The Twilight Zone: Living in Limbo a Year into Covid in France

The Twilight Zone: Living in Limbo a Year into Covid in France

year into covid
© Russ Widger/Unsplash

“Between light and shadow, between science and superstition”–The Twilight Zone, 1959 

After a year of covid, we’re trying to live in this new normal. It’s a floundering normal, alternating between hope and bleakness. 

In France, Covid rules change frequently, and we expats are, by turns, proud of the French for the unified national guidance, worried about our stateside loved ones, appalled by the continuing spread of the disease, and frustrated with the slowness of French vaccine rollout. Like the rest of the world, we’re in limbo, where we put up with hardships in exchange for not dying. 

Weeks of confinement can seem like an eternity. © Yvonne Hazleton

It’s like living in an extended twilight zone.

Real twilight is an enchanting time of day. Windows glow yellow, the sky is purple, dirty facades and crows feet and sidewalk cracks are blurred, but we still have enough light to recognize each other and find our way. 

A year into Covid, though, I don’t like this worldwide twilight at all. It’s like puberty – all the changes and none of the benefits. It’s a mix of too many extremes – health and sickness, living and dying, being unmoored and confined at the same time. We can see our loved ones’ faces online, but can’t accurately judge the depth of their loneliness or pain or despair. We text more than we ever have, but the ease and frequency of that medium doesn’t outweigh its cryptic nature, and often leaves us emptier than we felt before. 

Read Yvonne’s post on how to deal with Covid confinement constraints.

Yvonne Hazelton in Paris, France 2021. © formeiris

I shouldn’t complain.

My Covid year has been mostly painless. I am lucky to live with my youngest child, a cheerful and engaging young man. My work is okay, nobody in my family has died of the disease, and Paris is still here for me, even when it’s locked up tight. I even, somehow, found a lovely man to keep company with during these dark times. Viewed from a global perspective, I’ve got it good.

OK, I’ll complain a little.

I haven’t seen my two adult children since January 2020. They live in the US, and even when travel wasn’t restricted for Americans, we were all too cautious to fly. I mothered as hard as I could online, listening to their broken hearts and existential dread, watching their hair grow but unable to touch it, advising when they asked and trying not to when they didn’t. I have never been so proud of my daughter as when she went full Mad Max and busted her younger brother, her cat, and a couple of roommates out of a disease-ridden New York last April, taking them to greener pastures in Texas. I have also never been so furious as in February when they were snowed in, in Texas, with no water, power, or heat. Double solitude – Covid and the weather.

Author at home under lockdown. © Yvonne Hazleton

The other painful thing was that my mother died last August, a few days short of her ninety-fifth birthday. It wasn’t Covid, just her tired old heart and dementia, but the pandemic made sure she died alone in her care facility, so confused that she thought the iPad images were photographs that talked to her. She refused to look. Still, we’re at peace knowing she’s at peace, knowing that her years-long descent into agitation and paranoia is over. That’s the look-on-the-bright-side POV.

So here we are, in the twilight zone.

The best day I’ve had in a long time was a few weeks ago on a surprisingly warm Saturday in February. My guy took me to Parc Monceau, where there’s a fully-equipped snack stand, and he bought an armload of hot dogs and crepes and coffee for us. We sat on a bench and took off our masks and ate in the sunshine, watching toddlers running by in tutus and lovers clutching each other and old people lifting their faces to the sun. We talked about how our kids are healthy and how we’ll take a trip together after we get vaccinated. It was the closest to normal we could get, focusing on the good and looking forward to the better.

To read Yvonne Hazelton’s tips for dating in Paris, click here.

© Alex Mustaros/Unsplash

Can we hope now?

I’m almost afraid to hope. We hoped when the first confinement was over, and we had a relatively normal summer in France, but then we lost hope in the fall when the numbers went south. The second confinement didn’t have the adrenaline of the first one, the days were short and the nights were long, and we grew discouraged. The current 6 pm curfew, putting us indoors while the sun is still out, just seems cruel. 

Still, vaccines are here, and even if they’re slow, they have started. Far in the distance, we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

And if there’s a light ahead, then is this really twilight? It might be the opposite.

It might be dawn.


  1. Hi Yvonne!
    Again, you bring smiles, laughter, and hope to my COVID world! Thank you and keep on writing so I can keep on reading! Please say “Hello” to your cheerful and engaging young man of a roommate.‍♀️ Beth


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