Lesson # 1: Let go of attachment and expectation during a Pandemic and an era of Climate Change
I came to the painful awareness, on or about January 7, that I had packed on an overabundance of seasonal pounds, developed an undeniable couch/laptop habit, and was feeling – in a word – depranxious.
“Why am I so inert?” I moaned, “Why such difficulty focusing?” I bleated…”Why so little purr in my purpose and so much meaninglessnessmess?” …faced with this existential angst, I knew what I had to do – call up one of my coffee-shop Gurus for a session. I reached for my iPhone…
Lesson # 2: Pause for awareness, take time to assess & understand – go for coffee with a friend
When last I posted on November 7th, I was looking forward to my slower Fall/Winter schedule at my Gallery/Café on Mayne Island https://shavasana.ca/ . This was – theoretically – going to free up some time for creative projects that I wanted to work on – a new mask, maybe a painting, definitely some writing, and extra time to refocus on my Podcast, which had been languishing.
Luckily, I did manage to produce a new podcast on Nov.10, https://www.theaccidentalcurator.ca/ and had a fabulous weekend at Shavasana Gallery & Café, Nov. 11 – 14th – which coincided with the annual Mayne Island Studio/Art Tour…and then the Atmospheric River hit.
New terms have shown up recently in our weather lexicon that we have not heard before – Atmospheric River, Heat Dome and Polar Vortex are three relative newcomers that have arrived with their concomitant disasters and associated worries.
The November Atmospheric River Event brought record-breaking amounts of water to BC and Washington and catastrophic flooding to the region, which destroyed roads, bridges, dikes, homes, farms, lives & livelihoods
The scale of this event is almost unimaginable – these few photos are but a glimpse of some of the regional destruction – including a massive fire which destroyed 100 RVs at an RV Park and gave the carnage an “end of the world with a sense of twisted irony” quality
This biblical flooding occurred shortly after Vancouver had a small – but unprecedented – tornado on Nov. 6.
We. Don’t. Get. Tornados.
And all of this came on the heels of one of our worst summer fire seasons on record when we were introduced to the term “Heat Dome” with its punishing heat and destructive fires.
I had two more sessions with the Gallery on Mayne – early December and mid December – to pick up some Christmas business and visit with some of my community there. Mary Jane who bakes all my cookies went the extra mile and produced a fabulous selection of Christmas goodies for my appreciative customers. My dear friends Famous Empty Sky and Bill Maylone graced the walls of my Gallery with their art, as did the late Cedar Christie, via a loan from her friend Pat Gaston.
Like other regional Cafés, who are not required to ask customers for proof of vaccination, I had adopted a stringent mask policy that allowed people to come in, sit down, take off their masks, and have a coffee. It felt, briefly, like a return to normal. I had even expanded my seating to near full-capacity as coffee shops in Vancouver were doing. It was great – the buzz of happy people visiting and chatting…such a long-awaited relief. But then, in early December Mr. Omicron announced that he may be coming to spoil the party.
For a while it looked like maybe we were going to be spared – this new variant, which was raging in South Africa & Europe, hadn’t hit our shores. But news, and Omicron, travel fast. During my last few days of business – Dec.13 – 16 – conversations started to turn to Xmas party cancellations, and plans to “hunker down” before this next wave of the pandemic – inevitably – hit. By mid December we were still hovering around 4300 cases per day (Nationally)…and then on the 16th …my last day…they jumped to almost 7,000 cases. It had arrived. Within ten days we’d be seeing unprecedented numbers like 50 and 55 thousand cases per day. I felt like I was closing up shop and fleeing back to Kitsilano before things got really bad – with half an eye on cancelling my own Christmas plans.
On the ferry back, Thursday night, I had time to reflect on some other tragic news I’d received the day prior. A sweet & gentle man, I knew in Vancouver – Justis Daniel – a 77 year-old musician who was operating as the park caretaker at Tatlow Park in Kitsilano had been murdered. There seems to be no shortage of senseless in this world, and this was one more WTF moment to add to my own backpack of worries – an unsolved murder…of a friend…in my neighbourhood. As of today’s date (Jan. 15) police still have no leads in his death.
