56. In the Bunker / by Allie Farris

     I’m lying on my back, jeans off and draped over the edge of the bed, with a hot water bottle balanced on my gut. My knees are up, holding it in place, and my iPad is leaning against my right knee, with the other leg bent across it in a t-shape. This morning, C awoke halfway between healthy and a cold, which was enough to ensure that he would stay home and work from our couch. All day, he has worn a powder-blue cotton onesie with bright yellow trim, made to look like a plush version of the uniform worn by characters in the video game “Fallout”. Now living in a country with the highest concentration of nuclear shelters in the world, I deemed this an apt choice for his new winter pj’s.

     I woke up with no cold; however, I still had a feeling of gunk in my system (due to hypochondria, most likely). I went through my usual wake up routine: 

  1. C got me a coffee from our machine on his way to the shower.

  2. I inched up my pillow incrementally with each sip from the warm mug. 

  3. Coming out of my stupor fully, C is out of the shower, dressing, and on his way to the office.                 

     Instead of heading out though, he put on his onesie and plopped down onto the couch, his work computer positioned on a TV tray. He looked up at me with big, French puppy dog eyes and asked me for a “smoothiee pleese” in his thick accent. I headed to the kitchen. 
     With his smoothie made and my tiny energy drink downed like a shot of Jack Daniels in a west-Texas honkey tonk, I made a shopping list for my final morning of Christmas shopping, and proceeded to clean the rooms I needed to clean today. 

     So then, why am I lying on my back, on my bed, in a bad mood with a stomach ache? Why did I just go through the play-by-play of events of my boring, normal-ish morning (that will surely lead to a boring, normal-ish day)? Because that’s just it: this is currently my new normal. And I’m not sure I’m entirely content with that.


     Because of my present inability to work in Switzerland, C and I have come to the arrangement that I’ll be helping with the housework, while also building up my music business online from home. C is away at his office from about 8:30am to 8pm each day, in meetings and formulating strategies for nearly 12 hours. Although I think it’s the only fair solution to our current standing, and I feel grateful for this beautiful country and the partner that I have, I must admit that this arrangement makes me feel...frazzled. 

     I left the apartment at about 10:15 am this morning, only to return home at noon, without getting in my workout, yet I finished my Christmas shopping and got our groceries. Walking all over Lausanne with just an energy shot on my stomach, two hours in tight yoga pants and an iffy constitution led me to developing a nasty stomach ache. I got home to C’s cheery “How was the gym?”; my shamefaced answer was a trudge to the shower after putting a can of soup on the stove for our lunch, and ending up where you’ve found me today. On the bed. iPad in hand, nearly 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

     I have gotten NOTHING done today.

     I’m well aware my biggest problems lie in the devices I frequently hold in my hand: one flick of the wrist or a rogue finger point will have me back on Pinterest, Facebook, or Reddit; combing through comments and headlines about the newest health trend, who’s pregnant or just completed a marathon, or what funny thing was said by some random witty teenager in Indiana on Twitter. What I didn’t divulge about my “normal” day, the unheeded filling between the many layers of a boring Tuesday, were the countless minutes I stared blankly at my phone, scrolling.

     How the heck am I supposed to become anything substantial when the intoxicating game of social media distraction lies constantly at my fingertips? How can I call myself a musician when the cover has been on my piano for the better part of two weeks? It now seems that having left music city, the constant (literal) drumbeat of musical creativity happening all around me has ceased to be perceptible; all that remains now is a quiet stillness and white noise, a blank canvas onto which I have yet to be brave enough to paint.
I was in the gym this week when my Greek friend, a personal trainer, came over to my corner while I attempted to do burpees, huffing and heaving as I half-heartedly jumped for the ceiling before plopping down again into a weebly push-up position for another rep. He’s new to Lausanne like me; he and his girlfriend moved here about 3 months ago, and finally found an apartment they moved into this week. This was yet another hurdle I was saved from by C, who came three months before me, found an apartment, and our stuff was delivered straight to it. 

     “I have made one observation” said my friend, his accent classic and rolled, somewhere between the tongue-trill of Arabic and the lilting cadences of a Romance language.

     “Oh yeah, and what is that?” I said through my jarringly attention-getting American nose horn. 

     “If you want to make money in this country, you need two things: one, the VISA,”—he looked to me to make sure I was listening—“and two, the French.” I realized he meant the French language, not our neighboring countrymen.

     “Yeah, I get you” I said, commiserating. “It’s hard, I need to learn French too and it’s coming so slowly.” My Greek friend was the only one in my same predicament that I’d met at the gym so far; he speaks English while almost all the other trainers speak French. It has gotten him many new clients, but it seems now to be holding him back from his full money-making potential in this French-speaking city.

     “I just don’t have time, you know?” He said.

     I looked up from my deflated push-up position and dropped to my knees. I saw before me a tall, super fit Greek dude who I know spends a few hours a day in the gym, carefully etching finer lines into the curves around each of his muscles. I laughed in his face. But you know, nicely.

     “What do you do when you first wake up?” I asked him, prying.

     “I have my breakfast” he fired back at me. 

     “What do you do while you eat your breakfast?” I was going for it.

     “I don’t know...I play on my phone.” He confessed honestly, to his credit. He had set me up for my C-style finishing move.

     “Couldn’t you study French instead of playing on your phone?”

     The large man’s bulging shoulders dropped a few inches, betraying his superhero stance and letting slip the hint of his mortality. He scrunched up his nose, and left me to my burpees, not wanting to give up his own morning routine.

     And why should he? All I should be focusing on are my own hang ups; my own Achilles heels. What if I took a taste of my own bitter pill and modified my wake-up routine to include some French study, or swapped my true crime podcasts for more music? (What a concept.)
     I’m genuinely interested to know what you think about the distractions we face, and whether or not they help you relax, or keep you from reaching your full potential. In the end, time management makes for the most boring, yet productive, days of all. Soapbox over.

     After an hour or so, my heating pad loses some of its gusto. It has done a smashing job of ebbing away my bubble gut, however. I let it fall to my side as I lift myself out of the bed once more. Each day is different, each minute a new chance to face my immobilizing fears and hate my laziness a little less. It’s time to decide what I want, not what feels comfortable right now. There’s a difference between sitting on the couch in Fallout pajamas for one day because you’re sick. It’s another to stay in the bunker for the rest of your life.