For more than half a year, we’ve been living in pandemic mode. In conversation with others, we barely know how to describe our current reality. We overuse words like “unprecedented” and “uncertainty,” while awkwardly encouraging each other to “stay safe.”

To lighten things up a little, here are some of the things I’ve observed and learned during “these times” (another classic 2020 expression). Maybe you’ve had similar experiences or revelations – because as this year loves to remind us, we’re all in it together.

The Beginning

I find myself harkening back to a simpler time – specifically, before I ever heard about coronavirus. Do you remember The Day It All Changed for you? Do you look back on your reaction and shake your head at how naïve you were? Remember how the early news reports called it “the novel coronavirus,” even though it had nothing to do with reading or lime-infused beer? To me, COVID sounded like the name of a 1980s video rental store.

2020 needs its own dictionary, for all the new terms it has introduced to our lives. For example, the previously unknown concept of social (or physical) distancing. Also on the list: Flattening the curve. Self-isolation. Super-spreaders. Contactless service. Curbside pickup. Bubble. Quadmester.

And Zoom. Glorious, horrible Zoom. I think I have finally figured out why I dislike video-chatting so much. When I talk to people, I don’t want to see myself as I’m talking. Actually, that’s only part of the reason. Maybe I just don’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, or listen to anyone, period. Everyone should just mute their microphone, turn off their camera, and leave me alone.

Hermit Life

I now have months of conclusive evidence that my kids would be perfectly happy wearing pyjamas 24/7. Why do I even own other clothes for them? No matter what they wear, it all ends up in a mangled pile on the floor anyway.

On the plus side, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked around the messy house, on the verge of losing it over how everything is in disarray… then paused at the realization that it doesn’t really matter, since no one is coming over.

Clearly, this was the year to get a pet. We didn’t, for a variety of reasons (including my husband’s allergies) but it is truly wonderful that so many “fur babies” gained loving homes – and their own Instagram accounts.

During quarantine, once-mundane tasks like going outside to collect the recycling bins from the curb or retrieving snail-mail from the mailbox became a big deal (and qualified as “working out”).

Even though restaurant dining has always been (and will always be) a wonderful treat, I have to admit that it has been nice to gather around the table and eat together. In a related story, my family has rapidly grown weary of my cooking, since I only know how to make five things.

Getting Groceries

I have never participated in online gambling, but for a while there, online grocery shopping felt pretty close. I’d eagerly add items to my order, then hold my breath with anticipation. Pick-up day was like scratching a lottery ticket to possibly reveal a win. Did I get cleaning wipes? Flour? Toilet paper? Liquid soap? Eggs? Canned pineapple? Mmmm, no, not this time. Please play again next week.

Eventually, I did venture out to shop in person and dutifully attempted to follow the giant floor arrows. Did anyone else look at those and panic for a half-second? “So wait, which way should my shoes be pointing?” Luckily, while wearing a mask, no one can see me muttering to myself about this, or overhear the rest of my scintillating play-by-play: “What kind of cheese strings do the kids like again? Oh no, I forgot to grab brown sugar. Which way do I have to go to enter that aisle?”

I had become so accustomed to online shopping and paying by “tap” that when faced with an actual keypad, I drew a complete blank on my credit card PIN. I couldn’t come up with one number, and stood there gaping through the Plexiglass at the poker-faced cashier. I eventually figured it out by re-enacting the sequence of buttons – middle, up, up, left, green button. Thank goodness for muscle memory.

Resilience 101

Despite the many setbacks and limitations, we are finding ways to cope. I’m continually impressed when I see people venturing outdoors to bike, walk or jog. Sure, they may be motivated by desperate sentiments of “I have GOT to get out of this house,” but it’s a positive choice nonetheless.

In my neighbourhood, yard maintenance had a surge in popularity. I usually let my flower beds grow wild, but this year I gave an extra effort – and discovered that gardening is hard work. It’s an ongoing battle with stubborn, deep-rooted weeds and vines that are nearly impossible to extract. I’m sure there is a parallel between the hardiness of nature and the resilience of the human spirit, but I’m too tired from all that crouching and pulling to properly draw the connection.

Over these many months, I’ve learned that the universe doesn’t reward arrogance. Recently, I inwardly congratulated myself for getting the kids to settle in for some quiet independent reading. I actually had the nerve to think, “Maybe I’m getting the hang of this.” Minutes later, one of them was having a meltdown and loudly proclaiming that he would never feel happy about anything ever again. Thanks, universe, for putting me in my place.

Ultimately, we need to be realistic and reset our expectations, if necessary. Previously, the thing I valued above all else in my household was politeness. Now, it’s handwashing. I don’t mind if my teenager bodychecks or insults me on the way to the sink, if he scrubs for a full 20 seconds.

We’ve all had to adapt and adjust during “these times,” and we’re doing the best we can. Think of it this way: we’re starring in a story that isn’t over yet. So, please make an effort to be patient and kind – and, if you can, to remember your PIN number.


Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. Her work has been published by ParentsCanada, Running Room, ParticipACTION and The Costco Connection.

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