Dear Emma – Decemember 24, 2020


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(c) clr 2020 Bette and Kali

Dear Emma,

It’s Christmas Eve and here I sit reflecting on my life during this global pandemic. I think I must have a few more wrinkles since March. I always used to say my lines were signs of life because I was very expressive. I laughed from my belly [sometimes too loudly], I smiled a lot in public even to strangers, which of course, add more lines around the mouth and eyes and I cry A LOT. I cry when I laugh too much; I cry when I am moved by beauty [my daughter singing in a choir as a child, my children driving 6 hours to visit me, my grandson’s birth, my son receiving his first award in primary school, my son’s first child born in a time of despair bringing hope to us and unity to the family, my mom coming to visit me after a long absence and any movie and touching commercial…the list is far too long].
This year, I have bursts of tears when I listen to the news, watch children walking with their family and distancing themselves from strangers, children in the park with masks and mothers who look so worn and tired…moments of reality like that open the flood gates and it lasts a few seconds until the next outburst.

So much has changed and yet has not. We all are experiencing Covid Fatigue [Yes! that’s a thing and it includes Zoom meetings fatigue for remote workers. I hear the difference on the crisis lines from March to December… it has changed. I feel fortunate to be able to hear their stories from youths from 5 to 29. Such a heavy load to carry at their age. I imagine the 20’s, 30’s and 40 somethings have an unknown future. Jobs will be changing for them and I imagine colleges and universities will be developing new programmes to fit with the new “times”. The saddest part is that they will be carrying the burden of our nation’s debt for many years to come. In Canada and even moreso in Quebec, social benefits are so different than our southern neighbours and other parts of the world…but we may be more aligned with European countries where health and welfare of all citizens is accessible. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live in a place where health care is not free and only the “haves” have a better chance in life but the “havenots” are left to their own means which means not very much. It is inconceivable, no shocking and shameful in industrialized and rich countries,  to see how access to good health services is not a right.

I remember when we started paying the government for our universal health care when it started…oh, we grumbled for sure if we were the lucky ones who were never ill and did not have to go to hospital and many ordinary people had Blue Cross which helped for hospitalizations. I know my sister paid her OBGYN after she gave birth for several years! But the first ten or so years after it was put in place, hospitals would send us a bill that we did not have to pay but it was a statement listing all the costs of our time there. It was shocking to see how one hospitalization could put a person in debt and how a surgery would force some to sell their homes. Yes, this is something we have come to expect…it is a right and I am grateful for that.

With the realities of what we are living, at least I don’t have to worry about how much hospital costs will come up to if ever I get sick. 60 to 80% of my medication is paid…sure I pay every year to the government a lump sum because I am still working part time but when I am no longer working and living only on my old age pension, I will not have to worry. Now if only dentists were part of the deal…[sigh]

I had not connected with friends for a few months when I lost my voice in November. I had to preserve it and when I started back to work on 2 hours a shift on the counselling lines. My GP and ENT both say it was due to my chronic sinus problems and GERD. Who knew that your digestive system could damage vocal cords? Okay well, I had no idea and my ENT also added that clearing my throat like I do so often is very damaging. I don’t want to blame it on the virus or stress because these are things that have been going on for years and I had no idea it could damage anything…I just thought it was uncomfortable and I bought a special pillow to prevent  problems. Yeah, yeah, I know that my weight gain surely has not helped. In February with my busy months preparing for the move to my condo, I managed to lose 10 pounds just by being so busy and then I “found” them…I guess my body missed them. [chuckling]
I like to walk a lot but with this virus, I got a bit paranoid and limited my walks which then affected my health both physical and emotional. I needed to start practising what I was preaching.

Family and friends tell me it’s because I have a sedentary job but actually, the three days I DO work, when I get a call I usually walk around my dining room and living room and manage to do 5,000 steps easily. Of course I do believe it is the routine of getting up mornings, rushing to walk to the bus stop, walking up and down the stairs at the Metro and then walking to work…those were regular healthy walks twice a day. I keep telling myself, “Tomorrow, I’m going to pretend I am taking the bus and walk to the bus stop and then walk around the perimeter until I have done my 2 to 3 km and then start my shift. But do I do it? No, I sleep in longer because I get to bed too late and struggle to fall asleep so after 4 to 5 hours of sleep, I roll out of bed about 45 mins before I start taking calls. This is NOT good…I know.

