May 16, 2021 - It’s been over a year since we started living in the shadows of The Pandemic.  Now, by following the stay-at-home advisories and getting The Vaccine, it seems we can finally look forward to a more carefree summer. We may still have to wear masks and observe social distancing depending on where we live, but, hopefully,we won’t be living in fear of getting The Virus anymore.

Isolation

I consider myself to be living in purgatory, not in limbo, anticipating a return to normal. When this whole idea of isolation started, I associated it with a kind of freedom – more time for myself.  No obligations of any kind, for one thing. Hours curled up with a book.  Binging on Netflix, take-outs and order-in meals.

Of course, it isn’t exactly as I expected. One can only have enough television, and restaurant meals are so much better when dining in the restaurant! You can only read so much before you fall asleep, or ennui sets in. And there are obligations: to stave off infections, and almost obsession with housecleaning and sanitizing (I have never wiped doorknobs this often), lots more laundry (especially with clothes worn outside  – luckily I have a jacket I can put in the washing machine), lots of housework (even without having people over) etc.

For my family, the biggest deprivation is the restrictions on travel, so no visits with our children who live in Vancouver, Hong Kong and Stockholm. Our plans to get together have been postponed once again – from this summer to Christmas!! But thanks to FaceTime, emails and Instagram, we can see each and converse almost as though we were together in the same room. In the meantime, our eldest grandson has grown several inches to 6 feet and I am not taller than the younger ones anymore.

The restrictions imposed on us to control the spread of the coronavirus at first seemed to be too much of an infringement on our freedom. But after looking at how some countries have handled the pandemic, we have decided to stop complaining and be only too glad to accept the trade-off. In Sweden, masks are not even a requirement; only recently have Swedes been asked to wear them when using public transportation. Restaurants are open till 8:30 p.m. Shops are open. However, the rate of infection is high.

On the other hand, in Hong Kong, everyone wears masks including children. Restaurants and shops are open, with social distancing.  But heaven helps you if you travel over there - you will spend several days in quarantine in a designated hotel even after you have presented proof of vaccination. However, the rate of infection is very low indeed!  Life in Vancouver is almost normal; restaurants and shops remain open with restrictions and is the envy of those like us who live in Toronto with its prolonged lockdowns

Making the most of it

But this is our purgatory and we have to suffer in order to be safe – hoping to be rewarded when the pandemic ends.  On the other hand, this isn’t hell. We all know that this is temporary. Indeed, there is much to enjoy and be grateful for. In spite of the stay-at-home orders, we can go for long walks for exercise, long drives for a change of scene, long walks for leisure and meetings to exchange ideas on Zoom. We travel by cooking dishes from other countries that actually taste as good as they look in the pictures in recipes books. We do the best we can to make this experience productive and meaningful, learning a few lessons along the way. I am now getting ready for the after-pandemic and putting my house in order, literally.

In the midst of lockdown, I decided to “de-clutter”.  I am still at it but have made much progress.  Amazing how much more spacious and neater our home is now.  If you come across household items and clothing that you have too much of or that you don’t need anymore,  pack them in boxes and share them with charitable institutions or neighbourhood organizations. You will breathe a sigh of relief as I did, and you will make someone smile with these small “gifts.”.And have you ever tried going through your photos and souvenirs?  It breaks my heart to throw these out but now I have a big box for each of my children, and this is where I retire their precious mementos for them to sort out.  They all love looking through photo albums when they are home so I know memories are important to them.

Stores and shopping malls are closed, and it really hasn’t been fun to spend money on anything so I have been shopping my closet!  It is such a wonderful feeling to discover a much loved outfit from “olden days” hiding somewhere in the closet. And because we don’t go anywhere, I have been wearing the same clothes over and over again – no point in getting all dressed up. I have many t-shirts with holes in them and have extended their lives by embroidering over them.  My hole-ly t-shirts look rather stylish now.

Having saved a good amount of money from not shopping and not going anywhere, I opened my own trading account through my bank. One doesn’t need an exorbitant amount of money to invest. It is a learning experience, researching companies and reading quarterly and annual reports.  So far, it hasn’t been painful because the market has been buoyant and I haven’t lost any money yet. And I can’t wait for Monday when the stock exchange opens so I can watch my stocks go up and down in the market. A little bit of excitement - and fun!

One of the best things about this pandemic is how people reach out to each other. Even strangers will wish that you “Stay safe”. How many of you have called friends you haven’t talked to in a long time, or regularly get in touch with friends who live alone? Let’s continue to do so even when this pandemic is over – as my mother-in-law always used to say, “It’s nice to be nice.”

Getting ready for the good times

So far, many of us have been fortunate enough to remain free of the coronavirus.  Many of us don’t even know anybody who has Covid-19. And the rate of infections is going down. 

But we are not resting on our laurels, so to speak.  We have had our first “jab” and we hope everyone goes for it. In the meantime, let’s continue to wear our masks and to practice safe distancing. Let us continue to be careful even if it means less joy and no hugs.  The rewards when this pandemic is over will feel heavenly.


Jo Leuterio Flach, a graduate of the University of the Philippines, came to Canada to attend the University of Toronto Graduate School. She adores her family which includes seven grandchildren. Loves books, food and travel.

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