What on earth do you write about in a time like this? All I know is, we need to write. And cook, and create, and move. And so, borrowing a title from Gabriel Garcia Marquez I grabbed onto one of the best tools we have right now: gratitude.
But first, a mental flush from a too-busy mind…
» On a bike ride Monday I saw a church sign that read “Support each other. Love each other. Self-isolate.” The strange irony of that has been haunting me all week. A month ago, such logic would’ve seemed bizarre; now, the mandate is everywhere.
» We went to Whistler last weekend for a child-free getaway. It was just before things got really serious—or at least before we knew how serious they’d been all along. We probably shouldn’t have gone, but we justified it so many ways. Our night in a pub with friends now seems a lifetime away.
» As the situation worsened my guilt mounted. It was one of the fastest transitions I’ve witnessed in myself, ever, going from emoji shrug to emoji face-palm. (Aka: “It’s just a bad flu” to “holy shit.”) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so tangibly my role in this vast and fragile social web. With an issue like global warming, I often don’t feel like what I do changes anything. With COVID, there’s no denying that even our tiniest choices matter. Lessons from Philosophy 101 return—”the greatest good for the greatest amount of people,” was it?—not just a theory anymore. Suddenly I’m seeing everything differently, and on the bad days, new guilt about things like diapers, garbage, my meat consumption.
» In addition to guilt (“why should I get to run out for one more bag of coffee beans or a few more bottles of wine?”) this outbreak has also brought up many new emotions. Suddenly I’m judging people taking group selfies on the trail or gathered together eating burgers on the ferry while I grab hot water and dash back to the vehicle deck. I’m also spending all my time with just four people: my partner, son, and parents, who arrived on the island for a two-month visit just before this all blew up. I’m so grateful for their company, but it calls for extra helpings of patience and compassion.
» I am hungry to connect, to read about how my friends and family are muddling through. I need a break from the news, the infographics, the heart-wrenching stories. I have been craving humor—not the cavalier kind, but the kind that lifts and lightens, like John Oliver’s recent audience-less broadcast in which he gives everyone 30 seconds to whine about something trivial they’re missing because of COVID. (In his case, his favorite soccer team who now won’t get to compete at the World Cup—and he nails the toddler impersonation.) I love the funny memes circulating about working from home, and creative solutions for home-schooling and keeping kids entertained. In a time when playgrounds are closing, this is imperative. I love seeing how people are using their sudden “gift” of time.
» COVID has turned 2020 upside-down. I set out this year to try and consume less social media, but now even Facebook is a friendlier, more united place. People are posting home workouts, offers of grocery delivery, resources to help manage stress and anxiety. They’re sharing pictures of their gardens and home renos, small and important gestures we can still make. I had set out to drink less, which I managed last week, but feel might be shifting the deeper we get into this. And the productivity planner I ordered back in January? If I was still using it, every day would look the same. I’m suddenly relieved that I hadn’t yet signed up for any races. (Sometimes there are perks to being indecisive!)
» There’s also this curious sense of connection with strangers, even as we learn this strange new reality of social distancing. It’s a few words exchanged with someone when just a week ago we would’ve said nothing. It’s a subtle smile or a simple “good morning” I might not have otherwise uttered, and that for some reason makes me tear up just a little.
In many ways, my world is much the same as it was before. Still new to this city, it’s not like we have an army of friends we’re now cut off from. My partner and I both work from home, so little has changed in our daily routines—we’re just seeing a whole lot more of each other. And though it feels trite to talk about gratitude in the time of COVID, it’s one of the only things left. So here is my ever-expanding list. I encourage you to talk about yours, either on social media, in a journal, over the fence with your neighbour or dinner with your family.
I am grateful for:
-my parents being here to help lessen the load of childcare, meals, and house projects
-getting to spend more time with Felix during this amazing age
-house projects and the time/incentive to attack them
-living on an island (somehow, the separation is comforting)
-that we moved out of our 490-sq ft apartment when we did!
-the incredible weather lately
-the outdoors, which seems so much fresher and cleaner than it ever has
-the positive impact of all this on global warming
-the health care professionals in my life
-gardens—building my own, watching people garden, and reading stories about gardens (new life!)
-smart people who can advise us on what to do in this time and who are courageous enough to speak out against rumors and misinformation
-my son, who has no idea what’s going on and is just as joyful and energetic as always
-my partner, who may not be a hairdresser, barista, or massage therapist (need!) but is otherwise the best quarantine buddy I could ask for
-swimming pools and gyms, which I will never take for granted again
-the ability to run, hike, ride my bike and do yoga/strength at home
-wine, beer, coffee, and chocolate (and healthy, nutritious food too!)
-TV and movie streaming, and podcasts (right now: West World and The Happiness Lab)