The Pandemics’ Silver Lining

By Heather Anne Hunter

The COVID-19 or Corona Virus has turned our lives upside down. The world has slowed to a crawl. The frenetic pace of life has been curtailed, but for many participants of the rat-race the momentum is still there. It is hard to feel unproductive, to relinquish the need to control our lives (an illusion anyway). Frankly, the directive for us to stay home has me chomping at the bit, itching to get out. I have the gnawing feeling that I am going to get behind if I don’t stay on the treadmill. My rebellious nature is straining at the leash.

However, without being a Pollyanna, I can see an upside to the situation. There is a silver-lining. We now have permission to calm down and take stock of our lives. Workaholics must learn to relax and just be, rather than racing through life missing the moment. Lifting our noses from the grindstone enables us to see ahead and get some perspective. Bad habits and values can change. The key to survival is adaptation.

I have never understood people who claim to enjoy their own company and figured they probably like the sound of their own voices too. However, my solitude in social distancing has me rethinking this. There is time for reflection, an opportunity to look at oneself, something many people have avoided for fear of not liking what they saw. Perhaps radical change needs to happen. Our work-oriented society driven by status and material gain oft-times is destructive to our mental and physical well-being. How many people must take extended sick leave or die prematurely from stress-related illnesses?

Much of the beleaguered workforce, always on the verge of burnout, are presently getting some enforced rest. Francie, an exhausted kindergarten teacher, confided to me, “I have not slept or relaxed so much in years. I haven’t felt this good since I was a kid.”

Hunter, an IT technician who takes the packed GO train to downtown each day, had to cancel his March break family vacation, yet he cheerfully remarked, “We’re tackling the house. It’s a disaster. We’re getting done all the things we’ve put off for years.”

Since you must stay home, stop procrastinating and start on the to-do list. Establish a routine. It all doesn’t have to be done in a day; slowly but surely in the coming weeks or months check off one task at a time. Enjoy the simple satisfaction of tidying a crammed cupboard or sorting through your wardrobe. Do spring cleaning or yard clean-up and then sit outside with the sun on your face and let the years of pent up tension drain away. Sip a cup of coffee while studying cloud formations and say hello to the emerging daffodils poking their beaks through the aromatic earth in the spring sunshine. Or, dust off that stack of books in the corner of your bedroom. You actually have some reading time now. Enjoy your down-time. Make this hiatus a spiritual retreat before life returns to normal.

My phone has never rung so much. People seem to need more than text messages nowadays. A human voice is a reminder that we are not alone. However, obsessing about the situation and going over the same upsetting facts with each and every caller is unhealthy.
Listen to uplifting music while dusting, rather than the ominous newscasts. Share humourous videos or stories of heroism on social media, not conspiracy theories. If you must go out in public, wash your hands often. Don’t worry; be happy, but not foolish.

Eating-in is saving us money. It is time to resurrect traditional cooking skills and try the recipes we ripped out of magazines years ago. My daughter and I love to “do brunch” and we have discovered how easy and cheap it is to make an omelette, French toast or poached eggs. Use up that stash of dry goods and meat gathered from many months of supermarket specials (expiry dates be damned) and stay out of the stores.
My neighbours have been talking to me from the safety of their front lawns and showing more caring than ever before. I see kids playing outside with their parents and siblings. Dogs are getting more walks and people too. Moms finally have the time to bake cookies with the kids. There are government e-learning programs available and teachers are emailing assignments. As long as parents are willing to sit down with their kids giving precious one-on-one instruction, they won’t lose what they have learned since September.

The tone of politicians has changed for the better. Although deadly serious, they have stopped attacking each other and seem to have come together across the aisle and at all levels of government to unite in the fight against the “invisible” enemy. Thankfully, in Canada, the situation has yet to be politicized by opposing parties. International leaders and scientists are feverishly collaborating (no pun intended) to come up with a vaccine and strategies to keep us safe.

In trying to be positive, I am not insensitive to the plight of the sick and newly unemployed. Hopefully, the government and, we as a society, will do everything in our power to ease their suffering and help them get through this crisis relatively unscathed. Our health care workers are modern day heroes, something that should be noted during their next contract talks. Kudos to the companies raising the pay of the staff who are keeping essential goods and services available. Bravo to managers and employees who have had to quickly adjust to working exclusively from home, a steep learning curve. They are keeping businesses afloat.

Bear in mind the comforting platitude, “This, too, will pass.” Religious folk can take solace in the saying, “Be still and know that I am God” while the rest trust in the powers that be. Hopefully, this situation will be a great learning experience for all, a dress rehearsal before the next, possibly worse, pandemic.