Here 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.