Physically Distant, Socially Close

//Physically Distant, Socially Close

Physically Distant, Socially Close

Transient hearts fly home, stay
Love from a distance today
Embrace freedom of the mind
Find joy there! A timeless kind

“Embrace freedom of the mind”?! “Find joy there!”? In my mind right now? A timeless kind of chatter that sounds exactly like breaking news.

And I wrote that quatrain! The first two lines are an ongoing duty. We must stay home! The last two lines? A desirable goal, seemingly unattainable at the moment.

I’ve been doing my Headspace mediation daily, bearing witness to zipping thoughts as I try to count breaths, glued to my chair for fifteen minutes or so, till Andy Puddicombe finally releases me, in his lovely English accent: “And you may open your eyes again.” Phew! And I pick up my phone to scroll newsfeeds, or check the TSX (up today), or catch a daily presser – Trudeau, the US President*, or if I’m lucky, my favourite, the Pacino-like, no nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is-with-facts governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Despite monumental challenges – the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the US, questionable help from the feds, various medical supply shortages (equipment, beds, etc) – he’s doing a good job, huh?

I’ve been working out most mornings too, doing Jazzercise in front of a full-length mirror in my bedroom, making sure not to knock over the plant on the shelf beside me with my arm, or kick the bed on one side, or the wall on the other. I had this grand idea of doing a junior Jazzercise set with my three grandkids – 7, 6 and 3 years old – daily, over FaceTime on my computer, but the camera is small, the connection dodgy, and well, it just didn’t work. Instead, I’ve been doing that set with my sister-in-law (we ignore the tiny images, dodgy connection) in exchange for art lessons, prodding my troubled brain to expand, learn something new.

But then this happened late last week. My daughter, Randelle, texted from her home in BC: “Hey fam, we think I have influenza. My entire body aches, headache, chills, sore throat. I can’t smell or taste anything.” Nooo! I was responding when my sister, who looks after WSIB claims for a food services and support company, called, sounding upset. She was up until midnight the night before working on employee layoffs. My husband B, who works in venue management, was upset too, also working on employee layoffs.

My background is construction; layoffs were part of the landscape. Fortunately, these layoffs are temporary and the government stimulus package goes a long way toward softening the financial blow.

As real as it might be, though, I rejected the notion of putting my daughter and coronavirus together. (I feel a mild headache coming on these days? I’ve got IT, a severe case, and I’m gasping for breath.) The fatal reports I’ve read are jarring: a 16-year-old girl in France who “just had a cough”, a 25-year-old pharmacy tech in LA with no underlying conditions, over 50 doctors in Italy.

Randelle and her fiancé had just made the sad decision to cancel their June wedding due to the pandemic. Please, I prayed, if she has IT, let it be the mild version.

One saving grace? B and I had started a 1500-piece jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen island and every time we walked by, we worked on it. An addictive and meditative distraction for a disturbing week.

Have you been able to figure out what’s going on with testing? CBC News tells me Canada has tested 221,000 and the US over one million. It seems we’re doing barely enough, and I keep hearing through medical channels that Ontario doesn’t have a good supply. Perhaps BC doesn’t either, because Randelle was not tested, despite her symptoms. Thankfully, she rallied by the weekend and was back up and about.

The experts, Bill Gates included (there’s a good new TED Talk interview on YouTube with him you should check out), say that to get our countries back on track at this point, now that the “horse is out of the barn”, we need to continue with physical distancing, while also ramping up testing so as to get a better handle on where IT is, contact tracing, etc. While Gates is truthful and knowledgeable about our current situation, he remains optimistic about our future abilities to handle a pandemic of greater consequence that may come.

I, personally, find the lack of test kits, ventilators and PPE deeply disturbing. Our countries have some of the most intelligent, creative and industrious minds on the planet and we can’t get our shit together to supply the front lines with the equipment they need to fight the war against this virus? Why? Are we that mired in bureaucracy?

If we don’t work in government, I guess there’s little we can do to fix things, except call our representatives. And, as far as our daily lives go, do we really need heads of state to show us the way, or can we help ourselves, in our own communities?

Earlier last week I listened to a great Podcast: Rich Roll and his wife, Julie Piatt. Roll made the comment that a reactive state is fear-based and therefore, not productive. Aha! That’s why the President* is an expert fear-mongerer: he prides himself on being reactive, not proactive.

So, if we go back to my little quatrain, this is a time for going inward. I mean, what the heck else is there to do? Most of us are stuck inside! One of Piatt’s cherished guides said this of our current situation: “This is a gentle way to wake us up to let us know what is going to be required for us to transform this planet.”

Pollution? Down. Consumerism? Down. Roll suggests, when we emerge from isolation, we pursue co-creation as opposed to consumption.

These are strange days. And scary and sad. I pray for the recovery of songwriting legend John Prine (“Angel from Montgomery”), who has been intubated due to coronavirus, is in stable condition. And I pray for anyone suffering, or anyone who has lost a loved one to any condition, as funerals are being downsized or postponed. And I pray for the front line workers, for the equipment they need, for the strength – physical and mental – for battle.

It’s a paradox, yes? We share the susceptibility to coronavirus with all of humanity, the world over, yet we must keep all humans, except the ones we live with, arm’s length away.

You have no choice right now. Go inward. See what you find.








  1. Hilaryslater1 April 4, 2020 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Beautiful and sad at the same time. I feel numb to it all today.. there need to be positive messages for the world soon, or hope will not keep us going eh?
    Great title ;))
    Xx Hil

    • Rita Hartley April 4, 2020 at 9:50 am - Reply

      It is a great title – thank you for that! One must go day by day in these times, control what one can. The sun still comes out! Zoom (thanks again!) is a great tool to help with hope.

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