Tag Archives: COVID-19

Stay home, stay grounded

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.

Breathing your way through anxiety

I’ve been noticing a few posts on social media about how some of us who have experienced anxiety and depression throughout our lives are feeling a little better than we expected to feel during this pandemic.

And let me be clear: I’m not holding this up as something to aspire to. If you’re finding yourself to be a total wreck, trying to get out of bed, trying to find the motivation to do anything, acknowledge how you are feeling. Acknowledging feelings helps you let them go. Denying them keeps them stuck in your body. Then accept it.

If you or someone you know has spent most of their lives in the “fight or flight” response and suddenly now, you are surrounded by others who are feeling like you’ve felt for good chunks of your life, to lesser or greater degrees, feeling relatively well right now in the middle of this pandemic becomes a little easier to understand.

If in childhood you were in a family situation that put you in the middle of crisis intermittently for whatever reason. Maybe you lived with an abusive or a very moody and unpredictable parent. Maybe one of your parents was living with a mental illness, officially diagnosed or not. Maybe one or both of your parents was addicted to alcohol or other substances. Maybe you experienced difficult things that left your physiology and mental health impacted. 

Those things might range from sexual abuse to witnessing another member of your family being abused to any experience that really emotionally affected you negatively and changed you in some ways from that point on. The list is endless. That’s trauma! All of those negative and unhealthy experiences will impact everyone very differently but with some predictable commonalities.

For those of us who can relate, living with uncertainty and being prepared and being on guard or being hypervigilant is just a lifelong way of being. It’s not healthy. It’s hard on the heart and the kidneys. And sometimes in times of extreme stress, it can make you seem less intelligent than you are.

That’s especially true if you begin to disassociate where you lose your train of thought. You might just freeze. Your vision fogs. Everyone around you suddenly feels like they are there but not there, mere human outlines drenched in a soft hazy wash.

If that’s been your experience, then a pandemic is just falling into line with the uncertainty you’ve lived with your entire life in in one way or another.

You hear people focusing on the uncertainty right now, wrestling with that when it seems like just accepting what’s happening could be a more helpful response.

I’m not saying I haven’t been anxious lately. I’m feeling anxious writing this now that I’m paying attention to my body. But I’ve been aware of trying to recognize that. STOP and be aware of it. STOP and sit down. Stop and BREATHE. STOP and go out for a walk.

Because let’s get real, if you aren’t even a little bit anxious in the middle of a pandemic then honestly you need to check in with yourself and get real.

Anxiety isn’t the issue. It’s what you do with that anxiety that can make a difference in how you function.

If you’ve haven’t done any meditation or investigated other modalities of healing then the exercises in this video might seem weird to you. Having experienced just a taste of somatic movement earlier this year in a class offered by a yoga practitioner from Mayne Island, I’d recommend just watching this and trying it.  

I trust the experience of this individual and that’s good enough for me.

Join Dr. Levine as he leads us through a series of Somatic Experiencing® exercises to help regulate our nervous system. #somaticexperiencing #drpeterlevine

Posted by Peter A Levine, PhD on Thursday, April 9, 2020

 

COVID-19: The Mother of all staycations

I keep finding messages. First I found a whole street of fairy houses I didn’t know existed in Victoria and then this (above), in a tree, near my apartment. I like it. Sweet.

I can take no credit for sourcing what I’m about to share with you.

My friend Susan in Vancouver sent it to me yesterday and someone sent it to her. Please share it if you are so inclined.

I started reading it while I was still in bed, early in the morning, worrying that using an IPhone in bed that I hadn’t wiped down upon waking would surely come back to bite me. You see how my brain has changed in ways that I’m not okay with?

Of course the topic is COVID-19. But it’s something that’s written with so much insight.

Yesterday, (today right now as I write this) was the first day I was feeling like, ‘oh, this, this is for real! This isn’t just some mother of all Staycations.'”

Here’s the article, The Coronation (15-30 minutes)  https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/

Here’s a link if you’d like to know more about this person, Charles Eisenstein.

Hope you’re staying the course, physically distancing at 2 meters, socially connecting, keeping up some weird new routine, taking time to go inside yourself, and think about what you might want to change once the crisis part is over. I hope you’re doing okay.

