Renewal through fire

The world is in outrage this week, and rightly so. Left right and center we are seeing our cities and social media light up with the fervor of a brewing rebellion. Writing this comes as a challenge to me, so much of the last few months feels beyond comprehension – but it was all leading to this moment when things finally boiled over.

It needed to happen. Those of us who speak from a place of privilege and denial needed to be outraged, my only question is why did it take so long? Did things really need to get so terrible everywhere that peaceful marches and speeches were no longer enough, so bad we could no longer pretend that it was a problem somewhere else? Only an American problem, only a midwest problem, only an Alberta problem?

The answer is of course, and why? The simple reason that this discussion has happened over and over again in peaceful ways with a lot of follow up lip service and not much else. What is happening is not surprising, and though I like to think I grew up feeling like everyone should be treated with the same kind of decency, I know full well that this is not the world reality. Furthermore, I know I have allowed myself to do very little outside of my own circle of impact – meaning the people I personally interact with – and as such lived in the kind of denial that so many white people are guilty of. I knew the problem exists, I was deeply troubled hearing about crimes committed towards the BIPOC community, but because I wasn’t seeing it in my reality it was not something I was seeking out. So, if I as a person who grew up feeling like all people should be seen as equals to be treated with respect can allow myself to lose sight of the injustices, imagine a whole system built on perpetuating the opposite kind of attitude. More to come, this is only beginning one can only hope that for once the result is action.

New Normal

Walking through the city in late March, the cherry blossoms are out. The sun gains warmth with each day. It calls to us, invites us outside. But we are asked to stay inside, to avoid our friends and family. To isolate and social distance. I am heading to my community garden plot and the city feels ominous in a way it never has before. Some businesses have covered windows, in an attempt to curb the recent increase in thefts. Most places are closed, signs in the window letting us know to find them online. The streets are nearly empty, people seem to be taking the state of emergency more seriously. A welcome change from stories of people throwing parties “because they are young and immune” or pushing seniors to the ground to spit at them for reminding people to distance.

There is another woman at the garden, I see her from time to time. Each time she tells me how hard she finds all this; she is in her late 60s or early 70s and has told me she hasn’t much experience with technology. Virtual life is not for her she says. She is used to being outside nearly every day, and I can’t blame her for going a little stir crazy. We chat for a minute six feet apart, she asks me again “how long do you think this will go on for?”. I want to reassure her, but I can’t the truth is it could be weeks, or it could be months. We won’t really know until we come to the end. So, I tell her to hang in there, remind her that the park is ok, but to stay away from groups of people. There is no smile on her face with this answer, just slightly less tension.

The new normal has crept up around the city. Ghost town feelings have begun to drift away as the weather warms up people are out again, walking in the park, in the street, but from a safe distance. Still, things do not feel normal, or comfortable by any means and as we enter our fifth week, cabin fever has begun to seep in. My husbands work has slowed and some weeks he doesn’t work, so I see him more and more as I work from my little home office. The space which once felt roomy and light begins to feel smaller, I find myself closing the office door more often to be alone a little. We find ourselves in a strange kind of isolation – missing social contact but feeling too much of one’s house mates or close family. Suddenly the lack of balcony or yard is a point of contention – how could we be such fools?

Only a few short months ago we gathered with friends, feasting the night away as we rang in the new decade. Such promise ahead, I reflect now, how had I not heard of this impending doom? Apparently, we knew since December, I know when I initially heard the news I didn’t take it seriously. I even scorned my teenage niece for spreading mis-information on her social media, she is probably chuckling now – she wasn’t entirely wrong, and I was being arrogant. So where do we find ourselves now? I arm myself with gloves and hand sanitizer, consciousness seems heightened I am more aware of every item or surface I touch. Who knows what could be lurking on that door handle, shopping cart or package of toilet paper? We apply for EI and emergency funding to make sure the bills keep getting paid, at least I can still work from home. I want to tell myself not to think about it, but that won’t help me now, the plexiglass shields, spaced lineups and 6 million EI claims are there to remind me. We are dealing with something out of the ordinary.

