Free? Or merely out on parole?

Many years ago, at the end of a two-day blizzard, my brother and I exploded out of the house. We had been trapped inside all that time, driving each other (and our parents) crazy. I can’t recall if we left of our own volition or if our parents kicked us out, glad for the reprieve from our bickering. The temperature was way below zero. The air was brittle-cold; our eyelashes froze up; our lungs balked at breathing the frigid air. We didn’t care. We ran around the yard. We had a snowball fight. We made snow angels. We stomped on every drift in the trees to see which were hard enough to dig tunnels and caves. Two hours later, we staggered into the house, our energy all run off, much to our parents’ relief.

I felt like that again last month after my husband and I got our second COVID vaccine. We didn’t exactly explode out – we’re too old for that, – but perhaps now we could go grocery shopping at a reasonable hour rather than at “seniors’ hours” of 7:00 am. Perhaps we could expand our bubble to visit some of our relatives and friends – outside, of course. Perhaps life could start its slow return to life-after-COVID.

Or perhaps not.

Our premier declared Alberta “Open for Summer” as of July 1 and removed all restrictions. And I do mean ALL. No masks (except on public transit, including taxis). No limits on indoor or outdoor gatherings. No limits on numbers in mall or gyms or restaurants or bars or casinos. Social distancing – out the window. And people exploded out, glad to be out of months-long lockdown, glad to expand their bubble to whomever they wanted to include, glad to go where they wanted when they wanted.

Alberta is not the only place removing restrictions. Other Canadian provinces are relaxing theirs. Most American states have completely removed their restrictions, as have other countries. Their reasoning? Infection rates are declining. The numbers of people in hospitals and ICUs are declining.

Wait! Didn’t this happen last year this time? Case numbers fall? The number of people in hospitals and ICUs decline? Yes, there were still restrictions, and some cities had imposed mandatory mask bylaws when indoors or on public transit. Major events – the Calgary Stampede, music festivals, theatrical productions, even the 2020 Summer Olympics – were cancelled but otherwise, people gathered outdoors, they partied, they met at bars, they celebrated their freedom. Some went so far as to protest (and some still do) these restrictions as impingements on their rights and freedoms, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that these rights are not absolute, that the Government can limit them if the limit is reasonable, legal and justifiable. Can you think of anything more reasonable or justifiable than a pandemic?

Then came autumn. Numbers went up, and up, and up, and, well, you know the rest.

And so, I wonder: are we headed for the same fate come this autumn? Yes, we now have vaccines, and large percentages have been vaccinated – in Canada, 79% of those 12 years and older have one shot; 56% are double-vaccinated. As with most averages, those numbers are misleading – vaccination rates vary among provinces, and some areas are dangerously under-vaccinated. Moreover, the rate of vaccination has slowed, slowing our progress to “herd immunity” which may require as much as 90% of the population to be vaccinated, as recommended in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

More frightening, the Delta variant has raised its ugly head and is becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC. That is already happening in the USA, in England and elsewhere. These places are experiencing Delta-fueled infection rates equal to this past winter, and not just among the unvaccinated. So-called “breakthrough” cases among fully vaccinated people are increasing, too. Here in Alberta, case numbers are showing a slight “uptick,” and we have yet to see what will happen two weeks after the end of Stampede. Another surge, perhaps?

On top of that, large portions of the world have received no or very little vaccine, creating a primordial stew in which more (and more lethal? more contagious?) variants can develop – we’re already up to Lambda.

Fortunately, not everyone is throwing caution to the wind. Festival organizers are limiting attendance, requiring (or encouraging) mask-wearing, imposing assigned seating and social distancing, or even requiring proof of vaccination for entry. Staff in many businesses still wear masks. Many people (including us) continue to wear masks in indoor locations. Some of us still practice social distancing and limit our bubbles and excursions. Will that be enough?

So I ask: Are we really free of COVID, or merely out on parole? Our behaviour over these next few months will tell.

#COVID #Pandemic #NotesFromIsolationWard #Vaccines #OpenForSummer #DeltaVariant #CanadianCharterRightsFreedoms #MargaretGHanna

A Pandemic Rant

I get it.

