What does your Covid balance sheet look like? The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

I am starting with a question for you all. What does your life balance sheet look like after 14 months in a global pandemic?

This is a unique time in all of our lives. No story has dominated the news cycle anything like Covid – not in our lifetime. If you wanted to look for comparisons, you would have to go back to the Second World War. Absolutely nothing has dominated our lives like the pandemic.

So, how is your life going? I get asked this a lot mainly because I am in my fifth month on Noom and they tend to ask you lots of questions that call for a certain amount of personal reflection. I think it’s worth the trouble. Since the beginning of January I have been able to shed almost 20 pounds of excess baggage and I am looking to lose 10 more – Nomm likes it when you make public declarations!

How do you figure out your balance sheet in the biggest global crisis you are likely to see?

For me, it has to be a balance – Good, Bad and yes, Ugly. There is some of all of this for me and I would say probably for you too.

The Good is important, it is what we value the most and it is what paints the brightest self portrait. There are good things going on because of Covid. I have signed up for a Ph.D. which I will start this fall. I have had enough time to reflect that this is a good life challenge for me and many of you in the Twitterverse actually supported my decision to take this on – thanks for this.

I mentioned Noom, that is something I am doing with my partner, Heather and along with this we are new converts to the Peloton which is helping up get our hearts and I would say our heads back into good shape. Both of these healthy projects took flight nearly 10 months into the pandemic. Think of that; we have done our fair share of languishing, but we decided to take something back, get some greater control in a world where so much is beyond us.

One big positive thing in all of this has been the noticing. Early on in the pandemic I started walking our dog Dory all the time. This was Dory’s version of the Peloton, and she is still looking pretty sleek! The walks allowed me to see all around our neighbourhood and some of the walks eventually took Heather and I as far as the Ottawa River – these walks unfortunately were beyond what Dory could manage.

A recent Covid Walk shot – the photos had to be in our neighbourhood and no people could be in the shots. At any one time, only four pictures could be displayed.

The walks and the photos are a long-standing Good that has come out the pandemic. Once you really start noticing the world around you things begin to open up.

The Bad is not somewhere I want to dwell. We all hear this all the time, every day. It is almost comical how many bad news stories our local CBC Ottawa radio station is able to conjure up. They seem to take a certain glee in featuring yet another colourful local story about how our lives have been strained and drained over the past 14 months.

My Bad is the same as everyone’s. The places we can’t go – Kilimanjaro – Cuba – Montreal – the Maritimes – you get the picture. The people we can’t be with – for me this is mainly family. Our meetings with family are challenging and sometimes downright silly like when we all hid under a canopy on Christmas Eve in the middle of a torrential rainfall.

So, let’s not linger, the Bad is part of our shared experience, it varies depending on people’s circumstances, but we all share the Bad.

What about the Ugly? What does that look like for you? How have things become ugly for you and for your world? The Ugly could be your social media. Here we have a neighbourhood Facebook Page where post after post decries the habits of some of the homeless people in our area. That is nothing but Ugly.

For me too social media has played a part. When you can’t see people except for their screen, sometimes things can go terribly wrong. Just a few days ago I totally lost it when something I had spend hours on got a bit messed due to a technical glitch. Really, no one’s fault, but I totally lost it.

Why does this happen? How is it that it seems easier now than ever to become totally unhinged?

Is Covid unhinging us?

I later apologized for my bizarre behaviour, but I am perplexed by the Ugly. Can we understand this? Can you talk about your ugly side?

While I love the Good and accept the Bad, the Ugly has me wondering. What is going on? In other cases, long-time friendships are at risk because of some of the strains brought on by the pandemic.

I do not have any answers to finish off this post. The Ugly is what it is and I do hope the damage is not permanent. For me in times like this, I like to go back to Pema Chödrön and all of her wisdom. She is truly a voice for our time. She talks about treating ourselves, even with the ugly with loving kindness:

But lovingkindness—maitri (Pali, metta)—toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy, we can still be angry. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

Pema Chödrön meditation

This is my answer to the Ugly. We are challenged to treat ourselves as fallible humans capable of great things and sometimes of true ugliness. We don’t dwell in the Ugly instead we lean in to learn.

