Full disclosure: I have absolutely nothing to say about COVID-19 that hasn’t already been said by hundreds, thousands, MILLIONS of other people. But this isn’t about originality, or trying to sound smart (which is rare for me – I spend far too much time trying to sound smart). It’s about me trying to process this paradigm shift that we’re all experiencing – collectively and alone.
I am insanely lucky – in general, but also particularly right at this moment:
- I live in a country with excellent public healthcare, that is taking strong public health measures to help slow the spread of this virus.
- I have a home – I can easily shelter in place and practice social distancing.
- I live with my fiancé, who is my favourite person. Staying home all day would be SO MUCH harder if I was alone.
- My fiancé can and is working from home, which means that we have income and don’t have to worry about not being able to pay our bills.
- We have food in the apartment, and can easily have groceries delivered to our door.
- The one university course I’m taking this semester was already online, and my whole program can be done online, so this hasn’t impacted my education at all.
- We, and all our family members, are currently healthy and safe.
But despite ALL of my insanely good luck – I’m internally panicking:
- I don’t have a job, and the prospects of finding one right now feels less than zero.
- We don’t have as much food in our home as we normally do, because we moved to Edmonton less than a month ago.
- My parents are in a higher risk category for COVID-19, as is my fiancé.
- I’m sniffly and had the tiniest cough, and part of me is convinced I have the virus (I am self-isolating at home, just in case)
- It feels like the world is ending, and my anxiety is more than happy to paint me many terrible pictures of what that could look like.
To be completely honest, I’ve spent the last week or so vellicating between extreme escapism (I’m looking at you, Rimworld) and obsessively checking the news – as if either of those things were going to make me feel better. Fun fact: they actually make me feel worse. Way worse.
So, today I’m trying a different approach. I’m going to spend a little bit of time trying to figure out how I feel. I’m writing about it, because I find writing therapeutic and usually a good way to help me stop ruminating over things. It’s also something that I can do in bed, hiding under the covers.
First up – I am SCARED.
It’s not like the idea of a pandemic is alien to me – I read about the Spanish Flu long before it was on everybody’s feeds; I read about the plague and smallpox blankets and then the plague again (having an interest in history often leads to learning about gruesome things). And, of course, I’ve seen and read my fair share of zombie apocalypse fiction. But it’s one thing to read about pandemics, to know about them intellectually, and entirely another thing to watch a death toll ticker clime in real time, and to see huge swathes of my local community shuttered to slow the spread. Schools closing, public spaces closing, friends working from home. Friends losing their jobs.
We also don’t know if COVID-19 will become a regular part of the cold and flu season – a deadly addition. Are economic shutdowns going to be an annual event? Are we going to have to practice social distancing three months a year?
I’m not just scared of the virus, either. The economic fallout of this pandemic is already huge, and it’s only hit Alberta in the last two weeks. China is starting to loosen restrictions THREE MONTHS later. I’m personally affected by the economic slowdown, in that I now face even more competition while searching for a job. But I’m one of the lucky ones – my skill set can easily transfer to remote work. The same can’t be said of the millions of people in service industries around the country and around the world. What will the world look like 6 months from now? A year? Should I still be planning an international wedding for summer 2021? What about wanting to buy a house in the next year or two? All of my plans feel like they’re up in the air, adding to the feelings of instability.
Second – I feel GUILTY.
Ohhhhh boy, do I ever. Here I am, whining on the internet, safe in my apartment, with income coming in and ordering groceries to my door. Am I part of the problem? Is ordering delivery safer than going out myself? Is the fact that I order 6 cans of beans at the beginning of the week contributing to food shortages and panic buying? Is writing this post going to contribute to other peoples fear?
I’ve also been avoiding homework like it was my nonexistent full-time job (see: writing a massive blog post for the first time in months instead of studying for my midterm this evening). Thank goodness I only have one class this term, so even if I don’t pull it together, it won’t be catastrophic, but seriously. I have basically unlimited free time at home, you’d think I’d use it to catch up on all the coursework I didn’t do during packing and apartment hunting.