You’re sick and tire of vascillating on-again, off-again restrictions. You’re sick and tired of being barred from bars, from restaurants, from your friends’ backyards. From malls and rock concerts and churches. You’re sick and tired of this whole COVID thing and you just wish you could get back to normal.

Well, guess what? So are a lot of other people around the world who are enduring, or have endured, much worse. For example:

Syrians have lived through 10 years of bombing and displacement. You think they’re not sick and tired of that?

The people of the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo who have lived through how many years of civil war?

How about the millions of Rohingya who fled persecution from the Burmese military and now find themselves squatting just inside the Bangladesh border, no decent shelter, no sanitation, no schools, no hope of ever going back home, and not wanted by either country?

Or the Uyghurs herded into “re-education” camps where they can be “re-educated?”

Or the millions of parents who watch their children starve to death and who themselves face a bleak future, if any future at all.

What about the people of Afghanistan who have endured at least 40 years of various countries invading their country (all with good intentions, or so they claim), who (especially women) have endured repressive prohibitions concerning dress and schooling all in the name of some perverted extremist horribly-gone-wrong version of Islam.

And closer to home, what about the thousands of First Nations who live on reserves with boil-water advisories since as long as anyone can remember?

You think all those people are not sick and tired of what they are enduring? Would you rather change places with them? I’m sure they would be only too glad to change places with you.

What I don’t get is this: Why is it we always choose to compare ourselves with those who have more, or against some half-remembered supposedly idyllic time of yore? Why can we not count our blessings and be thankful for what we have, here and now?

We are not being bombed. We are not being driven from our homes. We are not living in refugee camps. We, okay, most of us, can drink the tapwater. Women aren’t required to cover themselves from head to toe in order to go to the grocery store. We can go to the grocery store without fear of being blown up by an IED. We don’t have tanks running up and down the streets. Our children aren’t being co-opted as child soldiers. We don’t have to worry about becoming “disappeared.”

We have so much compared with so many people in the world who have so little. We have government support programs to help us through the worst. We have food banks. We have vaccines. We have “peace, order and good government,” regardless of what you think of our current government.

Maybe right now we can’t come and go exactly as we wish but there’s a reason for that – a pandemic is raging. And those pesky restrictions – there’s a reason for them, too. Wearing masks, social distancing, going only where and when it is absolutely necessary and getting vaccinated are the only ways we will beat this pandemic.

So, stop whining, stop protesting and get on with being responsible citizens who show care and respect for each other. That’s the only way we will beat this pandemic. That’s the only way we will once again live restriction-free.

#PandemicRant #PandemicRestrictions #LessFortunateOthers #PandemicProtests #BeingThankful #MargaretGHanna

A Taste of Normal

We received our first COVID vaccine shot almost three weeks ago, so we are feeling a bit braver than before about venturing out.

This week, we went shopping. And I don’t mean grocery shopping.

My husband decided he needed some new clothes. After all, it’s been only two, maybe three years since he’s ventured into a clothing store. D’you think maybe it’s about time?

Unlike me, he does not believe in buying clothes at the local thrift store. “Who knows who has worn those?” he asks. “That’s why I wash everything before I wear it,” I reply. “Besides, I’m doing something good for the environment by not buying clothes that have been made by some poor overworked, underpaid woman in Bangladesh labouring away in some dingy and dangerous factory that then requires emitting who-knows-how-many tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air to ship said clothes across the Pacific (or through the now-unblocked Suez Canal) to Canada.” (See my earlier post about “upcycling.”)

No, my husband buys his clothes new. Off we went to our local not-Walmart clothing store that specializes in casual and work wear for men and women.

Who knew trying to decide between this brand of pants and that brand of pants could be so much fun? Or this shade of green T-shirt versus that shade of green? Socks with psychedelic patterns or boring old grey socks? Plaid shorts or plain? Hiking boots or just a good quality pair of running shoes?

An hour-an-a-half later, we hauled our – his – stash to the check-out. The clerk smiled as she scanned the tags. “Men go shopping once a year,” she said. Oh, so true. A few hundred dollars later, we left the store.

