The big blogging question of the day: What lessons have you learned during the pandemic?

Boy, people seem to be learning lots and lots of lessons during these troubling times of pandemic lockdown, if the number of blog posts on this topic are anything to go by. It’s also a question that’s starting to annoy more and more people, again, if the number of blog posts on their annoyance is anything to go by. I was going to let it pass, but after a few such posts this morning, including one by a long-time blogging friend who didn’t answer the question himself but instead asked what his readers thought, I decided to give it a go.

I haven’t had to learn how challenging it is to work in healthcare or other frontline work where I have to get up every day and worry about whether I’m going to get infected myself or bring the infection home to my family.

I haven’t had to learn how challenging it is to suddenly switch to teaching by virtual learning instead of in-class teaching, having to figure out how to present the material well and also keep my students engaged.

I haven’t had to learn how to be part of an administration team that has to help lead a university in shutting everything down, wondering when we will be able to reopen and how we will be able to have enough students to keep the doors open and the bills paid when that happens.

I haven’t had to learn how to work from home and at the same time homeschool young kids and keep them entertained while they’re separated from their friends.

I sure haven’t had to learn where the food bank is for the first time in my life or learn how to beg with my landlord to forgive this month’s rent – and next month’s.

As a retired person who doesn’t have any of these immediate and stressful concerns, my lessons thus far during this global pandemic are more in the form of learning things that I knew or suspected at one level but had never ever wanted to see confirmed with such intensity.

  • I’ve learned/relearned that it’s easy to be a leader when the economy is humming along and you can take credit for the successes.
  • I’ve learned/relearned in spades that being a leader whose job is to look out for your country and your fellow citizens (or your company/university/etc. and your employees/students/etc.) when things get tough requires competence, compassion, character, communication, and collaboration. It requires making decisions that are in the best interests of all your citizens (or staff/students/etc.), regardless of how tough or unpopular these decisions may seem. It requires listening to the experts, early and often. It requires putting the needs of all citizens first rather than partisan politics and self-interest. It requires working collaboratively with all Parties and in partnership with other countries.
  • I’ve learned that Canada’s leaders can rise to the occasion in a crisis. I am proud of how responsibly Canada’s leaders at all levels have responded to this unprecedented global pandemic.
  • We have learned that long term care homes everywhere need to be reorganized to ensure that the high levels of deaths in these homes never happen again, where our most vulnerable are inadvertently made even more vulnerable by virtue of being in care. Governments must ensure that standards and accountability take precedence over the bottom line. And that includes standards of care and quality of life, not just safety.
  • We have learned that people who work in frontline occupations – the ones who have ensured our needs are met at a risk to their own lives – must be paid a decent wage. This includes long term care home workers.
  • Societies’ socioeconomic and racial divides have been painfully highlighted for all to see. Nobody of voting age in any country should vote for candidates whose policies do not strive to change these shameful inequalities.
  • We’ve learned that often the “ordinary” people are smarter and more compassionate than their leaders. Many are staying home until they feel it is safe for themselves and for others, regardless of what their leaders say.

    Image credit: Reddit

  • We have learned that social media and the Internet are crucial. Social media may be abused and overused, but it has allowed and continues to allow millions upon millions of friends and loved ones to stay in easy touch, see each other live on screens, keep working, keep studying, go to the doctor, etc. Think about a pandemic with no Internet!
  • My heart goes out to those who are suffering through this pandemic: the sick, the newly bereaved, the young people whose lives are now on hold, people with no money, people in abusive homes, … the list is a long one.
  • I am blessed to be free of financial concerns, and to have a safe, comfortable home that I share with my safe, comfortable husband. I have had that reaffirmed. As this cartoon says, being able to spend time thinking about lessons learned that are about more than survival is in itself an example of class privilege.
  • I have learned that I am surprisingly comfortable to spend so much time at home. My introverted self has taken over. And blogging helps!

How about you? Have you learned anything new about yourself? About your country or region? About the world?

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39 Responses to The big blogging question of the day: What lessons have you learned during the pandemic?

