When the going gets tough…

Since Jorge and I began our voluntary isolation, I have done my best to be cheerful, keep busy, stay organised, and not to think too much about all the ramifications of the COVID 19 pandemic. But yesterday I felt like a bird with no branch to land on, and let myself feel the worry, fear and helplessness. Completely overwhelmed by all the unknown challenges that are surely waiting for us, I went into my room, closed the door and had a long cry.

Each tear drop was huge, and they absolutely poured from my eyes. Using the sleeve of my shirt, I tried to wipe them off my cheeks, but my nose was running too, and the saliva that had collected under my tongue also mixed into the mess on my face. I felt like all my vital fluids would soon be gone and I would just dry up.

But I didn’t care. I kept sobbing. Moans and laments came from a deep, sodden place and they made me gasp. I didn’t know I could produce such an awful, sorry sound.

And then the unhappy memories came flooding to my mind and got all bunched up with my current state of utter collapse. Sad events, slights, disappointments, betrayals, broken promises, unfulfilled expectations… losses of every kind… filed their way through my consciousness. Like a grim slideshow.

You are a mess, I said to the person in the mirror.

I have a right to be, she answered.

And as I sat there, all hunched over on the edge of my bed, I heard a pair of sensible shoes tip-toeing onto the scene. Those are nurse’s shoes, thought I. And a soft, strong voice asked me, Do you think maybe you should wash your face?

And of course I did that.

My mother was always at her best when everyone else was falling apart, and as I dabbed warm water over my swollen eyes, I remembered, Now I am the mother and I need to do what she did; I need to be at my best right now.

I decided the square of terry towel was not doing its job, and I turned on the shower full blast. Afterwards, I curled my hair, applied light makeup; I put on a dress and shoes, not flip-flops. I was about to leave my sanctuary but turned back for my pearls and two dabs of Channel’s “Chance”. There, I felt a lot better.

I found Jorge … sitting on the front porch of the house where we’ve lived since1976. Our chairs are old; as we rock them back and forth, they groan or they chirp, depending on the humidity. Mine has a cane back, and like the chair from “Goldilocks and the three Bears”, it is just right. Jorge’s has a back with curved slats, and he says it never fails to soothe the worry out of his back.

“We’ve spent many a Saturday night just like this,” said Jorge, in the most contented voice imaginable. I nodded and I felt so grateful to be beside this man. Despite the chaos around us, he always finds a simple pleasure to use as a cornerstone. Oh he can obsess and fall to pieces too… make no mistake about that… but NEVER when he can see my fragility.

The arrival of the COVID 19 virus into our world has forced us into tough times. I believe it is OK to let the tears flow, to curse at the moon or whatever object (not person) is nearest.

And when the fear has been purged by the tears (for a while anyways) we need to remember…
When the going is tough, the tough get going.

After five days of self-isolation



My last post was about the Corona virus, and how insecure I feel in the face of such uncertainty. Today I’m writing about self-imposed isolation.

Jorge and I are not sick (at least we hope we’re not) but COVID 19 has an incubation period of 14 days and so we’ve decided to stay home, at least until we have a better idea of how hard the pandemic will affect Mexico. In the face of such uncertainty, we do NOT want to risk our health.

I look at the progression of the virus outbreaks – first in China, then Europe, now the USA and Canada – why should I imagine that Mexico will be any different? In fact, because Mexicans are not at all used to social distancing, if the virus gains momentum, the velocity of the spread could be catastrophic. We could be looking at many weeks of this self-imposed isolation.
On Facebook, I saw a graph; it was created by Dr. Reem Ghalib, an eminent physician in Texas. These numbers are a worst case scenario, but nonetheless, they are possible:


Suppose you catch the virus. You will give it to 3 other people, and they will each give it to three others, and so forth. Here is how the math works, where you, the “index case,” are the first line:
1 … 3 … 9 … 27 … 81… 243 … 729 … 2,187 … 6,561 … 19,683 … 59,046 … 177,147 …  531,441 … 1,594,323 … 4,782,969 … 14,348,907…

So, in just 15 steps of transmission, the virus has gone from just one index case to 14.3 million other people. Those 15 steps might take only a few weeks. The index person may be young and healthy, but many of those 14 million people will be old and sick, and they will likely die because they got a virus that started in one person’s throat.