This taste of something approaching “normal” life was certainly tantalizing. The question is: how long do we have to wait before this “taste” becomes “everyday?”

Alas, COVID variants are running amok here. The B117 (UK) variant is now the dominant strain in Alberta, and the P.1 (Brazil) strain has just raised its ugly head in a “significant outbreak” in three communities. Hospital beds, especially ICU beds, are filling rapidly with younger patients, and doctors and nurses are warning of looming disaster if serious steps are not taken to break the curve. Our Alberta politicians have finally woken up to the fact that encouraging citizens to “do the right thing” is totally inadequate because many stubbornly refuse to “do the right thing.” As of a couple of days ago, they imposed additional restrictions on restaurants, gyms, stores and public gatherings. Only time will tell if those restrictions will have any impact.

We may have to wait a few more months for our little outing to become “everyday,” but at least we’ve had a taste. And how delightful it was!

#PostPandemicShopping #ManShopping #ClothesShopping #COVIDVariants #MargaretGHanna


My husband and I received our first COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Tuesday. I have never been so excited about getting a poke in the arm.

My husband has numerous pre-existing conditions, so this past year we have been exceedingly cautious. Some have called us “prisoners.” We’ve called ourselves “prudent.”

Our only regular outing has been to the grocery store, always at “Old Farts” hours (7:00 am to 8:00 am), and after we’ve put away the groceries, I’ve wiped down every surface we’ve touched (and any we thought we might have touched). When absolutely essential, we’ve visited the doctor and dentist. Even more rarely, we’ve ventured into hardware stores or the post office. We’ve ordered on-line to be delivered and ordered for curb-side pickup. We’ve quarantined mail and parcels for three days once we’ve brought them into the house. We’ve social-distanced, worn masks (long before our fair city decreed it obligatory), used hand sanitizer and wipes, and washed our hands till we thought the skin would fall off (or run out of soap, whichever came first).

But now! Now it feels as if we have left prison and are living in the half-way house. Freer, although not entirely free. We will still wear masks (we’re double-masking now that the “variants of concern” are running amok), we will still social-distance; we will still be careful about where we go and when we go there.

But now! Now, we can visit friends and relatives. Maybe I will work up the courage to venture into my favourite shopping venue – our local thrift store. And maybe get a real haircut and . . . .

We don’t know when we will receive our second Moderna shot. The Canadian government has royally screwed up the vaccine situation, leaving us dependent on the good graces of other countries. But we – my husband and I – are on our way.

Yay, freedom!

BUT that freedom has come at great cost. Over 22,250 people have died in Canada and millions around the world. “Long-haulers” continue to suffer COVID symptoms with no relief in sight. Front line workers suffer from exhaustion and burn-out, or PTSD, or worse still have died of COVID. Millions have lost jobs or businesses because of COVID. Millions are hungry or homeless because of COVID. Uncounted numbers have committed suicide because of COVID.

The moral of the pandemic is this: none of us will be free until everyone is free. So, don’t dilly-dally. Get that vaccine as soon as you can. Help us all be free.

#COVID #Pandemic #COVIDVaccine #Freedom #ModernaVaccine #NotesFromIsolationWard #MargaretGHanna

Good-bye 2020

This has been one @#$%^ of a year. SARS-CoV-2 came storming in and stomped on, shattered, crumpled and otherwise destroyed and threw out the window every dream and plan we had for 2020. It trashed weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, trips to the mall, meeting up with buddies at the local watering hole, graduations, school, playtime, and then, to add insult to injury, prevented us from gathering to mourn the loved ones it snatched from us.

It made us stand apart, stop hugging, stop holding hands, fear the very air we breathe. It divided us into tribes: pro-maskers vs. anti-maskers, the virus is real vs. the virus is fake, the stay-at-homers vs. the go-out-and-partyers.

People lost jobs and businesses and homes; people cued for hours for a bag of groceries or a COVID test. Parents working from home had to juggle work with home-schooling their children.