  1. debscarey says:

    I’ve avoided this question for a long time because the major lesson I’ve learned is that I cannot face the prospect of any more loss – the past few years has taken too much out of me & from me. There are few people in the world I truly care about and I’m desperate to wrap them in cotton wool till we come out the other side – hopefully with a vaccine.I know that can’t and won’t happen, but I truly deeply wish it could.The rest of it has just been stuff to deal with, minor in comparison. Sorry for the deep & dark response – especially as it’s my first on your blog. Interesting that this is where I felt able to express my truth. Thanks Jane.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Well, Debs, I’m honoured that you felt comfortable enough to respond honestly on my blog. As you undoubtedly know from your own work, being able to verbalize our most pressing concerns is critical to our mental health. And mental health is increasingly being recognized as one of the biggest challenges we’re going to have to cope with as we come through this, along with physical and economic health and well-being. We are always reminded to try to focus on what we can control as opposed to what we cannot, and to just put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Sometimes, as you are saying, this is easier said than done. I hope you have a few people who can support you as you support them, helping to get through this trying situation. I know I’d be better off if I stopped paying so much attention to the news. So much angst, anger, finger-pointing, and naysaying. Thank you for reminding us of the primary victims of this pandemic and those left to mourn.

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    What a thoughtful post Jane, and what thoughtful responses from your readers. My policy has been not to overthink the situation, to follow the rules and to be kind. My very shallow regrets are (1) a total loss of sport to follow and (2) losing my quiet Sunday evenings with the boys talking nonsense over a beer. I guess I’m fortunate.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Roy, those are such nice, normal regrets, meaning that you have a nice, normal routine in life that will reassert itself in some way, shape or form in hopefully the not-too-distant future. One of my sons is part of a group of men who live all over the place, have known each other since childhood, and rarely see each other. Since this started they have been having Zoom beer evenings every few weeks, with 10-11 of them. They’ve realized there are ways to have those quiet evenings with your mates that they had never thought of before. Re the sports, they are sorely missed and I’m not sure how they are going to make this work again without the crowds (and the money that brings in). Nice of German football to take the lead in seeing if football by TV only can work. Fingers crossed.

  3. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    A very thought provoking blog Jane. You list many things that I have also learned. I would add (not sure if it is a learning) but how divided we are down here in the lower 48. This pandemic brought out the worst in our country or at least helped it rise to the top. I am also wondering if there is any way we can ever have any faith in facts and data. Seems both sides of the “Should we open” debate had “experts” saying why we should or should not. Confusing for me and I do data analysis and statistics as part of my consulting work. I cannot imagine the average person with poor math skills, no statistical training and little or no fundamentals in economics finding their way through the misinformation, disinformation, lies, exaggerations and fake news that are actually out there. John

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, John. Glad to be able to provide some thought-provocation for you, considering how much you provide for me! 😉 I agree about the stats and disconnect among the experts. Of course, with something like COVID, about which so little is know, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. They are learning, unlearning, and relearning every day. People want pat answers and there are none, not at this moment. It does surprise me how many people are comfortable following their own instincts based on desire, as opposed to the very useful adage, “when in doubt, exercise caution.” And nobody has discounted the admonition that you’re not just putting your own health at risk, you’re putting everyone else’s health at risk as well. I’m afraid this naïve/stubborn approach is more prevalent in a culture where “rugged individualism” is encouraged. Stay safe!

  4. For me, Jane, you summed it up with: ” It requires making decisions that are in the best interests of all your citizens.” (bolding is mine). I am only seeing that kind of governance sporadically in the U.S, and certainly not within the federal government. Instead it’s become a blue/red determination. The “greatest generation” in the forties understood sacrifice; but now it’s used as a platitude to “liberate” in support of the economy. This pandemic has unfortunately underscored more about who we really are than what we aspire to be. – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know, Marty, it is devastating to watch. I keep waiting for the grownups in the room to say”enough”. We always talk about living in hope, but that’s getting more and more difficult. Stay safe.

  5. eloilouise says:

    Just like you we are the fortunate one during this epic pandemic. Physically, mentally and financially secure in a good home. I feel somehow guilty that lots of people are not in a similar situation and they have to cope with all kind of stress.
    As for the 300$ that the government will be sending us, we will definitely give it away to some family in needs! Thanks for such a good article, as usual!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Funny, Eloi, I’ve had that same guilty feeling. Re the seniors ‘help’ from the feds, I had assumed that it would be taxed back based on income and end up being a wash, but if not I will definitely be adding it to my COVID donations as well. On another note, good luck with your move back to NB. Welcome home!