It’s cold outside now and if I do go out like I did last week to the park at -22C and good lord, it takes about 15 mins to get dressed with all the necessary layers and then attach my mask to a special tie I purchased to slip under my chin and scarf once I am alone outside. I suppose walking in winter is a good idea since less people go out.

I have to say I am proud to see so many seniors walking their dog two to three times a day like clockwork…I bet dogs have never been so happy this year. My cats are happy to have me with them and Kali, my youngest cat who is so soft and silky I loved stroking her fur but she would bite me due to overstimulation but with my being home all the time, she has learned to crave my touch without biting…ah, to sit in my arm chair with Bette on her bench next to me (does not like to be held) and Kali draping her long slender black silken body on my chest, neck or lap (she decides, but of course) and relaxing to the purrs. That surely is a stress reliever…who needs medication?!

My goodness, I am going on and on again, Emma, and the first thought I had before starting this journal entry has not even been addressed. I guess I needed to talk in my mind and let my fingers tell you a thing or two that has gone on in my life lately.

Oh, yes, this is what I meant to start off my narrative…I was speaking to a friend this week and telling her that I reflected (a year of reflection is an understatement!) on how I felt. I asked myself, is this really the worse time of your life? And it dawned on me that there have been certainly other times in my life where I was much more stressed, depressed and felt so alone in my suffering. There were times I felt like I was drowning and only touching the surface briefly to take in a bit of air of sustenance and back down that black, cold hole at the bottom of the ocean. When I think back on those times, I realize I am truly fine and fortunate. I have a home, enough money to pay for the hiked up grocery bills, I am healthy and lucky enough to work remotely a few days a week which allows me to sleep nights not worrying about food and shelter. Yes, there are things I may have to change…like the humble amount I put aside to repair and remodel my bathroom (the shower will do) because I realize I may have to put thousands $$ on my teeth when I feel safe enough to take public transit and see my dentist next year…I was very upset and angry at times because I felt I only had about 2 years left to be able to travel a bit before I retire on my old age pension and 2 yrs is what will be the time before it will be safe enough to travel…so I need to be content with what I do have. I realize my life has had many hiccups and changes and I adjusted, and the most important thing is that now is a time to truly be mindful of each day and embrace what I do have. A new grandbaby and I have purchased items for when she can some day sleep over with Nana, my grandson who has his driver’s license already! can come to visit me and his school is just around the corner, so I may be blessed with more than I can handle [I can’t wait].

During boxing day week I plan to get a decent gaming monitor wich will be excellent for me to work with/writing and company gaming;  I want to slowly clear out the guest room to be multifunctional…bedroom/tv room for kids/ craft room. I know that is a lot but I have had time to save lots of DIY’s on YouTube and purchased some tools to try and do it myself. I have lots of projects I started in March and come May I lost the motivation and slipped in those dark waters for a while. I need to and want to try to get back into this frame of mind of working on projects.

Lately, I have done some knitting and crocheting projects…I knit like a six year old…so everything is simple and most times I have to redo them multiple times to come up with something decent. With Covid, I have not been able to shop and touch yarns and ordering on line is not recommended if you’re an amateur like me…[did I mention I don’t know my stuff?] but now, I have about 30  balls of yarn for future projects. I did have to put some on hold when I fell down the stairs and sprained my wrist but hey! I could have banged my head, broken my arms or legs…I was pretty darn lucky, hence the safety of my extra padding that may have saved me…so there are some advantages of being extra curvy [mischievous smile].

I am hoping to continue on this path of looking forward to day to day blessings rather than look too far ahead. A video chat with my grand-daughter so I can make my silly faces, a time to visit virtually with my son so he can tell me about his stressful day teaching at his elementary school, a wonderful chat on the phone with my dear friends…laughing, venting, crying and always ending with a belly laugh. I am blessed and 2021 will be a year, I think for me, to let go of old dreams to make room for new (more attainable) aspirations.

I wish you, Emma, and all my readers a safe holiday season…hoping people will not give in to COVID-19 fatigue and fall into complacency…that ugly invisible enemy is just waiting for us to slip and fall. Don’t give in…I am refraining from giving my 2cents to non-believers and anti-maskers, Emma, because I want to end on a hopeful and calmer note. Happy Holidays!