It’s been a year of seemingly unprecedented racial violence, of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, tyrants clinging to power, wars, mass murders, mass kidnappings, famines, etc. etc.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we’ve been pummeled with one disaster after another. Wild fires that threaten to devour the whole world, and hurricanes and tornadoes and plow winds and hail storms that demolish everything in their wake. We’ve been left homeless, bereft, bruised and battered.

But not without hope.

Hope is the one thing that has carried us through this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year. This isn’t an airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky kind of hope. It is hope borne of a million random acts of kindness and generosity by neighbours, and even strangers, who look out for one another. It is hope borne of the knowledge that we have fallen on our face before and, like the words in Frank Sinatra’s song, picked ourselves us, brushed ourselves off and started all over again. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we can survive now because we have survived before.

It is hope borne of the courage of so many people who have continued to serve in the face of this scourge, people who have put their lives on the line for us and, alas, have often lost them. People, such as those who work in hospitals and clinics – nurses, doctors, cleaners, cooks, EMT personnel, maintenance personnel and suppliers. Civic workers who pick up the garbage, drive transit, keep the heat and power and water flowing, clean the streets, patrol the neighbourhoods and fight fires. People who work in grocery stores and pharmacies and department stores and gas stations, and the truck drivers who bring the stock to those stores. Business owners who care enough to make their premises safe for those who venture in.

It is also the hope borne of promised salvation. Two vaccines have been approved, others are coming. This does not mean that SARS-CoV-2 will be immediately or even permanently vanquished. We’ve fought that long-term fight before, too: smallpox was eradicated only after a long, concerted, multi-nation battle; tuberculosis and polio have been beaten back but not banished and we’ve learned to live with them. What the vaccines mean is that we can now breathe more easily, we can hope more strongly.

It is fitting, if entirely coincidental, that vaccines are being approved in December – the darkest time of the year when it seems night has won over day, and darkness over light. Since time immemorial, societies in northern latitudes have gathered during these darkest days to conduct ceremonies to lure the sun back and to ensure that Earth’s wintery death is only temporary. These festivals of lights beat back darkness and death just a little bit and remind us that, yes indeed, light and life will return. Now, the promise of light has come to us in the form of a tiny bottle of serum.

We’ve even invented a new “ceremony of life” surrounding the first recipient of the vaccine. It’s the same everywhere, no matter who the first recipient is or where it occurs. The TV cameras are there to record it, the person is surrounded by nurses and co-workers, the inoculation is given, everyone bursts into applause and cheers, and the recipient gives a little speech. Each time we witness this, we affirm that COVID is being beaten back, even if only just a tiny bit, and that light is returning.

We’re not there yet. Darkness still surrounds us. We’ve a long path ahead but we know the light is returning. As long as we have hope and courage and stamina, as long as we continue to support each other, the light will return.

Hold the faith, dear readers.

#Hope #Sacrifice #HelpingFriends #HelpingNeighbours #Caring #Future #2020 #COVID #SARS-CoV-2 #WinterSolstice #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna

Chronos or Kairos?

Einstein was right — Time is elastic!

Some moments or hours seem like an eternity. Or else they zip by, compressed into nanoseconds.

We waste time, make time, take time, kill time, save time, “A stitch in time . . .”

We are obsessed with time. It’s in our pockets and on our wrists. It reigns over our homes and workplaces — grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, wall clocks, digital, analogue, quartz, wind-up, electric, battery-operated. They tic-toc, chime, bong, cuckoo, beep, buzz, and twitter. We have calendars and daytimers and automatic reminders on our computers and smartphones and smart watches. We have become like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland — always late for a very important date.

Or at least we think it’s important.

We have become so obsessed with Chronos — a specific amount of time like an hour — that we have forgotten about Kairos — that things happen when the time is right, when the stars are properly aligned, when conditions are right.

Trees put out their leaves when the temperature is warm enough, the sun high enough and the day long enough, not because their daytimer says, “May 5, 9:00 am, Thou shalt spring forth leaves.”

The seeds we plant each spring poke a scouting leaf above ground and decide either, “Nope, too cold, wait a bit,” or “Yep, let’s go for it!”