Walk like this: Do The COVID

You may not be old enough to remember this, but if you are, of course you remember the incomparable comedian John Belushi.

One of my favourite things about him was how he scurried about in the movie Animal House (1978). His movement was part sideways crab, part Pink Panther and part Muhammad Ali. He floated on his feet but in a really stupid, yet amusing “Private Investigator for Dummies” kind of way. (To see an example, it starts at 6:47 in the video clip below).

When I go out for my COVID-19 ‘keep my sanity, get out of the house’ walk, I keep thinking about the way John Belushi used to move about in that movie. And I feel like, in my head at least, I’ve taken on a lesser version of that style. Especially when I’m outside, on high alert, trying to avoid getting too close to other pesky humanoids.

I make sure that when I turn a blind corner, I don’t saunter right into one of them when uck, yuck, blech, stay the hell away from me, you disgusting Corona viral host you. Read my lips: Six feet. Actually 6.5 feet to be exact.

Because I walk almost everywhere in my teeny weeny little life that has shrunk down to some microscopic 3 square miles or whatever, and ever since the physical distancing rules came in, I have been paying attention to the way people are handling themselves while out and about.

There’s the people who just walk down the sidewalk like they’re playing a game of chicken. Who’s going to give first? I always give. No. That’s a lie. Correction. I ALMOST always give. But after I’ve given and given and given, on the 10th time I might use one of them as an experiment.

I might decide to just keep walking, especially if I was the there first. I like to think of this as the sidewalk version of manspreading because I hate to say it but too often, it’s guys who are not moving. You can feel their defiance from 25 feet away. They are not changing their location in the space not one bit. Entitlement. All mine. Move the hell out of the way. Some things never change. Yup, said it.

There’s the people who, like me, as soon as they spot a human coming towards them on the sidewalk, they cross the street. Avoidance is our life long modus operandi. We’ve perfected it. We just never realized it would really come in handy one day. We didn’t know we were practicing for The COVID.

There’s the people who, like the adults they are, can actually USE THEIR WORDS! Bless their emotionally intelligent hearts.  “I’m going on this side,” they’ll say. They tip their head. They gesture with their hand. They let you know what the hell they are thinking. They are walking like they drive. I’m sure they must all be Roadstars.  I’ll tell you what they are not. They are not COVIDiots!

Then there’s the people who are oblivious. They just keep getting closer and closer. They are walking their dogs. They are looking at their cellphones. They act like they’ve just woken up from a 100-year-long nap. Rumplestiltskn wannabes. They are the ones who behind the wheel would always go through a 4 way stop or take their turn when it isn’t theirs to take. They might as well be on vacation with Chevy Chase.

When you stop to see what direction they are going so you don’t run right into them, they think you’re actually stopping to have a chat. They keep walking towards you as you back up. Darwin Awards. Give them one.

There’s the people who act like zombies and can’t differentiate between staying six feet away and still managing to be friendly. They can only focus on one thing at a time: six feet, six feet, six feet. Don’t expect them to say “Hello” at a time like this for God’s sake.

Oh, let’s not forget the cyclists. As is often the case, just like before, they don’t think any of the rules apply to them, so why would physical distancing be any different. After all, they’re moving. So what if they’re six inches at the shoulder away from you when they whiz on by.

I liked the old days–two weeks ago–when some people were every bit as oblivious but it was just an annoyance, not a potentially life-altering encounter.

Check your attitude during COVID-19

The best thing you can do for your mental health right now, if you haven’t already, is to snooze or get rid of every single person on your social media feeds who thinks this is the time to debate what’s going on because they don’t “trust” the government or they’re trying to prove some sort of point.

Get rid of anyone off your feeds who purposely makes others feel bad or in general is argumentative and negative.

My life is already and intentionally filled with people, the ones I am closest to, who are focused on being positive, helpful, optimistic (way more optimistic than I usually am), future thinking and expecting the best. There’s no room for conspiracy theorists in my own little delusional universe and that’s the way I like it.

I work for the B.C. Government and I can assure you there isn’t a single person in any ministry who isn’t doing what they can to make things easier within the realm of what’s possible for citizens in B.C. They are doing the best they can under these very difficult circumstances that are requiring immediate response and instant decisions, in an institution that isn’t used to making change on a dime.

