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Has It Been A Year Already?

Well, happy anniversary everyone! We are now officially past the year mark since the W.H.O. declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. And it’s been a year like no other.

Back on March 11, 2020, we couldn’t have imagined what we were in for. COVID-19 was a mystery, and we had no idea what to expect. The phrase “new normal” suddenly became popular.

Our initial reaction to the big shut down was positive, sometimes comical. We can DO this! We hoarded toilet paper. We baked bread, made Quarantinis, and we stood outside every evening at 6pm and banged our pots and pans to honour our health care workers. We laughingly wore pajama pants during video calls. We put hearts and signs of support in our windows for our front line workers, and donated money to local charities like Rapid Relief.

Businesses that sold them, ran out of hot tubs. Gardens flourished, home renovations abounded. We found heroes in people like Dr. Bonnie Henry, whose calm and compassion gave us much comfort. A global pandemic wasn’t going to keep US down!

Then reality kicked at us a little harder. The novelty began to wear off. Day after day we somberly donned our masks, washed our hands, and kept our distance from each other. Well some of us did. Others screamed in protest. Tempers flared. And all the while, more and more people were getting sick or dying.

Our hair grew long, beards became unruly. Zoom calls that started out as great fun, began to wear on us. Living and working and learning at home got more and more boring and intolerable for many. Not being able to see or hug our family and friends was depressing us. In fact, anxiety and depression was on the rise in all age groups, but especially in young people. We were exhausted. And all of this happened before winter had even hit.

As we said goodbye with great relief to 2020, COVID continued its ominous advance. New cases and new variants sprang up everywhere when a second wave hit. Long, dark days with no end to this pandemic in sight, left us mourning and miserable.

But there were some small hints of hope. Pharmaceutical companies around the world who had been working around the clock to come up with a vaccine, started to have some success. A few countries that were initially hit hard by the pandemic, were beginning to see their COVID numbers level off, or even come down as a result of shut downs. There was just a little bit of light appearing at the end of that very long tunnel.

And now spring is almost here. As of March 12th, almost 3 million vaccines have been administered in Canada. We have, most of us, adapted to this new reality, to the shut downs, the social distancing, and the masks. Handwashing and sanitizing is more habitual. But we are so looking forward to the day when we can actually spend time together in person again, and that day comes ever closer. Still, as the expression goes, the last few miles of a marathon are the hardest.

I know, I know. Kilometers.

So what have we learned from this past year so far? I would venture to guess it will take a long time to completely assess that. Businesses, governments and communities will gather their list of lessons learned. As individuals, we will each write our own epilogues. Ultimately, you might say that we are forever changed.

But in spite of it all, babies were still being born and people were still marking milestones. All this time, life was forging ahead and hopeful. And now, here on the west coast, the trees are starting to burst new buds, robins are laying their eggs, and cherry blossoms are blooming.

And vaccines are here. At long last. Ah, spring.

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The Changing Face of Masks

“Oh damn,” I mumbled to myself when I realized the tap feature hadn’t worked on my debit card. I fumbled with it and inserted it into the card reader instead. The keypad was barely visible through the foggy lenses of my glasses perched on top of my mask. I took a half-blind guess at my PIN and got away with it.

“Moothoo sath a foints garp?” asked the masked checkout clerk.

“Pardon me?” I never realized how much I depend on lip reading.

“DO YOU HAVE A POINTS CARD?”

“Oh! Oh! Yes, yes.” I fumbled through my purse for my wallet again and held up the card for her to scan.

“Bleep!”

With my groceries haphazardly tossed into bags (Note to self: don’t pack the lettuce on the bottom next time), it was with great relief that I realized my ordeal was nearly over.

All I had to do now was to safely wind my way through the people milling around the other checkout counters, and then I would be out the door and free. Free, free!

Grocery shopping is certainly not the casual, relatively mindless task it used to be. In the past, I automatically knew where everything was and would whip around the aisles with Super Woman confidence. Now, I stress out at every turn. Am I going the right way down the aisle? How am I going to backtrack to get that thing I forgot? Is that lady actually touching ALL of the watermelons? And when I leave the store, you can bet I’ve missed something. Every time.

Safely back in the car, when I can finally remove the mask, it’s such a relief.

Let’s face it, none of us really like the mask. And for me, not only do I have the eyeglass frames around the back of my ears, but I also have hearing aids. There’s a lot of competition for space back there. So when I stretch the elastic of my mask behind my ears, they flop forward like Dumbo. Only not as cute.

In spite of all of that, I made the decision a couple of months ago that I was just going to have to get used to it. I started wearing the mask any time I was indoors somewhere other than my home, because I figured that some day soon it was going to be mandatory in a lot of places anyway. I have one mask that I keep in my car, and one I keep in my purse, so I’m always prepared.

Only a few short months ago, I thought it was odd to see someone in a store with a mask on. “Paranoid!” I’d say to myself with a chuckle. Now I’m more concerned about those who DON’T wear masks. “Cov-idiots!” I grumble, hopefully not too loud.

Masks used to be something you wore at Halloween. Now I’m more spooked if I forget mine. And since masks became mandatory on public transit, I have appointed myself as a member of the Mask Police Force. I will glare at any passenger sitting on a bus without a mask. Anyone who can actually see me through the window, I mean.

In fact, today as I was out on my walk, a transit bus slowly passed by me and I had the opportunity to stare inside of it. There were only two passengers that I could see. The first one was definitely wearing a mask. The second one I had more trouble seeing, so I squinted and peered as much as I could, and then SMACK! I walked into a street sign.

I didn’t make that up.

I had to take a minute and calm myself down. There’s nothing worse than a self-righteous, foggy-lensed, Dumbo-eared mask cop.