As though, knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
How is everyone doing? We are now in the 12th month of Covid-19-induced social distancing and the pandemic is showing no real signs of abating any time soon…so I imagine you have all been better?
One the bright side, if you’re reading this, you are alive. And that, in itself, is something positive.
Now that the days are shorter and we are well into a time of year that is difficult for many even without an international health crisis, I thought this might be a good time to introduce the second half of my post about coping mechanisms which I have found to be particularly useful to get me through these trying times largely in one piece.
And so, without further ado, here they are. I hope, if you are struggling, that one or several of these resonates with you and helps you to find some joy in an otherwise frustrating and disheartening time.
“…patience and perseverance generally enable mankind to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible. Indeed, what is there above man’s exertions?”
– George Borrow, Lavengro
How is everybody doing? Hanging in there OK? Can anyone believe we have been in the grips of this pandemic, at least here in Canada, for half a year already?
As I’ve written in previous posts, the last six months have been hard. I recognize fully that my Covid experience has been incredibly privileged compared to the vast majority of humanity. To start, I have a roof over my head. I’m warm, dry, fed, healthy, safe and am able to bubble up with at least part of our family. Both my husband and I have been able to keep bringing in paychecks and we have only one dependent who is an infant and therefore does not need to be homeschooled (I’m not supposed to be schooling an 8-month-old…right?). So, yes, all things considered, my situation could be much MUCH worse.
However, none of these privileges can fully combat the fact that we are living through a global pandemic, and one that looks on track to last a while longer (PSA: Wear your masks, people!). Not only is the isolation and fear crushing some days but learning to parent while not having access to our much-beloved support networks has been much harder than I could have possibly imagined. Yes, now we have at least one set of grandparents and a few uncles and aunts in our bubble able to help but that leaves two sets of grandparents, many uncles and aunts, and the rest of our extended family largely out of our daughter’s life for the time being. And this alone is, well, heartbreaking. As I wrote in a previous post, this is not in any way, shape, or form what I envisioned for the first year of Aria’s life. Not by a long shot.
Don’t worry, though, dear reader! This post is not meant to be all doom and gloom. I am actually going to offer below some coping mechanisms that seemed to have worked to largely bring me back to a place of calm and positivity in the midst of so much chaos and negativity. I hope they will help someone, anyone, to find even just a little bit of light in the darkness but, remember, it is still OK to not be OK. Take a deep breath. We will get through this, together.
“Moments like this act as magical interludes placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn – and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.” – Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
How is everyone doing?
We are now, let’s see, 6 months into COVID-19 self-isolation measures. Half. A. Year. How is this possible? How can it possibly feel like no time at all has passed while also simultaneously seeming like we’ve been in isolation forever? Is this how hermits feel all the time? The mind boggles.
Like many others, I have struggled during this time to keep on top of the many productive tasks I set out to consistently chip away at despite having what appears at first blush to be an unlimited stretch of time laid out before me each morning.
Wait, scratch that, who am I kidding? I have a 6.5-month-old daughter…I wake up before the sun and by the time I catch a moment to take a deep breath that same sun is somehow on its way down again. I wonder if the days feel as unreasonably short to a baby as well.
Motherhood aside, as this is not what I wished to post about tonight, I can summarize the last few months in one single word: Rough.
“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.”
– Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
I hope you will forgive me, dear reader, for not posting this yesterday…Easter spent without family was rougher than I expected (especially as it was my daughter’s first Easter) but I’m hoping writing this today will help ease the pain. If only just a little.
“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
We’ll appreciate them so much more when this is all over. What will we appreciate, you ask? I didn’t really have one single thing in mind when I chose the word them. Fill in the blank: When COVID-19 has been vanquished, I will finally and truly appreciate _____________. Regardless of what your answer was (family, friends, restaurants, crowded shopping malls, travel, work, your annoying neighbour who comes by to borrow sugar every day), it’s true, isn’t it? When this is all over, everything – even the things we profess to dislike or even hate, will be somehow less odious. Because right now, they are simply not within our reach.
Right now, we are all on lockdown, unsure of when the rules and regulations will be lifted, unsure of what life will look like when it goes back to “normal”.
It’s as fascinating as it is frustrating that this has been hard on us all. During a normal workweek, the prospect of being told to stay home with our families for a few days would be a godsend to many of us – a chance to rest and recuperate.
But the undefined, seemingly unending nature of this quarantine is different from a mental health break or a vacation. So very different.
Families convene by skype, blowing kisses through the screen. Grocery stores are an oasis, their shelves sanitized on a nightly basis in anticipation of the touch of an unknowingly-infected hand the following morning. Food packaging is left on the front porch, cleaned and cleaned again before being allowed through the hallowed front doors. Swing-sets and slides are cordoned off to discourage those too arrogant or foolhardy to respect the simple request to stay home.
