So That I Remember

Saturday, I got a haircut.

A year ago, that would not have been worth noting. This year, it is a relief, a celebration! My last haircut was 4 months ago. I was due the week that the public health emergency was declared. I admit it is not a great haircut, but I have had several months to contemplate and reject “growing it out” and am grateful.

There are more changes. June 1 marks a partial return to school. My brother-in-law is recovering from the knee replacement that was postponed two months by the lockdown. Local restaurants are opening their patios. We are told we can expand our “bubble.” My Saturday family Zoom is canceled because people are busy.

Treating us like adults, but giving guidelines for making choices

So before I forget, before my new normal adjusts, I want to record what the two months of quarantine felt like. Not the events, the cancelled trips, the news and the numbers, but my day-to-day.

I get up in the morning, rather late, my normal rising drifting from before 8 am, to 9, to 9:30. It becomes unremarkable to not get out of bed until 10 or even 11, if it’s been a bad night. Those are too common: when I lie awake in the dark for hours, thinking. I try to get up early regardless and nap if needed, but naps are a drift of bizarre dreams followed by a dead sleep that leave me groggy and disoriented.

I attempt to set a healthy schedule. The 5-minute energy routine sticks but the workouts to YouTube videos fizzle out. Repeatedly. Pilates, boot camp, dance, TRX, all abandoned after one or two sessions. I adjust my Fitbit goal from the 10 000 step a day average I have maintained for years to 5K, and some weeks lately I don’t make that. Sometimes I drink too much and sometimes I don’t drink at all. My only “day-drinking” is once on a video chat with friend in Europe who were well into their evening. Despite my lower activity level, my weight hasn’t changed.

So many beautiful gardens in my neighbourhood

I walk twice a week with a sister or a friend. We walk on the far edges of the sidewalk, or one of us in the street, keeping the required 2 metre distance between us. When we meet others we pick a side and travel single file. Sometimes we will nod or smile, but often others ignore our presence or give a quick, nervous glance. Meeting a dog whose owner lets me pet it brings instant joy. The sun in the park as I sit is thought-free contentment. I take too many pictures of flowers.

I aim to shop once a week but I had no stockpiles in my small, new apartment, and often the shelves are bare of what I need. Toilet paper, yeast, flour, pasta, beans, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, rubbing alcohol, zinc tablets, thermometers— there was even a shortage of tofu for several weeks. Every time I go into a store I must adjust to changes: queues, arrows on the aisle floors, plexiglass shields at cashiers, tap cards only to pay. Recycling takes a hit as personal shopping bags are banned, bulk sections closed and bottle return canceled. I wear a cloth mask, as do an increasing number of customers and staff. Recently medical-grade masks are reappearing as the shortages ease.

At first all restaurants close down except for established take-out and delivery. Gradually more open, with limited hours and menus, as they figure out how to provide take-out safely. Some will never reopen.

Kombucha and sourdough starter on the go.

I rediscover cooking, joyfully. I feel like an artist, inspired and improvising with what is available. I reclaim a scoby from a friend and start making kombucha again. I even make Finnish rye bread from a sourdough starter, with uneven results. It is still delicious.

The Canadian dollar drops from about 75 cents US to 66 cents in two weeks, gradually rising back to 72 cents. The stock market does a similar dance and I stop checking. Gas prices drop from $1.36/L to under 90 cents, but there is no place to go. All public events have been canceled, parks and borders are closed, and even local non-essential travel discouraged.

At 7 every evening I go out on my balcony and drum, joining the pots and pans being banged in the daily salute to health care workers. There are hearts in windows, and chalked messages of hope on sidewalks.

I spend too much time on the internet, tracking numbers, reading graphs and articles, following arguments about transmission routes, infection and fatality rates, usefulness of masks, possible treatments— trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. I feel so fortunate to live in British Columbia, and may have developed a crush on Dr. Bonnie Henry, our incredibly competent, calm and reassuring Provincial Health Officer.

Getting more colourful with the masks I sew

There are piles of books on the table, by my bed, on the shelves. I make feeble attempts to read but mostly glance guiltily at them while sitting on the sofa playing Candy Crush, scrolling through my Facebook feed, or texting with friends.

I add new apps to my Messenger, WhatsApp and FaceTime, and can now video chat on Zoom, Duo, Discord and Jitsi as well. Videochatting has gone from a weird novelty to a staple of communication, although I still text continually and phone my sisters frequently.

Now we are well into reopening. I did not write a book, knit a sweater, or even binge watch an entire Netflix series during quarantine. I come out of it with stronger appreciation for people in my life, but little new self-knowledge. I already knew I wasn’t good at waiting so mostly what I did was endure.

Not so brave! On to the next “new normal.”

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