On top of all that, I feel like a burden to my fiancé. I’m not working, so we’re relying on his income. Added to the debt that I brought to our relationship from the very beginning, my on-going, oft-changed, post-secondary education, which brings with it tuition fees and sometimes reduced working hours, AND the fact that this move (which was my idea) tapped into more of our savings that we planned, makes me feel terrible. I feel like the biggest leech around. He strongly disagrees with me on this, and firmly tells me that I contribute to our relationship just as much as he does, and that he doesn’t see me as a burden in any way, shape or form. But the guilt still nibbles at the back of my mind.
Third – BOREDOM.
Wait, what? How can I be scared AND bored, feel guilty AND restless? For someone who normally LOVES not leaving the house, I am suddenly itching to go outside. Of course, I know that at least some of this is psychological. Tell someone they can’t and suddenly that’s all they want to do. Another part of this is that our stuff hasn’t arrived from our move yet. Our furniture is currently: an air mattress, two folding chairs, and two tv trays.
Which means that all my books, all my crafts, and all my speciality baking supplies are currently in a storage unit somewhere in Delta. Thankfully, we had our internet hooked up in the apartment last Friday, and I have some games downloaded onto my laptop (looking at you again, Rimworld). Unfortunately, games and Netflix binges doesn’t make me feel as productive as finishing a knitting project or baking cookies. Not that productivity is the be all, end all (that’s definitely going to be a future post), but I’d like to feel at least a little productive. So far, I’m filling that void by trying to write cover letters and cooking dinners.
I also want to add: guilt + fear =\= superior concentration. It’s hard enough to get into a productive, engaged mindset at the best of times. And I think we can all agree that this is NOT the best of times. The result, for me at least, is aimless internet browsing and an inability to settle into something long enough to get anywhere – unless, of course, it’s escapism, which as I mentioned earlier, makes me feel crappier as soon as I stop doing it.
I’m honestly surprised you’ve made it this far in reading this. Take a second to pat yourself on the back. No, seriously. Thank you for reading through my angst, and for sticking with me. Sticking together (while staying at least 6 ft apart) is how we’re going to get through this.
Now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest (and honestly, I am feeling better), I’m going to share the bright moments that I’ve had over the last week, and my ideas, as unoriginal as they may be, for how I’m going to foster more of those in the coming weeks of madness.
Things that have made me laugh, smile, and feel almost normal while practicing social distancing:
- Starting seeds, and seeing them send up their first shoots
- Taking advantage of our mostly empty living room to do log rolls across the floor (see below)
- Baking bread, including kneading by hand (bonus: doubles as an arm workout)
- Impromptu dance party with the fiancé
- Having a long, hot shower
- Working on my one knitting project in the house
- Finishing a cover letter
- Following an online yoga class
- Video calling friends we hadn’t seen in a long time
- Writing this blog post
This list, this whole post really, clarifies what’s helping and what’s hurting me in this weird, weird time. Surprising no one ever, reading the news didn’t make the list, so I’m going to take a few days sabbatical from new sites. Connecting with friends will be a higher priority – leave me a comment/shoot me a DM if you want to set up a video call! Creating, rather than consuming, brings me more fulfillment, so I’m going to put more energy towards creation. This is a great time for me to write more, get back into watercolours, bake more bread, and finish that knitting project. And last, but certainly not least, remembering to move my body, be it with yoga, dancing, or log rolls, is vitally important, and something that I chronically underestimate. To combat my habits in this area, I’m setting two daily timers on my phone. When they go off, I have to spend at least 5 minutes moving my body. It can be as simple as a slow pace around the living room, or as intense as an hour workout, but regardless, I have to move.
Most importantly: I’m going to practice compassion. This is a tough time on everyone, and beating myself up because I’m not “making the most” of being stuck at home isn’t helping anything. Assuming the worst of the situation or other people doesn’t help either, so I’m going to do my best to be kind.
Let’s all pull together, and help each other get through these times. If you need extra support, or just want someone to talk, please feel free to connect with me. I’d love to chat about all this, or we can talk about anything you need to get your mind off everything. <3
Oh – and wash your hands.