Despite the stresses of pandemics and regional disasters and senseless murder, life goes on. My partner Cathy and I still had to figure out our Christmas. Maybe this is the antidote to tragedy – as the Brits say, “Keep Calm and Carry On”…what else can you do? “Ok, we’ll buy & decorate a tree..that’s outdoors so can’t be too risky”…”Gifts?” …”Are they really necessary?” “Is it worth getting sick doing all that crowded indoor shopping?”…lineups and masks and squirt bottles of sanitizers with furtive, military precision excursions into shops to buy stocking stuffers for your loved one. Eagerly exiting shops so you can rip off your mask and breathe the cool refreshing air, before planning your next life-threatening purchase….and then, hardest of all, making decisions about Christmas dinner.
A large part of the gruelling stress of this pandemic has been the complete overdose of conflicting bits of information & misinformation we’ve received, the polarization this has created, and the uncertainty this has engendered. As cases of the new Omicron outbreak kept growing exponentially from mid to late December, and with mixed reports coming in on the severity of this particular strain, we were left perplexed about what to do with our 6 anticipated guests (8 including ourselves). All info that we were gleaning from our various sources, screamed reduce, diminish, cancel & postpone. The fact that my son & his new wife were flying to Quebec for a 4 day excursion, where the outbreak was particularly nasty, and returning the day prior to our dinner – pretty much sealed the decision to not have an indoor sit down dinner, and instead enact “Plan B”. Turkey sandwiches for just we four, meeting in our cars in an oceanside parking lot, to have a little picnic, and visit through our open windows – despite the snow and minus 8 degree weather!
It started getting uncharacteristically cold in the third week of December with temperatures below freezing. The Polar Vortex delivered a very rare ten inches of snow on Christmas, followed by a record-breaking -15.3 degrees on the 27th. This bone-chilling cold coincided with our worst-day ever Covid case count, with 49,148 cases nationally, a ten-fold increase in 12 days. Provincial restrictions came back into being, some businesses were shut down, events cancelled, lineups for goods and services returned and – most cruel of all – coffee shops started to limit their indoor seating again, or in my case, close down completely.
I’m a social animal and, for my mental and emotional well-being, I must get out of the house, and away from my home-office – at least once a day – to interact with the world. Visits with friends at coffee shops plays an important role in that process. By late December, with the Omicron numbers off the charts, indoor seating was not an option and finding someone – anyone – willing to bundle up and sit in subzero weather wasn’t happening …except for my good friend and coffee shop Guru – Jordy B. Our mutual love of coffee and conversation and proximity to each other in Kitsilano has made it relatively easy to scoot out for a cup o’ joe and have some of that invaluable human interaction that has been in such short supply – for many – over the past two pandemic years.
There came a time in early January – a few days – which felt like the emotional low of the past two years. “What exactly is this feeling, this state I’m in?”, I wondered, “Is this Ennui?”… “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement”…close, but not exactly, maybe it’s Lassitude…”a state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.”…hmm, kinda…Languor? …”the state or feeling, often pleasant, of tiredness or inertia”…no, definitely not, nothing pleasant about this. Torpor?…”a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy.”…So many terms describing variations of what I’m feeling, but none of them seemed quite bang on. It wasn’t Anhedonia…”the inability to feel pleasure.”…because I still enjoyed lying on the couch, eating chocolate, and looking at my laptop. There was only one way to find answers to this riddle and break the deadlock of this emotional morass in which I found myself trapped…time to book a session with Jordy B. – my coffee shop Guru.
“I’ll see you at Bucks in 15”, came the reply text, “sounds serious, better order a Vente” The outdoor seating at Starbucks on West Broadway in Kits has been a cherished meeting place during the pandemic, as it provides a modicum of protection from the elements. “OK, see ya there” …
“It sounds to me like you’re moribund” he said, when I described my plight. “Stagnating…lacking vitality or vigor” “Everybody’s been experiencing some version of this…just look at all the shit that’s going on…we’re two years into a pandemic that’s just recently gotten worse…we’ve had 6 months of disastrous weather anomalies, almost everybody has overeaten during the festive season…so we’re sluggish & justifiably a bit depressed”…”Just recognize it, accept it, forgive yourself & the world for this moment we are all going through…and get your head straight”…”Oh…and, be nice”
Lesson # 3: Forgive Self, Forgive Others and seek forgiveness from others you may have harmed
Always good to sit with JB and receive some of his eclectic wisdom…”Moribund”…yeah, that seems about right….and sure, I probably do need to get my head straight. And I was pondering his last bit of advice to “be nice” and thinking “Hmmm…no, that seems to be asking a bit too much, I don’t think I’ll do that” When this “Regional Civil Emergency Advisory Alert” came in warning about an impending Tsunami😳
…Well…that galvanizes the ol’ Moribundity! Gotta run for higher ground!…see ya!