We lean towards the Good, we acknowledge the Bad and we learn from the Ugly.

Covid Journal # 4 Walking the Walk

And now as long as space endures,
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To drive away the sorrows of the world.

—Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva

I think it is important to continue to write these journal entries. It will be good to have something to look back on once all of this is over.

Today I did another of the COVID walks I have been doing for the last month. It was a long one – over 8 kilometres. I have a constant companion, our dog Dory who patiently goes on these treks no matter what the weather is like.

Dory

I almost always take photos on these walks and post them on Instagram and Facebook. The photos mirror a bit my mood on these long walks – thoughtful, a little sad, taking in the stillness.

COVID Walk Today

Today I listened to a Pema Chödrön talk called Walking the Walk: Putting the teachings in practice when it matters most. I have included the first nine minutes of her talk here. The quote at the beginning of this post comes from this talk and is repeated by the participants in this retreat at the end of each session. In the passage, she talks about a young Buddhist monk who is told by his master that one day he would travel to teach people in North American. His mentor explains that there he will find people who will be much more interested in staying asleep than waking up.

This is a really good talk and I listened to it for the rest of my walk.

It does describe in some ways what I see going on right now. We are probably into the 10th week of the pandemic. The initial rush of ‘we are all in this together’ is now well over. The crisis is not nearly over, it is just morphing into a new and more challenging phase.

The violence and protests in the United States are part of this pandemic. The growing anger I see on social media is part of this too. The uncertainty about what the future holds now is a big part of what the pandemic looks like.

The uncertainty about what the school year will look like in September is palatable. While large events continue to get cancelled right up to and past next September what will schools look like? Already many universities are saying that classes will be online. There are new webinars offered almost daily by my university on how to adapt courses to an online environment.

What will elementary and secondary school look like in September? We do need to do some waking up as suggested by Pema Chödrön. The pandemic is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The initial rush is over, we are now in this for the very long haul and we need to open our eyes to this reality. I don’t think we are talking about this enough, maybe we need another few sleeps.

Many experts say that things really won’t change until there is a good treatment or a vaccine. Vaccines take years to make and many are only partly successful. The disruptions that we are experiencing now many lift, but only temporarily. Last week, one infected doctor in New Brunswick was able to expose over 150 people to the virus and effectively shut the province down again. (New Brunswick copes with return to lockdown after increase in COVID-19 cases – Globe and Mail, Monday, June 1)

It only takes one person to lock us all down again.

Wake up Wake up! We are in this for a very long time and we all need to start looking at how we are going to live in a very new world.

Schools have to look at how they are going to structure things to reopen in September. They will need a better plan than what we have seen in Quebec where schools with an outbreak close for two days, clean up and go at it again.

Wake up Wake up! We need to see our world with new eyes. Every sector of our society has to change. We need to start asking ourselves some very hard questions. From what I have seen, we are not doing this.

Cycling back to the violence in the States, this lack of awareness is limiting our deeper understanding of the swirling crisis that envelopes us. John Doyle writes about all-news coverage in the United States

When is the real life of American cities covered? Where is the punditry and analysis of the vast racial disparity in health and wealth? What this current crisis illuminates is all-news TV’s preference for extolling itself. It’s not the real basis for the protests and riots that matter, it’s the alleged bravery of its peacocking reporters on the inflamed streets.

Globe and Mail – American all-news TV is fundementally unfit to cover this crisis

Are we fit to understand and really grasp the depth of the crisis that we are in? Are any of us taking the long view on this or are we still trying to sleep through this by finding more and more distractions?

Maybe we all need to take a very long walk, listen to Pema Chödrön and start the process of waking up to this new and daunting reality. It’s not going anywhere soon.

another COVID shot