Notas do isolamento

The Economist
Notes on isolation, from those who know it well.
Abril 2020

A astronauta Helen Sharman reflete sobre o lockdown e faz associações com o tempo em que ficou na estação espacial MIR.

In 1991 I became the first British astronaut to go into space. I had chosen to put myself in a small spacecraft with only a few other people, an event we planned and trained for over many months. The circumstances are different from those under lockdown, but there are similarities too: uncertainty, self-isolation and social distancing.

A lot of my mental adjustment to being in a confined space station involved acceptance. On the Mir space station I had planned for it so I was comfortable with the situation from the beginning, but I’m feeling the same thing right now. It's important to understand why we are doing this, to accept the situation, realise it could always be worse and that it will get better.

When I was in space, Mission Control scheduled my days to the minute. Every evening the information they sent would come out like a fax machine, a long thin bit of paper telling me exactly what time I should get up, when I should eat, what experiments I should do and when. I didn’t mind – it was efficient – but I did get comfort from the small things that I could control, like what juice I drank and the time after dinner when I really could do whatever I wanted. Now my days are restricted like everyone else – my speaking engagements have been cancelled and my work for Imperial College London is moving online – but I still take pleasure in the small things; deciding my morning run and what path I take. I remember that lesson from space, letting go of what you can’t control and focusing on what you can. We have all been told to stay at home – but we can still decide how we use our time.

Living in a confined space with other people requires more tolerance than normal, so now is a time to work on the relationships with the people you’re in close proximity to. I was in space only for eight days and we didn’t have any arguments. But one commander up there had a habit of tapping me on the shoulder when he wanted to talk. He thought it was less intrusive, I found it terribly annoying. Once I was looking out the window, I felt a little tap-tap on my shoulder and I thought, “There he goes again!” When I turned around I realised it was a camera lens that had come loose and was floating in space. Lesson learned.

Astronauts are selected on the basis of being gregarious people, not particularly highly strung, not obviously depressive or excitable. We don’t necessarily choose the people we live with on that basis. Everyone – even astronauts – will find niggles if they’re in a confined space with someone for a period of time. It’s so important to keep talking about those things openly, and in a calm way, rather than let them build up. On the space station, the only private space I had was a small bedroom area with no door, but even that was useful. At home, we have a storage room. When I close the door, people know not to disturb me.

There’s a lovely poem by William Henry Davies that includes the line, “We have no time to stand and stare”. But in space we did have time. At the end of the day, we would find a window, gather our heads around its circumference and appreciate the gorgeous planet that we have. Over the Himalayas, you would see the snow and where it has melted in the ravines. In Madagascar the soil is a reddish colour and from space you can see its sediment swirling out into the ocean. You get to know the patterns of the Earth; every time you look out to see the view constantly changing.

Now we all have more time to pay attention to what’s outside our window. In my home in west London, I look out onto a very old cherry tree. It's not flowering yet but I can see little pink buds ready to burst out. It’s going to be an absolute joy when they do. I can open the window and feel the fresh air (which I couldn’t do in space...) and listen to the wind, or the birds or children playing. You might think your view stays the same but it’s always changing.

The material items we strive for on Earth become insignificant in space; I didn’t think once about possessions when I was up there. Confronted with this materialism back home, I was repulsed. I downgraded my attachment to “stuff”. In space, I had all the basics I needed – food, shelter and crew mates for company. But what do astronauts really miss? Friends and family, the personal relationships we often take for granted on Earth. When you go over parts of the world where you know people, it’s those individuals that come to mind.

When you go around the entire planet in 92 minutes it really does seem quite small. It made me realise that even if we don’t always feel the effect of what is happening on the other side of the world, we cannot be divorced from it. We influence it, and it influences us. I feel that sense of connectedness now, back on Earth. At night, if the clouds are gone you can look out at the stars and the people who you might be connecting with – virtually or by phone – can look out and see those same stars and feel a sense of togetherness. As told to Alexandra Genova

Um comentário:

  1. To be honest ... eu estou gostando do isolamento social... me sinto bem... olhando e contemplando para dentro das minhas janelas, também metaforicamente.