A creative writing contest in support of local Hospital Foundation

by Luz-Maria Alvarez-Wilson

My husband and I were travelling in Europe when news of the pandemic started to appear. Would this become the biggest catastrophic event of my generation? Visions of people fleeing their home towns for safe havens, food shortages, fear, and mistrust of one another invaded my imagination for a while.

When we returned in mid-February, we learned that Portugal and France, countries we had visited just a few days ago, were now in total lockdown. It took almost a full month for Canada to follow suit. Despite the initial confusion on how health guidelines were going to be imposed when and where, I felt abundantly fortunate to be living in Canada and, particularly, in Saugeen Shores.

I used the first few weeks by weeding out the numerous boxes of papers I have kept over the years. That, in itself, continues to be a labour of love. I have lived away from family and friends for most of my life and I have collected every single letter exchanged. Tears, laughs and many tender moments made me put them back in their files and boxes. Not ready yet for the final goodbye.

As time went by and I thought of the terrible effects the lockdowns were having on other people, such as job losses, economic turn downs, domestic violence, families crowded in small places, seniors in enforced social isolation, mental health issues, no schools, no graduations, no social gatherings, my imagination started to drift to despair.

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I needed to focus on the good things happening in my life. Number One: Living in Saugeen Shores, away from family but close to dear and caring friends, with whom we quickly developed happy hours and virtual dinners on zoom. Long walks along the shores and trails of our community always ended up with happy social distancing encounters. The soothing beauty of our surroundings made my mind drift to a space of gratitude and satisfaction.

Roman philosopher Seneca thought that true happiness was not pleasures or possessions, but rather to learn what is the right thing to do and then doing it. For him, to live to old age or die young, healthy or sick, rich or poor, were matters of fortune and beyond our control, but what we could control was how to spend our life in pursuit of virtue.

For Greek philosopher Epictetus, few things were also under our control except for our thoughts and actions. He thought that God was like a wrestling trainer who puts us through pain to make us champions of virtue, thus advising us to not take anything for granted and making the best of each moment, even in the worst of circumstances.

In the view of these two philosophers, our lack of power over outside forces, such as the pandemic, makes us surrender to helpless stoicism, suggesting we assume an individual responsibility to do the best we can.

Albert Einstein thought that adversity introduces a man to himself – an encounter that could be unpredictable, as we may not recognize ourselves at such a moment.

Covid-19 represents an unprecedented situation outside of our control that has affected everyone’s life. It also brought us a new awareness, thoughts, emotions and actions.

How are you doing during this pandemic? How has it affected or improved your life? What fears, challenges or inspirations have you encountered? What goals or new skills have you accomplished? Do you recognize yourself or has a new person has emerged? What lessons have you learned? What have you missed the most and what surprises you not to miss?

Covid-19 took us all by surprise and, from one day to the next, we entered a new reality in our lives. What is your story? Write it up while helping our Hospital Foundation by doing so!