If you really think about it, unless home is not a safe place for you, we are being asked to do the one thing we should desire naturally: spend time at home with our loved ones. But the lack of control, of choice, makes this simple act a painful one.
What will the day be like when restrictions are lifted and we can once again be free to shake hands, to high-five, to hug our loved ones? Will we be filled with joy or fear that this isn’t really over…not forever? How long will it take for this to fade from memory? For the COVID-19 scare to feel like a dream?
I don’t know the answer but I hope this day is soon, and that the suffering to get there remains minimal. One can hope.
But as for this time, this time that has been given to us (whether you think it is a gift or not), we, for the most part, have the freedom to decide what to do with it. Not, it’s not the freedom we are used to but those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and ready access to food (and toilet paper) still have a freedom of sorts.
So, will you bemoan the times you are living through? Or will you make of them what you will, what you can, assuming you and your loved ones remain healthy (andI hope they do)?
For my part, I am working on finding the light in the dark, the hope in the sorrow, the sunshine in the rain and the rainbows between the clouds. Soon, oh so soon, these oppositions won’t seem so stark, so dire.
But, for now, let’s take the positive where we can find it.
This too shall pass and what you will remember, dear reader, is what you did with the time that was given to you.
And, remember, life is beautiful…especially when you STAY HOME
PS. This is hard. This is not normal. This is a pandemic. It is OK to not be OK. All I ask is that, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, you do what you can to take care of your mental health. For me, writing and focusing on the positive are my coping methods. Yours may be different. Don’t listen to anyone telling you you’re doing it wrong. This is unprecedented for our generation, as long as you’re taking care of you and yours in the best way that you can, it is not possible for you to do it wrong…what do they know? Have they lived through a pandemic before? You do you.
Aside from the Travel Tuesday blogs I usually post weekly (OK, OK, sometimes I post them on Wednesdays…) I’m thinking of writing these Solidarity Sunday posts every week while this self-isolation period is going on. Let me know what you think!
Who you are is defined by the next decision you make, not the last one” – Rachel Hollis, Girl, Stop Apologizing
Hello dear readers, if you are indeed still out there. It’s been a few days. OK, it’s been over a month, but who’s counting?
I am, to be honest. And I’ve been struggling really hard not to spend a good chunk of my time every day beating myself up at least a little for how much I have allowed my writing goals to take a back seat this year (and I’m talking the back seat of a 747, not a mini-cooper).
When I actually allow myself to pause for a minute and attempt to cut myself some slack, however, I find myself reflecting on what actually happened this past year that pushed writing from the priority I wanted it to be to the “wouldn’t it be nice” archival section of my brain. Not only did I get married in June, in a largely DIY-wedding (shout-out to our wedding party of 20 people and all of the family and friends who made this possible), but I also became pregnant with our first child (due in mid-January), bought a house, got a new job, and moved out of Ottawa (the city where I was born-and-raised). Any one of these things could potentially throw a resolution or two out of whack but all of them? Suffice it to say pretty much every single resolution I wrote about in my last New Years themed post was successfully defenestrated somewhere between January and December of 2019.
But here’s the funny thing about resolutions: they are entirely self-imposed. No one, and I mean no one, is going to judge you for not achieving them. Even if you’re the type of person who shouts their 10 New Years Resolutions from the proverbial rooftops, by the time the first week of January has passed even the people who love you most have already forgotten what exactly you had set out to do with your new year. And by December? Most people don’t even remember their own resolutions, why would they remember – and thus judge you for not achieving – yours?
So, recognizing that I am by far my own harshest critic, I have been working hard to focus not on what I didn’t do this year but instead on what I did. I’d say playing a huge role in pulling off an enormous bilingual wedding is a pretty solid start. Growing a human? Not unimpressive. Finding a new job in a completely new niche and making it my own? Fairly notable. Buying and helping to set up a new family home? At least worth a smile and a pat on the back.
These accomplishments are nothing to sniff at and I need to remind myself daily of how much has transpired this year and, yes, even marvel for a minute at the fact that I am still smiling despite the months of stress and constant anticipation for the next big thing.
Even if nothing about my hectic version of 2019 resonates with you, I bet the following observation will. Along with all the specific achievements I listed above, and even more than any of them or all of them combined, the aspect that I find most remarkable is my ability to dream up a new list of resolutions even after my last ones crashed and burned so spectacularly. I mean, how incredible is the human spirit that even after setting goals and getting nowhere near the finish line on any of them, we can resolve anew to better certain aspects of our life in the coming year? I could just as easily tell myself resolutions were simply not for me and give up on the idea entirely (and, indeed, if resolutions are not your thing, no judgment! To each their own), but instead I sit down at my desk yet again and put pen to paper to determine what my big goals are for the year. Never doubt the power of perseverance, even when it seems most futile. Something is bound to stick at some point!
