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  • Sam Darling

Learning about myself

We’d been in self-isolation for three days and awaiting the results of our nurse neighbor’s COVID-19 test. Our children play together constantly and she’d kept them home with her for the three days waiting for the test results. Her children showed up on our doorstep excited to tell me her test was negative! I’ve had many flashbacks to the heyday of HIV transmission and similar conversations with friends. But I wanted to talk to my neighbor about how we’d proceed in the coming weeks.

I popped over to where I keep my make-up and applied lipstick. I then reflected on the fact that my partner had been suffering my alabaster paleness and yoga pants for all three days and I’d had no impulse to gussy up at any point. But going over to talk to a neighbor made me want to look nice?

Turns out, I only make an effort for other women. I want members of the sisterhood to look at me and think, “That one really has her shit together” and compliment me on some detail of my presentation. It’s a signaling that I know what’s up and I’m not about to fall apart. I want to reassure them that I’m doing okay and they don’t have to worry about me. Let’s reserve our time for the sad homegirl who didn’t even have enough energy to brush her hair this morning. She looks like she needs our help.

In the current batshit situation we’re fairly well placed. My partner is now telecommuting and his job probably won’t be eliminated for several months. I already work from home unless I’m performing in a theatre — splitting my time between voice-over gigs, singing, and proofreading science textbooks and legal documents. Trying to work with children in the house is a challenge but we knew we could weather this storm. However, it turns out I also need lots of alone time. You know what you don’t get when you’re self-isolating with your family and a codependent cat? Time alone. Ever.

It’s an odd situation that some of you are alone too much and some of us are never getting a minute to ourselves. I think both scenarios are exhausting. I mentally couldn’t handle the deluge of text messages, phone calls, children asking for things, meowing cat, partner yelling about the noise level, “I’m on a work call, woman!” I’ve taken to long walks at dawn and he’s going jogging for an hour every dusk. The normal peace of our balanced household is suddenly out of whack but we’re going to be fit as hell by the time summer virus lull rolls around.

But we’re lucky. We live close to nature and can get out into the forest far more quickly than my native New Yorker self is normally comfortable with. I’m fully expecting that the sudden silence from our human community means that the local wildlife will start to grow brazen. I expect bears in my yard this spring. Which I prefer to the mountain lions that sometimes wander down from the higher elevations.

Western Canada, unlike my beloved city of New York or hometown in France, do not have a high population density. We’re at an advantage in a situation like this pandemic because it is possible to practice social distancing without sacrificing some sanity-saving time in nature. I’ve set up an outdoor dance party for the kids in our apartment complex this weekend since I realized they can stand six feet apart and still boogie.

We’re also at an advantage that I’ve read many books about plague years and had some sense of the coming problem. We did our emotional-soothing shopping back in early February long before the first confirmed cases started in our neighborhood. I won’t call it panic-buying or hoarding because I think it’s unfair to judge people who are grieving. We all do and say weird things when we’re stressed out. If extra toilet paper helps you feel more secure then it’s probably fine. Just leave some for other people and share with elderly neighbors, please.

I’m also impatient with our friends who are using this opportunity to shame others for anything other than social distancing. Some are shaming others for not buying the fresh veggies in the market. I’ve seen quite a few “this is why you get sick” blame memes which make me shake my head. There’s only so many cauliflowers I can eat in a week, okay? But a granola bar lasts forever. We love our fruit and veg in this house and I won’t be shamed for stocking up on items with a longer shelf life.

I’m also extra frustrated with the lefties who veer into eco-fascism. Taking this moment to crow about how humans deserve to die because we’re damaging the planet is a really bad look.

I’m letting you know right now that if you’ve ever used the word “cull” in a positive context when you were talking about people, you are without a doubt on the wrong side of history and a terrible person. I don’t care that we probably share political affiliations and ideology. You’re the worst.

My biggest worries are around my asthmatic lungs. The prevalence of guns in the average North American household. The extreme pressure we’ll see on our healthcare systems. Money. Elderly friends.

All the same stuff you’re probably worried about right now, too.

The grieving feels similar to times in my past. I sleep and forget and then there’s a moment when I wake up when I remember. The days after 9/11 A death in the family The days after Trump got elected These were the moments that feel similar to now. A tragedy that spreads out in concentric circles touching virtually everyone I know.

But at least our clingy cat is super happy with the situation.

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