I took a stunning picture on one of my walks along the canal on day 7 of this craziness. It was a particularly difficult day for me as I wrestled with the uncertainty of what lay ahead.
Over the past four months I have walked that route repeatedly while struggling to recreate the photo as the seasons changed. I have a thing about documenting the passage of time, and it seems as though that moment has refused to cooperate.
I live in a very vibrant part of town. I have an amazing apartment with a huge area of outdoor space that looks over a quiet residential street. Looking for this apartment nearly 10 years ago was an enormous stress. I had moved back from Costa Rica the year before with $2000 in my bank account and decided to return to school for massage therapy. I was born and raised in Ottawa but fled as soon as I could (it took me nearly two decades to return for good). It was a difficult landing, and I spent my first summer in Toronto teaching yoga and doing thai massage to raise my tuition fees. I settled on an apartment in Westboro that really wasn’t my style, so when I gave my two months notice, I was insistent on ticking just three boxes: laundry onsite, centretown location and aesthetically pleasing outdoor space, (not a concrete balcony). Two and a half weeks before moving day I still had not found my home. I started lying about my income (which was zero while I was in school), and it became a full-time job cycling around the city looking at potential places to live. They were all dumps!
Stressed to the max, I scored my now home just two weeks before moving day, and have not budged since. It ticked all of the boxes and at the time, was the priciest place I had seen. I didn’t care.
I am introverted by nature and spend a lot of time at home. My home has to feel like an oasis, and often people entering my space comment on how great the energy feels… this is not unique to my current apartment, it has always been the case.
Like everyone else, I have ridden the wave of the COVID ups and downs. Overnight we all experienced drastic life changes. I slumped right into the victim roll exclaiming, “at least you still have a job,” and “be thankful you have a partner by your side.”
It was a lot.
I learned quickly about the role my work plays in my life. Massage therapy brings me social connection through the tiny snippets of small talk to the deeper heartfelt conversations with my clients. The physical aspects are just as healing for me as they are for you. I was feeling the loss of this more than anything. But I have a lot of experience with introspection and I got right down to it.
I walked 10K a day. I devoured book after book, completing one every few days. I wrote. A lot. I explored new territory on my bike and rode farther than I ever have in a day. I drank a lot of wine too (and beer, and gin and moonshine -maple, if you’re wondering). I did all this, not because I am disciplined (or an alcoholic). I did it because I had nothing else to do.
The hardest part was hearing my friends who were also struggling —but in very different ways— tell me how lucky I am to live alone. How lucky I am to have this beautiful outdoor deck. How lucky I am to have time to get out on my bike and go for long walks. How lucky I am to be able to afford to live on the $2k a month offered by CERB.
I want you to know that my feet have never been so constantly blistered and sore in all my life. My neck is in perpetual spasm from poor reading posture and I need glasses now from the screen (I read on my iPad). In the spring on my walks, my mind was consumed with finding a decent place I could shelter myself to empty my bladder, (which makes for a lousy walk). Now that it’s hot, a migraine might blind me while I’m barely hydrated 30k from home on my bike (despite the water I brought with me). There is not a lot of perfection going on. But my home? Thankfully I made that happen a decade ago.
My favourite are the yogis. The ones spouting words that I cringe to admit have been my words also: “this is a wonderful opportunity to dig in and do some deep emotional work.” Can you hear the sugary patronization of that tone? It’s not intentional, but it can come across as lacking in empathy.
I am so sorry for ever condescending to you like that. Apart from maybe your therapist or partner, no one has the right to allude to how much work you have yet to do.
The BIGGEST lesson I have learned through all of this is to let go of comparison. Your struggles, that are the thing I long for, and my struggles, that are the thing you long for? They feel the same amount of crappy.
And you’re right. I am lucky, (but really, I made those choices and luck had nothing to do with it —for better or for worse).
I got to return to touching people this week and it has been more glorious than you can imagine. I am in an industry that has allowed me to resume a somewhat normal life. I feel so greatly for everyone who is working from home, longing for the day they get to leave the house for their morning commute. I have no advice for you… do what you have to do. No one knows when things will change, and I hope that if you are out there getting blisters on your feet, obsessing about where to pee and fighting off a migraine, you’re doing it with authenticity.