Wow, what a time it’s been lately.

It’s just after lunch on a day off from work, and I’m sipping tea in complete silence for now.  I’ve been puttering around my apartment, doing some of my usual “day off” things, and listening to CBC Radio and then Chris Hadfield’s audiobook “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” …and then CBC Radio and then the audiobook….  I made a phone call to a friend this morning and then checked in on my elderly neighbour, as per usual.  But things aren’t “as usual,” are they?

The past week’s developments with the Covid-19 situation have been unsettling.  Worrisome.  Complicated.  I’m sure it’s been on everyone’s mind to some extent for the past month or so, but, of course, not to the extent that it is now.  My earliest recollection of learning about the virus was the news item about the cruise ship passengers who were quarantined for 14 days off the coast of Japan.  Then more cases were discovered in Asia.  I remember hearing about the care home in BC where, shockingly, several people were infected with the same virus.  And then, more and more cases showing up in China, Europe, the US, here.  I’m sure we’re all quite aware of what’s going on now.  How can we not be?

Most of the world has probably been blind-sided by this.  I know that even in my little corner of the world, things changed drastically, almost overnight.

On March 8, my mom and I went to the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra at the packed Performing Arts Centre in Vernon.  At that time, there was just the slightest apprehension in the air: “Did you hear about the virus spreading in Europe?” “It’s safe for us to go to the symphony now, right?” “Nobody’s coughing or anything, so that’s good.”

Five days later, on March 13, I remember some co-workers talking about the shopping frenzies around town.  Some of us chalked that up to it being Friday the 13th, a full moon, social media getting a bit wild.  That evening, the Handyman, his friend, and I went to Starbucks.

And after that, our lives all began to look very different.

My work week looked very different than usual.  I’ve been working in housekeeping at KGH for almost five years, and on the same unit there for the past four years.  The past week, there’s certainly been a different ambiance everywhere in the hospital.  I know that every measure is being taken to keep us all safe and sane, and I’m so grateful for that.  As well, I’m grateful for the distraction of work — at times like this, especially, it’s nice to have enough to do to keep one’s mind and body busy — and the chats with co-workers and patients.  But there are times, too, when I wish I could huddle in my apartment for the next weeks or months as this storm passes through.

Years ago, I chose to not have a vehicle, and so I take a bus or walk almost everywhere.  We are now supposed to enter and exit at the back door.  Fares have been waived.  There is no time of day anymore where we’re crowded together, weaving our way through people in order to find a seat or grab handle.

When I walked downtown on Thursday, I felt like I was back in Summerland or Salmon Arm anytime after about 6pm.  Actually, it’s not even that busy in Kelowna now.

My head spins as I think of Italy and Iran.  Of doctors having to choose who gets treated…  and who can’t be treated.  Of businesses closing down, people not having an income and waiting for employment insurance or other funding.  Of people who are stuck at home with abusive parents or partners, without the respite of school or work or socializing.  Of getting or passing along the virus.  So many things to think about.

Amidst all the chaos, my heart is warmed when I think of Mr.  Rogers’s quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'” There is so much good out there, too.  Let’s not forget that.  Let’s not forget the work being done by scientists, governments, doctors, nurses, caregivers, the people in our own little circles who give and encourage and make us smile when things are a bit too serious.

At this time — like at any time — none of us knows what tomorrow or next week or April will hold.  Life is fragile, now and always.  And although we can prepare for some things that may or may not happen in the future, sometimes we can’t do much but wait for the next turn of events and adjust our actions accordingly.

So for now, my suggestions? Spring cleaning.  Books.  Comedy (“Bob’s Burgers”!).  Maybe an online course.  (Side note: It just so happens that in February, I decided to sign up for the “Practical Gardener” distance ed course through Okanagan College.  Learning about xylem and phloem has been a nice distraction lately!) Keeping in touch with people via actual phone calls.  Being curious and paying attention to the little things in life that we often overlook when we’re going about “normal life.” Remembering that there have been pandemics in the past, and just as there were so many helpers during those times, there are during this one, too.  Finding a voice of reason and being a voice of reason.

Take good care, everyone.