Naima Morelli

Beyond pandemic fatigue: craving a rebirth

Una rinascita. A rebirth. A resurrection.
As it has appeared to me with increasing clarity in the past few weeks, this is not about how things will look from the outside, in line after the pandemic. It will rather be about how things will feel like, which is in turn determined by what things mean.
Although life has been good to me during these endless series of lockdowns and red zones going on in Italy, I am finally starting to feel a bit of pandemic fatigue, just like everyone. And like everyone, I’m looking in the way my attitude can overturn the situation, transforming it into a precious lesson. I’m looking for a shift in perception.

“There is a difference in establishing routines because you chose them, and being forced into having always the same routines,” told me my stoic aerospace engineer friend Giovanna. But isn’t the whole idea of Amor Fati – so cherished by the Stoics themselves – of embracing one’s destiny as you would have chosen it?
Indeed, that’s basically what I have done since January, nurturing a renewed sense of self in the process of being firmer in my activities. My “doing in the world,” which reinforces meaning, which makes us happier.

And yet, here I am one day, finding myself indulging in old pictures on Facebook. Naima in her wrap dress at an opening in Singapore, Naima in her gi training at the dojo, spring-time Naima on an island taking pictures with her friend Rod. All those different identities, shapes and forms, I take to show up in the world, to participate in the adventures that light me up, to be together with the people I share this sense of aliveness, introspecting, fun, conversation and joy with. But places, faces, moments, don’t mean much if they are hallowed of the feeling, the total presence. We can look at the images of how we were pre-pandemics, and forgot that we weren’t necessarily in such a heavenly mind space, compared to today. I looked good in that picture in a cafè in Phnom Penh, sure. I was learning my lessons, sure. But back home, did the future really looked so different to the uncertainty we are all facing today? Let’s not idealize the pre-pandemic past. It wasn’t perfect either.

Of course, we all had plans we had to give up. For me, it was my usual one-month research trip in Asia in January, being in Rome and training martial arts, and keep living aesthetic adventures and consuming heart-warming dinners with my friends. Simple things. But I knew some of these things were wobbly at the time, and being in such a state as needing to finding the inner resources really helped. I found a depth in doing my graphic novels I had long forgotten. I found new lifeblood to infuse in my journalism and work. I discovered a whole other side of staff spinning and the kicks, to complement my martial arts journey and a depth of practice. Heck, I even took the camera in my hands again and, together with friends, rehashed Gioco di Donne, my fashion blog I have been doing for more than ten years now.

Of course, Kierkegaard would advise against the Don Juan mentality of starting from the aesthetics. Indeed, that’s one of my features that I have to most watch out for. An actor can’t get so deep in characters that can’t get out from them any longer. So my way of seeing the beauty in every thing, coasting a tendency to create it often, shouldn’t mean impose it on others. Which of course as a strong-willed woman I tend to do. Love what is. Not love what it could be. Play with what is could be, swim in the sea of possibilities. But then get to the shores once the set is wrapped, the comic book page is drawn, the essay is written, the book chapter is read. Come back to your breath, come back to reality. Back to being present.

By the way, it’s so great to finally have the tools to do this. When reading the work of spiritual teachers, such as Eckart Tolle or Byron Katie, one gets the impression that imagination, love for aesthetics and for storytelling, is something to eradicate, cause it brings you far from reality. And that never felt right. After all, as Yuval Noah Harari says, it’s precisely our capacity to tell stories that make us different from all other animals. That makes us human. So this is a gift, otherwise, it wouldn’t be here. “Why God would have you to be an accountant if you have a talent for acting?”, to quote another spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson. So, while learning to honour what I have been given, I also need to cultivate practices to not get lost in it. After all, even David Lynch is one of the main advocates for meditation. Art is not about ourselves, art is a conduit, and it can give us kernels to understand ourselves. I’d say this is where I’m at in terms of creating my own stories with my graphic novels, and being back into reading a whole lot – one of the many gifts of staying inside most of the time.

More books, less smartphone time. How about that? In thinking of how rebirth should happen, I’m definitely thinking of getting my headspace more clear. Less sparse information or communication, more depth. This idea I’m exploring also with the different virtual teachers, I had access to during this quarantine. I have subscribed to Meghan Currie’s online yoga studio, and the theme of this month is “alignment”, and the first step is taking deliberate action, on and off the mat. Being more deliberate with technology, with the energies you exchange with people – which during these times are dramatically reduced, hence easier to be mindful of in a way. Being more deliberate with the food I eat, how to respond to my feelings, which book to read, which films to watch.

As for these days, living in the tiny South of Italy village where I grew up, the dream is to be somewhere where I’m a complete stranger. Completely identity-less, where no one knows who I am, and there is a whole new existence to be written. My experience and skills are not forgotten, they are there in my bodymind complex to give me the confidence to enter every new situation with a brave, clear, fearless mind. This is precisely what I feel when I travel, whether to a new country or around Italy with my friend Rod, another one always willing to rewrite his one story from chapter one. This is what I felt in a yoga studio in Paris, where I stepped into Talia Sutra’s workshop, after having practiced yoga mostly alone every day. The first time, the beginner’s mind. A clean slate. That’s a rebirth. That’s a resurrection. Questa è una rinascita.