When things began the threat felt imminent, we glued ourselves to the TV, listening to daily 11am live-streams from the prime minister. Waiting to see if our efforts to distance will have made a difference and flattened the curve. For weeks, every talk show and media outlet was spouting “flattening the curve”, from something none of us had to heard of to words which echo in all our minds as we isolate. Weeks in limbo, not knowing day to day whether the other shoe would drop and our precarious situation might come crumbling down. Within my work, reports came in one week – we were to prepare for a surge. Thankfully it didn’t come in our area, instead we saw it come to Quebec and Ontario. Though nothing compared to the Americans, the strain began to be felt in ways more tangible than a run on toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

I find myself pushing back the daily worries that go beyond the threat of illness; what of our economy, of our small businesses? How long can we all hold on like this before it becomes safe to have things up and running, for that matter can we continue like this? All we can really hope is that some good can come of all this, perhaps as a wider society we will find out truths in how we changed things which will have a lasting positive effect. Maybe the idea of universal basic income won’t seem so crazy after this, or maybe we will see that our economy needs to diversify and to be more self sufficient instead of relying of foreign manufacturing. I hope that some of those things have a chance to be highlighted, or at least the reasons why they are important. The ill effects of global habits and patterns are on display. We stopped making things ourselves – now we find ourselves having potential shortages from places where the pandemic is worse. We rely heavily on a few large industries to keep us going, and now they want bailouts because travel is limited. Will we learn our lessons? Time will tell.

Just a little piece on motivation

Motivation can vary hugely based on context, and motivating factors will vary as well which affects our performance in positive or negative ways. In my own situation I find what motivates me at work, school and personal life are very different things but are interconnected since each feeds the other.

  • Work – Motivated by money, extended benefits, vacation pay but also the freedom my job provides allowing me to work from home and to keep a flexible schedule. This is what lets me go back to school and eventually advance in my career.
  • School – This helps with my career advancement and also has a positive impact on how I do my job. Allows me to improve in my current position and to perform to a higher more knowledgeable standard.
  • Personal – Constant learning, creation and creativity, career advancement and doing something worthwhile in life which can leave behind a legacy of sorts for my family/children.

See how these all link together, each motivator leads eventually to some kind of self-actualization. I think ideally our motivations should feed into each other allowing us to make the most of lives, careers and relationships. It can mean a lot of balls in the air, but those ultimately help us. Simple example: Work like balance and health.

  • I do yoga and some meditation – this reduces stress, leading to better work habits. So I am motivated to treat my body well because it allows me to feel better and work better.

Bus entertainment 

Like thousands of others I take the bus to work, and like almost everyone I can agree that it is not without its own version of entertainment. I don’t mean watching things through the window, I mean the things people do on the bus. The bus I take is compared to other routes a generally tame one, in the morning it’s more of a library than a bus, but occasionally human nature explodes. However, my fiancé used to take the bus through east Hastings almost every day and that is a bus that almost lives and breathes. We joke that it’s sometimes like going on safari, that’s if the safari were to sit next to you and start rambling. 

East Hastings buses, for those who know Vancouver that’s the 16, 14, 135 and others. 

My younger cousin is a country guy, with impeccable luck and an adventurers sense of direction. He visited Vancouver for the first time   a couple years ago and came spent nearly two hours and three busses to get to my house. Part of me was concerned, I mean it’s a long way in a city he doesn’t know, but in the back of my mind I kept saying “it’s ok he spent his 21st birthday on a boat on the Amazon, he will be fine” obviously he was fine, nonetheless he described it as a trek. Especially bussing through East Hastings at 2 in the morning. I have to agree, there are places in poorer countries than Canada that have at least marginally better transit. Problem here seems to be that we pay Translink staff more than the Primeminister and then expect them to work hard. But anyways I digress. Not my story though so I’ll leave it at that for now. Catch you next week. 

A paperless conference for Luddites

It’s Wednesday. Generally the dullest day at work, usually my catch-up day. For whatever reason no one seems to schedule meetings for Wednesday, works for me. After a month of chaos and preparation for our annual conference it’s over and I think I’ve almost made up for the lack of sleep over the long weekend. I feel human again, and it’s a beautiful sunny fall day. I love this weather, crisp and bright. Sweaters and scarves, toques and sunglasses. I’m ready! 

Last week was the conference, months in the making and honestly a momentous one for us. We went paperless, which sounds simple enough. But who knew people liked name tags so much. It was particularly different this year because we launched an event app and mobile check in. So, no program, no name tags and an app to learn. For me this sounds pretty simple but the demographic at this conference tends to err on the side of the Luddites at times. I believe I may even have seen a flip phone, to each his own. 

In spite of that, we had almost 75% of people using the app. It also even helped get more involvement for question segments. This is even better than I imagined, the app is here to stay. 

Here’s to next year! Hopefully it’s even better ( might have to bring back name tags).