A Journal of the COVID 19 year. One of the realities of the pandemic is the cancellation of all of the spring and summer events to which we usually look forward. Recognizing this reality of cancellation I have decided to cancel my May 4th birthday. I mean the birthday itself. Not any party. I could easily proceed with a party of all my friends and family and not have numbers that would cause provincial health chief Bonnie Henry any concern. And I could manage appropriate social distancing and still hold the party in a broom closet. My decision to cancel my birthday is not for distance compliance but out of solidarity with all of the other cancelled events. My next birthday will be delayed for five years, out of principle. As a result I will not hit 65 until May 4, 2025 rather than next week. I recognize this is a sacrifice, but this pandemic calls for sacrifice.
The five year delay in celebrating my birthday is in fact very little sacrifice for me. Why should I celebrate my birthday? What accomplishment is attaining 65. It’s not like I found a cure for cancer or a new vaccine for Covid 19. All I had to do was breath for 65 years, and I almost messed that up. So, in summary, I will not be having a birthday next week, no matter what the Facebook birthday reminder says. And yes, I continue to post on Facebook while avoiding marking my final exams.
I am a dinosaur. Not only do I write using full words and sentences (a rarity on social media) I have no real understanding or appreciation of the modern technological world. My sons play electronic games with people from all over the world. I hear youngest son Adam talking to fellow gamers throughout the night. My daughters interact with their friends throughout the day by various online means. For them, social isolating is not that isolating. Today I was introduced to my kids’ Tic Tok accounts. They and most of their friends have posted numerous lip sync and dance routines. Now I know what the kids are doing up in their rooms all day. Even our dog Griffin has a Tic Tok account. I feel so left behind. And yet I can’t imagine myself lip synching and doing dance routines. Imagine, a dancing dinosaur
A Journal of the Covid 19 Year. “May we live in interesting times”. This is one of my favourite curses. Although attributed as a gem of wisdom from China, it probably arises from 19th century English literature.
It certainly seems to be a curse that is prophetic of our present times. Although there is a reasonable hope that the virus will not be as deadly in British Columbia as it has been in other parts of the world, the death and suffering from the virus will be followed by significant changes in our world. Imagine the businesses that will not reopen, The workers living paycheque to paycheque that will not financially survive, even with the announced government assistance. Consider the likely step back from globalization now that we realize how many products we need that we do not produce, and that the market is far from “free”. Also consider the effects of a record Canadian federal deficit likely between 100 and 200 billion, and what that will do to future taxation levels and reduced government services. Not to mention huge provincial deficits that are occurring. No mention of interesting times can avoid a reference to the leadership of the worlds most powerful nation. The United States is suffering from a dysfunctional and deadlocked governmental system, plus they have elected one of the most “interesting” presidents of their history.
The belief that life, economics and our personal finances will return to normal quickly seems overly optimistic. The economic effects will endure. Retirement plans will be delayed. Personally I am now looking at freedom 80 instead of my planned retirement age of 75. We will continue to employ social distancing ( will someone please tell my wife Pam that you don’t have to socially distance within the same family unit). We will continue to be wary of each other. And we will continue to be wary of the United States.
I hope that from these interesting times we learn to be less focused on money and consumer goods. More focused on family. Less focused on pointless busy-ness and more focused on time for reflection. More grateful for Canada and the level of leadership we have seen in our province and nation and more determined to protect our sovereignty and encourage production of those products that we need within Canada. Less concerned about ourselves and more concerned about others in our society. Historically, times of crisis have brought people together. If these wishes come to pass then these “interesting times” will not be for nought.
Maybe I’m just an optimist, or maybe I’m just trying to avoid marking final exams this week end.
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?
I know I have posted and reposted this before but it still seems appropriate today. May the voices of my daughters be heard and respected. And may they never be treated with the disrespect that Greta Thunberg has received simply because her opinion comes from the mouth of a young female.
March 8, 2018: I want to acknowledge international women’s day and express my respect for all women, not just ones of great accomplishments and ones who are noteworthy role models but also the billions living ordinary lives, because truly all women must live their lives subject to the restrictions that society imposes on them. Those restrictions may include driving and education in some countries but may be evidenced by more subtle cultural bias in our own more egalitarian society. As we are recently reminded even the most successful of women continued to be subject to sexual harassment and other forms of life and career limiting discrimination.
Although in my youth I could get excited about discrimination against different sectors of society and economic exploitation of other groups, like many people my idealism became secondary to earning a living and for many years I contented myself that I would treat all people equally and with respect regardless or gender, race, ethnicity age or orientation. I have tried to do so but cannot claim perfection but I have worked on the belief that I cannot change the other six billion people on the globe but should work to improve myself. This of course is an easy attitude to have if you are an educated white male in Canada. I do not have to deal with discrimination ever.
Having four young children has caused me to change my sense of responsibility to include that my children learn to be respectful of all people and not discriminate. I must say that that is going well and I am proud of my children’s attitudes
But I recognize that this is not enough. I must do more. Having two young daughters has made me much more observant of the limitations and unnecessary challenges that women face even in egalitarian Canada. As a small point I find myself starting to avoid restaurants where the female staff are required to wear short skirts and low tops, in favour of restaurants with more modest dress codes or where female staff are allowed to wear what they wish. I find myself asking myself if in a few years from now if I would be happy to have one of my daughters working there and subject to that dress code. The answer is no. Goodbye Cactus Club and dozens of other restaurants.
Does the me too movement surprise me? I think it exposes a realty that we all knew or suspected but thought that all we can do is govern our own behaviour. Well obviously that is not enough and I should not have to have daughters before I pay attention to the obvious discrimination.
I resolve that I must do more. Trying not to be part of the problem is obviously not enough. I need some of the radicalism of my youth to work to be part of the solution. Not just on issues relating to discrimination against women and other sectors of society but on working towards social justice for indigenous and other groups. God help me to work towards making a better world for my children.
Posts copied from FaceBook.