Out of step with the rest of the world

We know there's no going back to normal for us

My friends and family in the US are pretty much all vaccinated. Along with that comes the social media posts showing families being reunited and think pieces on what it means for the world to go back to normal.

That’s not how things are in Toronto, where we went from a winter-long lockdown to a brief modified lockdown, back to a quasi-lockdown. I’ve given up on trying to make sense of the comically unclear public health messaging. I stopped caring if anything was open or not once I gave up hope of being able to try on winter boots in a store.

The experience people had of covid has varied so much from place to place and person to person, so it’s no surprise that some of us have concluded that the pandemic is in its final days while others are buckling in for the long haul.

Group of young girlfriends meeting after the quarantine caused by the covid19. Taking precaution with surgical masks and taking photos together with a smartphone.
A stock photo, because I don’t want to call anyone out. Remember, public health guidelines (and level of risk) varies widely from place to place.

I have friends who have lived their usual lives of travel and socializing, just with masks and hand sanitizer, this whole time. I have other friends who’ve upended their lives to ensure they are being as safe as possible. There’s no clear personality pattern to those who followed #stayhome guidelines to a T (and often invented their own additional safety rituals) and who kept living their lives, while adapting to reduce the risk of each activity and having lots of conversations about informed consent. Confusingly, there’s also no pattern to who was exposed to or infected with covid, either. Risks are statistical data, not guarantees.

Feeling so out of step with the world has me thinking about other times when I’ve found myself watching life continue on as normal when my world has felt like it’s stopped.

When I’ve had to deal with a crisis, it’s bewildering that the rest of the world pays no attention. It feels wrong that my world can crumble and nothing changes for anyone else. I’ve been fortunate to have friends and coworkers who were understanding and let things slide while I found my feet again. Still, the deadlines didn’t change.

It’s easy to resent the small joys and accomplishments people share on social media when we’re struggling to just get through the day. It’s hard to relate to, or humor, stories of inconsequential melodrama on those rare times we can see friends. Their world is just so different from the world of a caregiving crisis.

It becomes easy to feel deeply alone. To think perhaps none of our friends understand what we’re going through. To think maybe they were never our friends at all.

So many people taking care of a family member at home, mostly on their own, have seen little change in their day to day. Of course, others have lost access to the support they relied on or have been barred from visiting loved ones.

With care work, with the pandemic: we’re going through this together and we’re going through this alone.

Do we have the energy to see the world as our friends and family see it? Can we bother to relate to what’s important to them, even when it feels trivial to us?

Can they comprehend what we’ve been going through? Will they face the difficult truths and impossible dilemmas that have taken over our lives? Are they willing to be with us in our moment of pain? Do we trust them enough to welcome them into our experience?

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This time it’s easier to find people who do understand what my life is like. My family in the US seems confused when I tell them no, I still cannot come visit any time soon. No, I don’t know when I’ll be vaccinated.

My friends in Europe get it. They’re also dealing with rules that change every few weeks based on caseloads (and political whims) and share my excitement with the opportunities to socialize that come with warmer weather. Vaccination is still in the early phases in a lot of places.

While some parts of the world are opening back up (or have been relatively normal within their geographic bubble), I’m watching YouTube videos on sourdough and assuming things will remain closed all summer.

A counter top the width of two cabinets with two shelves above. There's a tiny bar sink, a toaster oven, a kettle, and a hot plate. There are two shelves above holding dishes, pans, and food. The cabinets hold a mini fridge and the water heater.
I didn’t jump on the sourdough craze during the first lockdown because I accidentally got stuck in Alberta and spent two months in a tiny house. It was a lot of fun, but not ideal for baking. You can cook a lot with a toaster oven and a hot plate!

While so many people are debating what old habits to return to and what new habits to keep, we know there’s no going back to normal for us.

How do we mourn our old lives? How do we recognize what growth our new life has brought us? How do we show the reverence this shift deserves?

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A lovely project I came across this week is the Artists’ Grief Deck.

On April 13th I’ll be talking to Donna Thomson as part of her Caregiving Essentials class. You can register for this free event on the McMaster University website.

In our main Facebook group, we’ve been discussing codependency.

Our young spousal care group is thinking of ways to keep the mess under control.

In our eldercare group we’re talking about how isolating caregiving can be.

We’re talking about boundaries our young caregivers group and our main spousal care group.

In after caregiving we’re discussing ways to relax.

It can be difficult to find articles on care work that aren’t top 10 tips and schmaltz. This is why I have a curated selection of stories on caregiving, most of which are evergreen, on our website. You can filter stories by what issues you’re dealing with, coping methods, relationship to the care recipient, frequency of care, your generation, and, of course, by searching.

You’re welcome to sumit articles and personal essays for publication, as well as to let me know about articles, essays, and videos published elsewhere that you found moving or helpful.

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