Of all the things I thought I’d write about one day, living through a global pandemic was not one of them. COVID-19, coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, ruiner-of-my-son’s-bday, tomato/tomahto – whatever you want to call it, it’s here. And it sucks.
COVID-19 has certainly brought the world to a standstill over the past few months. Aside from the obvious health risks associated with those who contract the virus, the economic and social consequences seem to be affecting just about everyone. So many countries have seen a flood of business closures, mass layoffs, unemployment benefit filings, as well as large government stimulus packages. And the hardest hit citizens seem to be those who were already marginalized and at an economic disadvantage before this – immigrants, people of colour, single-family households, part-time workers, and those working in the underground or tip economy.
Government stances have differed widely from country to country. From the total lockdowns in China, Italy and Spain to a country like Sweden that gave a big ol’ middle finger to curtailing regular life in any way, to my own country of Canada which has implemented physical distancing rules that call for staying home and going out only for essentials or exercise. This wouldn’t sound so bad to someone like me who’s often socially distant on purpose, but it’s so much more intense when you try to put it into practice.
Not seeing my close friends and family has proven to be harder than I thought. I can’t just pop by someone’s house for a visit or go out for dinner with friends. I’ve been stuck in the house with my five-year old for the past 6
00 weeks, 24 00 hours a day and likewise, the poor kid has been stuck with me. And interacting with people once out in public has felt straight out of the movie Contagion (which I have not seen by the way, but what I envision life will soon be like when I’m out grocery shopping without a hazmat suit on).
By far the worst of this pandemic is what it’s done to our mindsets about what the future holds. I don’t know what life is going to be like in one or two days let alone one or two months. So much information comes at us on a daily basis – new guidelines, policies, regulations, statistics – which makes it overwhelming but also critical to stay informed.
I admit that I swing from totally chill, to mildly concerned, to panicked with heart palpitations. So to keep myself from having a complete meltdown, I’m trying to focus on the silver linings in all of this.
Even on the crappy days, they ARE there. We just have to look.
First off, mother nature is likely taking a great big sigh of relief now that we’ve taken our foot off of her neck. For example, satellite images from space have shown a massive reduction in air pollution across various parts of the world due to a sharp decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels, which come from the factories, businesses and traffic congestion that have stopped temporarily.
There has also been reports from Italy about the lack of people and boats in Venice, which means the usually murky water has returned to a clearer blue, which hasn’t been seen in decades.
Wildlife has finally been able to live without the constant intrusion of tourists. Recent drone footage in Thailand shows a surprising return of dugong (a cousin of the manatee) feeding off of the coast and enjoying life without people in their space. And these are just a few examples.
I’m not naïve to think that this temporary pause in life will halt climate change or even slow it much; however, I think the break we’re giving the planet and its various ecosystems is a positive by-product. Now if we could only acknowledge its fragility more and keep that going when it’s all over…
This pandemic has also exposed a lot in people. Social media can be pretty toxic on a good day, so times like this sure do bring out the ignorance and prejudices of people. I’ve seen some shocking things firsthand from people I thought I knew. But crises always have a way of showing you who people are, which I suppose is a positive thing.
And then there’s the good.
Every time there is a global crisis, be it a natural disaster or sudden tragedy, people really do show up to help each other, just for the sake of helping. Stories of ordinary citizens sewing face masks, delivering food, checking on neighbours and contributing to rent relief programs has been heartwarming. And a quick Google search will show you various cities engaging in a nightly applause for frontline workers, people getting creative with birthday songs to loved ones, Zoom parties and my favourite form of therapy, music.
Italians singing Viva la Nostra Siena on their balconies has been one of my favourites. I have no idea what they’re saying, but it’s spontaneous and beautiful and all the more meaningful when you think about the human toll this has taken there. And yet, they sing. Together. I, for one, haven’t been able to watch this without tearing up. If you can, kudos…although that might mean you’re made of a low-grade concrete. But don’t fret, they even did Black Sabbath for you concrete people!
Other examples that have helped me include the nightly Instagram dance parties of D Nice, a famous DJ who draws thousands of people including celebrities, politicians and sports stars for old school dance parties that go on for hours. And my favourite musician, Nahko from Medicine for the People does live concerts from his living room a few days a week. Sometimes my son and I have dance parties of our own when he’s on. Sometimes we listen while we eat dinner. Sometimes we sing along to a few songs in bed before my son goes to sleep. Regardless, it feels like he’s playing for us, which I guess he kinda is.
On a personal level, I’ve slowed my life down. Admittedly not by choice, but I’m doing my best to take it all in and focus on what’s important. I’ve spent more time speaking to close friends that live near and far on video chat. We have drinks together, share what we’re cooking, and my son and one of his cousins even do a toy show-and-tell every once in a while. I’m also FINALLY caught up on the latest fashion trend, what I like to call Pandemic Chic. No make up, hair in a top bun, optional bra, joggers, stretchy pants, pyjamas that look like joggers or stretchy pants; this is your time to shine. And I have embraced all of it.
The constant stream of news I usually crave has driven me mad, so I’m limiting how much and what I watch. I have NO plans on breaking off my thing with Anderson Cooper, but I’ve definitely reduced how much I watch and from what sources. Instead, I’m reading more and thankfully writing more too. I’ve finished a few pieces I will shop around, but I’m writing for myself. A lot. Unfortunately, the momentum my book had after its release has all but dissipated. I couldn’t get it into book stores. I’ve done no launch party or book signings even though my schedule is wider than open if that’s even possible. However, life will start up again, and I know all that will too.
Sometimes my son and I stay in pyjamas all day, watching cartoons and eating junk food like the best of ‘em, but I’m trying to come up with fun things we can do to stave off my cartoon/candy guilt. Aside from the usual Lego building and truck crashing, we’ve spent more time doing crafts, building forts and ramps for his toys, whatever. Sure, I sometimes want to hurl myself off a bridge trying to convince him to get off the TV or do some school work, but he does it. And I’m still alive. And with the nicer weather around the corner, we’ll be enjoying outside more and playing in the dirt as I attempt to garden for the first time in…well, ever.
So as this pandemic hopefully winds down (ugh, puhleease be winding the F down) looking at the silver linings just might help you feel gratitude for what you have and in some ways, thankful for what you don’t. You might feel inspiration of some kind. You might lie around and do a whole lot of nothing. You may wallow some days and feel rejuvenated on others. You may think about how you can help in your communities or our planet. Or you may think about what snacks you’ll eat today and how your wine supply is holding up. I’ve done/do ALL of those. And that’s okay. Whatever gets you through. Silver linings is my ultimate trick though. Maybe yours too.
Stay safe, folks.