(c) Cheryl-Lynn 24/12/2020

Dear Emily,

Reading on public transit again

Lately I have gone back to reading a book on the bus and subway on my way to work. My son scolded me last week for being such an easy target to some people reading on my smart phone. He took my Samsung Note, waved it in the air saying, “Yoo hoo, come and pick me! It’s worth $700” and it sounded more like “No need to pick pocket, it is yours for the taking.”  We then had a discussion about that. I mentioned I rarely took my phone out on the subway because I had seen three teens grab a man’s phone and run out the doors just before they were closing. Well, he scolded me even more as if I were his child or student (he’s a high school teacher).

“Yeah but,” I started.  Gee, come to think of it 25 years ago when he was 10, he was the one who always said, “Yeah but, Dad” arguing a point with his dad.  I had nicknamed him Yabut instead of Abbot!  I tried to assure him that people riding the bus off the island of Montreal to the suburbs all read on their phones, i-pads etc.  He kept shaking his head, lifted his hands in the air, “Do what you want. This is why women are such easy targets. Rarely will a woman run after someone who grabs her phone or tablet. And people who mean to steal know that.” Well, I guess he is right there and it was not the time to say it was actually a young man who got robbed on the subway the other day and it was “taken by surprise” that wins usually.  And I was touched that he was concerned about his mom.

So this week I started going back to my old habits which is nice because I also missed reading.  I am very expressive wherever I may be, such as a doctor’s waiting room, the license bureau or a bus.  When I get to a passage that moves me, I will smile, chuckle and yes, cry too. The first three chapters of The Hunger Games, I wore my sunglasses on the subway because I could NOT stop the tears, the violence (physically and emotionally) was just so intense. I only read this book last year because so many youths who call read it and wanted to be a bit more in touch with some characters. If the kids are anything like me, we tend to relate and get some characters under our own skin. I was Nancy Drew and Cathy Ames for years as a child, then as a teen became Marie Curie.  Oh, I was Sainte Thérese for many years too and would be washing those floors for Mother Superior day after day after day.  “I never promised you a Rose Garden” was one book Sister Dufferin gave me when I was 15 and I could not finish the book as I became Sylvia…I could literally hear all the voices dragging me into their consciousness, I thought I was losing my mind. I eventually read the book in my early thirties.  Later I tried to read the diaries of Virginia Wolfe and managed two and a half but had to stop, as there too, I became that scared, frightened child who grew up so misunderstood by her “expert” doctors.

That said, {I digress. Yes, I know…I am getting there, Emily but you know me. I get sidetracked sometimes}, I like to read some books my callers read to see what is “affecting or infecting” their minds.   Violence does not seem to affect youths as it did me as a youth.  I suppose you could blame it on violent video games but let’s face it. Really! Let’s be honest. When I was growing up I found Bugs Bunny and Road Runner quite funny and they are sooo violent!  It is just the scenery that has changed but perhaps we are not that much different.  I really don’t know the answser to that one.

I remember going to a movie with a friend/volunteer from a distress centre, years ago in Toronto. He had made dinner at his condo and we ate and chatted a bit too long.  Well, I AM a woman and a chatterbox, and he is Italian…so meals tend to drag on a long time. We arrived at the cinema just in time but most of the good seats were taken.  We had to sit in the front. I still do not remember the movie except it was terribly violent and Vince and I would hide our eyes so often.  I recall turning around to look at the teens and young adults sitting around us and they did not “appear” to be troubled by this.  It dawned on me then,  how many “seem” desensitized to violence. If that is the case, how can we stop the violence and wars that exist today? Most youths will tell me scoffing, “We know it’s not real!”  But I wonder if the mind can be exposed to all that blood and gore and still…

Now, Emily, how the heck did I get on reading to violence again? Oh yeah, my emotional reaction wherever I read…yeah, that’s it. Maybe I am old enough to not care if I am reading Erma Bombeck and chuckling alone at the back of the bus, or weeping at a tragic passage or part that makes me reflect on my life. When a book, story, article or poem does that to me, it means the writer touched my soul.

© Cheryl-Lynn 2014/04/25