As I sit here and ponder over what has unfolded over the past six weeks, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I hear people asking the question about how this experience has helped us. Coming from a day and age, and an upbringing, where negativity or opposition was the norm most of the time, having the opportunity to stand up and respond to a question asking about the positives of a worldwide pandemic in my current life is truly an honour.

      Please realize that I am answering the question as it pertains to me personally. I do realize everyone will have a different response and I don’t believe any two responses will be the same.

      I have been closeted in my home in Maple Ridge most of every single day since March 13, 2020. Thankfully the weather has been fantastic because getting out on my bicycle has definitely been my number one blessing and being able to walk for a couple of hours a day is another.      Those outings have become like meditation sessions, self-evaluating, reminiscing, remembering.  Those sessions have also been instrumental in evaluating what was, what is and how the future might look.  I have never felt more at home, at home!

      When I heard myself ask how the future might be, I stopped, stepped back and realized I am in control, this is my life, my life to live and love as however I want it to be.  As I opened my eyes during that morning stroll around my neighbourhood, I saw myself standing in front of a road that was being prepared for a new layer of asphalt. One side was completed, the other was not. It suddenly became a metaphor of what life during COVID-19 has been like — an opportunity to repave the road, to make for a smoother drive, to rid ourselves of the potholes and root bearing damage, and get a clean start.

      I stood at that intersection for quite some time and I heard comments like ‘out with the old, in with the new’; ‘new beginnings’; ‘move on, move forward’; ‘look straight ahead and don’t look back’ and, best of all, ‘a road does not last forever and neither does life’.

     The experience at that moment in time was life changing.  I turned to walk back home and stopped myself.  I was going the wrong way. Why go back the way I came?  There is another way to go without back tracking. There is more to see and more to do. No need to rush; I have time in my hands. No more back tracking — just look forward, consider the options, and find a different way home.

     When family or friends phone me and ask how I am doing, the way in which some of them say those words makes me feel like I am supposed to be in a slump. Well they may well be in a slump, but I am not in a slump.  We have all been hit with a humungous crisis of international proportions with significant economic, social and human impact. The crisis is not going to crush me; in fact, I am doing everything I can possibly do to make this crisis help me shape a much better life.

     In fact, my new life has already started.  I wake up with a smile every day. I roll over to reach for my iPad to check the news and messages, and to play word games with other eager wordsmith friends. At some point, I sit up, slip on my cosy slippers and housecoat, and look forward to starting my day.  I plug in the espresso machine; pour the milk; add some chocolate before steaming it in the microwave; put it all together with some froth and cinnamon, and enjoy sipping it on my front porch. Gone are the days when I would rush, gulp and spill, and be ready for that next expectation or that next need to soar out the door to do something else.

     Instead, I listen calmly to the hooting owl and to the singing birds, and decide how the day is going to unfold. Every day must include at least one significant project and that could be a household chore, an errand, a craft or an academic learning experience on line. Some days it can be all of those things, and others just a few of them, but I must do at least one.  Yes, yesterday is now gone. Now everything is different and I am completely okay with this new approach to life. This has been my time to regroup, recoup, and redo the blueprint of my life.

     Another priority each day is to make sure I eat well. This means I cannot snack throughout the day. I have 3 distinct meals that are more or less balanced, and more or less in line with the Canada Food Guide. I make significant meals that always include enough for future meals; I bake something substantial once a week and only eat from that a bit each day. I usually have preset conference calls, FaceTime chats or telephone conversations spread throughout the day — before and after cycling or walking times. I do watch two particular television shows of the dramatic genre on weekdays, and I watch Saturday Night at the Movies on CBC. Every evening I watch the National News. I love the CBC — radio and television.

     This crisis has also brought to light the concept of friendship.  Friends. When is a person a friend and when is that person an acquaintance, and when is a person just another person taking up space in our world.  It is an interesting question and it is one I had front and center in my mind in my yesterlife too.

     When I set up a Facebook page, for example, I started with about five friends. I now have about 125. Really and honestly, nobody has 125 friends. When I post something, I don’t get 125 LIKES and I don’t get 125 feedback comments.  When I post something, a real friend would do either/or.  The rest are just looky-loos, nosy-types, or egomaniacs who want to be seen to have lots of friends or want to be seen to be friends of mine. Those types are not friends of mine; some might fall under the category of acquaintances but most of them should not have asked to become my friend or should not have said yes when I invited them.  By reading this, you can tell that this is really something that matters to me. In fact, it matters so much that I am of a mind to delete all ‘friends’ who do not acknowledge a future message. I’ll bet that mission will result in my returning to just having five friends. I will most certainly still be smiling.

     When the COVID-19 crisis began and we were given strict instructions to change our lives completely, immediately, I felt lost, worried and out of sorts. No more Aquafit three times a week; no more breakfast, lunch and dinner out once a week; no more encounters with friends, wine tastings or dinner parties at home; and, no more travelling. But, the long lasting period of isolation has helped me realize that I am not alone; in fact, I am never alone.  My inner self is my very best friend. She is a part of who I am and she has all too often been cast aside or even, at times, ignored.  It took a crisis for me to understand how wrongly I have been living my life.  

     It took a crisis for me to actually look at a work crew scraping off asphalt, and preparing a road giving people a fresh start.  The fresh start has our best interests at heart. The fresh start gets rid of the potholes and leads us along a smooth road, to new adventures, new opportunities and a new way of living life. 

      The best lessons I have gotten from all of this are: don’t think too far ahead; embrace the here and now because nothing is forever; and, get the most you can out of each day while you still can. My road has new pavement and I am looking forward to a smooth ride ahead.