While we will never forget which year the pandemic overwhelmed us–2020–we’ll also always remember 2020 for its other dramas: the politics, the wildfires, and the protests over racial injustice. It’s been a super difficult year to be homebound.
All these forces combined have led me to do a lot of hard thinking about life and what I want out of it. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t felt ground down by them, although, to be sure, I’ve felt scared and anxious many times. I try to to find ways to transcend them (by which I mean, ways to be active and forward thinking even when I would rather hide out, do a jigsaw puzzle, curl up rereading all seven Harry Potter novels, or watch all 264 reruns of Frasier*).
Much of my effort to transcend the negativity of the world and stay resilient is to focus on the small, the local. I personally could not develop a vaccine or change what’s happened since the election, but I can do things in my own community, broadly defined. I developed a positive, fun relationship with a six-year-old (son of a former colleague), first via zoom, then via porch visits, in which, weekly, I read to him and he read to me (often in Chinese). I was able to be a constructive outside adult for this very social kiddo who has otherwise been confined to his online homeschooling community. He is knowledgeable about the virus but it does not constrain his exuberant personality, from which I take a lot of happiness.
I’ve been able to continue serving as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for an 11 year old girl whose life doesn’t go much beyond the walls of her mother’s small apartment in Sacramento. She has two hours of schooling a day via zoom (talk about how kids are suffering because of school shut-downs) and a cousin who she can see occasionally. Our weekly visits (also via zoom or phone) allow her to share her artwork with me as well as updates about how her schooling is going. I’ve been gratified that we’ve been able to develop a rapport under these circumstances.
Staying in touch with friends and family has been vital. Occasional zoom happy hours keep me sane. Zooming and phoning is easy and while it is not the same as having our person-to-person visits, it’s a pretty darn good replacement. I try to do things for neighbors when possible and when safe. I try to avoid doom scrolling, incessantly reading the bad state, national, and international news.
The Be Resilient Project coach Steve Bonnel’s functional fitness community has been super important to me and my husband (the other Steve). About two-and-a-half years ago I unexpectedly had to have quadruple bypass heart surgery. I was 67 and, I thought, in relatively good health. That event blew my mind and knocked me off my feet (literally; at first I couldn’t even walk around) and instilled in me a drive to do what I can to stay as healthy as possible, pandemic or not. Steve’s class (which I had started three months before my surgery) is integral to this, as is my near-daily walk around the arboretum and eating as best I can. I will believe for the rest of my life that my participation in Steve’s class is what enabled me to heal from this surgery as successfully as I did. Now, exercising has become life-as-normal for Steve (McMahon) and I.
One thing I miss: meeting for class in person. Exercising via zoom cannot replace the jazzed feeling I had exercising behind Esther and Debbie, synchronizing my movements with theirs. Nor does it enable me to watch Andy across the room and talk to him before class, to feel inspired by his persistence and good cheer. But it’s almost as good to be able to see their faces on their zoom tiles, as it is nice to see the many other folks who I love sharing this class with. Underlying much of my daily life during the pandemic is gratitude, gratitude that I have my health, a roof over my head, an amazing family (Steve and our 29-year-old daughter Molly, who works at the Davis Food Co-op; see picture below), friends, and food on our table. So, I am committed to hanging in there. I know this difficult period of near-isolation will come to an end. I look forward to being able to see folks in person — let’s have another party when we can!
Here’s a picture of the members of my pandemic pod: Steve, Molly, and our two dogs, Jasper and Apollo, at a Christmas gathering in our garage. Steve’s mother, June, who lives in assisted living at Atria-Covell, came over for a safe visit with hot cocoa and a gift exchange!
Vicki Smith, January 17, 2021
*PS I did do all these things while under stay-at-home orders in 2020. After all, sometimes I needed to hide out from everything that happened!
Vicki, I was touched by your story and how you have been persevering during these challenging times. I’m glad to hear that my classes and our fitness community has helped, but, was especially impressed by your community service and the relationships and support you give to children in need. Reaching out to our community and volunteering your time to serve others is an important way to be resilient!