witching hour polls and random musings

IMG_7338Here in Vancouver we are starting to make our way back into the world after 9 weeks of fairly strict isolation measures. Our stage 1 response was (somewhat retrospectively) implemented on March 16 and (officially) lifted on May 18.

March 16. I was working full time in a 24-floor office tower in downtown Vancouver. I was teaching 3 busy yoga classes a week at a popular studio in Kitsilano where students shared props and routinely had no more than a couple of inches between their mat and the next person’s mat. I went to several group fitness classes a week at many different locations with multiple companies (yoga, spin, pilates, boxing, fitness) where I was a member of a lululemon-wearing herd getting shiny sweaty and happy together. I ate out (too) many times a week … usually just grabbing take out lunches or dinners but routinely meeting up with people at restaurants and pubs (it was as much about socializing as eating). Many of my vancouver faves are spots that have community style tables where you get to sit with others who also love tacos and margaritas or eggs benny and parallel 49 ruby tears ale. I queued up at starbucks for a tall dark in a grande cup with lots of nonfat milk at least once a day. I spent my free time on bike paths and beaches and patios. I attended at least a couple of events each month where people came together in droves to celebrate … culture crawls, car free days, concerts, mural walks, food truck fairs, beer festivals, craft markets … events that made me feel connected to my community and inspired. The weekend before all of this really hit I was at the Rugby 7s tournament at BC Place with 40000 other people who were (honestly) thinking this whole COVID thing wasn’t anything to get too worried about. I had just finalized plans for a road trip to Oregon in late March and has just booked my annual summer trip to visit my family in Newfoundland.

Then everything changed. We collectively began to realize that this was serious. Our provincial state of emergency was declared on March 18th. We were in a collective state of shock and were paralyzed for a few days as we tried to understand what this meant. Like other losses, we coped fairly predictably by collectively and individually traversing Kubler Ross’ stages of grief.

Denial. It isn’t really that bad. I will be fine. I’m healthy and I wash my hands ALL THE TIME. This will probably pass in a couple of weeks.

Anger. Fuck. I need that trip to Oregon so badly. I’m feeling so burnt out. I just got Rage Against the Machine tickets. Rage Against the fucking Machine for crissakes!!! Do you know when they toured last??? Why the fuck are people buying up all the toilet paper?!?!? People need to calm the fuck down.

Bargaining. We should still be able to do our roadtrip. Right? We’re staying at AirBnB’s and we’re mostly going for the change of scenery and plan to be outdoors a lot. We can do this safely. And that fundraiser that MOOV x RCC has planned should be fine. They keep all the equipment super clean. I’ll bring some extra sanitizer. It’s going to be so fun!

Depression. This is serious and scary. I have an autoimmune disease and I am actually one of the people they are talking about when they say this is a serious threat to “people with compromised immune health”. How did I become THAT person. I used to be invincible. If I have to go to that high density office building where I normally work I could actually be in real danger. How am I going to mentally survive this? I get my energy from being around the people and being in the world. Am I really going to have to spend weeks in my 750-square-foot apartment?

Acceptance. Alright fine. It seems like this is what we have to do to stay safe ourselves and to help our community. I can do this. I need a plan. I need a schedule that includes all the elements of my life that sustain me in the good times and the surreal dangerous global pandemic times. Work. Exercise. Connection. Creativity. Outdoors. Healthy food. Rest. I’ve got this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

It took a while to get the balance right. I spent the first few weeks working WAY TOO MUCH. Like easily 50-60 hours a week with no breaks and trying to squeeze all the other stuff I needed to stay healthy around that. I teetered on burnout and an exhaustion so deep that it was hard to even breathe. But I eventually found a rhythm and after 9 weeks I can look back and say that there were many beautiful moments and many lessons learned. That is truly what I want this post to be about. I want to get some of the good stuff documented so that I can come back to it in the weeks and months ahead. So that I can reference it if the pandemic’s second wave hits as predicted and so I don’t lose some of those things that I learned. So I can bathe in gratitude for the people, places, and things that got me through this. So here we go. 9 highlights. One for each of the 9 weeks we spent in isolation. That’s why I called the post 949.

