It seems like only seconds have gone by since a year ago when all seemed normal.
Some time back, I met with a friend who is retired and we spoke over coffee. He had other things in mind to talk about, but the focus of the conversation was an illness. A new type of flu or bug, a virus that had started in China. He told me some amazing things like how the Chinese were welding people who were infected into their apartments, and how this illness was going to spread. Later, one of the first things I did was cancel a vacation I had planned to London, England. My friend (I hope he doesn’t mind that I put his name here) Rick was telling me that we had to keep six feet of distance from each other, that people were hoarding toilet paper and that I had to avoid touching my face and wash my hands often. Telling someone like me to not touch their face is like telling them to stop breathing. I think about it and I have to do it. So many other bizarre things went on in the course of the next few weeks. I have a neighbour who is a real stickler for rules, because she had worked for some high security companies in her day. I ran into her in the hallway and she said I should watch the Premier’s address. She said he was putting out a lockdown order that was just one step below martial law. Still, this all seemed to be a joke. Then I joined a staff meeting for work over the computer and I was told all shifts were cancelled indefinitely. Only the grace of them honouring my contract kept me from going broke and likely even homeless, along with my disability pension.
I will never forget those first few weeks. No masks could be gotten anywhere, busses stopped charging for rides and the streets were deserted even during weekday busy times. For perhaps the first time since I had volunteered to join the fight in the Persian Gulf (which I was turned down for) I saw the reality of the news and of far-off countries drop right in my lap, up here in Edmonton where nothing ever happens and even crime is rare.
One of the worst things I had to deal with was the isolation. I have always been prone to it, but in recent times I had become good friends with a wonderful and intelligent young woman who was working hard to help me with my writing and other projects. I also had a best friend who is a writer. Both of them, for the safety of their families, had to greatly limit our interactions. This made things difficult, but I tried to make the best of it all.
As many may know, from reading “Alert and Oriented x3” I recently had a bad reaction to a medication change that put me in the hospital for a month. I didn’t realize it, but the isolation and lack of exercise and friendship really began to wear me down. At the end of summer though, I was able to resume some of my work and do other things online. I even attended some online church services and a few online comic book auctions. Everything but groceries was coming to me through a screen. Soon, wearing masks in all public spaces became mandatory as they were more available. That was the end of the first wave. Now we are moving through a second and into a third, and the third could be the worst of all.
Once again, I am reminded by the effects of Covid-19 that my mental health has to be my priority, just barely behind physical health (I need to eat and breathe, then I need my medications and supervision with them). There is such a disparity even in Edmonton as to what needs to be done. There are anti-maskers and anti-vaccination people, both of them defended their right to choose to infect others and be infected themselves in large public gatherings. I cringe when I think of actual deaths occurring due to covid parties. I myself have become paranoid. Just a short time ago, I used to be offended when I saw someone walking down a street with a breathing mask on. I often would ask myself if they felt themselves too good to breathe the same air as I did. Soon after that, as covid began, I went out of my way to get a mask, even made myself some and I found myself being taunted walking down the street by grown adults. There are many lessons to be learned here, one is that when you find yourself ready to judge someone, you should take into account what situations they are under before you try to lay a blame on them. I used to look down on people who had mental illnesses, until I found out I was exactly the same as them, and in trying to befriend these people, help them in any way I could, I was banking karma for the time when I got sick.
I recall one time I was in an airport and I heard someone say, “man that guy smells!” and then his friend said, “shut your mouth. maybe he has cancer”. There is always a way to diffuse personal anger and judgement with some imagination and a little compassion. I recently was listening to one of my favourite astronauts Chris Hadfield say that he found his whole life changed when he realized that everyone he knew, everyone he sees, is struggling in one way or another. He was struggling to balance family and the incredible stress of training for spaceflight. A woman he saw was struggling to raise her grandchild after the death of her daughter. The list can go on forever.
I don’t want to type so much that no one gets a chance to read to the bottom, but I did want to apologize to my readers for not blogging in a long time. What it boils down to is that I have been struggling with medications and depression and sleep disorder and a lot of very small things that have added up to make my life extremely difficult. This blog means a lot to me, and I am always encouraged when others read it and compliment me or friends such as Christine and Rick tell me to get my butt in the chair and write more blogs. In this freaked out situation, we all need each other more than ever, so as a favour to me, hug the person next to you (only if they are either family or you are both wearing masks) and remind them that you care. You care no matter what.