Comfort in a time of pandemic

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This post is for my dad, who says he likes reading these blog posts (though we also communicate one-on-one). He noticed that I’d had a regular flourishing of posts when the pandemic was first announced and we were suddenly thrown into this strange time of global uncertainty and disruption; and then, I kind of stopped.

It’s true.

It’s been pretty up and down over here. And sharing the downs is harder than sharing the ups. This is not a great time to be a hypochondriac, for example. Is everyone else in a panic when they wake with a runny nose? The anxiety alone causes tightening in my chest. In truth, it’s not that hard for me to stay home with my family. I can easily list five things to be grateful for today! But to be stuck home, sick, would be a totally different story, one I find overwhelming to imagine; just as I find it overwhelming to imagine being a health care worker right now. So, I vacillate between many different emotions, including guilt for enjoying any part of this time.

My mood shifts throughout the day, and from one day to the next. I had a night of shimmering, comforting dreams. The next night, I woke every hour certain something was catastrophically wrong (like, a global pandemic, maybe?). Last night, I slept from the moment my eyes closed till the moment my alarm went off.

I know my mood affects my family’s mood. When I am frightened, anxious, spiralling from too-much-Twitter feed (note to self: remove that app from your phone!), I’m helping no one. I’m seeding worry in our tiny family plot. And, yes, that’s going to happen from time to time. What I’m trying to do, when it does happen, is to recognize that it’s happening, name it, and ask my family for forbearance and forgiveness. Apologize. Accept feedback. Forgive myself. Try again. And do my level best to change the channel by seeking out activities that improve my mindset.

Here are my current top five comfort-giving, mood-boosting, survival-tactic activities:

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My first sourdough loaf, six days in the making, an experiment necessitated by the national yeast shortage. Can you believe this loaf is made of flour, water, salt, and time? And that’s all???

One. Baking, cooking, cleaning

I must confess, if I were to get sick and need to self-isolate within our house for 14 days, as the guidelines suggest, my biggest challenge (assuming I was still functioning well enough to stand and breathe), would be to stop baking, cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry. Performing these tasks assures me that I’m nurturing my family, and also that I’m in control of something: keeping the house functioning, relatively smoothly.

On the flip side, maybe I should practice ceding control over some of these tasks, while everyone is home together now?

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Two. Meditation and yoga

I have a new best friend. Her name is Adriene, and she posts free yoga on her YouTube channel, and our relationship is entirely one-sided, but feels strangely real at the moment, especially when I sneak away from the family, close the door, and join her for a 20 minute heart-and-hip opening practice, or some such, which inevitably scrolls into another video of whatever yummy-sounding Adriene-offering is popping up next. Combined with my real friend Kasia’s nightly live-streamed yoga classes on Facebook, I’ve been doing excessive amounts of yoga. I’ve also been meditating. A lot. My office, which is tiny, has become a yoga and meditation studio, primarily.

For some reason, I’ve been framing all this yoga and meditation as a guilty pleasure, maybe because it feels really good, and I keep wanting to do more and more of it, and that seems … wrong, under the circumstances? But my eldest daughter pointed out last night that as far as guilty pleasures go, this one is downright healthy, and possibly even healing and helpful. So I’m giving myself the permission to do as much yoga as I need to, to get through the day.

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Three. Going outside

I feel better when I’m outside early in the morning, when hardly anyone else is out and about; this is when I’ve been running. I’m nervous about adding any non-essential traffic to the sidewalks and parks right now; but it’s amazing how even a short dog-walk around the block after supper can lift the spirits. The birds are awake and busy. In our backyard this afternoon, I kept kneeling to look at tiny green sprouts unfurling their heads from the ground.

How can we live without fresh air, and sun? It seems essential.

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Four. Talking to friends and family

My sibs and I have been meeting on Wednesday evenings for a catch-up. Like everyone else, we’re using Zoom. I also text quite regularly to check in with friends and family. I’m pretty sure this interaction, even from afar, is saving my sanity and restoring my humour right now. I never feel lighter of heart than after I’ve spent some time with my sibs. And feeling light of heart — it’s a challenge right now, I confess.

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Five. Distraction

My kids have their video games. Kevin likes Netflix. Sometimes the two of us watch something together (like Schitt’s Creek on CBC’s Gem; and Sex Education and Feel Good on Netflix) while drinking a beer. (I haven’t taken up video games yet). What got me through some extra-anxious hours recently, however, was the combination of listening to a podcast (on a subject completely unrelated to the pandemic) while playing free-cell solitaire online. Who knew? I also like lounging around reading random articles in The New Yorker, and re-reading comfort-fiction like Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton’s National Velvet. And I’m watching the late-night hosts on YouTube attempting to broadcast, with varying degrees of success, from locations around their houses. There’s also writing & drawing, which should probably have its own separate category; on the rare day I don’t do it, I notice.

In terms of distractions, I know things are bad when I start compulsively scrolling through Twitter; that’s a sign that my anxiety and focus are spiralling dangerously downhill. (Follow-up note to self: remove that app already!) So I’m trying to minimize that form of entertainment, which is actually more of a form of self-immolation.

So that’s my list. What’s comforting you right now?

xo, Carrie

 

I remember you!
This was not the post I'd intended to compose

5 Comments

  1. Twins in every single way, including Schitt’s Creek, which i adore. Be well.

    Reply
    • I’ve got so few things on my calendar these days — that I actually put the Schitt’s Creek finale on our chalkboard wall! Tomorrow at 8PM! Then I’ll probably have to start watching the series over again.
      I hope you’re well, too, Susan.

      Reply
  2. My list is a lot like your list! Doing an awful lot of baking and cooking and knitting. Adriene and I have an early morning date every day (I’d never heard of her until I found about about her through a friend about six months ago, and now it turns out everybody knew about her, like she was some kind of yoga secret!). I took Facebook off my phone’s home page for a week, and that made my life 400% better. Though I did peek at it last night to see how some people are doing, and may go back to it with some careful, temporary unfollowing of people who feed into the panic. Twitter may suffer the same fate. Going outside every day. I wish it were warmer so I could do some yard work. Hoping to get a long bike ride in this weekend. I’m also nervously cleaning and reorganizing, which doesn’t sound helpful, but it is! Bringing order to chaos is good for my blood pressure. Everybody but me has work (school, or being a prof) and I envy them that sense of purpose (my job is on indefinite hiatus for now, though I do still have some volunteer work over the phone for about 30 minutes a week). Also daily family Euchre games have been really fun! Learning a language. I’ve also been playing around with overdubbing and singing trios and quartets with myself (not pretty, but kind of fun!). Making sure everybody in the house is ok, and trying to enable whatever pursuits bring them comfort. Mostly, just keeping busy, because the less I do, the worse I feel.

    Reply
    • Thank you for detailing your days. This makes me want to write you a longer reply, Nath, and I think I’l just going to have to email you, like I used to do when you were living in London. 🙂

      Reply
  3. I took Twitter off my phone a long time ago and never looked back. I can still look at it from my laptop, and these days it’s more than enough. It’s a really scary and uninspiring place to be right now. Blogs (like yours) are so much better.

    Reply

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