  6. Inkplume says:

    I have learned that we need to accept and adapt to the evolving new normal. (I think we have to kiss the “old normal” good-bye for a while.) Last weekend, for the first time in two months, I was allowed to visit my mother in her seniors’ residence (which is blessedly, COVID-free). She stood on her first-floor balcony, I stood below (at an appropriate six-foot distance), and we both wore masks. Two months ago, I would have found that unacceptable. Now, I’ll take it!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Linda, for an excellent example of just how much things have changed and how precious gatherings with loved ones can be with restrictions that would have seemed unimaginable a few months ago. I’m so glad you got to see each other, even in this bizarre ‘new normal’ way. Especially glad that her residence is COVID-free.

  7. Christine Newsome says:

    Like you Jane, rather than feeling disgruntled, I have felt extremely grateful for what I have during this pandemic. I do recognize my privilege. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones or are struggling to put food on the table or pay mortgages or rent. I do not need the one-time money package announced by the federal government for seniors yesterday. Our friend Jill Davies said she would be donating it which is a brilliant idea. I’m happy to jump all over that bandwagon. The local foodbank will be receiving my money.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this, Christine. I completely agree with you (and Jill) about the seniors top-up. I would have thought it would be taxed back, but apparently not. I will also be donating mine. Take care.

  8. dfolstad58 says:

    Dear Jane, I have not answered any of these questions about lessons and loved your response. I like how organized and well you expressed yourself intelligently. I also am retired and although my wife and son are laid off, we are not stressed. I feel slightly guilty how little I am affected despite the butt kicking my investments are taking. My experience or perspective has always been directed toward health. If my health is okay, I can deal with everything else as I tend to be content. Cancer has raised it’s head again and now I will have some more surgeries. I am in a good place, and what I’ve learned is what I knew before the pandemic really. I am glad to be alive and health and family are my only concerns.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, David, I’m so sorry to hear about your cancer recurrence. I hope your treatments/surgeries do the trick QUICKLY. You are so right, the important things in life are health and loved ones, who might be family or friends. Our connections and meaning in life. We’re also lucky to live in a country where, for the most part, people aren’t at each other’s throats. That’s got to add a layer of stress. Take care and stay safe.

  9. Pingback: The big blogging question of the day: What lessons have you learned during the pandemic? – Musings and Wonderings

  10. Dr B says:

    My personal learning is just that…… very personal to me and Dr C about how we feel about things.
    First, what a pile of shitheads our uk mainstream media is. I won’t elaborate.
    Second, that virtue signalling has taken over the planet.
    Third, that China is the pariah I always believed it to be.
    Fourth, that troops in WW2 were never as fully recognised and thanked as much as healthcare workers.
    Fifth, I can easily do without tv, especially when switching on is charged to tax and given to fund the politically corrupt BBC.
    That’s enough to keep all going for a while 👍🍷🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

  11. I have learned that I believe people will now be more accepting of someone saying that they’re an introvert. Before it often had a negative connotation. Often I’m not believed when I say I’m an introvert, as I can be sociable when it’s needed, but it’s something I have to ‘turn on’. I’m the one who often dodges the aisles if I see someone in a store and just don’t feel like being social (pre-pandemic, of course). Now I’ve seen so many, including yourself, who are comfortable with wearing the introvert label. I liken it to when geeks became fashionable, once the Big Bang Theory became trendy 😂 I think it’s OK to be an introvert now 😊

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I love your comments, Francine. My son in Ottawa introduced me to the expression FOMO, the fear of missing out, which apparently is something young people relate to. He has now told me about another expression, JOMO, the joy of missing out. We introverts have our own expression! 😏

  12. Karl Dore says:

    Well said. 👍👍

  13. calmkate says:

    I have had similar things to you to NOT learn …

    I have learnt that lawlessness accompanies people during prolonged periods of stress
    that there is more anxiety and fear than I ever imagined … turn off the news!
    … 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh dear, considering how long at least some aspects of pandemic orders will need to stay in place, our thin veil of civility may really be put to the test. This is where truly strong enlightened leadership comes in. Stay safe, Kate. Keep writing your inspiring poems.