There is that old saying when it comes to keeping the peace in relationships: Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? Well, now that question has changed slightly. Do you want to be right or do you want to be sick or in the worst case scenario, dead?

Focus on beauty and positivity. Join an online meditation group or whatever kind of group turns your crank. Listen to symphonies performing concerts online. Watch comedies on TV. Once you figure out Zoom or messenger, have a chat with those people who aren’t going to ramp up your anxiety, but in direct contrast, recognize that now is the time to soothe it.

This is not the time to prove that you’re an intellectual, wiser, more enlightened or more incisive than others. This is the time to be the kindest, most compassionate person you are capable of being. Be a good listener. Be open. Watch how you’re impacting others. Your community needs you to do the very best you can do.

This is also not the time to be a rugged individualist, stubborn insistence that you’ll be absolutely fine on your own. You’re missing the point. If someone reaches out to you and you don’t even respond to them, you’re not getting what’s going on and how you could use this as a time to rethink the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are your entire life.

If you’re like a lot of people, you have probably never been so connected to family and friends online on a daily basis – checking in, keeping spirits up, having a laugh, commiserating. Doing what humans have been doing for centuries – around the piazza, around the water cooler, at the watering hole, over the fence and now, from your own living room – apart but together. Same same but different.

COVID-19, the almighty revealer

The corona virus has reminded us that the most highly educated and the least are of equal value in their service on the front lines.

The artificial socioeconomic value system that ties human worth to occupation is once again revealed as the arbitrary paradigm that it is.

In this time of crisis, and needing all hands on deck, the people whose socioeconomic status is at the bottom–the retail clerks, the janitors and cleaners and private home care providers or nursing home staff, child care providers and delivery/truck drivers are every bit as critical as the PhD medical staff, the online technology software wizards, the virologists and pharmacists and medical researchers.

Regardless of how undervalued the lowest paid people may feel on a typical day, they are now the canaries in the coal mines and the heroes on the front lines. They’re providing services that are every bit as important as the doctors and nurses responding to the deadly puzzle unfolding before their eyes.

These contributions have been revealed to be of equal value in our reliance on them but the difference is, those on the lowest end aren’t being protected in the same way. Many aren’t wearing gloves. They can’t back away when they’re ringing through groceries. They’re depending on you to do that, to keep them as safe as you can by not being there at all, or by following the rules of distance,  6 feet or 2 meters, and staying home if you’re feeling any of the symptoms at all. And self-isolating if you’ve returned from a trip, meaning, going right home, not to any grocery store where you’ll be in contact with others, then staying at home (14 days) until you know you are not ill.

Parents are on the front lines in a whole other way. Their roles are now magnified. They are having to offer the comfort, provide the distractions, set the example, waylay fears and anxiety, cook and be especially fastidious around the house in cleaning and making sure everyone in their family, from children to octogenarians, understands and keeps themselves and others safe by following the advice of the public health officers.

It’s a challenging time for social butterflies. They’re already losing their minds or they haven’t even taken the advice to heart, still going about their lives as if nothing is all that different.  

Someone pointed out that sometimes people respond to anxiety that way. They pretend everything is the same, denial their modus operandi.  They fail to understand or take to heart that their actions can no longer be dictated by preference or whim when those actions may cause someone else to lose their life because of how well or how poorly they changed their behaviour.

That’s the difference in mortality numbers between Taiwan who did everything right (100 deaths) and what’s happened in China, Italy and what’s to come around the world when seemingly draconian protective measures happen too late.

Sometimes I feel like the people who have had little hardship in their lives, emotional or otherwise, are just not very equipped to have the resilience required when things change for the worse on a dime like this.

They are so used to getting what they want, everything at their beck and call, that it’s hard for them to imagine they have to do something different when that something isn’t their choice.

And the most dangerous, the conspiracy theorists, are in heaven and in hell, so status quo for them, I guess.

The human body and its frailty holds the power.

Accept everything you must do to keep yourself and other’s healthy.  Accept everything. Accept what you can not change.

Flattening the curve means fewer people get sick quickly and all at once and that alone can save lives.

I’m not saying instant adaptation is easy or nice, but it’s not that hard either. Not really. Not in comparison to the worst case scenario you or someone who matters to you might find themselves in.

This video from an artist named Matteo Marchesi speaking near Lombardy, Italy, is compelling.

