I think it fair to say that this seemingly never-ending pandemic has forced most people to drastically alter their activities and day-to-day routines. It has reached the point where I have started to look upon my life in terms of BC and AC – Before Covid and After Covid. It seems like BC was so long ago instead of just the fifteen months or so that have elapsed since this malignant microscopic virus left its breeding grounds in Wuhan, China and infected virtually every corner of our globe.
Aside from the damage to our physical well-being and potentially lethal consequences of catching the virus, it has also become apparent that there is a mental health price being paid as we struggle to control and eliminate this viral scourge. Humans are highly social animals, and being forced to isolate ourselves in our homes and curtail almost all social activities is highly unnatural and detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being.
This has also significantly affected the cultural aspect of our lives, which, particularly if you are Ukrainian, plays an important part in our sense of “hromada” or community spirit and self-awareness. We can no longer actualize our “Ukrainian-ness” by being part of a choir or dance group. We cannot vent our spirit and energies by attending a “zabava” (dance) and attacking the dance floor to the rousing music and rhythms of Ron Cahute, or bands such as Zirka, or Dunai or the Kubasonics. We cannot honour or commemorate our history, ancestors and culture through concerts, festivals, exhibitions, banquets and anniversary celebrations. We cannot even engage in the spiritual comfort of going to church and partaking in the rituals that have sustained Ukrainians for over a millennium. These are all on hold for the foreseeable future.
This prolonged period of altered circumstances has produced some interesting side-effects in people’s behaviour, including myself. They are mostly little things, but quite indicative of the challenges and changes that Covid has foisted upon us. For instance, I have noticed that the mundane chore of going shopping has become a highlight of my weekly schedule. In BC times, going grocery shopping was viewed as a necessary evil, a task to be endured rather than enjoyed. No more – shopping is now something I eagerly look forward to. Once or twice a week I get to leave my self-imposed prison and go out into the world. I take my time, prolonging the experience by navigating every aisle and inevitably buying more things than I ever intended. Who would have thought that shopping could ever be such a positive and entertaining experience!
Another unintended though probably predictable side effect is the fact that my wife and I found ourselves indulging in the fruit of the vine a little more than normal. We learned that the stresses and restrictions caused by Covid could be somewhat ameliorated and mitigated by a glass or two of good wine. Inevitably something that was only indulged in primarily on weekends or with company became part of our nightly routine. Fortunately, we were disciplined and responsible enough to appreciate the risks of this strategy and keep it in check. Amongst other things, we gave up alcohol entirely for Lent and were able to prove to ourselves that Bacchus’ gift was something that we could enjoy from time to time and not a necessity that would lead us inexorably down the road to perdition.
Obviously, having more time on one’s hands than one is typically used to brings about potentially harmful temptations. However, it also provides us with the opportunity to do things that in normal circumstances we would not have the time or inclination to do. I have taken the time during the pandemic to do some things that were not in my normal repertoire. I have refurbished and given new life to an old, possibly antique cabinet that had been collecting dust in my garage since I inherited it when I bought my current house over a decade ago. I have learned the arts of fermentation and now know how to make hard cider from scratch. I have expanded my culinary knowledge and become a better cook. In recent months I have significantly expanded my backyard garden and converted my indoor windowsills into improvised greenhouses for my starter plants. I have also done more genealogical research into the history of my ancestors.
The pandemic need not be just something that has to be suffered and endured. It can also be the springboard to us exploring new interests and possibilities. And they don’t need to be major or dramatic changes to our lives. It is amazing how even little thing can bring joy and value to our lives in a time of crisis.