Character


by Roxanne Tellier

Maybe it’s from a lack of fresh air, but I have found myself getting a little giddy lately, here in O’SheaWorld.  Also, I have had an epiphany. Turns out that the reason that I don’t do a lot of the things expected of me isn’t because there isn’t enough time, but because I’m lazy.   

Shawn and I have already done our 14-day isolation, but there’s really nowhere to go, beyond strictly controlled and policed grocery shopping. My baser instincts want me to run wild and free through the aisles of non-essential goods, but sadly, this is frowned upon in this age of plague.  

I’m sure that there are other people who have taken the quarantine as seriously as we have, but trusting others to have been vigilant takes on a whole different flavour when it’s your life you’re betting on.  

So we continue to maintain a strict protective stance, keeping our hands and the items around us as clean and as non-contaminated as possible. 

I read a lot, research a bunch, and write a little. Lately we mainly keep ourselves amused by sharing some of the best quips we read in our emails and social media. Well, mostly we just yell punchlines at each other, he from his perch in the living room to me, and my chair in the office area.

I get a massive kick out of some of the clever memes, cartoons, and songs coming out of a planet trying to come to grips with social distancing. Art will always survive. This is how we cope, laugh, learn, and search for common emotional ground.

Does this guy sum it up, or what?

And there’s no shortage of the obvious “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” parodies out there.

We chafe because it’s not ‘normal’ for our mobile society to be dealing with this crisis, each in our own little cells. Capitalism, consumerism – we are constantly reminded that our duty is to get out there and buy things, and to then compare those things to our friends and neighbours’ things, which will then drive us into a frenzy to make more money so we can buy even more things that will make our friends and neighbours jealous. It’s kind of like a game, except that nobody ever really wins, which is why we keep going to jobs, even when we don’t like the job or the people we work with. Our societal constructs keep the workers running like hamsters in an exercise wheel, right up until the day we cannot run any more.  

But now, the wheel has suddenly stopped, and many of us have fallen off.

I’ve worked in bars, owned businesses, and worked in demanding occupations, and I’m well aware that a sudden stoppage of the activities we’ve done, religiously, and with our whole heart and soul, whether we loved our jobs or not, is like hitting a brick wall at 90 miles an hour. That’s gonna leave a mark.

When it happens to others, it’s the way the world works. When it happens to us, it’s a disaster.

These are challenging times. No one is exempt from a pandemic, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful you may be. A virus doesn’t care how much you earn, though, sadly, what you earn can certainly determine how well you are treated in an American hospital.  

Often, we have run so fast, and for so long, that we’ve stopped thinking clearly. Everything is ‘just in time,’ and ‘good enough.’ We pretend that there will be more time, somehow, someday, when we will go back and fix those half-done tasks, but tomorrow never comes, and the next day’s output is as faulty as yesterdays. 

How people behave when the world is running down says so much more about them than what they say about themselves. It’s a lot like that old line about dating – how your date treats the waitstaff will tell you all you need to know about their real character.

Character. An old-fashioned word, to many, and yet it says everything about a person’s true self. It’s so easy to be a good person when things are going well. It’s another thing entirely to be composed, thoughtful, kind, and empathetic when the chips are down.

Someone who can be trusted, counted on, is solid, a mensch, a good soul, a stand-up person. We know them when we see them because their reputation for doing what’s right – not expedient – precedes them.

When you know someone who has a good, strong character, you know that they won’t flake in the crunch. They won’t turn away when you need a hard favour, they’re the first to share what ever they have, no matter how little, and they’re going to stand beside you and take your side when the rest of the world can find only fault. They might kid you when you screw up, but they won’t be in the kicking party when you’re down.

If there is someone like that in your life, cherish them. They are as rare and as precious as gold. 

Hard times make us rethink the things that we slough off in the short run. In our careers we’ll often put up with bullies, sneaks, lunch stealers, and coworkers with attitude larger than their talent, just because it’s easier to work around them than to trade up to better colleagues. Plus – a pay cheque is a pay cheque, and keeping a job – even a bad one – is easier than finding another one.

And while we might, in normal times, endure unhappy romantic relationships for fear that this bad actor is the best we can do, when the shit hits the fan, we realize that life is too short to ‘settle’ for mediocrity.   

It’s the same when we ourselves chose – even for just a moment – to abandon our own principles, to be selfish, to be a bully, or to act on an impulse that would be foreign to us when we’re feeling content and comfortable. In hard times, we have to fight the impulse to be morally lethargic, and instead, take the opportunity to bench press those principles. If our principles can be abandoned in hard times, then they were never our principles, they were only the stage dressing of our lives.

Tough times don’t last – tough people do. I am hoping that this spoke in the wheels of the world economy will slow us down for long enough to remember that character, and the maintaining of solid, honest principles, are the characteristics of those people we’d take to the end of the world, at the end of the world.

Meanwhile, the skies are bluer, the waters are cleaner, and the birds are coming home from their southern nests. Spring will come, and this too will pass.

And, while you may have the time to listen to all 16:56 minutes of the new Bob Dylan song – if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

Life is good ….