#1 Sunshine – We got very lucky. During the first couple of weeks of our state of emergency, the weather in vancouver was amazing. Full strength sun and warm for several days straight. I got in the habit of starting my days standing in the morning sunbeams that would stream into my apartment. I would stand there sipping my coffee and do a mental inventory of the things for which I was grateful. Sunshine was always on the list. As the weeks went by, I tried to spend some time in the sun whenever it was available and that helped lift my spirits.

#2 Exercise – It took a couple of weeks but lots of the fitness studios in Vancouver adjusted and began to offer online classes (live streamed or prerecorded) while the studios remained closed. The silver lining of the pandemic is that I got a chance to take classes that I couldn’t normally fit in (the class by TT, met.A BAND @ Turf) and practice with teachers from all over the world (highlights included Chris Chavez via yyoga, Janet Stone through YogaWorks, Ryan Leier of OYftP, and teachers from the sweet little Modo studio in my hometown of St John’s). I was amazed by and grateful for the generosity of our local fitness community that made so many classes available to people for free or by donation. I have to give a shout out to lagree west and jaybird studios as they offered a tonne of high calibre stuff for free. Also to new to the scene MOOV and vancouver fave Ride Cycle Club who put numerous classes on youtube for everyone to access. Of course … huge kudos to my yyoga family who built up their library of yyoga @ home offerings and who created a daily virtual schedule that gave people the opportunity to practice with some of their favourite yyoga teachers. I’ve kind of fallen in love with virtual classes … available pretty much all day every day, no commuting time, no searching and paying for parking, no worries about getting into popular classes. I definitely plan to keep a few virtual classes in my weekly schedule even as the studios begin open up.

#3 Creativity – I was having a pretty emotional day during the 2nd or 3rd week and couldn’t shake the anxiety and sadness. I was feeling LOW. Then a miracle happened. I picked up my phone to scroll instagram and I got a notification that Kim Krans was beginning a live #drawthefeeling class. She’s an artist and healer that I really admire so I jumped into the class and went through an incredibly cathartic drawing experience with people from all over the world. I felt so much better after the 30 minute session that I knew I would need to rely on more than words to get me through the emotions of the pandemic. I needed to dive to a deeper level. Since then I bought myself oil pastels and even though I have no clue what I’m doing … I’ve had a tonne of fun sketching. It totally gets me out of my head and makes me feel better. I’ve taken a few more online art classes (huge shout out to Kim Krans and another of my faves Adam Young for offering free stuff) and I’ve started taking ukulele lessons via Ruby’s Ukes here in vancouver. SO FUN!!!!! Music and art have truly helped me survive the past 9 weeks!!

#4 Work – Since day 1 of this experience I have been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to contribute. Because my role is provincial … I was able to keep working and was able to move 100% to working from home. It was so great to be able to stay busy and to do work every day that was helping to find solutions for the individuals and families my organization serves. To be doing that with a team of people who are incredibly smart, kind, passionate, creative, and committed made even the toughest days manageable.

#5 My Sweet Little Apartment – I gave thanks for the home I live in every single day of the past 9 weeks. I can barely express how grateful I am to be living here. To be able to look out my windows and see the ocean and the mountains and the city I love at any given minute was a gift beyond measure. When I imagine what the past 9 weeks would have been like if I was still in that basement apartment I used to live in my whole body shudders in terror. Literally. I honestly don’t think I would have survived. So yes … I know I’ve bored and irritated all of my family and friends with pictures and videos taken from my 10th floor patio overlooking vancouver harbour but they are my little gratitude shots … taken when I am overwhelmed with happiness and relief to have such an incredible place to call home.

