The sun warms my skin through the window. The mountains rise on either side of the road, green and lush from the spring rains sweeping through the valley. The blue sky is dappled with wisps of high cloud as we drive down the twisting highway. Once over the peak, we dip down into the desert valley. The vegetation has changed to dry soil dotted with prickly shrubs. On our private deck, we sip some wine, breathe in the inky twilight of our lakeview, and recognize how fortunate we are to have this retreat in our pandemic world.
When the pandemic swooped in and flipped our world upside down, the everyday things that were a part of our lives came to a screeching halt – no more leisurely shopping, no night out with the girls, no salon visits, no spas, no dinners out in our favorite restaurants, no concerts, no festivals, no work, no money, and whole lot of uncertainty. In some ways, we fell into a simpler time. We learned to appreciate the small things and how to entertain ourselves within the shelter of our own home. For me, it was an opportunity to rest and unwind from the tightly coiled rope of our pecuniary lives.
For three months I waited and watched the virus numbers climb and fall in our region. Some areas fared worse than others. In my part of the world, we are slowly reopening our economy – personal services have resumed under new restrictions and guidelines; restaurants and some retail stores reopened, people went back to work, and public transit resumed its regular service. It seems surreal that after weeks of wondering when our lives would be normal again, all these things we hoped to get back are now tainted with an unfamiliar fear.
It’s time for me to venture out into the world again. Living with RA and the medications I take to control it makes me high risk – but despite that, I have decided to come back to life. Being an artist, I have always lived a little on the edge. I never had that financial stability coveted by most. I have always lived paycheck to paycheck, worked several jobs at the same time, left jobs and got new ones, all to support my artistic world. In some ways, I have readied myself for this new pandemic life by quickly adapting to change and walking a very thin tightrope. The life I am returning to now, is not the life I knew before, but a new one with different rules to follow – and as long as I stick by those guidelines and follow those rules, I will be okay.
I have gradually returned to my workplace, splitting my time between home and office to keep my exposure low; we have enjoyed a patio night outdoors at a local restaurant, nestled in our own little private section; I visited my hair stylist for the first time in three months and had my first dental appointment. My partner and I are planning a physical distance wedding ceremony on the beach, and we took our first “Covid holiday” in the natural beauty of our own province.
Not everyone is ready to come back into the world and that’s fine. We make the decisions that work for us, and no one should be judged for it. There will be those who won’t practice physical distancing or wear masks; there are some that don’t believe the pandemic is really that serious. There are some that don’t understand the need for protecting others. It’s easy to call them selfish, but we don’t know their story, their pain, or their fear. We can’t control how other people will behave, but we can take our own precautions to stay safe and emerge into the world when we are ready.
Life will go on and it’s up to us to decide how and when to go on with it. I want to live it as much as I can. I won’t take unnecessary risks, but I am going to enjoy what the world has to offer, limited as it may be. The sooner I step out to face the world, the easier it will be for me to recreate my place in it.
Stay safe everyone.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.