• Karen

Not so smug now, are you?

Updated: Apr 12

Relax, I’m talking to me, not you.

During the first year of the pandemic I didn’t gain any weight. I didn’t learn to bake sourdough bread or speak French either, but I felt ahead of the game. I’d been teaching online for years, so I whipped up a booklet of tips for my academic peers who were leaving the live classroom for the first time, faithfully stuck to my exercise routine, and felt thankful I was naturally introverted. This was going to be a breeze.

Not so fast there, Karen. Oh, and have I mentioned lately the joy of having one’s name become linguistic shorthand for evil?

Now well into year two of the Covid-19 global crisis I am missing my US family and friends in a heartbreaking way, trying to figure out how to deal with students who have long-term misery layered on top of their academic challenges, and Googling “should I give up and buy bigger pants?” What happened?

Turns out a world-wide health crisis, on top of a climate crisis, on top of the normal unrest we get when humans…well, act human creates a lot of stress without a clear end point. This lack of “when will this be over?” clarity wears down the human spirit. Stress has physical consequences too, and yes, that includes those of us taking long walks, journaling, meditating, and eating extra veggies.

I’m tired. Tired of remembering to bring a mask, tired of double-checking every little detail before I go out to run an errand, tired of news stories that illustrate that every time I think I’ve seen the lowest form of nasty behavior…someone, somewhere, says “hold my beer.” And for over a year I’ve been about to. You know, about to schedule that trip to see my family, about to take that mini-vacation to the Okanogan wine country, about to start attending new groups and functions in person, but then a new series of obstacles appears. Did I mention, I’m tired?

I’m not alone in my distress. Lots of people packed on pounds over the last 16 months. Cross-border families are beginning to see each other, but connecting with family in another country remains a challenge for those of us who took the international lifestyle path. And millions of people are reporting mental health challenges. In particular, students are really struggling to study, keep family and work commitments, and maintain good mental health these days. Life is tough, and I have the luxury of seeing all this from Canada. While we might be tired and annoyed in industrialized nations, others are living through a nightmare of medieval proportions.

So, now that life has shown me in a vivid way that I don’t have everything under control, what’s next? Step one, ditch the canned and simple advice.

Listening to a speaker recently talk about disability justice, I was struck by their comment, “we don’t all do human the same way.” Our triumphs, our struggles, and ultimately our day-to-day coping strategies are uniquely individual, even when we are swimming in the same turbulent waters. It’s time to recognize that YOUR way and MY way of dealing with a year and a half of disruption are going to be different and that’s how it’s supposed to be.

If ever there was a moment to “live your truth” this is it.

Truth for me right now is big ideas like embracing my teaching and writing as part of my identity and meaningful work, whether or not they result in fame and fortune. It’s also making healthy relationships a priority and letting toxic people fall by the wayside. Then there are the smaller bits of living my truth like pruning my social media feeds to beautiful and creative ideas and ditching politics. And yes, I bought bigger pants.

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