I really only wanted to enjoy a couple of days off. I’d worked through much of the Christmas holidays and did it like a boss. I spread sunshine to my residents like Mary-freakin’-Poppins, serving up Baileys with a smile, singing and dancing to cheesy songs without batting an eye.
So when I finally got my two days off in a row, I was stoked. I thought I might sleep in, but that seems to have become a thing of the past; my internal alarm clock has no regard for my desire for sleep. I was up by eight o’clock and rather than curl up in my pajamas for the day, I decided to hit the ground running–or sliding–as it turned out.
I was greeted with sunshine and blue skies; it was a perfect morning for a walk in the park. I fueled up with a bowl of oatmeal and before long, I was bundled up with my tunes plugged into my ears, ready for a peaceful self-care stroll.
I wasn’t too far into the park before I realized that 2020 wasn’t done with me. Apparently working the last ten months on the front-lines of a pandemic in a long term care setting wasn’t enough. ‘Oh, but there’s more,’ it taunted.
Normally, I’d be hoofing it down the trail that ran parallel to the river; letting the sunshine kiss my face, embracing the cold as the snow-encrusted trees and the flowing river created a picture-perfect post card. Instead, it was like trying to navigate a mine field. This well-worn path had become a sheet of ice and I had to make my way along, gingerly stepping from one patch of gravel to the next. Perhaps it was my naivete, but I was convinced I was still as spry as I’d been in my twenties and that my hiking boots still had enough tread.
One misstep lead to another and I became the winterized version of Wylie Coyote trying to avoid being slammed by the ACME truck. I was sliding backwards towards the river bank. In a split second, I decided to drop to all fours, groping for the nearest branch to avoid sliding into the icy cold waters of the Credit River.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” I roared as I clamored back up to the path. If anyone else heard me, they had the decency to ignore my tantrum.
This near-tumble into the river epitomized the entire year of 2020; a shit-show, if you will. Slipping, sliding; grasping to keep from falling. It’s been a year of discovering a new normal within a new normal. As if losing my daughter to mental illness in the beginning of 2019 wasn’t enough, Covid-19 added a whole other level of adjustment. The one thing Hilary’s death accomplished was showing me what was worthy of my fear. Covid-19 wasn’t. It’s not that I don’t respect its virulence, it’s simply that I’ve survived worse; Covid-19 is just an added irritation.
The bulk of the irritation that Covid has brought with it is the monotony. Working in long term care, I spend much of my days facilitating FaceTime calls between residents and their families. No visit is complete without a family member asking me when I think it’s all going to be over. Am I Fauci? I have no friggin’ idea. My life is like the movie, Groundhog Day; each day a repeat of the day before, with no immediate signs of it changing. I’m not insensitive to the fact that the residents and their families are suffering from the isolation. I’m well aware of its effects, but it’s also happening to me and my fellow staff members. My way of coping with work is to just keep moving–and fast. Part of my strategy is to make the day go quicker to get home to my emotionally safe place, and the other is to to avoid some of my less than stellar co-workers. I struggle to reconcile my stress-induced speed with the sloth-like pace of others. Am I wrong? Are they? What I do know, is that this season is exposing the best and worst of us and we’re all having to take a long hard look at ourselves.
While I’ve decided that watching the news is not in my best interest, opinions of self-appointed WHO execs still find their way to my social media feed. I can’t count the number of times I’ve hit the “snooze this person for 30 days” button. Sometimes it only takes one more post after their muzzle has been removed for them to make it to the snooze pile again. Even though I work the front lines, I have no idea what is really going on in the world arena, and I’m pretty sure that those who are the most vocal in their opinions don’t either.
My days off were meant to recharge; forget what was behind and look forward to what’s ahead. Unfortunately, during my walk, my gaze wasn’t upon what lay ahead, but precisely where my feet were landing. Abandoning the ice-covered trails, I launched across the fields, hoping for a less treacherous path. There was little improvement; it was like a sadistic game of Twister designed by the devil himself as I plotted my steps from one bare spot to another. My music was still blaring in my ears, but I wasn’t feeling the same inspiration and joy; it took all my concentration to put one foot in front of the other.
I’d almost made it to the parking lot and safety was just within reach. Whack! Stunned, I spun around to catch my assailant. A sign. Danger–Tobogganers Ahead. What-the-actual-hell?! My toque took the impact, but it couldn’t absorb another layer of embarrassment. It was like 2020 was taking as many shots as it could before the clock turns over.
In the absurdity of the day, I found myself laughing–out loud. Sometimes that’s the best revenge; laughing at the attempts made to take you out, and keep going.
As midnight strikes on New Years Eve, we can truthfully say hindsight is 2020.