Pandemic Diary, February 6th, 2021: I Need a Miracle

When my best friend John called me at 12:45 p.m., my iPhone announced his FaceTime call. I groaned, rolled over, and pulled the covers over my head. The winter cold and the pandemic lockdown combined have tipped me over into full-blown hibernation mode, and made me a grumpy, sleepy gay bear.

It is currently -27°C (-16°F) up here in Winnipeg, and with a strong north-west wind, it feels like -44°C (-47°F) with the wind chill. These are the kinds of things that you do not learn from the glossy Travel Manitoba brochures, people.

Even worse, we are expecting a full week of bone-chilling temperatures:

I have learned (and written previously about) how my subconscious sends me messages through song lyrics. At that precise moment when I become aware that I have a particular song running through my head, the lyrics usually have some sort of meaning—something that I’m not consciously thinking about, but which my subconscious is trying to tell me.

Well, on Friday morning, I woke up to this song running through my head:

In other words, my subconscious is telling me: I need a miracle. Or something akin to a miracle, to get me out of this weeks-long period of acedia, depression, and despair, triggered by these unprecedented circumstances. I am having serious trouble getting out of bed and facing the day, and I am having serious trouble feeling motivated to get any work done, both around my house and at work (which, of course, is also “around my house”, as I have been working from home since March 16th, 2020).

I know that a great many other people are struggling, and I also know that I am luckier than most. But honestly, the combination of a bitterly cold patch of Winnipeg winter, combined with the continued province-wide pandemic lockdown (which has been in place since early November), leaves me struggling to cope at times.

Finally out of bed, and low on staples like bread, I decide to bundle up in my down-filled winter parka, don an N95 mask, and head out to warm up the car. My local McDonalds has been closed to in-store dining for three months, but the drive-through is still busy, and I place my order for a burger, fries, and a diet Coke (lunch) and a box of six muffins (breakfast tomorrow, I tell myself, although they will likely all be gone by midnight).

I carefully remove my mask, scrub my hands liberally with hand sanitizer (just in case), and dine in my car, engine running to keep the heat going full blast, in the McDonalds parking lot. This time, when John calls, I pick up, and we chat via FaceTime about how our respective weeks have gone. My day has finally begun, albeit a bit later than usual! And so it goes…I drive home, brew a large pot of coffee, put I Need a Miracle on auto-repeat and crank it, and face whatever challenges come my way.

I hope that you are all taking good care of yourselves and each other in these unprecedented times. Stay strong, say safe, and stay healthy!

Pandemic Diary: January 26th, 2021

A year ago, on this very blog, I wrote the following:

Sorry, guys, but I am going to be continuing to post about the Wuhan coronavirus situation on this blog. Given my background as a flu prepper, and despite my attempts to inject some laughter into previous potential pandemics, everything I have seen and read so far indicates that this is situation which requires all hands on deck.

Given that this blog gets between 600 and 6,000 views per day, I am hoping that I can use my little soapbox to help bring other people up-to-speed as to what is happening out there in the real world. Yes, we in virtual worlds do tend sometimes to use them to escape aspects of reality that we would rather not have to deal with. I am certainly guilty of this myself, and I suspect some of you, my readers, are as well.

But as a librarian who works at a university science library, I owe it to you to make sure that you are connected to the best, most up-to-date sources of information to make the best decisions. So here goes. Expect a new blogpost with updated information and links every day.

Well, as it turns out, we did, indeed, have a global pandemic on our doorstep. Now, I did not write “a new blogpost with updated information and links every day”, but I did keep up-to-date on the rapidly-evolving situation, and I wrote many blogposts warning people about the danger, and urging them to prepare for it, starting with that very first blogpost on January 25th, 2020, and throughout the next several months.

Here we are, one year later, and I must confess that I am struggling. As I have often written before, anticipating and preparing for a public health emergency is one thing; actually living through it is another. I am feeling emotionally battered, and quite worn down, on Day 317 since I began working from home in self-isolation for my university library system. I wonder how much more of this I can take.

I find that I have to keep reminding myself that these are unprecedented times, that it is okay not to feel okay. Some days I am sorely tempted to take sick time off work, pull the bedcovers over my head, and stay there—but then I tell myself that I would be struggling even more than I am now, if I were to become unmoored from my job as a professional academic librarian. So I force myself to stay the course, and I try to do the best I can every day, even though I know it is not my very best work.

And I find myself clinging to the other avatars I encounter in the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I write about on this blog, talking their ears off in my fervent desire to have some sort—any sort—of social interaction. I have become a Chatty Cathy! (Not that I wasn’t before, mind you. But I do find myself talking with strangers I meet up with, in my peripatetic metaverse travels, much more frequently than I used to.)

Today has been a difficult day, but I will get through this, in one piece. Whatever it takes, I will do. You are my witness, and you have my word. I will survive!

