When covid and I reached our first anniversary, I toasted the achievement – not covid’s achievement, but yours, mine, everyone’s. Prosecco in hand, I was prepared for covid and I to part ways in coming months. As usual, covid had other plans. Sigh. I’ve never been good at making a clean break.
Some of my other traits: I’m prone to sarcasm, cynicism and wanting to be ready for the worst (some people call this pessimism).
When it comes to covid, those are easy attitudes to come by – and understandable for people who have lost so much in the last two years. If you’re one of those people, you should probably stop reading. But for me, while the last two years have been some of the hardest of my life, I can’t fully blame covid.
So, with our second anniversary recently past, I thought it might be time to reflect on what I’ve learned from my relationship with covid. One of my most educated friends still credits “life school” for the most impactful learning. And there are at least five things I’ve learned in the last 24+ months of intense study.
- I needed a break from my calendar.
I’ve been over-scheduled for more than 20 years. When asked to do something, I usually said yes. If there were 5 hours between school/work and bedtime, I filled 4 or more of them – almost every day. Sometimes I was excited about what I’d agreed to. Other times, I’d agreed to committee or volunteer opportunities that felt worthwhile, but not motivating. When all that came to an end (or at least a long pause), I realized one of the best ways to live is by having fewer plans.
- We’re willing to do things for the good of each other.
We seem drawn to extreme stories, so you might disagree with this one. But the fact is: the vast majority of people have been willing to do something for the good of others. Sure, some people gave up earlier than others and/or began disagreeing about what “good” looks like. But that doesn’t change the facts.
I was on a ferry last month and the boarding announcement said something to the effect of, “if you park near – about 16 to 18 inches – the car in front of you, more people will be able to catch this ferry.” At first, I scoffed. The country felt divided and I was feeling low about Canadians’ willingness to do anything for each other. And then I realized: the ferry announcement works because we are asked to do a specific thing without flip-flopping (I doubt the number of inches changes monthly), and the benefit is stated very clearly. (Plus, the passengers are generally listening to the ferry announcements for instructions rather than a Russian bot or a social media billionaire’s algorithm.) If we’re going to address 21st century challenges, we must become better at collectively understanding the motives and benefits.
- I’ve lost my fear of hospitals.
Hospitals have been at the forefront of many horrible things these last two years, and many people became wary of going to one. I had an aversion to hospitals a long time ago, but have more recently been accompanying my dad to various cancer-related appointments. And here’s the thing: the way he’s been treated has been amazing. The doctors, nurses and other staff have been through horribly difficult working conditions, and yet consistently show up with kindness, compassion, and thoughtful next steps. The last 7 months have erased the negative feelings hospitals used to elicit in me.
- Outdoors are the best doors.
Pre-pandemic, many of my get-togethers were held inside. As seeing friends for walks became the norm and patio season became year-round, I remembered that being outside is one of my favourite ways to spend time. And others caught on! The demographics on hiking trails became more diverse. Cities changed by-laws to better support picnics in parks. Roads were opened to pedestrians and cyclists. My next hope is that we realize nature doesn’t just exist for our enjoyment and yet gives us a lot – so we may want to better show our gratitude.
- Resilience gets too much hype.
I once would have thought that calling someone “resilient” was a compliment. And while the last two years have shown us that resilience is a valuable trait, we’ve also seen that it’s damn hard to maintain. Once we’re resilient, we’re often expected to keep being resilient. I suppose that’s good at times. But watching people tread water while lifeboats are stacked nearby? That’s bullshit. Thanks to our friend covid, now we all know what it feels like to be exhausted from treading water…so maybe we’ll be able to increase our compassion for those who’ve been treading water much longer than two years. Maybe we can cooperate to get some lifeboats into the water for those folks.
Covid and its destructive friends will probably continue hanging around past their welcome. If I can’t get them to leave, I might as well find out if they’ve brought anything worthwhile.