His father is an intensive care doctor. https://vimeo.com/398651424

Learn more about what’s happening in B.C. via the B.C. Government’s Covid-19 updates: www.gov.bc.ca

 

 

 

Amusing yourself during a pandemic

The thing about being an introvert and being told to hunker down is that it’s almost like being told, “Hey, just be yourself.” Finally! You mean I can just stay home and binge read, watch TV, clean my apartment, go for a walk in the park, go down to the beach, drink some wine, make some soup and chili and I don’t have to feel guilty about not doing SOMETHING Instagram worthy?

It would seem the most important thing to control during this pandemic, as is true every single day, is our own thoughts.

A friend told me that she heard this cool thing. The word Pandemic can be broken down with the middle syllable “dem” — which originates from Greek and means “people” — and when you take out the people or “dem” in Pandemic whaddya got? Panic! Pan-DEM-ic! Very clever! And accurate.

Here’s a few suggested diversions to lower the panic, you dems you!

  • In B.C., keep up to date on what’s happening in your community by listening to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, on the local news as they report out daily, often at 3:00 p.m. or on the Government of BC Facebook page.
  • Then again, be aware of how much time you’re spending getting freaked out by broadcast and social media.
  • Watch the emotional eating and ramp up the self-care. If you’re scarfing down cupcakes and other crap like I was on Friday night like you’re the winner of a zombie apocalypse emotional eating contest,  you might decide that now is a good time to focus on extreme self-care.
  • Forget the toilet paper, buy some greens and avocados and get your guerrilla Dr. Gundry warfare on.  Take your Vitamin C and organic spirulina.
  • Get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  Look at the flowers, take photographs which requires your mind to focus on the present and on only what’s in front of you.
  • Don’t go to a big box store or stand in a long line-up for food surrounded by all those people who have not kept their panic at bay.
  • Try to practice the 2 metre rule of distancing yourself from people – that’s 6 feet.
  • If you’re feeling super anxious, start doing boxed breathing. 
  • If you’ve meditated in the past but stopped, this seems like a good time to breathe in, breathe out, stay focused on your breath.
  • Read a book – Check in on some Canadian authors at Canada Reads.
  • Make some soup from scratch and freeze it.
  • Write in a journal knowing you’re documenting an historic event in human history.
  • Seems like a good time to get back to the practice of the gratitude journal or just take time each evening to think of three things you’re grateful for – apparently just the process of seeking out those three things is good for your brain and can help you focus on your “wealth.”
  • Think about what arts organizations really need your support through this and purchase a ticket or give a donation.
  • Listen to public radio – CBC, NPR in the States.
  • Take an afternoon nap if you can, alone, or even better, with company.
  • Watch a movie, preferably a comedy, not Contagion.
  • Listen to some great jazz or blues or whatever you like best, maybe one of those “poor me” country tunes.
  • Find some podcasts that you’d like to start following.
  • Do your taxes (Yuk for sure, but it is that time of year).
  • Clean your house in a way you never get around to.
  • Do that chore at home you’ve been putting off for months.
  • Kondo your closet.
  • Play a board game or throw a baseball back and forth in a nearby park with your kids or your dog.
  • Call your friends or family who live elsewhere using whatever technology you can.
  • Make a Femo monster of the virus and smash it afterwards. Okay. A little weird, but could be fun. And the video is hilarious (to me)!
  • Yesterday, I was speaking over video chat with my 96 year old friend who I now feel, because of her vulnerability to the virus,  I shouldn’t go visit. While we haven’t quite perfected our use of the technology, we’ll get there. And as she so succinctly said, “What am I supposed to do, dig a hole, take some food and jump in?” The answer? “No. Don’t do that! Not yet, anyway. You’ve excelled at aging. Hang in there!”
  • Research where you want to go when we get past this, even if it takes months.
  • Mostly, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, follow the recommendations and for now, remind yourself that in this moment you are safe. Focus on how well you are right in this moment and focus on the facts, not forecasting the worst.  And carry on.

If you insist, here’s a few links to be over-informed by:

BC Centre for Disease Control:
http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19

Definitions:
https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center#Terms

Infection Prevention and Control – Canada
https://ipac-canada.org/coronavirus-resources.php

How it spreads: (If you have high anxiety, don’t read this link).
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/