A few days ago, we went to the grocery store. We showed up with hands hidden inside our blue disposable gloves we found at Rona, along with
homemade wipes made from Pinesol and shop towels since the real ones are never in stock.
Pete asked the usual,
“Buggy or basket?” “Buggy,” I said, busily wiping the handle down, feeling very efficient and conspicuous at the same time.
I don’t know what I was expecting but was immediately relieved at how normal everything seemed.
That is until you got a little deeper in and looked a little harder.
The produce section, usually friendly with its satisfying glow of plenty, was looking patchy and apologetic.
The meat section, as anticipated, was pretty much empty,
people hovering over what was there, walking back and forth uncertainly, should I, shouldn’t I?
We shopped, keeping our social distance like most everyone was, I tried to act casual, ignoring the sparse shelves and general air of distractedness.
I suddenly realized I wasn’t really looking at anyone directly, as though I must keep my head down, mind my own business, don’t make eye contact and keep moving.
Where did that come from? I also realize that I’m trying to exude confidence, an attitude of unruffled composure. Why?
As some kind of social responsibility or for my own mental health? Or maybe both?
We bump into our dentist, he’s there with his wife shopping like we are, I’ve never seen him there before.
It’s disconcerting to see him outside of the dentist chair, I resist asking him teeth questions I’ve been thinking about lately.
They aren’t wearing funny blue gloves. In fact, no one is wearing gloves, except staff and us.
I’m suddenly very conscious about touching my face. Also, what if I sneeze? Before we came in, Pete did a lot of throat clearing. He does it all the time. It sounds like he’s coughing, but he’s not.
Maybe we’d have to pin a sign on him, a disclaimer.
“This man is not sick, he does this all the time, I repeat this man is not sick…”
On our way home, we stop at the Italian center where usually we buy a lot of our groceries, but today we just pick up something for lunch.
It’s usually packed at this time, bustling, boisterous and loud, the sound of the espresso machine. Rich pastries with whip cream and custard gleaming from inside glass cases, today there is a subdued quiet, and the pastry cases sit empty.
The traffic on the way home is minimal, our neighbourhood is quiet. The school across the street is closed, I have a brief image of a scary, future scenario.
The school sits unused, grass overtaking the football field, weeds everywhere, cracked asphalt, broken windows.
I blink, and it looks like it always does only there are no kids, no sound, no cars in the parking lot.
That night I go to Yoga, in front of my laptop. The yoga studio I love is closed for now, but have moved classes online.
Tonight it’s my favourite instructor, and as I move in and out of poses, suddenly the screen goes blank. There are shuffling noises of someone walking around, they’ve forgotten to mute themselves, then suddenly the feed disappears. Trial and error.
I log out, log back in, and I’m in the flow again.
I think to myself, “tomorrow, I’m going to go to the studio in person.”
Then I remember why I am on my mat in my bedroom, and I feel an unexpected loss.
As night comes, so does the anxiety, unsettling and shifty.
I’m afraid of the way this virus is informing all of our lives right now.
The planet suddenly feels very small and finite.
Old fears nip at my heels. Bad memories from days long past flood back, threatening to take over.
Sometimes I remember to take my own advice, I shift my mind away from the “shoulds.”
For a moment, I touch down into the stream of joy that is always pulsing beneath, reassuring and timeless.
It’s the sun from behind the clouds, my body relaxes, I calm down.
Ebb and flow.
Now my blog is due, I want to console, to reassure, to encourage, to offer a one-size solution for all our collective angst in this increasingly surreal world, but I feel unqualified. I feel wobbly myself, small and insignificant.
I write anyway, anxiety pressed tight, crowding me, it’s agitated, hot and restless.
It interrupts my concentration, demanding attention, exhausting.
I press on, acknowledging its presence, uncomfortable, irritated.
As I write, my body softens, a knot inside loosens, I forget about the anxiety, it wanders away, bored.
This is how it is now, reading, working, napping, watching Youtube videos, watching old Midsommer Murder episodes, eating, talking on the phone, sometimes Yoga, walking, cleaning, cooking, baking, lying around.
Grace and gratitude, anxiety and drifting, disbelief and calm knowing.
Cheerful and melancholy. Laughter and tears. Energy and fatigue. Worry and calm. Purpose and confusion.
The new normal, for now.
(Picture by Cory Winston-Unsplash)