Tag Archives: COVID-19

Positively positive

I am an optimist. I CAN’T HELP IT. When unfortunate events occur, my natural response is: “Okay, let’s deal with this. How can good come of it?”

This past week I was alarmed and disturbed when someone brought the phrase “toxic positivity” to my attention. The Psychology Group calls it “the dark side of the ‘positive vibes’ trend.”

We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

— The Psychology Group: “Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes”

Has my relentless positivity been annoying the heck out of people? Have I been robbing people of their sorrow? Maybe I have friends who are secretly licking wounds I unintentionally inflicted on them?

If so, I apologize, but I CAN’T HELP IT.

It’s not that I don’t ever feel sad, or mad, or angry. I do. But I am incapable of dwelling in those states, and I find it hard to understand it when people do.

If there was ever a time for people to explore the breadth of emotions, it’s during a pandemic. Over the past seven months I have felt sad, mad and angry. Of course I have. But I’ve also been saying, “Okay, let’s deal with this. How can good come of it?”

I have been practising gratitude at every turn, and I have found so many things to feel positive about. For example, I am grateful to have acquired the skill of picking up a tennis ball without using my hands, so as to (ahem) not touch other people’s balls.

Woman picking up tennis ball using a shoe and the racquet
No more bending! I can now lodge the ball between my shoe and the racquet and lift.

When I asked my Facebook friends, they too had found many positives amongst the negatives.

Physical Activity: My friends took up physical activities they had never done before, or had not done in a long time: tennis, biking, walking, and stand-up paddleboarding. One friend described her new kickboxing habit as a “great way to work out the COVID angst.”

Technology: We have learned how to use online communications platforms. We are doing online coaching, yoga and fitness classes. One friend learned how to use a coverstitch sewing machine to make athletic leggings with a professional look. And, of course, there’s online grocery shopping.

Connections: We aren’t seeing people like we were before, but we’re seeing people in a different way. One women meets a 94-year-old friend from Scotland every week via Zoom. Many people have met neighbours they never knew before, because suddenly everyone is working from home and going for walks. We’re helping each other with groceries and dropping off baked goods. We’re enjoying family time. playing games, eating together. While stocking up on books before the lockdown, a friend met someone who runs a writers group.

Services: Two of my friends learned how to groom their dogs. Many, many of them cut their own hair or a family member’s hair. We watched YouTube videos to learn how to do just about anything. Another friend has learned how to do her own gel nails.

Hobbies: Sewing, cooking new things, gardening, drying seeds, and canning are on the list of hobbies developed in the past seven months. I’ve been doing lots of writing. One friend started buying and selling used vinyl (albums in my lingo). He is, “having a blast. Meeting all kinds of interesting people (at a distance) and adding considerably to [his] music knowledge base.”

Self-care: Through all of this we have been trying to take care of ourselves. The physical activity is helping with that. One friend lost 30 pounds. Another friend has taken up a meditation practice.

These are all little ways of dealing with the negative. When can do them when we’re sad, mad or angry.

Collectively we’re saying, “Okay, let’s deal with this. What good can come of it?”

yellow frisbee with a happy face
Put on a happy face . . . but only when you’re ready.

Grow with the flow

A few weeks ago in her post Planned Spontaneity, Laurie Buchanan of Tuesdays with Laurie contemplated the different growing patterns of trees and pondered how that compared to how we lead our lives.

  • Are you a planner, with specific ideas of which you want to go?
  • Do you live haphazardly, bending every which way?

Like most people, she is a cross between two styles: 70% planned, 30% free spirit.

I am about 50/50, but when I was younger I led a much more planned existence. Spontaneity made me uneasy back then. In fact, friends used to make fun of my wary stick-to-routine life and pushed me to step outside my comfort zone.

And then I became a freelance writer. Talk about unpredictable.

I have developed more comfort with the “unexpected.”

Once I discovered that some of my most amazing life experiences occurred when I said, “Let’s go this way and see what happens,” spontaneity came more easily. When I allowed life to unfold naturally, it always seemed to lead me to an important and life-changing experience.

“Given the unpredictability of this crazy world, it’s good to be able to grow with the flow,” I wrote in Laurie’s comment section, and that feels true to me. Best not to cling to plans in this COVID time, am I right? It has forced even the most wary of us out of any routines we might have been sticking to.

