Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Roughly a year ago, Covid-19 began spreading across Canada from its epicentre on the other side of the world. With the Disney Princess quarantined at sea and global cases and deaths rising, this novel virus became impossible to ignore as first the US and then Canada confirmed positive cases. Tremors turned to shocks. Two friends started racing across different European countries as airports closed around them, only to quarantine upon arrival in hotels they hadn’t budgeted for and in cities they didn’t live in. Global flights and conferences were cancelled. Countries started to lock down.
The shocks launched a tsunami. By early March, every day brought something previously unimaginable. Handshakes and hugs turned to awkward elbow bumps. Provinces experienced their first cases. The tsunami landed on March 11 when the WHO declared a global pandemic. Many schools closed early for spring break. University classes transitioned bumpily online. Keyboard warriors went home with their laptops - for a couple of weeks. The Canada/ US border closed. Daycares, restaurants, and all other ‘non-essential’ businesses closed. Mass lay-offs followed. Our office went home on the 16th. On March 17th, my mom’s birthday, I called my parents. It was the first time they’d ever mentioned their will. The uncertainty. The fear of the unknown. The lack of precedent in our collective lifetimes. How we live, work, parent, socialize, exercise, learn, everything; everything changed last March. As days blurred into weeks then months, we found our way through the first shutdowns. Tiger King trended. Toilet paper turned into North America’s most valuable commodity and a nation got strangely obsessed with sourdough starters. Canada’s mostly female top doctors shone. We watched daily updates and became armchair experts on logarithmic graphs. Zooming became a verb. The tsunami crested and ebbed leaving us drenched and debris strewn. Programs launched remotely, happy hours and games nights transferred to Zoom, and all of the puppies were adopted. Frontline workers nursed patients, delivered food, butchered meat, and set up triage shelters for people experiencing homelessness; social and economic inequities increased yet again. Leaders from all sectors raised and distributed billions in urgent relief efforts demonstrating unprecedented levels of collaboration, while the people stayed home and saluted the healthcare workers in a collective effort to flatten the curve. Our experiences - all so different amongst this shared storm. A colleague capitulated about the impossibility of that day’s 17 Zoom meetings spread between two elementary-aged kids and remote-working parents. Acknowledged the privilege of having four devices, stable wi-fi, and secure jobs. Dear friends contended with the utter impossibility of one parent's alternating 12-hour day/night nursing shifts in a newly established covid unit at a large hospital and the other parent working her professional job from the living room while alternately entertaining and shushing a boisterous and bored toddler. Unlike male parents, female parents left the workforce at unprecedented levels to accomodate this childcare crisis. My long-time friend, roommate, and landlord was laid off from an airline and opted to move out of province. The prospect of moving again, paired with remote work for the foreseeable future, and living alone through a 7+ month prairie winter during an inevitable second wave, held little appeal. The aftershocks began. Cautious summer reopenings. Outdoor picnics, walks, semi-circles of neighbourliness. Physical distancing, mandatory indoor mask policies, and copious amounts of hand sanitizer started to replace social distancing. While my direct impacts were light compared to many, the pandemic erased my vibrant personal and professional social life leaving me too much time for Netflix and anxiety attacks. I knew my future mental health wouldn’t be okay without corrective action. This led to a personal realignment which will unfold here in the coming months.
The aftershocks continued. A promising vaccine! Many proven vaccines! Back to work! Back to school! Kindergarteners in masks. Something about an election!? A second wave. No socializing outside your households. No holiday gatherings or non-essential travel. 2021!!! An insurrection. Biden’s in! A new strain. Many new strains now with faster transmission and higher mortality rates. Vaccine delays. Reopenings! Anticipation of a third lockdown. Babies nearing a year old who haven’t met aunties and uncles and grandparents. Beautiful stories of humanity, love, small but mighty deeds, and heroics abound and yet even the introverts in my networks are starting to buckle. Singles haven’t dated for a year and it’s been months since many of us have been touched. Even for the lucky ones among us who’ve not lost loved ones and/or our livelihoods (yet), the social, physical, emotional exhaustion and isolation is real. My heart breaks for those who have. New normal or not, this is not normal. The early promise of 2021 followed by vaccine deployment delays hit me hard though the returning light and Vancouver's signs of spring are a daily salvation (Snowdrops! In February!). As we approach these anniversaries, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. How have you processed or adjusted to this #notnormalnewnormal? What do you want and need as we move into our second year(!) with this pandemic? I know I need community, hope, and something in my control to look forward to as this uncertainty continues. More hopeful thoughts and my first coaching offering will follow in part 2 later this week.
Sending bear hugs,