On being … accustomed to?

By Ingrid Sapona

Though I think we’re not even at the seventh inning stretch in terms of COVID-19, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned so far during the pandemic. They say it takes something like 12 weeks to develop new habits (or is it 12 weeks to break old habits?). Anyway, I’ve been taking stock of the different things I’ve become (more-or-less) accustomed to and some of the new habits I’ve developed thanks to COVID-19.

The first habit I’ve truly become one with is hand washing. I’m embarrassed to admit that before COVID-19, I didn’t do much more than the obligatory quick rinse in the ladies’ room. Now I intentionally seek out opportunities throughout the day to wash my hands and I approach it as time to lather up and luxuriate. (I wish I could say I’ve learned to not touch my face, but sadly, all I’ve become aware of is just how much I do, in fact, touch my face.)

I’ve definitely changed my grocery shopping habits. I never realized how many different grocery stores I’d pop into in a week to pick up this or that. It’s not that I didn’t have a shopping list – I always did. It’s just that I found it irresistible to hop from store to store to save on this item or that. Now I give myself permission to spend a bit more if I can get all the items I might need for the week at one grocery store, especially if they do a good job sanitizing their carts!

Sadly, I’ve definitely not become more patient about work-related meetings. If anything, I find my meeting frustration has actually increased. Why is it that folks new to the work-from-home world insist on taking meetings from their balcony or porch? How can they be oblivious to the fact that the noise of garbage trucks and other traffic make it nearly impossible to hear them or others? I suppose it’s possible that over time I’ll become accepting of the fact that people who waste time during meetings do so regardless of the meeting format. Ugh…

I didn’t need anything close to 12 weeks to adjust to the shut down of stores, restaurants, libraries, parks, cinemas, and the like. Like others, those first couple of weeks I assumed the changes would be short lived. But when it became clear that the timeframe for sheltering in was indefinite, I made some adjustments to my daily routine and settled in with little upset.

I can’t say the same for how I’m dealing with the re-opening of things, however. In fact, I’ve been surprised at the anxiety I feel having to make various decisions again. The shut down pretty much removed personal choice from many day-to-day activities. (For example, you didn’t have to decide whether to go out for dinner – restaurants were closed.) But, with kind of a phased re-opening as we’ve had here in Ontario, it’s largely up to us to figure out what we’re comfortable doing. For example, though I was a regular in the gym, even when mine re-opens, I can’t see myself comfortable returning to it for some time. (Why take the risk of working out indoors in close proximity to others working up a sweat? So long as the sidewalks and paths are snow-free, I’ll continue with my long daily walks instead.) Another common conundrum is whether to risk a ride on public transit or just drive places in the privacy of your own car, knowing it’s less ecofriendly and lots more expensive to park.

And I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling conflicted, weighing the risks versus benefits of different choices. I’ve had various conversations with friends who’ve admitted they don’t know what to do when someone invites them over, or suggests they do something together. Just yesterday one of my sisters faced a tough decision that she didn’t think she’d have to make. Our other sister was in the hospital for elective surgery and we assumed that a post-surgery visit to her room would be out of the question. When it wasn’t, my sister had to decide whether to visit her in her room. My advice to her was to be guided by my new mantra: WWAFD – What Would Anthony Fauci Do? We laughed at the idea, but I know it was a difficult call. (Compassion ruled: she screwed up her courage, sanitized her hands, adjusted her face mask, and went to the room.)

I think it’s going to take some time for many of us to figure out what’s in our comfort zone and what’s not. Indeed, given how fluid a situation the pandemic is, I imagine stuff I may be ok doing this week I won’t necessarily feel comfortable doing sometime further down the road. But, like so many other things we’ve become accustomed to during this pandemic, I imagine we’ll easily adjust to somethings and fervently resist other things – even if we know they’re good for us or for society…

What about you? Anything you’ve been surprise you’ve become accustomed to as a result of the pandemic? Any pandemic-induced behaviours you plan on continuing post pandemic? Any decisions you wish you didn’t have to make these days?

© 2020 Ingrid Sapona


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