Is That You, Rona?


by Roxanne Tellier

Funny, I always thought that I’d get so much more done. Whenever I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with all of the richness and offerings of modern life, I’d mutter to myself…

“If only time would stop – just for a day or two – and let me catch up on all of this watching, reading, and writing!”

So here it is, and guess what I’ve been doing? Lying on my bed, watching YouTube, playing games on the tablet, and spending quality time with the cats. Between naps.

I have 24 library books here to be read and used for the three major projects I’m working on, but I’ve not opened one of them. Instead I’m storming through my stack of paperback novels, the pulpier the better.  Occasionally I feel guilty about not working on those weighty projects, but then I tell myself that I just can’t possibly start yet, not without that one other book that was on its way before the library so abruptly closed. 

I keep busy, no question. And I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m sneezing because of allergies, or because of the coronavirus.

I’ve also been doing daily stealth assaults on my local big box grocery stores. I’ll go very early, hoping to run in and out again without any physical contact. From the beginning, I’ve assumed our isolation could get well beyond two or three weeks, and have foraged accordingly. The shelves are full, you can’t squeeze one more item into the freezer, and I think I’m even good on fresh produce, at least for a while. I’m the daughter of a prepper – I was born knowing how to stockpile the essentials.

Which is a good thing, because on my last foray to FreshCo, there was nary an egg to be found, nor a bag of pasta representing. Panic in aisle 3.

(In my own defense – I HAD to do the shopping. If I left the hunter gathering up to the hubby, we’d be trying to divvy up a package of sliced processed cheese, a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of raisin bread.)

Anyway, I think I’m good. I think we can now pass another couple of weeks without having to resort to UberEats or the like. Based on how the stock market plunged last week, not sure if we could afford UberEats anyway.  

For all that, for all of the inconvenience, for all of the upset and the crippling uncertainty of our futures, we’re actually doing pretty good, compared to others. Sure, I’m missing a library book or two that I really wanted to read, but luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of some government tug of war over my income or a missing passport. I’m not dependent on any addictive substances. I’m not waiting for some obscure medication to arrive from some far-off land. Heck, I’m not even waiting on anything from Amazon right now!

Although we worry about our families, and our friends who are vulnerable, we’re stocked up, we’re relatively healthy, we’ve got each other and our cats, and life could be a heck of a lot worse … and is, for many, all over the world.

At this point, all we’re really being asked to do is to stay home and not spread a disease. The Greatest Generation stormed a beach in Normandy – we’re being asked to Netflix and chill.

This is our chance to be unsung heroes, by just staying home and not actively harming other people. We’ve got this.

I worry about those who rely on convening in groups to deal with mental and health issues. So many people who are struggling to survive without drugs or drink, or who are depending on other people sharing helpful words and kindness are suddenly being thrown into close quarters, confronting their demons by themselves under highly unusual circumstances.

However, there’s a bright side. For once, this enforced solitude and curtailment of our usual mad rush through the days is allowing us to actually have time to do some things that we might just brush over normally. We’ve got more time to listen, and to think. We also have the option to be the ‘helper’ in our world; some have been offering to help those who can’t leave their house. Others have been sharing their creative output.

It turns out that musicians, artists, and creatives are far more important that was previously thought

This is a great time for those who have something entertaining to share to get their work out before a larger and more receptive audience than usual. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands. And look! There are people writing poetry, short stories and novels, and sharing their work for free or a minimal price! There are musicians giving free house concerts on Facebook!  Sure, there will always be meanies who choose profiteering over sharing, but the good people who just want to be a part of a bigger community far outnumber the bad guys.

The government is also really trying to do it’s best to try and help every citizen survive, even as we shelter in place. Beyond that, some companies are going beyond the minimum, in an effort to soothe the pain.

The United Nations declared internet access a basic human right in 2016, saying that all people must be able to access the internet freely. All well and good in principle, but far too many people can’t afford full internet access in Canada, which has one of the highest cost structures in the world. The good news is, nearly all Canadian internet service providers are suspending data caps and allowing freer wi-fi on their home internet plans right now. And Rogers has made all of its cable channels free to watch.  

In both Canada and the US, the government is preparing to spend trillions to keep the economy going. There are plans to ensure a temporary form of Basic Income for all taxpaying Canadians – a good first step in addressing some of our country’s inequalities. The most vulnerable need to be protected. We need to stop the shutoffs of electricity, water, internet that some predatory institutions may attempt. Mostly, we need to spend this money – the nation’s money – on infrastructure and in helping our people survive.

But they’re also talking about using billions and even trillions to prop up businesses that might be best left to fail. The hotel business, cruise lines, airlines, gambling,  – these are not necessities, they are extravagances. 

I worry that we will follow the ragged script left over from 2008, and once again patch up the buggy whip companies that have survived only by bailouts. People should be demanding that this money be spent on healthier, greener choices. If not now, when?

Times change. People change. Even those who continue to say that humans are not responsible for climate change must have seen what has been happening to the planet since we got out of Nature’s way. Cleaner air and water happen when we’re not inserting ourselves into the natural world, with our needs and our garbage. 

Yeah, when it’s all over, we could all be in clover, as Van the Man once said.  All we have to do is spend our time and our “Blue Money” wisely.

It will be worth all of the pain if we can come out of this crisis a better planet.