I am lucky because I enjoy staying at home. We have many comforts, including a pool. I’ve got my paints and my laptop, so I can write or paint as much as I want. Jorge has also been writing and he reads a lot. However, we have established a routine, so that we stay engaged in different types of activities. We ration the “fun stuff” somewhat because we’re sure we’ll eventually feel bored, even with activities we really enjoy.

I ask myself if I am going overboard with my concern, but this outbreak is such an unknown experience for us all. We have no precedent to work from. Initially we’ve given our housekeeper two weeks of paid leave. We figure it must be risky for her to travel on public transport, and also we worry she could bring the virus to us. Once this trial period is finished, we hope to have some idea of just how dangerous it really is (for all of us) if she comes here three times a week.

We’re finding it’s not difficult to keep on top of things; we do the housework after breakfast. Yesterday was laundry, and today will be mopping and bathrooms. Jorge waters the garden in the afternoons and I cook all our meals. We take a long siesta after lunch and then watch the news. Once the sun goes down, we’ve been walking around the neighbourhood. When we get home again, we bath and settle in for the night; usually we watch Netflix.

Have you self-isolated? If so, what’s your routine? We should share good ideas, recipes and so on, because it looks as though we may be in for a long haul.

Onward and Upward… right?

When it comes to relaxing in public places, will we ever again feel carefree like this?

Changes in our Lives? What we are experiencing this week is an exaggerated distortion of the lives we’ve known up until now. As well, it is happening so fast that our minds hardly have time to process each new permutation and response, before another is being announced. It is quite obvious that all the “fearless leaders” of the world have little idea what they’re doing.

A week ago tonight, the virus was a concern, but I had a good supply of alcohol gel, chlorine wipes, disposable gloves, a mask and so on. However, by Wednesday I knew I had to cancel my trip to Vancouver. On Friday I paid my housekeeper 2 weeks’ wages, and told her not to come until we see what the situation is like towards the end of the month.

At our college on Friday, the students went home, excited to have a 3-day weekend. “See you Tuesday!” we said. Today, the local government decreed that all schools will stay closed until at least April 21st. That’s five weeks from now; we had no opportunity to set up on-line seminars and work groups. Thank goodness we had finished with our semester exam period.

One of the biggest hurdles in the authorities’ effort to halt the spread of the Corona virus is the public transportation system. Any readers who have taken a ride in one of the city buses or Combis, know passengers are so cramped, that one infected person could pass the virus to everyone riding with him or her. Also Mexicans are physical; they can’t help kissing, hugging and touching each other; as my husband says, “We do so without even thinking,” Restaurants are another risky environment, but many jobs will be lost if the city starts closing them down. So many difficult descisions.

If the virus really catches hold in Mexico, the medical authorities will soon be overwhelmed. Jorge and I are in the highest risk percentage of the population so we are going to take EXTREME precautions. For all intents and purposes, we are self-isolating and I believe this makes good sense. We’ll take a few forays out into the world… our morning walk, some shopping at our local market for what we run out of, and probably we’ll enjoy the odd meal shared at home with friends and family who are also exercising a high level of prudence.

The COVID-19 makes me feel vulnerable, yet I’m determined to face what I have to in order to stay safe. I read an article with a quote from a young woman who attended Saturday night’s Guns n’ Roses concert in Mexico City: Sure I am careful but I need to have some fun.

Our society is so focussed on fun and instant gratification, and the next few weeks will not involve much of those two stimuli. But perhaps it will awaken some sense of solidarity, a virtue we seem to have forgotten about.

For me, the self-imposed isolation won’t be that difficult. I have a comfortable home and lots to keep me busy. Who knows; when I emerge back out to my “regular life”, I may have a good part of my new book written, or a couple of completed paintings? At a bare minimum I will have reorganised my closets and storage spaces.

Onward and Upward… of course.