This past week I’ve felt the stress of family, friends, colleagues, parents, teachers, students, businesses government, and society in general. However, in this stress, I’ve also felt one other emotion – gratitude.
We’ve never experienced a moment where so much we take for granted for as a given to be there every day is just suddenly gone. For 8 weeks, I’ve been dependent on grocery delivery and pick up, and physio. It’s extremely challenging to get a grocery order right now and even physio is now closing next week. Likely my 2 month estimated time to see my new surgeon will be delayed. And it sure as heck is terrifying to not have the medical tools that help indefinitely or to have a timeline for seeing someone who can help me move forward.
This whole week I have felt frozen – I think we are all feeling frozen. The days feels surreal. Yet, I can’t live the next days, weeks or months like that. So, what do I do? I managed to get one last physio appt tomorrow. I am going to do my best to get as many tools I can – stretches, exercises, whatever – to help myself during this time. I have a TENS/EMS machine that while is no way comparable to what my physiotherapist can do, if I use it regularly, I think it’ll make a difference. My pool therapy is gone and I cannot swim – the one workout I could do almost pain free. I can’t change that so I’ll do my best. Surgeon is okay with short walks but to stop when it hurts. Some days this 20 minutes, some days 10, and even some days 5 minutes. Most days getting ready is a workout.
But – not all of you reading this will be that stuck. Get outside, sit on the deck or porch, go for a walk. Find an outdoor training program. If you don’t have a gym anymore, ask if anyone has any gym equipment they aren’t using and maybe you can borrow them. You can even get active by offering to do the grocery shopping for an elderly parent, grandparent or neighbour – it gets you out of the house while also helping them stay protected.
I have felt useless for 7 weeks and very alone. This week – I have felt useful and that I was needed. Nothing changed for me physically but suddenly we were forced into a world where it was acceptable to use my skills to teach online. I’ve been able to create lessons while lying in bed. I’ve helped share tools for parents while doing some physio exercises. I’ve thought of ideas to add to my i online French classroom website while icing and taking a rest or nap. This reminded me that we are all useful in some ways but sometimes our society, and even ourselves, doesn’t realize that until we are forced to.
The challenge comes with balance – I have to take care of me too. Sometimes even lying in bed with my laptop hurts and I have to know it can wait. Even if it is just making 1 document or adding 1 link. So as much as we all want to help, we also have to practice self awareness – for both physical and mental health. We are living in a time where we have to really pause and consider the physical ramifications of even just going to a grocery store. We have to consider beyond ourselves and for all of our loved ones too. So I rest and I am still putting myself first. I have naps, I do my physiotherapy exercises, I allow myself to simply do nothing especially when my pain is at its worst. I binge watch Netflix, read a book, lie in bed and look at the sunshine (or snow as event weather is wonky still.)
What I also find intriguing this week is how much we are all thinking of how our actions affect our community – and sometimes we don’t always pause to reflect on that. More often, we have lived a life where we focus on ourselves and our families first as before, typically, our choices for our lives such as going to stores, gyms, parks, school, and work didn’t possibly cause harm or risk to others. Businesses are trying to find a balance of how to keep customers/clients safe yet while trying to be available for them. People are jumping to help others with lessons for kids, online workouts, getting groceries and running errands.
Overall, amidst the stress and chaos, I have seen so much kindness. Patience for the stores struggling to keep stock in; understanding for those who struggle to shop such as seniors and those with disabilities and opening store hours just for these individuals; buying from local businesses who are struggling to survive; gratitude expressed for teachers more so than I ever have felt before. I’ve even had more people checking in and I’ll admit, via texts and social media, I’ve checked in on people more myself this week.
I don’t want to forget yesterday or not get back to that – I know we will get back to the normalcy we grew dependent on. But this is what I hope we will not forget about this week or the upcoming weeks of uncertainty: One, we can survive by working together. Two, we are so fortunate to have so much available to us. Three, communication and socialization – it really does mean so much and it’s necessary for mental health. Sending a text or message to someone even when life is busy can make a world of difference for both the sender and the receiver. Even better, when this is over, don’t forget about those who actually are isolated due to illness or disability before all of this – make an effort to visit. make efforts to pause in a grocery store to have a conversation with someone you haven’t seen. More often – and I know I’ve done this too – we say “Oh hi! Sorry, wish I could chat, but I got to run.” Before, we were so focused on the next thing on our to do list as we took for granted we could chat with our friend next time. In this same mindset, let’s not forget the time we had with our families – time that was spent without multiple activities or events happening in our schedules. Four, physical fitness – while there are ways to do it now, many are facing limitations – don’t take it for granted. When this is over, if you’ve never trained or always done it alone, I recommend joining a local gym or training group – being physical is one thing but doing it with a group or around people is so different. I encourage you to try it. Plus you’re supporting a local community business who had to shut their doors for a period of time. Five, buy local – even if it’s a bit more money. I’m not saying you have to solely buy from them but even if you just buy a package of chicken here, or a load of bread here. Get a coffee from a local shop instead of Tim’s one day a week. These businesses will be the ones that will hurt the most from this Covid19 period but I’ve seen more local businesses reach out in compassion and kindness in so many ways as they try to help their community. If all of us made an effort to buy one local something each week in our community, we will help them build up again when this ends.
For today – unfreeze. Thaw. Melt. What can you do that’s positive right now with so much frozen around you? I started Duolingo and I’m making quite a dent in my Goodreads Want to Read list. I’m trying to be outside and get some fresh air but respecting my physical limitations with it. When able, I’ll continue to add lessons to my Online French classroom website during the duration of school closures – I’m still physically unable to teach but now I’m in a world where my body isn’t needed – just my mind. My partner has to work from home now – he has set up an office but then as soon as work is done, we have had some friendly Duolingo battles but also just enjoyed watching tv or Netflix together. He seems less stressed working as he gets up, works, done. I think having no commute has helped so much with reducing stress.
We have had such amazing yesterdays and so much to be grateful for in our past but we are only really recognizing that in this new reality – in this today. While there are so many stresses with this new unknown reality we are facing, we can find so much to make it positive. Once this ends, I hope we don’t rush back into old habits – forgetting what we’ve learned we took for granted and missed when we didn’t have it. While unexpected, not exactly wanted, and still surreal, I think this time and experience can inspire more patience, kindness and compassion in each of us; show us what is truly important in our lives; bring families closer while some may learn how to support each other in a multiple home family setting; make communities stronger; and maybe this experience of disempowerment and entitlement will help our society to grow to be more accommodating, charitable, and sympathetic. Hopefully we can continue to live with what we’ve learned this time, so that it doesn’t take a virus for us or future generations to have to learn it again.