I guess using that word was a bit of a stretch

I talk about stretching a lot, but I think “stretching” is a little bit of a misnomer. When I say stretching, what I really mean is relieving tension in the body.

I think it’s an important distinction, and here’s why:

Stretching is a method, but the overarching goal is to relieve tension. Stretching is putting muscles under strain, to loosen them up. It’s also very far from the only way to do this.

If you’ve ever experienced a massage, that’s not stretching. It probably relieved tension though. A massage is not stretching, a massage is a variety of techniques. Maybe they’re giving myofascial release, applying pinpoint pressure, using intense sonic vibrations, etc etc.

If you’ve ever used a heating pad, that’s not stretching. Once again though, relieves tension. It’s another method. I hope this doesn’t sound needlessly patronising, because I’m heading somewhere.

I’m gonna stop talking in the abstract now, but please keep in mind I’m not educated on this stuff. It’s mostly what I’ve figured out by doing. Here are some methods/techniques I’ve found that work for me with a “What”, “How” and “Why”:

What: Dynamic stretching – Instead of staying static and holding a position, I’ll move in and out of the position.
How: Instead of holding my foot behind my bum to stretch my knee, I’ll kick my heel back, then return it to the ground, and repeat this a bunch of times.
Why: Sometimes joints and muscles are stiff, and by moving into the stretch instead of just holding it, it allows the tension to be broken up gently and gradually, rather than by forcing it. This one is great to use in conjunction with static stretching, because it often opens up pathways that then can be further explored by static stretching.

What: Heat – warming up an area to reduce tension in that area.
How: Hot baths, showers, heating pads. If those things aren’t accessible, I’ve honestly taken to just rubbing the area really vigorously.
Why: Heat works. It’s often far more gradual than other methods, but it feels relaxing and probably takes the least effort out of anything I’ve mentioned so far.

What: Pinpoint pressure – Instead of stretching an area, figuring out where the central point of pain is, and applying increasing pressure until it dissipates.
How: Using an object with a small, firm tip (a thumb would probably be most common, but elbows and balls (tennis, lacrosse, rubber/bouncy) are great too. I’ll use literally anything I can find. The corner of a table, a block of wood or brick), press that tip into the affected spot. Apply pressure to your tastes/pain tolerance. You can start small and gradually apply more pressure, or if you get off on pain, you can just push really hard.
Why: It’s probably one of the most effective and quick techniques, but it generally takes more knowledge and experience than others here. You need to understand how to track down the point of pain, and withstand the constant sensation that comes with it. I do a ton of this, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

What: Vibration – Vigorously vibrating or shaking the tense area.
How: Instead of bending at the waist with a straight leg to stretch the back of my leg, I’ll shake the leg out vigorously. Or if you had something like a car buffer (don’t laugh, it works), Hitachi Magic Wand- or honestly any powerful sex toy- that would be quite effective. I just don’t have those things.
Why: This is great for breaking up residual lactic acid and associated etc. Stuff that’s lingering around and getting in the way of being able to stretch deeper. TBH I tend to use this one as a way to further static stretching rather than a solo technique, but it’s also great for post deep stretch, moving blood back into areas before you put weight on them. This is incredibly helpful for injury prevention.

What: Tapotement. This is less of a technique to fix things, but more to figure out where problem areas are.
How: You just kinda… slap or hit the area? I’m not talking about hurting myself, but short quick slaps or taps that ripple through an area. If you feel tiny twinges in certain areas as the slap ripples through, they’re good spots to look to take care of with another method.
Why: Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I sorta liken this one to radar or echolocation. Putting out stimulation that triggers a response, which tells you where to look.

So when I say that I stretch all the time, I’m actually talking about using a ton of methods and techniques with the overall goal of relieving tension and stress throughout my body. None of these is better than another, they just have different applications. Sometimes a one method will be great, and at other times that same method will be an ineffective tool. You can swap between methods and apply different techniques on the fly, and it’s a fantastic way of pushing past blocks to get at dense, underlying issues. When I’m “stretching”, I’m combining the above stuff constantly:

I might use one technique for five minutes, switch to another for 30 seconds, then onto another one for the next ten minutes.
I might oscillate between static and dynamic stretching.
I might be in a static stretch, rub the affected area vigorously to use heat, then notice just how much further I can stretch after ten seconds of said heat.
I might spend 5 minutes doing pinpoint pressure, shake the area out to get rid of anything that’s lingering, then go back to the pinpoint stuff. If I feel like I’ve worked a spot totally out with pinpoint work, I might try tapotement to see if there are any other spots where pinpoint would be beneficial, then apply it. Maybe I’ll realise that I’m experiencing tension in that area because there’s tension further along the chain. Say, my knee is sore because my adductor (stretches from the knee to the groin) is tight, and I’ll do a static stretch on that out to lessen the tension. Once I’ve done this, I’ll sway through my hips with dynamic stretching. Then tapotement to figure out where pinpoint would be effective, and alleviate a spot that was too tense to get into before.

The point is to relieve tension. Whatever gets you there, gets you there. The only way to figure out what’s gonna help is to try it. If it works, great. If it’s not helping, try something else. Worst case scenario you’re back to whatever you already know works.

And this is how I lose two hours working on a single hand. Whatever, we’re in a pandemic. Time no longer exists.

Have fun, and let me know how you get on.

Okay, let’s just beat this thing already

The What: It’s not that politicians can’t stop COVID, it’s that they won’t.

The Why: Politicians don’t actually understand what COVID is, how it works, or how to beat it.

It’s not fair to judge someone on what they don’t know. My country beat COVID, so I’ll explain some things:

1) COVID-19 is not intelligent. It’s a virus, and a virus’ job is to infect things. That’s all it’s doing. It’s good at its job. It doesn’t know we exist, it just does.

