The province of Ontario, Canada, is exiting our third strict lockdown, and somehow unexpectedly, I feel melancholic, perhaps even anxious about the departure of the restrictive measures. One of the fantastic benefits of being confined to a small geographical area is the act of slowing down, the ability to see and feel my whole self with an unprecedented awareness than before the pandemic struck.
I feel a complete lack of enthusiasm about re-entering society at full tilt and, in response, crafted twenty reasons why I’m not ready to say goodbye to the lockdown. Does my list portray a pretentious, whiny white-collar employee in light of our front-line workers risking the contraction of Covid every day? Most likely, yes. Is there a balance between my desire to sustain the current lockdown and the plight of essential workers? Let’s find out.
Twenty Reasons Why It’s Hard To Let The Lockdown Go
Before we answer the critical question of whether I’m behaving like a constant complainer, here are twenty reasons why I enjoy living like a hermit during the lockdown. Do any points resonate with you?
- Time granted to know who is essential in my life and which people I genuinely want to spend time with. Relationships with my parents have flourished, and I continue to discover new aspects of their diverse personalities.
- An ability to focus and accomplish goals with little to no interference from the outside world.
- This past year marked a period of intense learning and honing new skills; psychotherapy, foraging, social media management, SEO, writing, Kanban certifications, the list goes on.
- I’ve built engaging online social relationships and expanded my network.
- There are low to no airplanes in the sky: no jet streams and a reduction in air pollution. I notice the many different types of clouds and watch the tufts of white marshmallows traverse across the sky.
- With less pollution, the grass is greener — literally.
- I discovered how living in a 450 square foot condo downtown Toronto made me feel constricted, like being in prison, no matter how tasteful I decorated the interior. My mind and soul craved space — and leaving the city for the country was one of my best decisions.
- My life is scaled back and simple; I like the ease and slow pace.
- I possess zero guilt for not attending social engagements out of obligation—complete freedom.
- While Zoom is not everyone’s best friend, the application works for me, and I’ve yet to experience fatigue. In April 2021, I started a new position at a top Canadian pension fund and have operated the entire time remotely, never having met my coworkers. Yet, we have established work relationships, dare I even say, friendships online. I know my colleagues, we have a bond, and I possess genuine care for their wellbeing.
- The move to the country allows me to save money and fast-track mortgage payments. Did someone say freedom 50?
- I see the season’s change and nature flourish in all its glory. The fine details of birds’ feathers, the texture of squishy mushrooms, or the smell of decomposing pine needles are delightful; my senses heighten.
- Wow, my mom taught me how to make pie pastry from scratch, and I’m pretty good at it. These days I look in the mirror and ask — who is this person?!
- Pre-pandemic, I never woke up each day at 6:00 AM. Are you crazy? A year later, my eyes pop open at 5:50 AM, regardless of whether it’s a Sunday or Wednesday, all without an alarm. My new routine allows me to crack into writing, catch up on corporate work, and generally perform the most challenging tasks, thereby allowing a lighter afternoon. A powerful habit formed, and I can accomplish much more than ever before.
- Long soaks in the bath with the windows open, listening to the sounds of birds chirping.
- Time to perform tasks I’ve put off for too long, such as writing a will.
- Pre-pandemic, I ate green smoothies for dinner by myself in front of a laptop. Instead, over the past year, at 6:00 PM each night, our family eats dinner together — no cell phones allowed. Everyone discusses their day, and a sense of camaraderie and community happens around the table. I’m now the designated dish cleaner, a task I find enjoyable while bantering silly facts and trivia with my mom.
- My mom is obsessed with cutting fresh flowers and strategically placing the bouquets throughout the home. I love waking up and smelling the fragrance in our living space, a new sensation from my previous living situation.
- I’m honing my target shooting skills with the family; we finally found an outdoor pastime everyone enjoys.
- And finally, with the newfound connection to the earth, I feel a deeper spiritual connection with the universe and my maker.
As you can see, the lockdown has positively benefited my life in multiple ways because of newfound time I either didn’t have or didn’t create for myself pre-pandemic.
My Challenge Of Returning To The New Normal
And now that I live two hours east of Toronto in the countryside when I think about a four-hour-a-day commute and a forthcoming return to an office, I feel a tremendous sense of resistance and loss. One where the new life I’ve built will be interrupted, forced into a rat race, and backsliding into disconnection of self and the world around me once again.
The idea of wasting time and a ton of money on travel via train, subway, and by foot makes me shake my head in wonder — how will I be able to do this? My productivity level will decrease by at least fifty percent. The mere thought of what lies ahead makes me feel anxious, one where I’m already considering ways to negotiate with my employer to continue remote work.
As I write about my challenge, I am well aware of how I may sound to others; in particular our essential and front-line workers.
OK, Whiner. Other People Have It Far Worse.
As news coverage of white collar employees’ return to the office picks up, there is a sense of resentment among some essential workers for whom there is no return, since they continued working on-site throughout the pandemic.
Milford asks readers to share their thoughts on the increased number of employees returning to office buildings and what the new normal will mean.
One LinkedIn user, Ron Craig, responded:
Essential workers are already over our whining about returning to work.
Can you really blame them?
I live with an essential healthcare worker!
My wife has not had a vacation since March 2020 and she works more hours per week than before the pandemic. Most days she doesn’t even get a lunch! So less time off… more hours and WAY more stress and anxiety by being more exposed to the risk. Not to mention less time with family which she values deeply.
Damn. Ron has a valid point. After reading several LinkedIn member comments, I, too, feel deep empathy for the front line and essential employees who have toiled long hours, most without vacation, sleep-deprived and anxious. Most of the unsung heroes risked contracting Covid every single day. And here I am crying about the pain of returning to an office.
So What Now?
While I can’t ignore how I feel and refuse to shelve my emotions, I recognize each person faces a unique challenge in their response to the world opening up once again.
In this situation, it is easy to create a divisive “us versus them” mentality, one where the pandemic has and still impacts everyone on the planet. As a psychotherapist-in-training, I’m aware of the necessity of finding empathy for each human being and meeting each person where they’re at in their journey of accepting the world opening up once again. Yes, there is room even for my white-collar discontentment.
I’m grateful for the online discussions illuminating the plight of our frontline and essential workers and know my challenges feel tiny in comparison. The next time I start whining about everything I perceive I will lose by re-entering society, I will consider what our nurses, garbage collectors, restaurant owners, and everyone else must be going through to find a fresh perspective on my scenario.