We are living in a reality that seems unreal. It’s a dystopia like something out of the imagination of Margaret Atwood or Stephen King. Those of us who didn’t live through a world war (that is, most humans alive today) have no experience of a global crisis like that caused by Covid-19.
Here in Canada, as in most other countries, we have all been affected. And the changes and restrictions have happened so quickly and relentlessly that it’s hard for us to adapt.
I remember I had a sense of foreboding two or three weeks ago, when life was still going along as usual but we were beginning to hear about the spread of the coronavirus. Then, within days, normal life got cancelled.
- Races were cancelled.
- Events or gatherings of over 250 people were cancelled.
- Gyms closed.
- Libraries closed.
- Businesses and stores closed.
- Schools closed.
- Flights were cancelled.
- “Social distancing” and “self-isolation” entered our vocabularies—not without some confusion as to what those terms meant.
- Lineups at Costco and everywhere for toilet paper provided fodder for countless jokes on social media. But the panic shopping continued.
- Grocery stores imposed new hours, rules, and floor markings to enforce social distancing.
- Park facilities like soccer fields, tennis courts, and skateboard parks closed. Ironically, this happened because the lovely weather in Vancouver last week (the first week that most of the restrictions and closures were put into place) encouraged people to flock out of doors and gather in large groups in defiance of the rules and social distancing guidelines.
Now, most of us are quickly adjusting to the new reality. We are resilient.
It’s hit some people harder than others. Some people are overworked while others are out of work. Medical personnel on the front lines are at risk. Many people are working from home and at the same time trying to monitor and encourage their kids’ schoolwork. Extraverts may be frustrated and bored. Most people are affected financially, and we know already that Covid-19 is causing a world-wide economic crisis that may take years to recover from.
What can we do?
We have this wonderful communication system called the internet, and it’s hard to imagine how much worse everything would be without it.
With the internet, we can keep in touch although we’re physically isolated from each other. We can even have “face time.”
I am relatively fortunate because as a freelance editor, I’m used to working at home, alone, and I currently have work that keeps me busy. Also, there are specific editing and publishing skills I need to learn, and I can learn and practise these skills online.
Nevertheless, in the past two weeks I’ve seen that my mood can swing quickly from positive to negative.
I tell myself that even in the most dire situations, we can find opportunities. Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust camps, wrote that even when we have zero control over our circumstances, we can always choose how we respond to them. (See Frankl’s famous book Man’s Search for Meaning.)
Just now I was looking for Frankl’s book and couldn’t find it amongst my many hundreds of books. Yet as I saw long-forgotten titles and even a few books I’ve never gotten around to reading, I was filled with the sense of abundance and intellectual excitement that I always get when I’m surrounded by books. I think about how much wisdom, knowledge, and captivating stories are contained within all those covers, and I know I could be in quarantine for a long time without running out of stimulation.
That’s without even considering all the resources available online. I can take courses, take part in webinars, listen to artists (it’s amazing what artists are sharing for free; even symphony orchestras are performing), or follow a yoga workout.
Most of all, I’m thankful that I can go outside and run or ride my bike. Last week when the afternoons were so sunny and warm, I felt the irrepressible joy of spring. I knew that the burgeoning of life can’t be stopped, no matter what the coronavirus does to human beings. Nature doesn’t care; Nature will continue her cycles, and we can’t help but respond to the renewal of life that penetrates all of our senses.
I have my down times, like everyone. There have been times in the past two weeks when I couldn’t adapt quickly enough; when I felt outraged at the freedoms that were being taken away, at the way my world was getting smaller. I felt a constriction in my chest, and a fear of what was still to come. I felt bad about the people worse off than me, especially older people who are more at risk and more likely to be completely alone. I had to cancel a trip to Toronto to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. Now his party has been cancelled altogether.
This is a time of unprecedented events. It reminds us that no matter how much we plan ahead, and how hard we work, unforeseen and uncontrollable things can happen. Stability, orderliness, and a predictable future are illusory and temporary. What endures are the best qualities of the human spirit: the ability to adapt, solve problems, find joy, and care deeply for each other. Let’s all rise to this challenge.