cheese plate in a crowded cafe, when there they were: pigeons. Those damn birds were clustered tight together with no regard for social distancing, bumping up against each other, ten of them pecking at one piece of bread. They showed flagrant disrespect for the rules – touching, sharing food, breathing each other’s air. They flaunted it in front of me, giving me a smug side-eye and muttering together as they strutted around, heedless of our human problems.
I was furious. And then, as I walked on, I started to feel guilty. After all, they were just pigeons, doing their pigeon thing, eating discarded food and pooping on the sidewalk. I felt ashamed of myself. So much rage over a perfectly natural thing! That’s not like me. I’m normally a very even-tempered person. Why? I’m fine, my kids are fine, even my extended family and all my friends are fine.
But we’re NOT really fine right now. We, humanity, we are not fine.
We’re worried that we’ll die, that people we love will die. We’re worried that we’ll leave our loved ones to fend for themselves. We’re worried about gasping for air, alone, in a sterile environment. It’s no wonder we’re not sleeping so well.
It’s no wonder we’re taking comfort in whatever we can find:
- We’re playing Animal Crossing on the toilet to hide from the kids
- We’re eating Nutella out of the jar.
- We’re watching porn
So here’s what we’re going to do, at least about Coronapeinlichkeiten. We’re going to ease up on our self-condemnation. We’re going to stop saying, “Why the heck did I do that?!“
We’re going to give ourselves an extra measure of grace, and forgive ourselves for this current aberrant behavior.
Someday, it will be over. I’m not sure how, or when, but someday we’ll go back to work and school, maybe even without masks. Things will be different, no doubt, but we’ll find a new normal and take it from there.
And when we do, let’s not take what happened during lockdown too seriously. Those bangs will grow out.
Now, Coronapeinlichkeiten doesn’t supersede the laws of nature. If you burn down your house, it’ll still be burned down after the virus. So maybe don’t do that. I’m talking about aberrations, anomalies, flub-ups.
All Coronapeinlichkeiten does is say, “Things were different then. We coped. Grace.”