Lockdown in the city. Although social distancing could have been the answer to the dramatic effort to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stronger government measures have been required to enforce common sense measures like social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, most of us are in our homes for most of the day in Vancouver and many other places throughout the world. Only Taiwan used the SARS experience to prepare adequately to manage this recent global pandemic. For people in Taiwan, life includes travel restrictions, regular temperature checks, masks, and strictly enforced isolation for people who have travelled or feel sick. It also includes going to work, restaurants, and the gym. For the rest of us, we’re inside. No socializing. No yoga. No gym. No eating out at restaurants. No visits to the local coffee shop to sit, work or socialize. Even the logs at the popular Vancouver beaches have been gathered and fenced in to prevent people from gathering and socializing in groups. The quest to cope is daunting for many who feel like they have exchanged control of their lives for abject boredom. However we continue to have control of how we perceive our situation and how we spend our time.
I am grateful that we our two week Spring break that pushed the card on self isolating and government enforcement of Health and Safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while my family, friends and my school community are still healthy. Prior to the break, our school did a good job of reminding kids to wash hands properly, cough into their elbows, and maintain clean spaces and surfaces. We are now in a better position to teach and reinforce the importance of social distancing.
My Grandma Derksen kept four young kids together and alive through-out World War II in Germany. She lived to be 100 years old, Her stories of rats nibbling on toes in emergency shelters and other horrific conditions framed her later life. She demonstrated a fastidious attention to cleanliness. For her joy came with a clean and organized household. When I was newly married, I’d take a toothbrush to crevices when she came to visit and shove piles of stuff into closets. The family joke has always been that the clean gene skipped my genetic make-up. I prefer to go out and do something. If I’m at home, I’d prefer to read or write rather than clean the house.
I was gifted with the collector gene of my Grandma Keenan. Books, rocks, shells, tea cups, photos, letters and other treasures carry stories and possibilities. My recent obsession with clean surfaces have brought the realization that the clutter also brings dust and presents a cleaning challenge. I will require more than a two week lock-down to meet the Grandma Derksen standard, but I am well on my way.
My recent painting, organizing, and cleaning obsession has been made enjoyable with audio-books and the Netflix binge watch. I have discovered that weekly featured audiobooks are available for under $10.00 and some great classics are even cheaper. Nothing like a hard boiled detective with Tourettes to entertain you while you paint a bedroom. Multiple seasons of a series on Netflix with well developed characters has kept me shuffling papers and sorting “stuff” well into the night.
Social media has the merits of checking in on people and statistics, but like binge watching television or the news can become a black hole. It has the same capacity as empty grocery store shelves to fill me with anxiety and apprehension. My mother was the ultimate worry wart. The worst things that happened in her life were the things she never saw coming. The worry just made her more nervous and less able to experience joy. I have found the need to just turn it off. Daily technology and television breaks are mandatory.
Reading is how I cope with life. It allows me to shift gears. It provides the front-end loading that feeds my curiosity and helps me process life. It allows me to do big picture thinking and make sense of things in the past and yet to come. It’s not an “add on” to a busy schedule but part of my life. The additional time at home has diversified my reading. I am even listening to a grisly book called Still Lives that would make my older sister proud – the ultimate consumer of scary books and movies. I just finished a book called Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang that has reframed my thinking around work/ life balance.
Daily outdoor exercise is part of the mix. It provides a welcome addition to the day. There is something to be said for the positive addition of having time with nature to calm our nervous system and experience joy in its beauty. There is time for long walks and bike rides. My preference is for long bike rides because it gives me a better way to work out. Spring is a great time of year. As new growth emerges, so do the possibilities for learning, considering things in a new light and creativity. With this new learning and inspiration comes the desire to write and to cook. Olive’s bran muffins from when my cousin and I worked on 4th Avenue at The Computer Tax Service, Nanny Keenan’s oatcakes, along with homemade croutons have become staples.
By the end of the day, I still find I have more to do. Today I will venture out into the rain. Then the promise of a pot of tea and a good book. Tonight I have decided that it will be date night. I will put on nice clothes and perhaps even make-up and make a fancy dinner. Something to change things up. I may even let my husband teach me a new card game. My husband will be delighted not to be co-opted into another organizational venture!