# 6 Our Leaders – Justin Trudeau. Dr Bonnie Henry. Adrian Dix. Yup (much to my own surprise) even John Horgan. This is more personal than political for me but I have relied very heavily on this team of people to give me an accurate picture of how things were going. As best as I could … I avoided mainstream news and social media interpretations about what was happening. Instead I went straight to the source to cut through all of the chaos and spin. Whenever things were starting to swirl, I’d tune into Trudeau’s morning update or Dr Henry’s daily briefing. It helped me feel informed and settled. I felt as though I was in good hands. The fact that Trudeau spoke moistly and mastered the hair flip was a definite bonus. I knew we would come through this by being kind, being calm, and being safe.

#7 Connection – As a massive extrovert … everyone knew this was going to be hard for me. My introverted friends teased me often about how they were mostly cruising through this whole “tuck in at home” period while I was getting more and more desperate for human contact with each day that passed. I actually full on blew it early on. I was going for a run and spotted a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. I rushed up and threw my arms around her totally forgetting about the social distancing rules until she started inching away from me with a slightly terrified look on her face. But again … I eventually settled into a bit of a routine and ended up talking with many people more than I normally would. I put a little sign on my bedroom wall that said “connect”. It’s where I’d go for my facetime dates and that sign was my reminder to step away from work and other accountabilities to be present with my people. Sometimes we’d talk about serious stuff but often we’d just hang out like we would in person. Like the virtual exercise thing … I think I’ll be keeping up some of what I put in place socially even once we can get together in person (e.g. connecting with my parents via FaceTime, offering zoom yoga classes for my friends / colleagues).

#8 Mindless Distractions – My mind is constantly on overdrive (it’s an ADD thing). I have multiple brain tabs open at all times. With the intensity of this situation (work and personal concerns) it was almost impossible to shut my mind off so I consciously looked for ways to let my brain settle on things that were not related to the pandemic. Tiger King, making spotify playlists, doodling yoga sequences, brooklyn 99, wordgames, dropping cinnamon rolls off to Myles + Dez + Mikayla, repotting my house plants, driving to and from Vernon in one day, drinking white claw at clinton park, bike rides, strolling commercial drive, ukulele jam sessions in the sun. I came to consider these intentional downtimes as critical to my well-being as exercise and food and fresh air and sleep. I splurged and bought myself a “quaran-TIGER” tshirt from vardagen (my favourite little shop in Venice Beach). It’s my “I survived the great quarantine of 2020” sourvenir.

#9 My QuaranTEAM – Last on the list but first in my heart. My quaranTEAM. Jay and Odyn. I honestly would not have made it through this on my own. I would have withered away and collapsed from fatal loneliness. The fact that I had these two with me through it all made it manageable. Jay and I compliment each other nicely and that was more obvious than ever … his earthiness kept us safe and cared for … my airiness helped us stay hopeful and light. Odyn kept us both on schedule with his routines and his “we got this” attitude. Don’t get me wrong. We live in 750 square feet so there were moments where things definitely got weird. Memorably – Jay falling asleep on the couch and SNORING LOUDLY when I was on a super important work call and rehearsing the same song over and over and over again for 8 hours straight one day. (I’m pretty sure I was perfect throughout the past 9 weeks and did nothing irritating at all.) We hit a few breaking points but we got through them and all came to appreciate this time together as a gift. Seriously. I can’t imagine better company than the Townsend boys with an honourable mention to my Beats by Dre noise cancelling headphones.

So that’s it. My 949. This was such a unique time in my life and in the world. It often felt incredibly hard and totally surreal. There was a sense of days blending into one another and of time becoming pretty seamless but … here’s my record of how I got through it.

