You’ve been washing your hands with soap for twenty seconds. Every coat pocket has at least one discarded mask. You’ve stood two meters apart, had a swab stuck up your nose, quarantined, and been vaccinated (at least twice).
At this point, you feel like you’ve done everything you possibly can to flatten the curve, eradicate the COVID-19 virus and keep your family safe.
But have you?
Have you been to the movies? Have you eaten out, in an actual restaurant, at a table, where people serve you and you put a napkin on your lap? Have you hugged your book club, your mah-jong ladies, your PTA partners?
Let me first state that if you, or anyone you live with, has an autoimmune condition or is otherwise susceptible to extra complications from COVID, then you need to take the recommended precautions. Also, if you have symptoms please stay home. We all need to pay attention to changing protocols as they emerge and follow the safety rules established where we live.
However, other than extenuating circumstances, I’m here to tell you that I believe each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep on living, in whatever way that looks like for you.
Adjusting to the new normal can be hard. According to Dr. Ali Mindel, a psychologist in private practice in Montreal, “we have all adapted to home and its comforts.” While it might have been hard to convince us to stay home initially, many of us quickly slipped into our well-worn sweats and a routine of bread baking, making the best of a home-bound situation.
In the long run though, we need to return to community. “We’re social animals,” Dr. Mindel explains, “we derive self-esteem and pleasure from our real-life connection to other humans.” Now, we are being asked to adapt again, and giving up the familiar is hard. Ultimately, Dr. Mindel advises that “neither extreme is good. The ideal is to have a compromise, like a hybrid model, not only for home but for life.”
What about people who are still too scared to do things like go to the gym? “There are so many safety precautions put in place in gyms, from cleaning, to class size limits, to spacing, it is easy to feel safe,” says Stephanie Raby-Naimer, spin instructor.
She notes that many of her spin students are so appreciative to be back in person. “People are excited and grateful for the emotional connection of group physical fitness. The atmosphere in the room is amazing.”
While you can toil away on a bike at home (or so I hear), it’s not the same as being physically together. By returning to the gym or the studio, you are helping yourself by exercising, helping community members by building connections, and last but not least, helping the economy.
One of the hardest hit sectors of our economy was restaurants, where forced furloughs caused permanent closures and the return to reality has been tough. Carlo Di Pietro works in the restaurant supply industry in Montreal and he has seen his customers struggling. “We need to put money back into restaurants and give the economy the start-up it needs,” he says. Carlo’s clients have lost so much — employees, customers, and money. He says it’s important that we all “move forward, get it going and do not look back.”
Yes, take out does help restaurants survive, and the growth in that sector has been huge. But it’s not the same — for you or for them — as eating out in person. Where it is possible to do so safely, it is a contribution that I think pays dividends in the long run.
Travel is another area of our lives that for many, has been on pause or hold for the past almost two years and we are ready to pack our bags again. Some of us will enjoy road trips and rental houses so our contacts are limited. Others are ready to return to airline travel and are benefitting from mask mandates and copious amounts of hand sanitizer.
Whatever your personal situation is, I hope that you go and have a great time. Because returning to life is everyone’s responsibility.