I’m trying to grow with that flow. All of this feels important and life-changing.

Two trees twining together as they grow.
These trees are growing with the flow together.

The power of +1

Late yesterday afternoon, the COVID-19 statistics for Canada looked like this:

One person had died in my country. I tried to imagine who that one person was. Perhaps it was a mother from Newfoundland, or someone’s petite soeur from Québec, or a farmer from the prairies, or a former lighthouse keeper on the British Columbia coast.

Somewhere in my country yesterday a family was grieving.

This morning I checked the stats. At the time I started writing, there were +1481 new deaths worldwide.

I tried to imagine who those people were. Perhaps they were mothers from Florida, or someone’s petites soeurs from France, or farmers in Russia, or former lighthouse keepers in Australia.

Just now I reloaded the page, and it looks like this. In the last half hour the number increased by +1.

From https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Somewhere in the world a family is grieving.

The number +1 allows us to try to imagine that person. We can empathize. When the number is much larger, it becomes impossible to draw individuals in our minds. The empathy thins out or disappears. But we can’t forget that the large number is made up of 1s.

Here is what 1482 looks like in 1s.

11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 1111111111111111111111111111111 . . . 1 . . .

Each +1 of us can do our part to slow down and stop the numbers. We don’t want to have to try to imagine your family.

Tech-off Part II: The need for reliable, in-depth news

When journalists appeared on this kind of “jumbo screen,” (3 square feet!) all news gatherers had to dig deep for their stories.

Remember when the word Twitter was never a part of a news story?

I miss those days.

The first time I saw a Twitter news story—you know the kind where a person stands in a studio beside a big screen and points to Tweets written by prominent citizens, or ordinary citizens who write something pithy—I was looking for information about an Important Community Event. To inform me about that event, the news source relied on Twitter. He hadn’t:

  • left his cushy chair, except to walk to the big screen
  • made a phone call

I was shaken. How is that news coverage?

These days, anyone, anywhere can post information that hasn’t been fact-checked, or even alternative fact-checked.

Enter COVID-19 and social distancing. Even if journalists wanted to leave their cushy chairs to interview someone in person, it’s not allowed. It is not only acceptable but expected that journalists use Zoom, or FaceTime, or Google Meet, or any number of other such resources for video interviews.

What happens after social distancing passes? How many of our news gatherers will continue that practice because it’s easier, if less effective?

The newsrooms of the most reliable news sources don’t have the staff they used to; people don’t pay for news when there’s so much free stuff floating around out there.

Because we’re not paying, we’re paying in a different way.

Reliable, trustworthy, in-depth news is getting hard to find. Thinking about it has me feeling a little tech-ed off.

Subscribe to your favourite, reliable, trustworthy news source.

Tech-ed off: More technology, less technology

During my book club gathering (on Zoom) one of my friends said she was becoming a little “tech-ed off.”

The need to hold a book club electronically does test the patience. Sure, it’s fine to discuss the book via the internet, but, let’s be honest, the real heart and soul of a book club is the shared glasses of wine, the tea, the dessert, and the lingering conversations that have nothing at all to do with literature. Being deprived of that connection has me a little tech-ed off too.

At the same time, I am so-o-o-o-o-o grateful for technology in other ways. I have spent more time on my laptop over the past six weeks than ever.

Even though the electronic book club was not as satisfying, it was better than no book club at all. I’ve participated in writing circles, dinners, coffee times, meetings, and church. Seeing a friend’s face pop up on a video screen is not as much fun as an in-person visit, but it’s . . . enough. The whole experience certainly has clarified who the people are that I really want to see.

I’ve also done more activities not related to technology than ever. There are six of us here, ranging in age from 22 to 64.

We have done:

  • paint night
  • blind coffee taste test (McDonald’s overall winner. Really.)
  • blind beer taste test (Molson Canadian overall winner. Really.)
  • giant crossword puzzle
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • learn-to-draw night
  • card games
  • board games (Scattergories, Scrabble, Cranium)
  • baking (desserts, bagels, baguette, bread, sourdough starter, pizza dough)
  • walking and biking
  • cleaning and organizing

In some ways this experience has a “time at the cottage” feel. We’re doing a lot of the same things we would when technology isn’t an option.

Except for when we’re using technology more than ever.