• Simone Penn

I’m quite aware of how Ridiculous I am.

I’ve recently discovered the merit in being normal, after many, many, years (a lifetime some might say) of being decidedly abnormal.

I remember once I went through a phase of posting videos of myself to Instagram and a friend told me I’d hit a new low.

How wrong she was.

Turns out you can always go much further into the abyss. To the point of non-existence. To the point of being smoke.

My husband and I have become human smoke.

Let me explain:

  • For the past four weeks my family and I have been living in a hotel (due to multiple factors, including but not limited to, our flat catching fire and my catching corona).

  • Because I had a baby two weeks ago, members of the community have been delivering dinner here every day (which rolls over to lunch too).

  • My husband left his job earlier this year so he’s home with us all day long in some sort of weird, pseudo-holiday, alternate universe.

  • I have a newborn so I’m glued to my feeding chair.

  • My older kids are Nursery and Playschool age respectively, so when we saw the corona-writings-on-the-wall we promptly deregistered them so as to save the R11000 monthly tuition.

  • In a weird twist of post-employment fate my husband’s cell phone number, and iTunes account, were lost in the ether; and for some weird reason his laptop screen simultaneously left the land of the living.

  • Plus, it’s corona. So there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do and only masks to wear whilst we do it.

It’s almost like being in a really high-end prison with my family and kosher food and a view.

In any event, this is the life of a persona non grata.

This is the lifestyle of human smoke.

Our greatest delight is the, once a week, trip to pick ‘n pay to replenish the cereal and milk supply. We’ve been utterly delighted to add nappies to the shopping list.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it really fall? Do the Penns even exist at all?

Before Descartes’ was able to formulate the sum of all human knowledge - ‘Cogito ergo Sum’ (I think therefore I am) he knew he had to strip away absolutely everything that was uncertain. To get to the foundation one needs to remove every layer.

Somehow that has happened to my life. The ultimate display of minimalism. I’m left with only my immediate family, my clothes, and a white Le Creuset pot.

There is a vague liberation. But mainly a terrible feeling of floating. Anchorlessness.

So now I just want to be normal. That’s never happened to me before. It struck me the other night.

During my pregnancy I had constructed an elaborate plan to buy one set of regular pampers nappies, for the hospital and first week home with my baby. Thereafter I planned to use my enormous stash of cloth nappies like a good little eco warrior.

By night two of cloth nappy’ing I had changed my baby’s clothes at every single feed because he was soaked through. At 2am I said to myself: What would Shelly Kahn do? She is my berometer for normality.

I realized: “you have to just buy the damn pampers!”

I mean this literally and proverbially. It’s a lesson in life. Stop overthinking. Stop sweating the small stuff. Buy the damn pampers and move on!

You have to buy the pampers to have a functional life.

This is true of everything. You need a job to earn money. You need a teacher to get educated. You need a house to have a home. You need one to have the other. It’s taken me a long time to accept this undeniable reality of the physical world.

Yes; there are alternative options: remote offices and freelancing and unschooling and so forth. But they don’t work as well. And they’re actually not the most important thing. We need our lives to work in order for our lives to work. And then we can focus on the more important things.

I needed to have everything be removed from my life to see how much of everything is necessary to have a life.

Cliches are cliches for a reason. Because if something is true it gets repeated, a lot. If something works, people tend to do it.

Jordan Peterson says that human beings are so self sabotaging that it’s astounding when any system works, even a little bit. To hope for some version of perfection is totally futile. A vaguely functional system is the best we can hope to get.

This was a hard pill to swallow for me but I’ve done it now and I feel better for it.

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