On being… on the brighter side?

By Ingrid Sapona

The one-year anniversary of the pandemic dominated this week’s news. There seemed to be a few themes to the stories related to the anniversary. As one would expect, the theme of devastation wrought by the pandemic was an important focus. Besides discussion of the tragic number of lives lost, there were also articles on so-called long-haulers. One story I read, for example, was about a woman who got Covid nearly 12 months ago and is still coping with unusual side effects.   

The economic impact of the pandemic was in the news too, though more because of debate around Covid relief funding than as a result of the anniversary. I still find it odd that decisions about spending on support measures end up splitting along political lines – in the US and here. I would have thought that months of news stories about people lined up at food banks, or going into work even if they have Covid symptoms because they can’t afford not to get paid, would make the need for financial support a no brainer. But instead, one year into the pandemic – and perhaps glimpsing a light at the end tunnel (thanks to vaccines) – some are more concerned about the impact such spending may have on the treasury and economy, than on the immediate needs of individuals and families.   

On the lighter side, another theme in many stories this week was discussion of things people are most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is “over”. Lots of stories about hugging family and friends, planning trips, and so on. I’m not great at answering questions like “what would you do if” – or in this case “when” – something happens. I don’t know if it’s that I’m afraid of getting my hopes dashed, or maybe I worry that talking about something might jinx it. Who knows… In any event, my mind just doesn’t go there.  

That said, I did want to reflect on the anniversary in some way. So, I decided to focus on some of the highlights of my year. It ended up being an interesting exercise. For example, I was a bit down on my birthday because all I was going to do was cook myself a nice dinner and open a nice bottle of wine. Mid-day, there was a knock on the door. A friend, who had already sent a card, brought me a lovely orchid. She usually goes south for the winter but because she was here (stuck is how she’d probably phrased it) she decided to surprise me and boy did she!  

Another highlight was a mid-summer rendezvous picnic a friend arranged. Three of us met in a park in Stratford, Ontario – a town that’s equidistant from each of us. Stratford’s a small town that hosts a famous theatre festival in the summer. The theatres were shuttered due to Covid and so the quaint town was unusually relaxing and the park was beautiful.  

Last fall brought another unexpected highlight when a friend and I went to one of my favourite restaurants, hoping to get take out. The restaurant is in a different region and we didn’t know if they were still under lockdown. As we pulled up, we saw lights on so we knew it was open, which was exciting. When we went in, we saw a couple eating at a table and sure enough, they were serving. Due to social distancing, they could seat folks at four tables. It was pretty empty, so we decided to eat there. It really is one of my favourite places and it never disappoints, but honestly – we felt like royalty being served and it was the best meal ever!  

Besides the particular days or events (lower case “e”) that stand out in my mind from this past year, there were some behaviours that I and others adopted that really helped brighten my year. Early on, I felt the need to check in with people near and far to see how they and their families are faring. Before Covid it sometimes felt decadent to drop a line just to say hello, as people are so busy. This past year, however, I found folks promptly replied and usually shared real news about what was going on in their lives – hopes, fears, blessings and, sadly, sometimes sorrows. I also love it when friends send Covid jokes – most of the times they don’t even bother writing anything – they just forward the jokes. But the simple act of them doing so tells me they’ve thought about me – and they wanted to make me smile. How lovely is that?  

Another positive this year has been finding alternative ways of engaging in activities and hobbies I enjoy. It’s kind of amazing how fast different arts and social organizations pivoted to providing webinars and holding virtual meetings. One of my favourite activities is attending wine tastings. But, to be honest, they can get expensive and there’s always the logistics of getting to them by transit, so that you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving. For the past four months some of my favorite sommeliers have been hosting free on-line events. I usually only buy one of they wines they’re talking about, but I can enjoy it from the comfort of my den. What a luxury!  

I’ve written before about how important I think it is to mark anniversaries – and so I’m glad that this sad anniversary was noted. And, though I do believe we’re all in this together – it’s very clear that each of us has experienced different highs and lows. I think it’s human nature to point to the things we’ve missed out on this past year. But, for me, focusing on the brighter side – the highlights – of the year provides more insight that can help me navigate the uncertainty that lies ahead. What about you? What have you taken away from the past year? 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 


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