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Is It The Lockdown? Is It The Dollar? What We Loved And Hated About Lebanon’s Start to 2021

As creatures of habit, life's constant changes has made us feel perpetually uprooted. It could be the lockdown, but it also could be the ever elusive stability we have been so desperately seeking in Lebanon.
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It’s been two months since we’d been confined to the four walls of our homes. Businesses shut, schools moved back online and we were under a 24 hour curfew.

I woke up on January 7th, agitated, frustrated and incredulous; wondering how I’ll get through the rest of the week with nothing to do. I told myself I needed a couple of days, I just had to find a routine, a new project to throw myself into, and make sure I had a physical activity outlet to stick to.

So I said, and so I did. A few days later, I found a new routine, threw myself into working on this blog project, found a supportive community online and got into a productive rhythm. And while my feed was cluttered with harrowing COVID news, friends, acquaintances and distant relatives affected by the virus, I was still able to keep a generally positive outlook.

The lockdown was originally supposed to only last 3 weeks, but towards the end of January it was apparent that the country was nowhere near ready to re-open again. So the confinement got extended and I proceeded to have a mini nervous breakdown. I had hoped that we could be productive again and at least restore a level of income.

Life had other plans for us.

So we all had no choice but to kept ploughing on with our home routines. But the truth is that as much as I missed normal life, I still was embedded into my newfound rhythm and got myself into the swing of another round of confinement.

Not long after, life did start to unfold into some sort of normalcy, my industry started opening up, albeit reduced hours, and glimmers of activity started to show through. And while I was mostly relieved at the news and excited at the idea of making an income again, I couldn’t help but feel uprooted and disoriented from the momentum I’d built at home.

Humans Are Creatures Of Habit

I’ve come to understand in real terms what it means to be a creature of habit. As humans, we need our structures, our routines, our habits to feel grounded. Despite the fact that the world is in turmoil and reverting back to our old busy lives is what everyone seems to be aspiring to, it’s inevitable that we all feel a little bit of lockdown blues. Not blues for the isolation and the confinement, but blues for what felt like a sense of stability for a couple of months. For the safety of our predictable days, for the refuge that 8 weeks of stillness provided.

That’s also been the story of our dollar rates. The day the stores reopened, it skyrocketed up by 15%. The day after, it became 6x the price of what it was this time last year. This brings with it a whole barrage of issues; food and basic needs going up in price and as a consequence, people going hungry and protesting on the streets.

This has been the never-ending humdrum of the past couple of years. We do the ostrich dance and bury our heads in the sand for a while, only to realise that over the last few months, our reality has shifted yet again.

The dollar rate (vs. local Lebanese Pound) has been on the rise for over a year now, and so has been the despair and helplessness of the Lebanese people. The number of businesses shutting down has been steadily increasing, the amount of people unable to afford their basic necessities skyrocketing.

Each dramatic rate increase brings with it a whole set of emotions and changes. Horror at increased prices of our weekly food shop, disbelief at how cruel life has become, and then slowly readjusting our expectations to the new cost of living in Lebanon.

So it is no wonder that we are all exhausted. Depleted. Decimated. We are tired of the unpredictability of life. We’ve had enough of reshaping our realities, including that of the Dollar price.

So for all of us creatures of habit, imagine what it’s like to live in a perpetual state of uprooting. We no longer know what is more draining. Is it the lockdown? Is it the Dollar? Whichever one it is, it’s gruelling.

And then before we know it, we’ll get used to the new opening hours, the new COVID procedures, the new coffee we’d never seen before but have no choice but to try because our favourite brand doesn’t exist anymore. We’ll open our arms to help the needy and we’ll feed the hungry and we’ll forget how painful it was to get back on our feet yet we did it anyway.



For more articles on the experience of being human, see The Human Experience category. For more about Lebanon, checkout more articles in my Lebanon Chronicles category.

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