Those who know me well would never call me a glass half full type of person. Slightly cynical, realistic and direct, would be more apt ways to describe my outlook and approach to life. Yet the COVID-19 lockdown has me feeling not optimistic, but certainly more positive than I expected. I attribute this to my determination to adhere to three principles during this crazy, surreal time:
- Leaning in to Family Time
- News Rationing
From the first days of self-isolation, I have been thinking how fortunate we are that the first major upheaval to our way of life is a virus that can be defeated by soap and water. Relative to challenges that faced our predecessors, such as wars, terrorism/genocide, and prior health emergencies, coronavirus seems a less daunting adversary. I do not mean to make light of the deaths and the horrors being witnessed by our valiant and besieged health care professionals, but the truth is that for most of us, being ordered to stay at home is a relatively easy ask. A roof over our heads and enough food to sustain us are blessings to be grateful for, and weren’t true for millions of people living in Europe in the 1940s, or Rwanda in the ’90s. Yes, many people have serious economic worries, but we have to hope that our government and the private sector are making efforts to improve the economic situation.
And I am grateful that there are concrete things that we have been asked to do to defeat this virus. Stay home, wash your hands and stay 2 metres away from people all seem like pretty easy asks, and we need to take this seriously.
If you are fortunate enough to be self isolating with family members, I urge you to use the time to strengthen the bonds between you. In my now 4 person household, I have turned into a veritable June Cleaver, that 1950s housewife who unfailingly serves every meal with a smile and a clean apron. And I have to confess, I’m loving it. Because one of my sons and my husband recently returned from New York, I have enforced a strict quarantine situation where no one but me is allowed in the kitchen. Ever. All meal prep, serving and clean up falls to me, and it’s actually fine. We eat in a common room but maintain a safe physical distance from each other. Everyone is reasonably appreciative of my efforts, I think, and the rest of the time they are free to work from their respective rooms and speak too loudly on their work calls. My other son is in health care so he doesn’t even enter the house. Instead, we sit in the backyard when he visits and have deep discussions about the current situation. Another highlight of each day is when I go for a long walk with my youngest son who has been in Toronto all along. All of the above is quality time on steroids, and would not have been possible a few short weeks ago.
The last behavior that has helped me get through this situation is my unwillingness to be a slave to every bit of news out there. We are literally receiving a barrage of information from multiple sources, much of it sensationalized and constantly evolving. Not to mention all the stupid cartoons, memes, and sappy videos that are circulating and I guess are meant to distract us. We have all become armchair virologists, epidemiologists and interpreters of disease modeling, and because of that, there are times when anxiety washes over us. And as we all know, those fears tend to multiply and become ever more ominous in the middle of the night. Do I have a new sore throat and cough? Are my elderly relatives actually staying home? But on those nights when sleep proves to be elusive, the absolute worst thing to do is open your phone at 3 am to check the latest numbers out of Italy or the stock futures. Or to look at the coronavirus symptom checker one more time or read a heart-wrenching story of a family in New Jersey that lost multiple members. Resist the urge and just try to quiet your racing mind with deep breaths and distracting thoughts and you may be rewarded with a few more hours of sleep. Those articles will all still be there in the morning.