Flower buds slowly grow and swell until one beautiful warm sunny day, as we scurry by, they suddenly spring open and we stop in amazement and stare at the most beautiful rose we’ve ever seen, and all that fuss and bother that we were so fussed and bothered about vanishes, and we stop and smell and breathe, and for once we are living in the moment. We are living in Now.

We are living in Kairos.

#Time #Chronos #Kairos #LivingInNow #ObsessedWithTime #Meditation #Contemplation #MargaretGHanna

Family Gatherings in the Time of COVID

ClaytonCouleeView7My husband’s family still owns the quarter-section (160 acres, about 80 hectares) that their grandfather homesteaded over 100 years ago. It is mostly farmland with some pasture and, in prairie parlance, a “coulee” that cuts across the southern part of the quarter-section.

About 50 years ago, my husband’s father decided to build a family campground in the coulee. Over the next 10 years or so, they built a cook-out shelter for the barbeques, a camp kitchen, a couple of tiny sleeping huts (one recently restored, the other still derelict), and – wonder of wonders – a shower room and a flush toilet (Ooooh! Aaaaw!) Yes, they had piped water down from the farmstead up on the prairie level, but it is non-drinkable, good only for washing and flushing the aforesaid toilet. There used to be electricity until a Richardson’s Ground Squirrel thought the buried cable might be a tasty snack and got fried in the process. At least, we think that’s what happened.


Over the years, the campground has been the venue for impromptu wiener roasts, family gatherings, weddings, birthday parties, and what have you. We’ve shared laughter, stories, jokes, debates and an awful lot of food. It’s been a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the frenetic city and working life.

It hasn’t been a refuge from COVID.

05_GatheringForPatWe had a small family gathering of 20 people this past weekend. COVID changed the dynamics. We couldn’t hug each other as we arrived and, later, when we left (air hugs just don’t cut it). We couldn’t mingle or stand elbow-to-elbow to regale each other with the latest goings-on. We couldn’t share snacks or sample someone’s craft beer. We couldn’t sit with whomever we wanted to eat supper. We couldn’t crowd around the campfire as the night air cooled. 

And try as we might, even with only 20 people in a large open space, it was really difficult to maintain our one caribou/one hockey stick/ two meters/six feet distancing. We continually migrated towards each other, pulled together by some unseen yet irresistible gravitation force, ruptured only when someone woke up and yelled, “Distance!”

Thankfully, COVID, try as it might, could not fracture the comradery, the sense of belonging and the joy of gathering with family. We could still share stories and laugh and debate. We could still reminisce about the past and hope for better times to come.

In that regard, we conquered COVID.

Next year, we’ll hug and mingle and share food and . . .

#COVID #Pandemic #FamilyGatherings #SocialDistancing #MargaretGHanna

The Fellowship of Food

I’m on a liquid diet these days (I’ll spare you the details of “why”). Fruit smoothies and soup blended to mush fill the stomach and nourish the body but they fail in one regard – they do not nourish the soul.

I miss texture. I miss the crunch of carrots and snap peas, the chewiness of good bread, the juicy explosion of cherry tomatoes, the annoyance of apple peel between my teeth, the fibrousness of a steak.

I miss the variety of flavours. Blended foods are blended flavours. Nothing stands out. Blueberries, bananas, papaya, kiwi become one. Same with stock and lentils and rice and cabbage and whatever other vegetables I put into the soup.

I miss the variety of colour. Stock soup is always brown; cream soup is always white. Fruit smoothies are some form of pinkish-bluish-white (I’m sure the paint stores have a fancy name for that colour).

What I miss most, though, in this time of COVID is the fellowship that attends food.

Food binds us together as family and community. ‘Breaking bread’ with someone may be a simple gesture, something of seemingly no great consequence, rather like hugging someone, but that act signifies so much:

We are friends.
We hold some values in common.
We have shared history and experience.
We can put our differences behind us for just this moment.
We trust each other.
We belong together.
We are part of something larger than ourselves.

