Yet no certainty is possible. We must accustom our eyes to the twilight
Peter Ackroyd, Foundation
When I sat down to write this today I confess that I was completely unsure of what day of the week it was. I had all the best intentions to start scheduling posts ahead of time (I even have an ambitious schedule of post already brainstormed and posted on a lined sheet of paper on the wall beside my desk) and yet, so far, this level of organization has eluded me.
Now, one might ask, does not the fact that Monday begins the workweek give it some kind of dreaded importance making it an impossible day to forget? Perhaps for most this is the case but since I have decided to forgo the 9-5 existence in order to stay home with my little Aria, the days of the week have accordingly lost their typical structure leading to days that feel full and fast on their own as opposed to simply things to get through until the weekend rolls around once more.
But what about my husband? Doesn’t his work schedule make it easier to remember what day of the week it is? Another good question, hypothetical reader of mine. Yes, Louis does work full-time at a more typical 9-5 type job which necessitates remembering the existence of Mondays. However, since we have been slogging through this never-ending pandemic, he has had the great fortune of working from home which means Sundays are not capped off by a desperate attempt to be under the covers at a decent hour in preparation for an obscenely early wake-up call. His hours being a bit more flexible, and minus the typical commute, Mondays have lost their ubiquitous “beginning of the work week blues” and have now become only a bit more structured than the two glorious weekend days.
What is the point of all this, you ask?
Another great question!
Only that I meant to write this post yesterday and quite literally forgot it was Saturday. That’s why.
So, after that loquacious beginning, lets get to today’s topic. Shall we? It’s related to all this, I swear.
Wisdom may be rented, so to speak, on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
As I was going through my book of quotes today (woefully out of date as it is since my novel reading has fallen drastically over the past few years…) I came across this sentence written by the brilliant Canadian author Robertson Davies – one of my husband’s favourites!
What struck me about this quote was the image of a price for wisdom. For me, that price seems to be time as I have so many things I am curious about, so much I wish to learn, and yet all of this takes time. Time which is hard to find as a first-time-mom working from home during a pandemic.
For where can one find more noble distraction, more entertaining company, more delightful enchantment than in literature?
Muriel Barbery, Elegance of the Hedgehog
As my motivation to write returns in leaps and bounds, so to does my willingness to drink deeply of the fountain of literature. For me, literature does not only mean fiction but blogs, articles, non-fiction, op-eds, anything in the written word that piques my curiosity.
From here on out, on the first of every month I will be publishing an account of the most moving, interesting, fascinating, striking pieces of literature I read over the course of the last 30 days. In trying to keep these entries as short as possible, I’ll attempt to stick to a quick recap of what struck me about the work and a favourite quote. No promises that these blogs won’t be characteristically long though…
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!
“Not a day passes on over this earth but men and women of no great note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows.” – Charles Reade, The Cloister and the Hearth
Last week I took a very necessary break from blogging for the sake of my mental health. Though my husband, daughter and I, along with our entire family, are thankfully healthy, this COVID-19 business has been more than a little trying on my emotions. I think it would be a different story if I wasn’t a new mom (although I know it is difficult for nearly everyone for wildly different reasons) but being separated from our extended family while still adjusting to parenthood, well, let me tell you it has not been easy. They are our support system, our replacement rockers, our “take a breather and some time for just the two of you” superheroes. We are making sure to take turns soothing our little daughter but sometimes having a third party come in and take a shift can be the most rejuvenating gift. Our strategy while self-isolation is the name of the game is just to take it one day at a time and to allow ourselves to choose how we spend each day based on what we need most each moment – no to-do lists or goals set in stone. Last week, I needed to just relax and read as much as possible, so that is what I did. I hope, dear reader, that you’ll forgive me.