      • calmkate says:

        thanks Jane, I can’t stop them … they just keep coming altho I’m blogging less this month as I have some things I need to do … it’s my transformation month 🙂

  14. LA says:

    I’ve learned that I can adapt, but not be happy in the new normal. I’ve learned that people are hypocrites. I’ve learned people will believe whatever they want to believe and not even think about an alternate path. I’ve learned there’s one opinion and if you don’t share that opinion you’re wrong….I’m very down on humanity right now….

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh dear, LA, those aren’t happy or healthy thoughts. Do you think that these are COVID/lockdown specific lessons related to the extreme situation in NYC or to the more general sad political divisiveness in the US? If you could see your friends would that help? I must admit that I hope the root cause isn’t NYC’s horrific situation, because I love that special place and am rooting for its recovery, realizing it will be long and slow.

      • LA says:

        This has become 1000% politics. Not one person is thinking about what is good for the majority of the people in the situation. We needed to be either full lockdown or totally out because halfway isn’t cutting it. Yesterday the bar next door to my house was selling shots through a front window. When I walked my dog at 7pm there were 12 people in front, blocking the sidewalk, not wearing masks and smoking, including under my window. How is that essential yet many others are going to lose their livelihood? I see groups of kids wandering around vandalizing things, yet they say they might not go back to school in September? And…people think there’s a huge differentiation between classes BC…just imagine how much farther that divide us now…do you really think that at home schooling is the same for all kids? If this continues much longer corona will not be the cause of death..fear if it will be

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Got it. So sad. And now I read that Fauci has been removed from continuing to provide advice, presumably because his ratings are too high! I suspect these naysayers, aside from being encouraged by the highest leader in the land 😧, are a product of the ‘individualism’ philosophy that is prevalent in the US as opposed to the ‘peace, order, and good govt’ philosophy in Canada. Individualism undoubtedly has its benefits, but, as you say only too well, that approach just can’t work during a global crisis. I’m sorry you have to deal with these impossible frustrations.

        • LA says:

          Democrats are just as bad as Republicans. That’s part of the problem. Trump is a useful scapegoat but the leaders in my city and town are really good at yelling, but trust me…things are not getting done. No one is doing what needs to be done…they’re doing sound bites

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Oh, God, this is bad. I couldn’t be sadder to hear this reality. If that’s correct then this pandemic has shown just how broken the “system” has become. And that’s in the richest, most powerful country in the world. The world should weep, and hope that the wake-up call wakes up enough people. Stay safe, LA.

        • LA says:

          Think of it like this. Look at how Tara Reade is being treated by mainstream media, and how the sexual assault allegations against joe Biden are being handled….people have picked a lane and landed there, and are backing the horse they want to instead of checking out the 7 other horses in the race

  15. Thanks Jane for getting us to think rather than just read. I agree whole heartedly with your thoughts on leaders and the traits of great selfless leaders. We are indeed fortunate, by chance of birth or otherwise, to live in Canada at this time of history and sometimes it takes disasters to make that sink into our heads.
    On the personal front I have learned I don’t need to be going out everyday, except for a walk, and meeting people is indeed a privilege to be treasured. I miss my occasional lunches with a friend and doing the same via Zoom is not quite the same. I miss my children and grandchildren more than I thought I would but don’t miss wading through crowded airports and sitting cheek by jowl in a noisy airplane for hours to go visit them. So, even though it takes a lot more time, driving has become much more attractive and more so since I have always enjoyed driving across this great country except for occasional city part. Again I am reminded of how incredibly fortunate I am in having the choice of flying or driving to see family.
    Enjoy the next few days of Spring sunshine, flowers and fresh air.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for these lessons learned, Wayne. My personal ones are very similar. Having lunch or coffee with a friend I now realize is something to be treasured. I also doubt that we’ll ever get on an airplane again, but I will continue to live in hope that we’ll see our kids and grandkids somehow by Christmas. It certainly gives me pause to think about when people used to emigrate to Canada or Australia from Britain, or to the US or Canada from anywhere in Europe, they’d get on a ship knowing they’d likely never see their family again. No planes, no phone, no Internet, just slow mail by ship. That was making a choice. Still is for many migrants!

      • Wayne and I always discuss your blogs and often tho not always agree on replies, so glad he took the initiative and actually wrote his. Turns out that even extroverts like being home with their signficant others, good books, the internet and garden..,,

  16. I think you have covered all the main points well.

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