All those young people you see on TV who are flocking to bars and beaches once they’re open? – they not just being “COVIDiots.” They are responding to the deep-seated, primal human drive to be with one another. They are celebrating an essential aspect of what it means to be human – to be part of something larger than themselves, to be part of community. Even as I shake my head, wondering “How can they be so careless! So negligent!” I envy them the joy and comradery they are experiencing.

A cup of coffee drunk alone is only a cup of coffee. Shared with a friend, it is laughter, stories, jokes, memories, and plans.

Just as a blended fruit smoothie is no substitute for the joy of eating each fruit individually, neither is food eaten alone a satisfactory substitute for the sense of belonging and oneness and joy that attends food eaten with friends and family.

Until my circumstances change, I will continue to “make do” with a liquid diet. And, until our circumstances change, we will continue to “make do” with vicarious virtual community.

Let’s hope those circumstances change sooner rather than later.

#Smoothies #LiquidDiet #FoodAsCommunity #SharingFood #FoodAndFamily  #NotesFromIsolationWard #HumansSocialBeings #LivingInCommunity #Contemplation #Meditation #COVID

Possible Death of Terrorist under Investigation

(Last week, I offered the challenge of writing COVID’s obituary. My obit turned into a newspaper report.)

tombstonePolice are continuing to investigate the disappearance and possible death of SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19.

No body has yet been found, but COVID has not been seen anywhere for at least 14 days now.

Police are questioning a relative, Aunty Body, and her accomplice Vax Scene, as “persons of interest” in COVID’s disappearance. Two other individuals, Hi Dochs C. O’Quin and Rem D. Sever, have claimed responsibility but authorities have yet to find any evidence supporting those claims.

COVID’s origins are shrouded in mystery and controversy. Most agree he was born in China but his parentage is debated. One source claims he was the son of a laboratory worker, although this has been derided as a manufactured story. Other sources suggest he was the son of a vendor in a meat market, a story many find “batty.”

Debate still rages as to the veracity of either assertion.

Whatever the place and circumstances of his birth, COVID first appeared in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province of China. Within the space of three months, he was wrecking devastation around the world. No country was safe from his terror.

When asked to explain COVID’s murderous rampage, noted expert Dr. Epi DiMiologi said, “the most plausible hypothesis to date is sibling rivalry.” He pointed to the 2003 damage inflicted in places such as Toronto by an equally insidious terrorist known as SARS.

“As you can see, COVID and SARS share the same surname. If he really were the offspring of a lowly butcher, it is reasonable to assume he had an inferiority complex and decided to over-compensate by become even more insidious than his older brother.”

SARS attacked only about two dozen countries whereas COVID has afflicted countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Investigators point out that SARS and COVID would be, at best, half-brothers. SARS was born in Guangdong province in southern China whereas COVID was reportedly born in Hubei province in central China.

A terrorist investigator who spoke off the record stated that if SARS and COVID are indeed half-brothers, then “that father certainly got around!”

Leaders of some countries are suspected of being complicit in COVID’s reign of terror. Rather than attacking him with a forthright campaign, they characterized him as a petty thief of no consequence who would soon disappear. Unfortunately, this dismissal lead to confusion and mayhem which only facilitated COVID’s reign of terror.

Police are asking anyone with information about COVID’s whereabouts to contact them at 946-268-4319. If no further attacks occur within the next 14 days, then they will close the case file.

#TongueInCheek #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna #EndOfCOVID #Fantasy #Humour # Fiction #FutureHope

Survival in the Time of COVID

Part 4: After COVID, Then What?

We are going through some truly “hard times.”

Mental and emotional stress is at epidemic proportions. Domestic violence is increasing as is the number of women murdered by their partners. We’re sleeping less, drinking more. Suicides are increasing. Young people, especially teen girls, are self-harming more. Distress hotlines are busier than ever. Xenophobia is rearing its ugly head.

We are under unmeasureable emotional and mental stress and not just because of the fear of catching the virus. There are rents and mortgages and bills to pay but no income; families to feed but no income; fear for our parents and grandparents in long-term care homes; the pain of not being with loved ones in their last days; and, for those who have to go to work, the fear of contracting COVID.

