Written on April 15th, 2020. One month after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, Canada. This is a journal of my thoughts and feelings.
Well, its been about a month now of COVID-19, at least of it being a significant presence in Canada, and of social distancing measures. On March 15th we announced the situation with COVID at church and we discussed the possibility of putting a pause on in-person services. Within a day, we announced we would begin virtual worship, and close the building until April. It all happened so quickly.
It’s crazy to think it has been a month since then. At the time, we thought that things might slow down or close for 2 weeks, maybe 3. At that point we hadn’t really thought we wouldn’t be back in our sanctuary for Easter.
For me, the first week of isolation and social distancing was sort of exhilarating honestly. It felt like I just hit the ground running. I poured myself into setting up my work from home routine and office – even taped a schedule on the wall to help my husband and I feel normal. It was an emergency response that kicked in – but I (and I think many people) didn’t really get a chance to acknowledge what was actually happening. We were living the beginning of a significant moment in history without even realizing it. I remember saying to my husband, “This is sort of exciting”. I could feel the energy and buzz of mobilizing as a society to deal with an emergency situation.
It wasn’t until the end of week 2 that it slowly started to set-in. I had burned through my adrenaline response. We had more or less set-up our online presence for the church, and we had our first online service via YouTube. Somehow even though nothing really changed practically from week 1 to 2, there was a shift in my energy.
Since then its been a slow day-to-day sort of realization, as the news has continued to go downhill, that we are in this for the long haul. This won’t be over in another week, or the week after that. Our short term emergency response was insufficient. As my colleague so aptly pointed out, “this is a marathon and not a race”.
There are definitely some positives to the situation that I am increasingly grateful for. My husband and I are getting to spend a lot of quality time together. The dog and cat are loving having us at home all the time. We sleep more, and are eating lots of homemade meals. I’m reading a lot and playing violin. My husband is drawing and we are playing Dungeons and Dragons every week. I am thankful to have an income and work to keep me busy and connected to the outside world. I don’t have to get dressed in the morning if I don’t want to, or I can take my time doing my makeup and hair. There’s no reason to rush. In general, the pace of life has slowed which is a relief from the busyness of regular life (or, life before COVID?).
But, the hard things are becoming harder. Easter came and went, and while we had a good meal together and had long video calls with family, there was a looming sadness. A loss. The days are slow and long. Time drags on endlessly and I get lost as to what day it is. Going to the grocery store is strange and overwhelming. It’s hard to plan meals for 2 weeks. I feel a lot of pressure to get it right and to not go out again. I miss being outside walking in the parks. While I love my apartment, the spaces feel smaller and more limiting than before. Living close to everything used to be fun but now makes me worry more about transmission. The silence and emptiness of the world is stark, lonely, and frightening.
After a month of living like this, it is strange to slowly begin to feel normal again. The things that were so different from our “normal life” (social distancing, hand washing constantly, not touching any common surfaces, not going to shops, not seeing anyone etc.) are beginning to feel “normal”. And I can feel myself pushing back, resisting the change, and trying not to accept this new “normal”. I am bothered by life feeling like it is both on pause and rapidly changing. So much important work in the world has been halted, and yet we are seeing systems change overnight.
I wake up and wish quietly to myself that this dystopia is just another one of my vivid nightmares and that if I just fully wake up it will fade away back into my unconscious mind. Or that somehow, we will all wake and there will be an announcement from the government saying, “Never mind, the virus has disappeared, and you can all come out now”.
But it’s not a dream. And it is the new normal. I have to accept it. I have to keep going, we all do. I have to find a way to keep running the marathon. So, every morning I sit and I take a deep breath, and I get on with my day in any way that I can.
What else can we do?
Hannah B. L.