A Journal of the Covid 19 year. I have just returned from one of my many daily walks along the the lakeside street of Harrison Hot Springs. It is so surreal to walk along the lake and by empty closed businesses that you usually see bustling with visitors this time of year.
Perhaps because tomorrow would have been my 65th birthday if I had not decided to cancel and delay it for five years because of the virus, or perhaps because of the much greater time that we are all spending in our homes now, I find myself much more reflective and thinking about growing up in Levack, Ontario, a town of 3,100 just a little bigger than Harrison Hot Springs). I hope that being reflective of your past is not a sign of impending death. In any event, my walks today remind me of every Sunday in the small town that I grew up in . At that time there was a provincial statute in Ontario requiring Sunday closure. Although I always recognized the problem with imposing a day of rest based on on one faith on citizens of many faiths and often no faith, I did lament the change in the law allowing Sunday openings. Sunday closures created a day when family members would generally be together, rather than individually racing around to jobs and other commitments like all of the other days of the week.
The Covid 19 virus shutdown of most businesses has created that situation every day of the week and reminded me of the closed Sundays of my youth. Don’t misunderstand, I like shopping and being busy on Sundays. The extra day of work has probably improved our collective material wealth. I am a much wealthier consumer because of it. And yet if there is one positive result of this gloomy virus pandemic, it is the forced creation of time for family and reflection. Maybe one day per week of that wouldn’t be so bad.
A Journal of the Covid 19 Year.
This is an unprecedented time when we are confronted with so many events and changes that are occurring that we have never experienced before in our lifetimes. Sometimes it is the most insignificant of matters that come to our attention and linger in our consciousness. Like haircuts.
On Thursday my fourteen year old daughter Lauren cut the hair of her mother, her sister Jordan, and her brother Adam. She also gave her own hair a trim. Although her brother Andrew is not an intended subject it appears that I am expected to undergo the procedure this weekend as well. I should note that the haircuts she has done are excellent.
Anyone who knows our family dynamics is aware that Lauren can do anything. Truthfully. She is a rare combination of her mother’s intelligence and competence and a high level of confidence. The confidence comes from a unique level of confidence builders including her family, the members of her church and a series of extremely supportive teachers. She has always been told that she can do anything and as a result, she can. I love all of my children equally and immensely, but they are all different and everyone in our family buys into what I call “ the myth of Lauren”. Everyone depends on Lauren, with no jealousy from her siblings, and she has been given opportunities and responsibilities well beyond what one would expect for her age. She is instrumental in helping me teach my five UFV courses online (made necessary by the virus) . I sometimes worry that we put too much pressure on her but she looks forward to every challenge and looks for the next envelope to open. In any event, like any doting parent, I easily digress when writing about my children.
Did I mention she is going to cut my hair this week end? This is a meaningful event to me. In my entire life my hair has been cut only by professional barbers. Even as a small child I was sent to a barbershop by my parents. I had one barber until I graduated high school. Then the late Brian Ross in Abbotsford for almost thirty years. Then Karl in Abbotsford until he died. Then...... well you get the point. My barbers have been probably the most long lasting relationships in my life. Wow, that’s a sad self reflection.
Admittedly cutting my hair has become a less time consuming job. But nonetheless, one more first will occur to me this weekend. Am I concerned? No. I know she will do a great job. And after all, I am all about looks and appearance.
Who knows, maybe I’ll make my new haircut my new profile photo.
A Journal of the Covid 19 Year.
There is no avoiding the feeling that the last three weeks or so have felt like an extended family funeral. Each morning starts off with the thought of the virus and the difficulties and limitations that it will impose on the day. Much like the death of a loved one all thoughts on any other matter quickly return to the gloom of the pandemic. Whether it be thoughts about the significant loss to investments and savings, or the significant impact on business or in the case of many people actual job losses, there is the feeling of a major step back in life. And then, of course, most importantly there is the risk of severe sickness and for some, death. It is difficult to put a good face on the situation, although extended family closeness and more time to relax are small consolations. And then there is the uncertainty.......
Juxtapose this gloom of negativity with the upcoming Easter weekend. Good Friday and Easter have always had a significant meaning to me. I know that to many Christians the holiday symbolizes sacrifice and redemption. Many conservative believers focus on the resurrection as being part of their personal salvation. I have always focused on Easter as being a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, not surprisingly placed at the beginning of spring. A time of endless possibilities. And yet this year, possibilities do seem limited and extremely uncertain. In fact, even being able to take advantage of a sunny weekend seems limited.
The challenge, of course, is to overcome the uncertainty to our health, our finances and our routines that we encounter this spring and focus on the timelessness and promises of Easter, and of spring itself. This time will pass and leave us with those lessons that we are able to take from it. Perhaps our concern for material advancement will reduce. Perhaps our happiness index will surpass the importance of the stock market index. Perhaps. Life will go on. And the flowers will grow. And the grass will grow. And hopefully we will grow.
