Exactly three years ago today, a bicycle crash threw me into #StayHome mode just like the coronavirus threw the world into quarantine. By Monday, I was unable to do anything I’d been doing on Friday. My home became my refuge. Self-isolation was the new normal.
What do you do when your fast-paced 21st-century life comes to a screeching halt? A traumatic brain injury (TBI) forced me to find out.
“After your accident, you had to slow down,” said a friend’s random text which came around week 8 of the pandemic. “Now everyone’s slowed down and we’re all in the same place.”
Which is exactly how I felt when the coronavirus hammer came down in Canada. My normal was everyone’s normal. No mo’ FOMO!
But the first day of quarantine also broke my 450 consecutive days of meditation. We were all in the same boat. Hell, yeah! No, wait: actually we weren’t! I’d been rowing toward land for three years.
In fact, when the pandemic hit, I was deep into return-to-work (RTW) rehabilitation. Three mornings a week, I drove to a physiotherapy clinic – my pretend workplace – where I worked on strengthening capabilities I’d need on the job. (Most of the time I cried, but that’s another story.)
Shockingly, RTW totally differed from brain injury recovery. Surprise! Coronavirus was about to yank me in yet another direction.
I avoided crowds and noisy, chaotic environments before the pandemic. Still, I was ramping up to being back out there, whatever there meant and whatever that would take.
With Covid, the world went silent. Toronto ravines got more crowded. My three daughters stayed home and we had to share space. My world changed completely.
While Covid got me really anxious, it also brought so many things that I loved right into my home. Lectures, talks, media events – all online. So many virtual performances! Four-hour opera marathons!
I really missed Friday night choir, but I was singing with Choir!Choir!Choir! in my dining room. Mindfulness, yoga, art classes – all online. There was so much to do; I could barely keep up.
Ironically, using Zoom was probably the closest I’d get to experiencing the real world that I’d wanted to return to. I had forgotten what I missed. I dove in.
Many people were grappling with loneliness. Others, like my neighbour, were facing an inner shadow they couldn’t deal with. One friend complained that his life had slowed to a crawl.
Not me! I’d spent three years coming to terms with isolation and aloneness. The pandemic offered me the chance to connect. How about that virtual, cultural bouquet!
I had thought that my recovery had cured me of the need to be constantly doing. But here I was; my life sped up again. I didn’t have enough time, even though I had more time. I was so tired, tired, tired. Quarantine was exhausting.
For me, the pandemic turned out to be another test. Another stage in living. My brain injury forced me to slow down. The pandemic is forcing me to slow down again.
My TBI recovery and pandemic lives now run on parallel tracks. Would I do better now than 10 weeks ago with noisy, crowded environments? There’s no way to find out. Am I almost out of the woods? Which woods? Neither brain injury recovery nor pandemic has an end date. I still take naps. I wear a mask when I go out.
There’s no point in waiting for normal. This is normal. The new, abnormal normal. Right here. Now.