Coronavirus: Saying The Quiet Parts Out Loud

I’m going to preface this by saying that the isolation we’ve been keeping has been good. We were plunged into the uncertainty of a contagion, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a century’s time, and which might even prove to be more deadly than the Spanish Flu. So yes, we’ve had to hunker down.

But I’m also going to venture outside the box here. I’m going to say the quiet parts out loud, because time has dragged on, there is no end in sight, and we’re being judged for our growing impatience.

We’re in Week 4 (more or less) of the world coming to an end as we knew it. Here in Canada, in my corner of the province of Quebec, March 13 was L-Day: Lockdown.

That was the day businesses deemed “non-essential” were told to close their doors and go home. Cancel clients. Cancel appointments. Cancel production. Go home.

What is deemed “non-essential” service? Pharmaceuticals, health care, groceries, gas. Period.

Is it non-essential for the hair stylist who has lost her income? Is it non-essential for the dog groomer who has lost hers? Is it non-essential for the landscaper who depends on the springtime thaw and ensuing warm weather to support his family and for his employees who depend on the income to feed theirs?

The truth of the matter is, if someone is doing it for a living, it is essential. And I don’t care if that’s for life-sustaining purposes or hobbies. If someone does it for a living, it is essential to that person, and any clients, consumers, shoppers affected.

We were told it would be a couple of weeks. While many were already nervous, it was widely accepted, in order to ostensibly flatten the proverbial curve.

But then, it was two more weeks. And then more. And now, our premier (for those of you who aren’t Canadian, a premier is the governor of the province) extended the date to May 4th.

Festivals have been canceled. The annual International Fireworks Competition has been canceled. That takes place here in Montreal throughout the summer and draws large crowds from all over the globe.

The Canada Day (and Quebec’s “Fete Nationale” St-Jean Baptiste Day) festivities have been canceled.

Jazz Fest. Just for Laughs. International Film Festival. It’s all just wiped off the calendar.

This, in the wake of the hockey season screeching to a cliffhanger, no playoffs, draft, or projected resumption of the sport.

My dog groomer canceled two days before the appointment for Theo, because that was when the government edict came down.

Luckily, I had my hair appointment the day before everything went dark.

But it’s April 9th, and now the PM has said things may not return to normal until a vaccine is released.

Sorry. I’ve had enough. Time served has worn on me. And it’s been necessary because at the beginning, nobody knew what this was or how it would manifest.

But his premise is ridiculous.

Vaccines can take years. He said it might be 18 months.

But even one month, two months is too much.

And besides my own frustration, I see people beginning to show the signs of annoyance. There is judgment. There is sniping. Uncivility.

For example, on a Facebook group for Costco shoppers, a mom asked if summer shoes were out for kids. She got some good, helpful answers.

But then there was this one: “Really? You’re worried about THIS?”

From someone without kids, but still. Who was she to judge what others want to buy? Who is anyone to judge what another needs?

And why are we being made to feel guilty for the little things that give us pleasure?

Why are we being told that gardening is “non essential” and we shouldn’t be going out to buy supplies?

Why are we being told that shopping for shoes, or clothing is not as important as staying home to “flatten the curve” – even if we could go shopping for clothing?

Why are we being told we are somehow selfish or vain for wanting a haircut, roots colored, a manicure, a pedicure or any other personal grooming ritual we fulfill on a regular basis?

Why is it shallow of me to want my dog, who is scruffy and getting knots in his hair, to get a grooming?

Is it wrong to say I would like to go out to a restaurant, or out for ice cream instead of continuing to eat within the walls of my house?

Why is it deemed trivial for me to want the library to reopen?

Spoiler alert: none of that is wrong. Mental health professionals, if they aren’t already, will be flooded with people suffering from anxiety, depression, panic, and paralyzing fear. Those things we do outside of work are essential for our mental health. If we don’t need those things now, more than ever, what good will they ever be?

As I told a Facebook friend who expressed his concern that gardening is “frowned upon” as “non-essential:”

Who is it who says what is essential? Gardening can be just what you need. I know there are many things that are “deemed” non-essential but who gets to decide that?

If someone needs peace of mind and finds it in gardening, home reno, crafting, painting – then it’s essential. Because people were not meant to exist in interminable isolation with someone else calling the shots and telling them what they want isn’t as important as toilet paper.

Go for it Post pics!

Clothing is essential. For kids who outgrow clothing by the month, parents are in the tough position of having to make things fit, order online, or rely on family hand-me-downs (carefully delivered so that they remain Untouched By Potentially Infected Hands). Getting a new top or skirt for the upcoming summer is always a nice treat.

Haircuts? Personal grooming? We are all pretty worried about this virus and how it’s affecting the people in our lives, as well as our finances and our country’s economy. Getting that trim might just be what the psyche needs in order to regain some sense of normalcy. Who among us can say we don’t feel so much better after a haircut or a manicure?

Dog grooming? He not only needs one for aesthetic purposes, he needs it for health. Flea and tick season is upon us, and a dog with long hair is much more likely to pick up the parasites than one who’s gotten his summer cut.

Books? How much of Netflix and Amazon Prime can one person consume? I’m a voracious reader. I have some books on my shelf, bought for that inevitable (what used to be irrational) fear that the library has no books in for me, or my favorite authors will never write again.

They won’t last forever. And for my sanity, escaping into a book is crucial. One might even say essential.

Restaurants? Not only is going to a restaurant a good way to support local business, it is that two-hour respite – many times with friends – from things weighing on one’s mind. And heaven knows, we all have a lot on our minds nowadays.

It’s time to start thinking about getting life started again. Data shows that 98% of those who will get the disease will recover fully. A treatment is crucial and there is one in particular being well documented as being effective. When that starts to become The Cure, life can continue. Not a vaccine. A treatment.

But until then, until life does return to normal, I would really like people to stop feeling guilty for saying what they want, what they need, and what will make this confinement more palatable.

Because it isn’t for one person to judge another’s way of finding the small pleasures in life.

Say the quiet part out loud. Say you want your hair done. You want to get that manicure you should have gotten March 12th. Say you really want to go to Dairy Queen now that the weather is improving.

Humans were not meant to be isolated. We are social beings, and lead rich lives within our social circles. It’s one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom.

Hell, even dolphins and gorillas have it better than we do now; their advanced social system is thriving, while we “visit” via iPads or laptops, phones or texts.

I am compelled to reiterate what I started with: the “physical distancing” (technology keeps us socially close, so social distancing is an inaccurate term) was necessary and might still be, for certain portions of the population.

And I’m compelled to repeat it because if I don’t, I’m just selfish shallow, vain, or wrong, per the Judges Of Society.

Stay healthy, folks. Mentally as well as physically. Go buy your gardening stuff and plant some pretty flowers. We can still sit outside and enjoy our gardens.

For now.

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