A Journal of the Covid 19 year.
Forgive my paraphrasing of the title of one of my best remembered books from my university English literature course, A Journal of the Plague Year, written by Daniel Defoe (Swiss Family Robinson) in 1722 about the great plague in London approximately fifty years earlier. This classic piece of literature deals with the fear that gripped the residents of the city. Of course our present pandemic would not appear to be anywhere in that category or of other plagues or small pox devastations. But nonetheless we are presented with an upside down world where social interaction (formerly good and healthy) is now discouraged, shamed and bad. A world where we fear the presence of strangers or even friends. Where we cocoon into our immediate family. A difficult world for an extrovert. If we practiced this social distancing prior to the pandemic we would all be sent to counselling.
Although the pandemic has had serious health and economic effects, it has also changed so much of our day to day behaviour. I have noticed:
I spend much more time hugging the kids.
I spend much more time checking and posting on Facebook.
I have learned to teach my UFV courses by live webcast, and I am learning and adapting to teaching my five courses this term by online methods.
For obvious reasons I am spending much less money, and equally importantly, time buying food and other items. My aversion to lineups has helped.
I spend more time on leisure. Some games and television with the kids. Some reading.
I eat more.
I exercise (walk) less
I spend more time being concerned with the financial effects of the pandemic.
Some of these results are positive. Some are negative. I hope that I can weave the positive effects into my day to day life after the pandemic. I do not regret my heart attack last year. It provided me with experiences and learning. This pandemic will do the same and become part of the tapestry of my life. I just hope that I can be open to the learnings. As I get older I find it easier to teach than learn.
How is the pandemic most affecting you?
The present pandemic is life changing for all of us, whether it impacts our health, negatively impacts our savings, businesses and income, or just significantly changes our behaviour. I am preparing to conduct my five weekly UFV classes online (I had planned to die or retire before I had to yield to technology in the delivering of my courses). Our law office is operating in a significantly reduced and social distance compliant manner. My family, rather than travelling or skiing at Whistler, is cocooned in the house for spring break and possibly several weeks after. And as I exercised by walking around a near empty Harrison Hot Springs ( in contrast to yesterday’s crowds of people who came to walk along the water) I found myself in numerous conversations with pleasant people that stood a couple of metres away from me.
All of the above is manageable. Life will return to some form of normal and eventually one will recover from the financial impacts on business and savings. Of course inconvenience and business setbacks are minor compared to those who will suffer the more serious health impacts from the virus and I pray for the best for my family and friends and express my hope that all Facebook friends remain safe and healthy.
I do want to express my concerns for those suffering the economic impact of the virus. I understand that many people forced by circumstances to close down or severely restrict their businesses are being forced to close their income source, their life’s work and their dreams and that perhaps many of those small businesses will not be able to reopen. I know that many people have already suffered layoffs from their jobs and their will be many more in the near future. With so many people living paycheque to paycheque I know that this income disruption will be devastating to many families. I hope that we as a society can manage as much compassion as possible for the victims of the virus whether it be in their health or their financial security.
I remember being a child at the time of the Cuba Missile Crisis. I stood with my equally young friends trying to understand the news of the day and believing that a Russian launch of nuclear weapons over night could end our lives. It was an existential threat. My generation in the western world has had few existential threats. The immediately previous generations had world wars, the Spanish flu, small pox, etc. We fortunately have not, but as a result have little idea how to react.
We will survive the current pandemic. It’s impact on China is already significantly reduced. Some of us will become sick, as we presently do from other causes. Unfortunately there will be deaths as already occur from other causes. Every additional death from Covid 19 will be a loss that we should attempt to avoid. But life will go on. We need to do our best to follow the advice of our public health authorities, but not panic. I feel like I have finally come into my own. I have been social distancing for over sixty years. And previously I thought it was being socially inept. All I have to do is increase my hand washing.
I feel great sympathy for those who have contracted the virus and the families of those who have died. I also feel sympathy for affected business owners and employees of shut down industries. When recent studies show the large number of North Americans living pay cheque to paycheque, it is easy to see the financial hardship being suffered apart from the virus itself. And then there is the impact of the plunge of the financial markets and its effect on pensions and RRSPs. Actually when I look at my recent RRSP results I feel less concerned about contracting the virus.
My heart attack last September was a positive experience for me, in that I survived it and learned much about myself. I know I am in a higher risk category for the virus because of the heart event but I am confident that this will be a learning event as well. Will I proceed in a balanced way without panic, exhibiting compassion and help towards others? Will I remind myself of the importance of my family as I hold them tighter recognizing the risks of the virus? I hope so. And lastly the question that has apparently become most important for all of us in North America, will I have enough toilet tissue?
Photo by Pamela Palmer