It may be difficult to believe when we are up to our ears in pandemic woes that we will endure, as did our ancestors. But endure we will, so what about the future? What will the world be like post-COVID? How will we be, post-COVID?

As I peer into my crystal ball, I see . . . only questions:

When can I hug my grandchildren?
When can I go to the baseball game? The hockey game? The football game?
When can my kids play with the neighbour’s kids?
When can we have our family reunion?
When can I go shopping at the mall with my friends? Have a beer with my buddies?
When will this end?
Will they find a cure? A vaccine?
When can I go back to work?

Perhaps we can glean some answers by a glance back at the past. How well did people recover from stress and deprivation when previous “hard times” ended?

There were both good and bad outcomes. The Spanish Flu did come to an end, although it took two years to disappear. Children who survived achieved lower levels of education and employment as adults. However, the epidemic fostered awareness of the importance of public health and spurred Canadian and European governments to create national health departments.

Perhaps one of the reasons the 1920s “roared,” at least for some people, was because people wanted to “actively forget” (as Nietzsche put it) the pain, suffering and horrors of both World War I and the Spanish Flu. It has often been called the Forgotten Pandemic – people seemed to have put it out of their minds so they could live fully in the present. And they went overboard in doing so.

Will COVID-19 also become a “forgotten pandemic?” Will we have a 21st century version of the Roaring Twenties, when the economy booms?

The Great Depression/Dirty Thirties ended in 1939 but the effects on those who lived through those hard times lingered on. I saw them in my own grandparents and parents. Grandma Hanna refused to pay a penny more than necessary for whatever she had to buy. My father kept every bit of broken machinery because, well, it just might be useful some day.

But the depression also brought about change. Communities formed credit unions when banks refused to loan money to struggling farmers and business owners. In the prairies, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (later the New Democratic Party) and the Social Credit Party formed, each espousing a different approach to solving the economic woes of the Depression.

The SARS epidemic of 2003 also ended, even in the absence of a vaccine. However, it left about one-third of those quarantined with depression and PTSD. The rates were higher among those who tended the sick. Patients felt alone, even de-humanized. Alcohol use increased. But even so, most people showed tremendous resiliency and lived happy and fulfilling lives afterwards. And the medical profession learned many lessons about how to deal with a highly contagious disease, lessons that are relevant to today’s pandemic.

Those questions I asked earlier – they are primarily about being deprived of social contact. Being separated from family and friends is compounding economic stress. Our ancestors endured not just because of rationing or gardening or relief, although those were important. They endured because they were part of community. They had a support network of family, friends and neighbours. They met at grocery stores, the post office, the hardware store, the café, the church. They laughed together, cried together and shared what little they had.

Physical distancing denies us those essential support networks. We crave community. We crave a real shoulder to cry on or a real hug. Social media and virtual visits don’t provide the same emotional security and consolation that comes with physical contact.

In spite of how it feels, we are not alone. We are still part of community. We care for others and others care for us – witness the million little acts of kindness that happen everywhere, every day.

Think of the pandemic as a refining fire. It will change us, some more than others, some in different ways than others. That doesn’t mean it will defeat us.

It seems to boil down to this: Our future will be largely determined by what we dream it to be, and that in turn depends on our attitude to life in general. Are we glass-half-empty or glass-half-full people?

My vision of post-COVID life is this: One day, we will be back to work, bringing in an income, and ensuring security for ourselves and our families. One day, we will be able to hug each other. One day, we will be able to have a beer with our neighbours on the deck. One day, we can hang out with our buddies at the beach. That day will include a continuation of the kindness and generosity that has helped us get through these hard times.

Who knows how or when this pandemic will end, but it will. Hang in there, folks. We are more resilient than we imagine. Be kind to each other. Live in hope and faith.

Here’s a challenge for you: Write an obituary for COVID-19. How does what you have written reflect your vision of a post-COVID world?

#Coronavirus #COVID-19 #Pandemic #AfterCOVID #Hope #Resiliency #TogetherAgain #LivingInCommunity #