Translated by Charlotte Doane
After spending weeks in lockdown, daily life is starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day— reliving the same day, over and over. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most people to make changes, their living rooms becoming workplaces and their kitchens classrooms. Whether facing unemployment, work shutdowns or working from home, we all need to rest and recharge away from the constant flow of news updates.
True moments of calm are increasingly few and far between, with many finding it impossible to sit down to read a book or drink a beer without hearing “I’m hungry” or “Can I go outside?” Lockdown may be lonely, but alone time is still important.
At Cartier et Lelarge, it’s still all hands on deck, and our team members are spending their free time in a variety of—sometimes unusual—ways. One colleague recently shared a photo of her “virus soup,” featuring meatballs dotted with tiny shimeji mushroom spikes, a perplexing sight even without the side of grilled-cheese surgical masks. But cooking seems to be a comfort to many, if the rise in breadmaking is any indication. Two of our translators have hopped on the bandwagon, finding peace and satisfaction in the methodical kneading of the dough, the smell of a freshly baked loaf and the sound of the crust cracking as it cools. And the sense of accomplishment that comes with making a staple product from scratch is certainly a factor. Now, if only there were a recipe for homemade toilet paper!
Instructed to limit our trips to the grocery store and other essential businesses, we have had to get creative not only in the kitchen but also in other areas of life. Parents have had to find ways to keep their children entertained morning, noon and night, in between the usual homework, bath times and calling them back when they ride their scooters a little too far ahead. Some of our co-workers have discovered hidden talents in the hours they’ve spent on jigsaw puzzles, origami and pillow forts. And those with teens are finding ways to spend quality time as a family that won’t induce sighs and eye-rolling. For one of our translators, that meant breaking out her old cello music while her daughter accompanies her on the piano. But at the same time, true moments of calm are increasingly few and far between, with many finding it impossible to sit down to read a book or drink a beer without hearing “I’m hungry” or “Can I go outside?” Lockdown may be lonely, but alone time is still important: soaking in a bubble bath, setting aside half an hour to chat with friends on Zoom or picking up an old video game may be guilty pleasures, but these moments can feel amazing now that they’ve become so rare.
For many people, exercise is not just a hobby, but a necessity.
But indulgence isn’t just for parents, as illustrated by the long lines at the SAQ. Even Premier François Legault admits: “Sometimes, a glass of wine can help reduce stress.” Even more so when paired with a fun night watching Netflix Party, which lets you sync up a movie with your friends and watch it together while talking in the chat. But since there’s more to life than partying in the comfort of your own home, many of us need structure and routines to maintain our wellbeing.
Within our team, taking the dog out or six-foot-distanced walks with a friend are essential ways to get some much-needed vitamin D as the winter ends. Yoga is particularly popular, perhaps because it combines exercise and meditation—and because of the abundance of free online classes in recent weeks. Personally, I’ve taken the opportunity to deepen my practice and finish my instructor training online. Hopefully, I’ll be able to teach outside my own living room one day. For many people, exercise is not just a hobby, but a necessity. The more high-energy among us stay in shape with CrossFit sessions and running, triumphantly donning their sneakers and flocking to the only gym left: the great outdoors. Quiet city streets are now filled with an ever-growing jogger population. Yet all of us, weekend warriors and couch potatoes alike, struggle to resist the siren’s song of the snack cupboard when we have 24/7 kitchen access and no reason not to indulge in daily “happy hours.”
We’re recognizing what a privilege it is to be able to continue working remotely when many of those in our communities are facing intense financial pressures.
During the workday, our team members have stepped up to meet the often unpredictable client demand and, in return, are enjoying increased schedule flexibility. One of our colleagues has been unable to book a flight back to Quebec from Guatemala but has continued to work from a laptop that she had delivered to a nearby village and shipped by boat to the isolated hamlet where she has been stuck since the start of the pandemic. We’re all doing what we can, working at our own pace in this constantly evolving situation. And through it all, we’re recognizing what a privilege it is to be able to continue working remotely when many of those in our communities are facing intense financial pressures.
Fortunately, none of us have taken to excessive bragging like some people on the internet, victoriously touting their newly completed masterworks on social media: a hydroponic greenhouse in the garage, a whole new hand-knit wardrobe, a full-scale reproduction of Monet’s Water Lilies for the living room wall… If you need inspiration, the ever enlightened Gwyneth Paltrow suggests learning a new language or writing a book.
Even as our lives become strangely repetitive, each of us is having a unique experience of these lonely days.
While Quebec and its economy may be “on a break,” our constant need to perform is clearly not. But in spite of it all, lockdown may be a chance to make up for lost time, an unprecedented opportunity to finally do the things we never had time to do, to take time to think, reflect, get bored—and find acceptance. One colleague here has found that this extraordinary period has been well timed, in a way—it has pushed her even further in adjusting to the solitude she has experienced since the death of her husband. Moving beyond the grief and isolation, that timely solitude has created a healthy environment for accepting difficult realities both global and personal.
Even as our lives become strangely repetitive, each of us is having a unique experience of these lonely days. With the incessant calls to productivity online and the viral trends for turning lockdown into a spiritual retreat, it’s hard to remember what’s important: to keep on living—whatever that means for each of us—and to do our part so that others can, too.