Pandemic Diary, December 27, 2020: Spaghetti for Christmas

Today is officially Day 287 since I started working in self-isolation from home for my university library system. I am currently starting my second week of three weeks of vacation, not returning to my full-time paying job as a librarian until January 11th, 2021, and so far I have enjoyed a relaxing, quiet holiday.

If you haven’t seen the Christmas card I sent out this year to everybody, here it is. This wonderful animated card by Jacquie Lawson is set to the traditional German Christmas carol O Tannenbaum.

A screen capture from my animated Christmas card this year

Today is the day after Boxing Day here in Canada. Boxing Day is traditionally the day where Canadians go out to the Boxing Day sales, but this year the crowds of shoppers were mostly staying home (although quite a few shopped online and arranged curbside pickup of their consumer electronics and other bargains).

By and large, the majority of Manitoba have listened to the doctors and scientific experts, and followed the masking and social distancing requirements imposed by our code-red, province-wide pandemic lockdown. I know of very few Manitobans who shared their Christmas celebrations with people who were not members of their immediate household. Many instead dropped food and presents off at the doors of friends and family.

On the afternoon of Christmas Day, my extended family (including my sister-in-law’s family, who have kind of adopted me along with my brother) had a very chatty one-and-a-half hour meeting in Zoom, which lifted the time restrictions on its free version for the holidays:

And on Boxing Day, the members of my arts and entertainment group held a meetup in Zoom as well! Obviously, we have not been going out much to arts, cultural and entertainment events since the pandemic hit, but we still do keep in touch.

(Disclaimer: No, I do not have a house that looks like a Better Homes and Gardens spread, with all my books artfully arranged by colour! This was a Zoom background I downloaded this spring, to hide my messy man cave from Zoom meetings for work! I did fool a couple of people with it, though.)

I did not bother to fuss with a turkey for my Christmas dinner, which in a normal year I would have spent with my mother and stepfather at their seniors life-lease condo across town. Instead, I made a large pot of spaghetti and a tossed salad, which I quite enjoyed as I spent my first-ever Christmas dinner alone in my apartment.

Spaghetti for Christmas (photo by Carolina Cossío on Unsplash)

Truth be told, after 287 days, I am now so used to being alone that spending a Christmas in self-isolation in my apartment did not feel weird at all. Instead of real-world socializing, I have spent quite a bit of time socializing with people in various social VR platforms and virtual worlds this past month, including Sinespace, Sansar, Somnium Space, and Second Life!

I do not expect my situation to change significantly until enough people have been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have already been approved by Health Canada, and the Pfizer vaccine has already found it way into the arms of 2,177 Manitoba healthcare workers at critical care, acute care, and long-term care facilities, plus COVID-19 immunization clinics and testing sites.

Map from the COVID-19 Tracker Canada website

Have a healthy and happy holiday season!

Pandemic Diary: December 22nd, 2020

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, was vaccinated on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020, during a live broadcast at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland (source: New York Times)

Today is officially Day 282 since I began working in self-isolation from home for my university library system. We here in Manitoba are expecting a snowstorm which is slowly working its way east from the Rocky Mountains, bringing with it strong winds and blowing snow. I remain hunkered down in my apartment, well stocked with food and my prescription medications. It can snow all it wants; I’m not going anywhere.

Like so many other people around the world who are under a pandemic lockdown, this will be the first Christmas ever that I will spend completely alone. Manitoba is still under a code-red, province-wide pandemic lockdown, and visits from people outside one’s immediate household are forbidden.

But I don’t mind. I have gotten so used to being alone by now, it will not seem so strange. The rest of my family and I have already agreed not to exchange gifts this Christmas; in the case of my mother and stepfather who live in a seniors lifelease condo on the other side of the city, we’ll exchange presents when it is safe to actually meet in person.

And frankly, Christmas has never had the allure it did when I was a child, especially now that I do not attend real-world church services anymore. I will probably hang out with SL friends in my Second Life community of choice, Bray’s Place. I may decide to throw an open house at my new home at Bray’s Place sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, but we’ll see. I want to stay flexible with my plans this holiday season.

My new home at Bray’s Place, all decorated for Christmas

My decision to write up a daily blogpost covering that day’s Advent calendar gifts has kept me pretty busy most mornings. I am now on three weeks of Christmas holidays from my full-time paying job as a librarian, so I have time to devote to the task. (I also have a pile of dirty dishes that I need to put through my dishwasher, and some vacuuming to do, but that’s not nearly as much fun as hunting down fabulous freebies in Second Life! December is truly freebie season!)

And I have been following the news media and social media regarding the global COVID-19 vaccination campaign, as the first vaccines roll out. Here are a few statistics dashboards that you can check to follow the progress of this endeavour:

The statistics dashboard from Our World in Data’s Coronavirus Vaccinations page

Stay safe and stay healthy!