NakedMoleRat-01.jpgcovid containment log – day 9

found an old bottle of self-tanner at the back of my bathroom cupboard

it expired 2 years ago but these are desperate times

will apply liberally to entire body this evening as this is what I currently see when I look in the mirror

#crisisaverted #fornow

89505845_10158180646074468_8833004404941520896_o.jpgcovid containment log – day 7

I have been uncharacteristically quiet during the early days of this COVID-19 crisis but honestly it’s a lot to take in and process. My feelings on it all have been hard to sort through. Like many of you, I started from a place of skepticism and nonchalance because I thought it was just another sensationalized media showdown. I generally avoid traditional news platforms in my day to day life. That strategy serves me well under normal circumstances because those information sources wound my soul. I tend to get my facts by scanning the ether for things that should legitimately be on my radar and then dive in by doing my own research – going to information sources I trust, talking it through with the very smart people in my life, and checking out the SCIENCE of it all. So as this was building around the globe and inching ever closer to Canadian soil, I tried not to be an idiot about it but I also chose not to be scared and basically went about my daily life … with super clean hands.

At some point though, it became obvious that this was more than media hype and that clean hands weren’t going to do the trick. I began to evaluate my commitments, responsibilities, and typical activities to decide which would need to go and which could (in my mind) be reasonably maintained. My first cut was light. I decided to skip the jam-packed hot yoga class that I normally attend on tuesday evenings and I opted for taking out my tacos rather than eating in at my favourite restaurant’s fun communal tables. I kept going to work at my downtown vancouver office, I kept teaching yoga at a very busy studio in kitsilano, I kept going to spin and group pilates classes. I booked a weekend getaway to Oregon. I figured this would pass within a couple of weeks.

Then the intensity ramped up. Decisions about what to attend were being made for me. The Russell Brandt show that I had been looking forward to for months got postponed indefinitely. Rage Against the Machine announced that they were deferring their tour until further notice. The charity ride x yoga class that I’d signed up for got cancelled. Air BnB announced that they would be waiving all cancellation fees for trips to the US so that people could avoid travel without being penalized. Shit. Got. Real. I knew we were really in trouble when lululemon chose to shut down all of their retail stores.

At that point, my anxiety soared. My autoimmune disease is something that I’ve been trying to manage by making good lifestyle choices. My strategy is not perfect but it has been good enough for me to go about my life in pretty active denial about how this condition impacts my life. As I heard more and more information from sources I trust (local superstar Dr Bonnie Henry and our country’s Prime Minister), the message was clear. The people most at risk right now are the elderly and the frail. They made a point of noting that people with compromised immune systems fell into that last category. I suddenly had to acknowledge that I was not invincible. Far from it. I was “frail”. A label that I have never ever had to self-apply. I have always taken pride in my strength and stamina. My health and endurance. Having to immediately come to terms with the fact that was no longer the case was a very rude awakening. That was HARD information for me to take. I became terrified of my own vulnerability. I was rattled. I was in new space and felt as though I was blindfolded and hamstrung. I lay awake for several nights in a row and COVID coloured every thought I had throughout the day. It was a filter that was required not just in my personal life but also in my job as the organization I work for employs essential front line workers and funds agencies that deliver services to individuals and families who will need what we have to offer more than ever as this pandemic creeps not only into our country but our provinces, our communities, and even our homes. We had to figure this out.

But I was paralyzed. For at least 3 or 4 days.

I don’t know what changed. I think it was having a real conversation with my partner about how scared I was. Saying it out loud broke the spell I was under. I sprung into action. I found subs for my yoga classes and disclosed to my boss that I was in the high risk category so would not be able to go to work at the office. I cancelled the Oregon trip and cancelled all the group classes I had been planning to take. I felt a huge sense of relief and felt that I could begin to move forward.

You all know how it’s gone since then. Gyms and fitness centres began closing. As social distancing in public spaces became more obviously impossible, other businesses have followed suit. Restaurants, bars, public parks, playgrounds, movie theatres, tattoo parlours, massage therapists and chiropractors, hair salons, and most retail shops have temporarily closed their doors. (Here in vancouver … randomly … stores that sell mattresses are all staying open?!?) Schools will not reopen after spring break and licensed day cares are beginning to focus exclusively on supporting parents who must work on the front lines of this crisis. We are beginning to see restrictions in our grocery stores and pharmacies. We are being asked to tuck in HARD. We are being asked to stay at home and limit our contact with others. We are working to flatten the curve.

