I feel like I hit the COVID wall last week.
It’s been about 15 weeks since I’ve been working from home. To make matters worse, I switched jobs right before we were all sent home to work from home so I don’t even know the people on my team. Timing is everything! I can’t send these new co-workers overly honest, sarcastic and rude chat messages like I could with my former coworkers. But, unlike 8 million Canadians who have applied for CERB, at least I still have a pay cheque.
Whenever I think of my former co-workers, they are all where they were pre-COVID. They’re in their cubicles or their offices as if I’m the only one working from home. Every time I send them a message, I picture them at work. Perhaps it’s because I know them at work, but I can’t visualize them in their homes since I’ve never been to their homes. I have immortalized them in my mind’s eye where I last saw them. Statues. As they were. Like toy employees I can move around if I want to. The way the Friendly Giant used to move the chairs in front of the fireplace.
I look in my storage space off my hallway and I count as many bottles of wine as weeks working from home. I have energetically contributed to the increase in alcohol consumption of British Columbians. Just doing my part! We’re all in this together, remember? Even if it means drinking alone.
I try to convince myself that of course, silly, there is always something new to see in the neighborhood even if only in a grain of sand. William Blake. I just need to change my perception I tell myself. Viktor Frankl. Power of Now. Eckhart Tolle. So sometimes I reluctantly push my sloth-like self out the door. Other times I can barely stand these walls and this laptop and as soon as the clock strikes noon or 4:30 pm, I’m outta here. On weeknights or at lunch, I walk around the neighborhood and Beacon Hill Park and Dallas Road and the inner harbour for the 795th time the way I used to walk around the block to my best friend’s house as a child, a well-worn path.
I walk past the ducks in that house on Battery Street and Emily Carr’s family home on Government. I spend hours on a log on the beach off Dallas Road talking to a friend. I search for hearts on trees and in windows. I put out an intention before I leave. Tonight I will find a new faerie house I tell myself. I am an aimless neighborhood wanderer. And yes, surprisingly, there is always something new to see, even close to home.
Tonight on my walk I saw an amazing trumpet player givin’ er, joining other neighbours who were out with their spoons hitting poles, one beating an Indigenous drum, clapping and tapping and participating in a ritual that makes them feel connected. But those gatherings aren’t about health care workers anymore. At least not in Victoria. I don’t think so.
I mean, no offense, but when you think about it, the health care workers on Vancouver Island must be less busy than they normally are, given the low COVID numbers. If that’s not true, forgive me. It’s the home care workers and the health care workers inside senior’s residences that are chock a block around the clock. And the grocery store clerks and maybe small breweries delivering their golden liquids and small mom and pop restaurants doing what they can to make takeout a reality. I feel for those small restaurant owners.
I’ve gone back to “just call me.” I don’t need to see your face on a screen. Or my own face. I’ve resorted to hugging myself and I wonder if couples know how lucky they are. Are some of them having way more sex because they’re bored and they have the time or are they sick of each other so it’s hard to “get in the mood?” This is the minutia I wonder about.
I watch as the colour slowly leaves my hair fascinated by the non-colour that is replacing what was a version of auburn and I can hear my mother say that women of a certain age shouldn’t wear their hair long. She was wrong.
I try to seek out the little joys. A friend’s brother eloped the other day. Togetherness was obviously good for him and his love. I receive a photo of a baby that was born to a friend back east. A baby whose middle name now bears the name of my friend, Judith, who died two years ago. She would have been happy to be a grandmother. She would have smiled at the baby’s full head of dark hair, just like her daughter’s, that baby’s mamma.
I search out television shows I can binge watch next and just finished Dead to Me and the documentary, 13th. I watch National Theatre Live and when I’m in absolute veg mode, which is alot, I watch 90 day fiancé and Alone on the History channel. Sometimes I tune into live concerts on Zoom with 260 others who have paid $10 to listen in. I finally clean my balcony and plant some succulents, dahlias and kale. I put my bag of marbles in my round glass bowl and fill it with water for the bees. It must be summer now, I tell myself, through that one act.
I have a fabulous artist friend, Keiko, in Vancouver. I asked her to paint me a watercolour of The Sylvia Hotel. I wanted a painting of it so I could look at it and it would remind me of some of the good friends I would meet for a drink or two there. She did. And now I just have to wait to get it framed.
I sent my nieces and sisters a surprise gift from Salt Spring Lavender to brighten their days and then included myself. I introduced myself to audible and then heard about Libro FM which lets you support independent bookstores when you subscribe and download books to listen to. My first book was called The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. It’s a book about these women in a matrifocal society on an island named Jeju off the coast of Korea who have for centuries been the ones to support their families by diving for seaweed and shellfish all wrapped around a Korean history lesson. A tale of hardship, love, women, family, hatred, betrayal and forgiveness. I’ve moved on to Italy now. My Brilliant Friend.
I peruse my bookshelf for all the books I’ve yet to read trying to settle on one that I’m interested in but my concentration is as fleeting as the lavender spritzer I spray on my pillow at night.
Sometimes I eat salads with greens purchased from the James Bay Saturday Market. I walk a lot more than 10,000 steps. I refrain from wine with dinner. I don’t buy chocolate. I don’t eat Haagen-Dazs. Then other weeks I’m an emotional eating machine. Sourdough bread. Peanut Butter. Hagendaz. Nachos. Licorice. Peanut Butter Cups. Craft Beer. A donut from Discovery coffee = coconut crème or mojito flavoured. An endless pit.
I think of my parents a lot. And many other people who have flowed, like a river, through my days in the past and I wonder about their personal experience of this time. How are they doing? I do this more than I have ever done this before.
I came back from doing the laundry tonight and a book that was given to my father as a child, a book of poems with illustrations, was lying on the rug right in front of my bookcase. It wasn’t there before I went to do the laundry. I swear! It’s called Songs of Innocence. A shaky inscription says that it was given to my father from his mother in 1927 on his 9th birthday. Inside there is his scrawled handwriting denoting he was passing it on to me. Is that a message, I wondered? Is my father trying to tell me I’m not alone? Why of all the books that could have fallen out of the bookshelf, did that one end up on the rug right in front of me?
I wonder if anyone else has noticed that all the things they’ve needed to work on their entire life are getting in their face? For me it’s a tendency to run away. Not this time! You just stay right where you are young lady…And deal. I wonder what others are being reminded of about themselves that they wish they didn’t already know?
This COVID thing is a cheaper, much more boring version of therapy. Stay Home, the sign flashes on the freeway, which is ironic because it’s too late. You’re in your car. You’re out. You’re going somewhere.
And the thing is, metaphorically, I’ve now decided that those two words — Stay Home– they really aren’t just referring to where you live.
They might just be referring to that place, inside, that keeps you grounded.