I've worked from where ever I've called home, for the past eleven years.
In my old career, I worked in close contact with the public during Ontario's SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Later that same decade, I was charged with creating a business continuity plan for a large private security company as the threat of Swine Flu loomed large. When I first read about the viral outbreak in China in late 2019, dancing with paranoia and anxiety as I do, I calmly headed to Home Depot in search of N95 masks and a number of pharmacies, to buy up the supplies I'd need to keep myself an my extended family well-stocked with homemade hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes, for months to come. On the way home I thought to myself that, without knowing it, I'd been preparing for a long time to deal what might be to come. My wife and I then fucked off to Africa on a working vacation, for a month. As we backpacked across Morocco, I kept up on the case count in Asia.
We left Morocco a day before the kingdom closed its doors to air travel.
We were only home for a few days when Calgary, where we staying with family at the time, was ordered into lock down. I made hand sanitizer and wipes. We'd just done a Costco run. We were worried, but calm.
Most days, I spent time talking my sister-in-law down, after she watched our Prime Minister's daily COVID-19 briefing. I did my job. I prepared an isolation room for my wife when, while on her way home from a week's rotation at her job, she called to tell me that she had a number of symptoms that suggested that she might have contracted the virus. I brought food to her and monitored her condition over the next week. I prayed to Santa Muerte (we'll talk about that some other time) and brought my wife food and cold medication. She was tested. She was fine.
We lasted until the fall in Alberta before making for Vancouver Island to winter in the RV.
Setting up camp in relative isolation helped with the stress of living in a time of plague. We were fortunate enough to be surrounded by wooded walking trails. The ocean was a few minutes of driving away. We could do nothing, in so many beautiful places. We're still doing well, as the number of third-wave cases and an inept vaccine rollout fills hospitals and soon, morgues, across my county. We've laid in supplies again, hoping for the best, expecting the worse.
At any time during any of this, I could have fallen into a deep depression. The isolation or the fear of simply breathing the air could have paralyzed me, despite the drugs I take daily to help me hold my shit together. It didn't happen.
And then it did.
Two weeks ago, all of the shit I had managed to hold on to, for over a year, got lost.
I was surprised to find that it had nothing to do with sickness, worry over my family and few friends or how unbalanced I feel staying in the same places, for so long. I realized that I was fed the fuck up with technology. It's digging a hole and asking me to lay down and fill it.
My days are spent in front of laptop, desktop and tablet displays. On the evenings that I write for this site, my screen time runs hours longer. I left Facebook and Instagram in a white hot rage. My interactions on Twitter with friends I have not seen for years feel hollow. Cruising CounterSocial for content reminds me of what Twitter used to be, but I'm not able to engage and know no one on the network. The news angers and numbs me, in turns. I have a smartwatch that tracks the meaningless moments of my life and a smartphone which, of late, only tells me things I do not want to know. It's all I can do to sit down and write. I started this post and deleted it five times, before surrendering. My first successful draft was crafted in longhand.
I hope to find a way out of my digital despair. But, working in online service journalism for a living and currently having no other window on the world—due to the state of the world—I have no idea, yet, of what changes I can practically make.
I'm looking at it as an experiment in mental health. I'll let you know how its going as things proceed.
Image via Flickr, courtesy of Jeff Myers