March 16 is my ground zero day. It is when I admitted to myself that we were in a seriously dangerous situation and it is when I personally began to move forward with my own plan of attack. There is so much territory still to cover and there is so much to say about the waves of fear, uncertainty, frustration, depression, stress, and anxiety we will all face in the weeks ahead. However, the the title of this post is “baker’s burst of brightness #1” (note the #1 … spoiler alert … there will be others). Despite several paragraphs of preamble, what I really want to talk about today is the good stuff I’ve seen since this started. As hard as it has all been, I am seeing people doing what they can to pull together in sincere acknowledgement of the fact that we truly are all one. The humanity and kindness I’ve witnessed over the past several days have been inspiring. I have so much to be thankful for and these are just a few of the highlights:

* I am grateful for the the fact that I have the ability to work from home. I am in a provincial role and (although I miss my people) can do everything I need to do via phone, email, and virtual connections. I am grateful my boss and my organization have been supportive of this decision.

* I am grateful that my job allows me to make a contribution to our province’s efforts to manage this crisis.

* I am fortunate beyond measure to be socially isolating with a person I love. Someone who is kind and strong. Someone who’s flexible and fun. Someone who gets me.

* I am grateful that my three stepsons (and the lovely Mikayla) are healthy. I am grateful that my parents have one another. I am grateful that my bro and his family are safely tucked away together. I am grateful that my friends and extended family are all hanging in there and reaching out to one another.

* I am so thankful for all the sunshine we’ve had over the past several days as we slide into the “new normal” of isolation and containment.

* I am so impressed with the yoga and fitness community. Teachers I know and studios I follow have been doing their best to keep people connected and healthy by offering free and by-donation virtual classes. Massive love to all those in this space who are doing what they can.

* I have been thrilled to see businesses stepping up in a socially conscious way. Offering specific hours for the elderly and those with compromised health to shop before opening their doors to others. Bravely suspending operations but trying to find ways to pay their staff. Converting breweries to make hand sanitizer. The list continues to grow.

* I am grateful (truly grateful) for the leadership of Dr Bonnie Henry and PM Trudeau. Their calm but strong presentation of the facts and messages of social connection have helped me to personally settle. I look forward to their daily press conferences and am so thankful for their service.

* I am grateful for my beautiful apartment with my view of the ocean and the mountains. I know that if I was still living at my old apartment, I would not be faring well. I can’t even tell you how many times each day I stare out my windows with a smile on my face.

* I am grateful that I am staying healthy. Also for cadbury’s mini eggs, brooklyn 99 on netflix, and strong coffee. I am grateful for my couch to 5K running app and my well worn yoga mat. I am grateful to spotify for providing me with an upbeat covid containment soundtrack (this week’s honourable mentions go to “Nevermind” by Dennis Lloyd and “Ventura Acoustic” by Camel Power Club). I am grateful for my sweet ass bike that I plan to ride today.

That’s it for today’s instalment. I sincerely hope you are all faring well and keeping safe. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. If you have any “surviving social distancing” tips, please send them my way. My introverted friends are definitely winning this round. Us extroverts are feeling pretty crazy … thus all of the live videos on instagram, the multiple posts on facebook, and (ummmmmm) rambling blogs. #sorrynotsorry

Massive love to you all. We are (truly) all one. We are (truly) all in this together. We will (truly) get through this only by working as an aligned and allied collective.

baker out

PS … I’m going to be so good at playing my ukulele when we’re all set free to roam the streets again. Look out!

IMG_8053.jpegIt has been so long since I felt myself. Really. Felt. Myself.

My. Self. MySelf. Whatever that is.

I feel like I am just pretending to be me.

I’ve been pretending for a while now. So long in fact that MySelf is starting to have a hazy quality. A nostalgic quality. An image in a frame viewed through a scratched and dusty pane of glass. MySelf. My(True)Self. Preserved in prime shape. Strong limbs. Wild smile. Eyes darting to find the next adventure. Feet barely touching the ground.

