Four days before my 27th birthday, Montreal was categorized again as a red zone category for COVID-19. With the implementation of new restrictions, like no longer being able to see people outside of my household even if distanced or the stoppage of eating in restaurants, it meant that I could no longer have any friends over for my birthday like I had been hoping for. Happy Birthday to me.
I wasn’t in Montreal for the strictest restrictions back in March (I went back to Ottawa to stay with my family), but even now, with slightly less intense COVID restrictions, it has been hard living in a red zone.
Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently due to a lot of different factors such as family dynamics, location in Canada, and health background. I know I definitely don’t have all the answers, but still I thought I could shed some light into what it’s like living in one of Canada’s epicentres.
Let’s start with this question I often get; How are you feeling, living in a red zone?
What I present:
What I feel internally:
Now to be fair, there have been some moments where I really do feel fine with how life is right now. I’m not going to say I’m fine with each day, however, because within a single day I can experience all of those GIFs (and many more).
Even though there are moments throughout each day where things seem somewhat normal, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard. I miss seeing my friends and having them over for a cup of coffee. I’m sad that I couldn’t go home to see my family for Thanksgiving. I get angry and frustrated when it feels like this “new normal” will go on forever. I get frustrated with the changing information and the difference of opinions I read online. I’m tired of not being able to go into a coffee shop spontaneously because I left my mask at home. Honestly, I even feel some jealousy sometimes when I see friends in different cities doing things that I can’t.
Living in a red zone is hard. I know there are a lot of places that are worse off, but I also don’t want to belittle my experience, the experience of my peers, or even how you might be experiencing the pandemic. Life is hard right now for many different reasons, and we can feel those feelings without needing to qualify or minimize the struggle that it has been.
This is key. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. What I have found works for me is going out for a walk first thing in the morning. After a brisk walk, a quick shower, and a yummy breakfast, I’m ready to start work for the day. Fast forward to around 5 p.m., and I’m making dinner for the night, along with some leftovers that I can freeze so that I can have meals later in the week.
I’ve also found it helpful to separate my work space from my rest space. Throughout the summer and into the beginning of fall, I was working from my bedroom, but once I was able to separate my work and rest spaces, I found I was more easily able to draw boundaries around rest and work. Now, it actually feels like I’m going to work now, even though my work space is just down the hall to my office. Having a good sense of boundaries was something I valued even before the pandemic, so having the ability to separate these spaces has been a blessing.
This is SO important. Originally. I started going for walks around 7:00 a.m. before work because it was July—and heat, humidity, and Sarah are not friends. Now I walk because it’s the way I love starting my day: listening to my favourite podcast, enjoying the fresh air, and moving my body before I work from home all day. Some days if it’s raining and I decide not to walk, I’ll treat myself and go to a local cafe not far from my house. This gives me the chance to get out, and I can support a local business as well. Win-win!
Pictured here, you will see me rocking a new shirt I got for my birthday (it says “PUMPKIN SPICE Enthusiast”), alongside a wagon I recently purchased. Why did I buy the wagon? As a non-car owner, it was 100% so I could buy a pumpkin that I could carve. Did I plan this outfit out specifically for this day? Yes, I did. With the changing colour of the leaves, I wanted to make this day fun and more celebratory than I normally would. There are very few things that are “normal” about 2020, but still, I’m trying to create a sense of normalcy and find joy in the chaos. I cooked my first whole chicken for Thanksgiving. I’ve been admiring the local fall colours in my neighbourhood, even though I can’t go hiking like I had hoped. My roommate and I plan to decorate for Christmas in November.
I have to confess that there have been moments where I started working and I just wasn’t “feeling it,” and I realized I just wanted to be cozy and in my bed. So you know what? That’s what I did. I got set up under a blanket and worked from my bed.
Or there have been moments when, even though I’ve been very disciplined about going for my morning walk, I woke up at 7 a.m. and thought, “You know what, I’m too tired today” and decided to stay in bed a little bit longer. I still try to get out for a walk at some point each day, but I cut myself some slack and don’t force myself to go before work.
Some days we need to persevere and do the hard things, but I’m learning that listening to my body matters as well. Some days, that means staying in bed a little longer or deciding to get set up and work from my room for the day. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic! There will be some days that you will feel tired, and some days where you will just need to give your body a break. Listen to your body.
If I were to summarize what I believe God’s been teaching me, there are a couple of things that stand out. The first one is simply grace. Grace to embrace the day and how I might feel. The chance to be honest with myself, not in a deprecating way but in a “Hey, life is hard, it makes sense I’m finding it challenging” way. Grace to keep persevering imperfectly as I keep learning a new way of living. Although I’ve studied pandemics in history class, I’ve never lived through one myself. Grace towards others as they imperfectly keep figuring out life too.
Another lesson that I think God’s been teaching me, that overshadows what I shared above, is learning to live in the moment and finding joy in the here and now. Appreciating the little gifts from God each day, like the sun shining through a tree, watching the neighbour’s cat explore my backyard, interacting with a local shop owner and letting them know how much I love their store.
The final thing I want to include is this, my current motto that I have hung up in my office.
I don’t know when the red zone categorization and restrictions will end. I don’t know when I’ll be able to freely see my friends or travel between my favourite cities. I don’t know when this will all be over. But I will find joy anyway. I will look for it in the everyday gifts God has given me. Not ignoring what’s hard, but holding it all up with open hands.