Messing with Our Sense of Time

Are we in the middle of the pandemic, approaching the end, or is it just the beginning?

June 25, 2020 | | Headwaters Nest

Long days, short years, my mom always says. Our sense of time is a malleable thing and the Covid-19 continuum is messing with it right now in a big way. Are we in the middle of the pandemic, approaching the end, or is it just the beginning?

To me, the days feel intractably long. As a member of the Region of Peel’s emergency operations team, I start early every morning with an online meeting. We cover the confirmed cases in Peel, the deaths, the outbreaks. We cover the inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE – an acronym now common to everyone’s vocabulary) and how long the supply will last at current usage rates. We cover human resources matters for 6,000 staff. Where are the employees needed? Where are they able to go? Who can’t work because they’re sick?

Large conversations fly by, and my mind drifts to a couple of friends who have been redeployed, cheerfully in one case, to help screen staff at one of our locations, and fearfully for another who can’t afford to lose her job, is older but not close to retirement and has health issues. They’re not needed for their regular duties now, but they’re desperately needed on the front lines. Each brings their experience, sense of duty, and fear, and I can only imagine how those buckets of emotions overflow at their dinner tables every night, and how that affects their families and well-being. It’s on my list to reach out to see how they’re doing; I haven’t had the time. My day feels organized at 8:30 a.m., but inevitably by noon there is new news to respond to, a crisis, or a question from a politician trying to support residents and needing answers now.

I’m deemed an essential support team member. I communicate to employees and the community on the government response, what the latest regulations mean. I don’t feel essential though, as I sit at my dining room table and watch birds come and go in their natural habitat as blossoms begin to bubble at the ends of new limbs, while nurses and support workers put their lives at risk day in and day out.

My son, Adrian, strolls in and out of our main living area, which is now an office, a kitchen, and a cat and dog runway. My husband, Derrick, has work but not as much, so there are handsaws and nail guns ripping and popping in the background as he keeps himself productive. I apologize to my online colleagues for the noise – though we are told no apologies are necessary. My headset hurts the cartilage on my ears so much they’re hot to the touch.

These long hours are a different kind of essential, one that happens out of public view and looks easy if you see me sitting in my cozy house, looking at birds and blossoms. Still, death counts and layoffs are not what anyone thought they would be working on this spring. It’s hard on the support teams, but we check our risk-level privilege, and stay quiet, knowing it’s so much harder on the front lines.

Adrian is doing the best he can, given the abrupt transition forced upon students. He hasn’t seen a friend since Friday, March 13 – two months ago as I write this, perhaps more like two years to him in “teenage time” (another one of those chronological tricks).

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  • At first, he didn’t miss school. It was fun to be off a bit longer after March Break – like a giddy pile of snow days landed on our doorstep. We both enjoyed that sneaky, skiving-off feeling. Then the boredom set in. We were in limbo. Not in school, but not out. Then the school closure was extended. Lessons began to drip out online. Disorganized at first, they improved over time. Students began to set up their own routines, but when school boards announced that pre-pandemic marks would not decrease, expecting kids to sustain their efforts began to feel like an exercise in futility. Knowing immediate consequences are negligible and figuring they can catch up “later” – it’s a teen’s dream.

    We don’t know yet what “later” looks like. Is it in a month, or two, or six? Do calendars even make sense anymore? The provincial government relieved a few restrictions in mid-May. And locally, the trails were immediately flooded with people who had been cooped up, edgy and needing air, some change of scenery, something, to break the spell. Lineups outside certain stores were orderly for the most part but wildly long, raising fear the numbers of Covid-19 cases would surely rise again in the weeks to follow.

    Debates and opinions online and in person abound. Words like “herd immunity,” “flatten the curve,” “physical distancing,” “N95” and “system capacity” are tossed around, leaving you feeling confused or angry with your family or yourself for not understanding exactly what to do.

    It’s dinnertime as I finish writing this in my office/kitchen, and while the sun is still shining and we should feel happy it’s summer, we are instead anxiously hoping the Covid continuum speeds along, and that soon we will have made it through these very long days and be looking back at the very short years.

    More Info

    During the Covid-19 response, we’re all doing our best to keep our kids happy, safe and engaged. Innovative online resources are incredible right now, allowing families to explore both local and faraway places without leaving home. Here are a few of our favourites.

    Still Awesome!

    Celebrate Your Awesome is hosting what is sure to be an epic virtual House Party on Saturday, June 27. Follow the event on Facebook to celebrate pride and diversity in our community through video performances, dancing and art from noon to 7pm, all leading toward a live-streamed party starting at 8pm with local DJs J Qwest and MC Dana Mac (who have been hosting online DJ nights garnering tens of thousands of views and donating big time to local Covid-19 efforts). Follow the Facebook page and #CYAHOUSEPARTY for fun leading up to the day.

    Covid-19 Time Capsule

    Take a moment with your kids to contribute to a time capsule that will become part of the public record of this historical time. Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives is accepting submissions via [email protected] or you can tag them via your social media channels using #PeelTimeCapsule2020. Share your activity schedules, photos, artwork, video messages and blog posts so future generations can learn about our experiences during the pandemic.

    Colour us impressed

    The New York Academy of Medicine has published a fascinating collection of colouring pages, free to download and print. Museums and libraries around the world are sharing famous works of art, fantastical creatures, botanical lovelies and nods to political history. Spark a conversation with the budding artists in your family (or take some time to calm your own brain by colouring these gratifying graphics).

    Virtual visit to the Aga Khan Museum

    A trip to Toronto’s world-class Aga Khan Museum may not be in the cards right now, but you can make a virtual visit. Puzzles, curator talks and Sunday Funday activities are all based on world arts and culture through the lens of Islamic traditions and intercultural dialogue.; #museumwithoutwalls

    Sculpture walk

    Need an excuse to get out for a family walk after all that online activity? Make it fun by making it a mission to explore Orangeville’s 50-plus tree trunk sculptures. Kid favourites include the Waving Bear, the Hobbit House, Mr. Lacrosse, and Woodland Creatures. You can find a downloadable map of the Art Walk of Tree Sculptures at

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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