But that person has disappeared. The person you know. The person everyone knows. She has faded into the shadows.

You can still see me going through the motions. I laugh at your jokes and play along with your flirty vibe. I celebrate your successes and mourn your sorrows. I accept your invitations. I don’t want to disappoint you so I rollerskate. I do the handstands. I climb the mountain. I ride. I do the push-ups and hit the heavy bags. I chase the sunbeams and throw myself in the ocean every chance I get. I wash my hair and put on my signature black eye liner. I work. I teach. I parent. I friend. I create. I debate. I encourage. I dare. I achieve. From about 6 in the morning until well after midnight. I do all of the things you expect me to do. That everyone expects me to do. The things I have always done.

But … it’s not really me. It’s my understudy. My stunt double. My stand-in. The one who goes through the motions when I cannot. For whatever reason. The one who moves to her mark and follows the script. Although she has rehearsed for years she is inevitably bound by the confines of the role. It is not hers to evolve or improvise. She is playing a character and has no choice but to colour within those lines. Although she tries to smile so the light reaches her eyes it never really does.¬†She exists within two dimensions. That is why … when you truly pay attention … you notice something is missing. But she keeps hitting her mark and stays on script so the cameras continue to roll and although they seem to lack something (depth? significance?) the scenes continue to be flawlessly performed.

I love my stunt double. She ensures that nobody sees the shell of a person I’ve become. She ensures that nobody realizes I have gone. She is reliable. She is practiced. She will never quit. For her this is the role of a lifetime.

I hate my stunt double. She is a fake. A fraud. A great pretender.

I hate that you don’t notice. I want you to shout “where the fuck is andrea???? what have you done with her?! bring her back! I miss her!!! you are NOTHING like her! you’re not fooling me you fucking bitch!”

As for me … I still lie awake until the sun threatens to rise but my thoughts are fuzzy and my body feels far away. The electricity¬†that once ran through my veins where blood should be and the fire that leapt freely and incessantly across the synapses of my brain is gone. I have not disappeared completely but I am only faintly interested in what’s going on in my absence. I am easily distracted and seduced by the white noise inside my head.

I have no idea how long I will linger here. Perhaps until you notice and call me back from the shadows. I’m not sure.

richieTaking a break from my usual peace love and sunshine vibes to share with you a few (ACTUAL real life) things people have said to me in the past 48 hours or so.

But he’s so mean to me. I don’t know what to do.

If you don’t like yourself, why don’t you just change?

What’s wrong with your mouth?

I’ve cried every day for the past week.

It’s not what you asked. It’s how you asked it.

I’m sorry I’m so distant. Things are so heavy right now.

I wish you hadn’t done that. Next time talk to me first.

If he keeps up with his treatment, they think the deterioration will slow down.

I really want to come but I can’t stop crying.

I didn’t have to do CPR because the ambulance arrived right away.

Why do you keep making the same mistakes over and over again?

Do you really think you could look after a dog?

Whoa! You look like you haven’t slept in at least 3 years!

I was going to call him back but I know I’m not beautiful enough for him.

Don’t blame mercury. You just screwed up. That’s on you. Not mercury.

They had no idea that was your project. They didn’t even remember you. Didn’t you work on that for like 5 years or something?

The police won’t give us any details.

You work out a lot. It’s weird that you look so unhealthy. Do you ever eat protein?

It’s possible that I’m noticing these kinds of statements more than usual. I’ve been sick and run down for the past couple of weeks. Plus the transition into fall and the whole ridiculous daylight savings time thing always knock me on my ass. But ouch. Seriously. Harsh. Sadness everywhere. Anxiety and self-doubt. Rejection, criticism, blame. Pain. Loss. Fear. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to this week who have said they have been on the verge of tears all week.

These statements have all piled up around my feet and I feel as though I’m beginning to drown in them.

What the actual shit is going on??? Anybody???