So, as far as 2020 is concerned, I have decided to narrow down my resolutions to three big ones in the three main areas of my life where I want to see improvement (you know, while I simultaneously learn to be a parent…):
Mental Health: This year, I would like to explore my coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety (meditation, reading, exercise – especially yoga, time with loved ones, entertainment, writing) and put into place a game plan for when I am feeling overwhelmed or panicky.
Fitness: This year, I would like to return to my bare minimum of doing yoga every single day (once I am recovered from childbirth that is) and add exercise from there. Even with a kid, if I could get back to exercising every day of the week, say just for 20 minutes some days, I know I can get back to a place where I feel strong and healthy and comfortable in my own skin.
Career: Finally, this year I aim to take the leap to put myself out there as a writer and editor. I know I have the ability, I just have to have the courage to try. Even if my efforts only produce enough recognition and payment to provide some extra cushion to our budget, I can say I am getting paid to do what I love. How cool would that be?
So there you have it, three broad goals for 2020 to put myself firmly on the path I have strived to walk all my life: one that leads to a happy, healthy and fulfilled existence I can be proud of. The lack of specificity was entirely on purpose, by the way. I have found in the past that setting specific goals (I.e.: I resolve to not have a single panic attack this year or I will write for 30 minutes every day) tends to encourage making excuses for why I cannot check that box off on this particular day until a month goes by without any real progress. I find the more broad I make my resolutions, the more likely I am to chip away at them instead of allow them to hang intimidatingly above my head.
Ultimately, I am trying to look forward as much as possible instead of back – to define myself by my current and future decisions, not my past excuses. I have no idea if this new strategy will be successful but I do know it is worth a shot.
So, what resolutions have you set out for yourself this year (if any)? What’s your take on what kind of resolutions are most successful? I’d love to hear more perspectives on this.
I promise I will return to my France trip on my next post, thank you for indulging this little tradition of mine for my last post of 2019.
And remember, whether you succeed in your resolve or not, life is beautiful.
“We are less when we don’t include everyone” – Stuart Milk
I meant to finish my tale of the Gurski Grad trip in this blog post but something happened in my city a week ago (the day before Ottawa’s official Pride festivities commenced) that fired me up. I feel the need to say something, even if writing on this blog sometimes feels like shouting into a void.
Let me begin, however, by stating that you – dear reader – have every right to disagree with what I am about to type but I will not tolerate any hateful comments on my blog. Please keep those kinds of thoughts to the dark recesses of your mind where they belong, they have no place here.
“I don’t know what to think until I write about it” – Joan Didion
It’s a New Year and so a new me… or apparently that’s how we are supposed to see the stroke of midnight on the 1st of January when all the people in the same time zone as you (who haven’t dozed off already) wish each other all the health and happiness for the coming year. In the past, during the first week of the year, I simply spent half of each day impatiently scratching through yet another wrongly written date and the other half wiggling out of my over-ambitious Resolutions with the help of lame excuses. By the time the middle of January had come and gone, I had already shrugged my shoulders, pronounced my hopeful resolutions as “next year projects” and gone on with my life as usual.
After all, is it not just an arbitrary decision that every time we successfully travel fully around a big ball of fire on our floating rock, we should celebrate as if being given a new life, a fresh start in which to accomplish all the things we always said we would?
“Pierre sometimes felt like an emergency room physician. People streamed through his door, casualties of city life, lugging a heavy World behind them. Broken by too many demands, too little time, too many bills, emails, meetings, calls to return, too little thanks and too much, way too much, pressure… It wasn’t servile work they did at Manoir Bellechasse, Pierre knew. It was noble and crucial. They put people back together. Though some, he knew, were more broken than others.” – Louise Penny,The Murder Stone
This is not going to be an easy post to write but part of me feels like I have been waiting most of my adult life to do just that. I promised an explanation for why I had been so absent from this blog, so here goes.
I suffer from anxiety. Not as crippling as it could be perhaps, but disruptive and intrusive nonetheless. There, I said it. I tend to refer to my anxiety with the more generic title of “emotions” to make it seem more manageable but it’s time I call it by its real name.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
First thing I did upon getting home from the last celebrations of 2013? Read my New Years Resolutions from last year.
New Years resolutions are an interesting concept. Sure, if you think about it, the shift of the calender year seems arbitrary and contrived at best, another holiday we are forced to observe – ever noticed how most parties clear out soon after midnight? And those poor New-Yorkers-For-A-Night having to force their way through an unending sea of humanity just to get to bed before the sun rises… All that trouble to note that another year has come and gone and the world is still here – smaller, perhaps, but still here nonetheless.