The introduction of the new term “COVID-19” seemed to first enter into our vocabulary nearly four months ago and yet the full weight of the virus didn’t really sink in until late February for those of us in Canada. Until then it was simply a medical term that did little to disrupt our day-to-day lives here in North America. It wasn’t until mid-March that I even began to recognize the severity of the situation. I was in Canmore with a friend after a snowshoeing trek in the mountains (prior to the parks closing) at a restaurant enjoying a meal before heading back to Calgary. Our phones buzzed incessantly with news headlines trickling in about cases spreading quickly across Canada and the United States. You could hear coronavirus all throughout the restaurant. It was suddenly on all our minds. My friend nervously said, “Well, this might be our last meal out for awhile.” I admittedly laughed a little…thinking my lifestyle surely wouldn’t be impacted and that her anxiety must have gotten the best of her. I told her to eat her chicken and that we’d be alright.
That was a month ago today. My life has certainly been impacted – just like every other person on the planet in some form or fashion. Interestingly, it feels as if the world has been turned on its head. Where I once felt I was working too much and seeing my husband too little…I am now with him constantly as we attempt to stay on top of our respective work projects in close quarters from home. We’re trying new recipes, going for walks, doing at-home YouTube workouts, enjoying lunch breaks together, participating in church services online, and playing cards in the evenings. We’ve even connected with friends online to play some virtual games each week. We’ve rearranged our home to meet our new needs, we’ve adjusted our budget to reflect the realities of life during a global pandemic, we have frequent calls with our families, and we’ve put pen to paper to ensure we are prepared for the worst when it comes to our finances.
There are most certainly negatives here. I won’t shy away from mentioning that to you. We are not operating with a full deck at the moment. We take daily naps now as a way to protect our mental health – something we rarely used to do. (We are only in our early 30s, but the mental, emotional, and psychological toll this pandemic has taken is real. We’ve found a daily nap can help us stay grounded and less likely to spiral.) We talk about now a lot. There are no more vacations to dream up or plan. We are confined to the present that this new reality has demanded. It’s a new way of thinking I hope I don’t lose if/when things return to normal someday. In the beginning, my body ached for what I couldn’t have. Meals out, travel (we’ve now cancelled 3 trips to date), national and provincial parks, human connection, and less screen time. It felt unfair that I had to stay glued to a screen just to feel like I wasn’t alone. But then something happened and somewhere along the way I woke up and fell into a rhythm. I established new habits. No longer do I think, “Ramen sounds good! I know the perfect place.” Instead, I will have a craving and then figure out how to make it. I am capable of doing it on my own. It’s a new habit I hope I can hold onto. My husband and I check-in with one another frequently concerning our mental health. It’s something I hope never dies out in our relationship.
COVID-19 has been a lesson in patience, resilience, and perceived scarcity. We’ve all entertained our worst fears over the last month, and perhaps that is what we needed to help refocus our attention to what really matters, what we’re capable of, the importance of community, and just how resilient we are.
Like I said, it’s as if the world has been turned onto its head. We take life as it comes, and we learn as we go. I think about the desert fathers and Benedictine monks who chose isolation as a form of martyrdom in an attempt to remain focused on what matters most. With their minds freed from societal pressures, distractions, and excess, they were/are able to have clarity when studying scripture, pondering, and writing. I can assure you that the last thing I have now is clarity – my mind is clouded with concerns (both my own and those I care about). But I now have the gift of time – something I arguably didn’t have a lot of before COVID-19. With time comes opportunities for reflection – cloudy or not – and I’ll take what I can get.
As crazy as our beautiful world has become due to COVID-19, there are certainly changes that don’t all sound like bad things to me. I’ll do my best to hold on to each one of them.
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.