2) COVID-19 is not playing politics. An infectious virus is not playing politics. It’s just infecting people. Once again, it’s good at its job.

3) COVID is not a political issue. It’s a public safety issue. The public is being massively infected, people are dying. Every single industry is being impacted, and many are dying.

4) COVID is being looked at as a Problem. Not an Emergency. This part is hard, because when we think of Emergencies we think of sudden occurrences: An Earthquake, a Hurricane, a Tsunami, a Snow Storm. COVID is an Emergency, but it doesn’t look like any of the above.

5) Because COVID is being treated like a problem, politicians are going through their usual methods. They’re trying to address what they can with the budget they have, without getting caught up in political bills that have to run through opposition parties. The goal is to save money, because it’s hard to get agreement without strings attached. Politics sucks for getting things done.

6) Politicians work for Taxpayers. They’re employed to enable better lives for the Taxpayers. The money they’re spending is our money. We’ve given them the power and responsibility to work on our behalf. Remember though, politics sucks for getting things done. Which means a lot of our money is wasted on people trying to get leverage in order to accomplish their goals. They’re spending ENORMOUS amounts of our money on things that aren’t fixing our problems.

***

So if you’re with me so far, COVID isn’t political. It’s a virus doing its job. Politicians’ job is to use the money we give them to create infrastructure and laws to improve our quality of life. COVID isn’t a Problem, it’s an Emergency, and needs to be treated like one. We’re paying them to do a job they’re not doing.

***

I think part of the issue is that politicians don’t know what kind of Emergency COVID is, but they love the economy, so I’ll try to think of a money based metaphor. I’m not a money guy, so this will be kinda loose. Please bear with me, I have good intentions.

COVID is less like a natural disaster, and more like Debt/Interest. If you’ve ever been in Debt, you’ll know that you are charged a fee for being in Debt. It costs you money to be poor. I know, right? You might be charged $20 a month for owing money. The more you owe, the more you pay every month. Maybe you’re paying $100 every month. That’s pretty shit, right? You’re spending money on not having money, which means you’re absolutely paying money to get nothing. This is exactly what COVID is doing, but the scale is exponentially larger.

COVID is like everyone getting simultaneous Debt. Everyone everywhere gets Debt. The amount they have depends on a bunch of factors. The fewer resources you have, the more Debt you have. Working in public is Debt. Taking public transit is Debt. Not being able to afford good PPE is Debt. Living in cramped areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain is Debt. The more Debt you rack up, the higher cost you have to pay every month.

But being rich isn’t enough to ignore Debt. You might have less Debt, but you’re not inoculated from it. The more Debt there is around you, the higher chance there is that you’ll pick some of it up.

Remember, it’s not just one Debt. All of us have Debt of differing amounts. When we put this together it’s not cumulative, it’s compounded. The more Debt society picks up, the more Debt we each accumulate. The Debt of others increases our Debt.

COVID has exponential growth. I repeat, it’s SO GOOD at its job. You know how local stores get utterly driven into the ground by big box stores and franchises? That’s what COVID is doing to every industry by saddling them with Debt. This is Debt with exponential growth, so every month, we all have to pay more and more.

What politicians and companies right now is making the mistake of thinking they’re inoculated from Debt if they just make more money than it. They’ll be able to Stave Off the Debt if they keep it at bay long enough to close a big deal that helps them pay it off in full. Spoiler, that’s not going to happen. They’re taking chances, and COVID is not. Remember, it’s good at its job. Politicians don’t seem to be. COVID will continue to saddle us with Debt while we waffle around, and they’ll do it faster than we can make money to pay it off.

Think about the huge costs spent on CERB. CERB is part of the Debt. We can’t not pay CERB, because HUMAN LIVES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY. Not to be controversial or anything. People need money to live. The longer we’re in lockdown, the more CERB we pay. The point is not for the government to just give people free money forever, it’s to save the Taxpayers who pay their wages. It’s also a temporary measure. It’s supposed to get us through this so we can resume our lives once the pandemic is over. The longer we’re in this, the more CERB the government pays.

They have already wasted so much of our money accumulating Debt. Remember that with Debt, that monthly cost keeps coming. Spending money on not having money, right? It costs us a COLOSSAL amount to be in Debt, and the longer we are, the more it will cost. Every month we spent trying to mitigate the effects of Debt instead of paying it off was a month of blown human lives, Taxpayer money, and businesses in the drain, spreading more Debt to the wealthy. Nobody at all likes COVID, because it’s bad news for every single one of us.

This is all very gloomy, yes? But that doesn’t mean we are powerless. What would you tell your kid if they’d amassed too much Debt for them to handle? You’d tell them that you can beat Debt by paying it off and getting into the black. Once you’re in the black, no more monthly payments. Not only have you taken care of that ongoing cost, but you’ve likely created a framework of managing your money that allows you to make better decisions going forward.

***

Politicians won’t defeat COVID, but they can. Here are things that need doing in order to defeat COVID:

1) Money needs to be shifted to places where it makes sense.

This isn’t politics, and the most important thing to our country/province right now is to defeat COVID. Any economic bills that don’t work towards defeating COVID are wasting money. We don’t want industries to collapse and leave the population vulnerable, sure, but now is not a time to make money. It’s a time to defeat COVID. Doug Ford can take all the existing safety protocols away from industries AFTER we’ve defeated COVID. Before they get to have fun with Taxpayer money again, they need to do their jobs. Prevent Taxpayers from dying.

We don’t need any new construction projects. We don’t need to fund military purchases, or police munitions. We definitely don’t need to be paying the salaries of suspended cops. We’re in a restructuring period. We don’t need to enable leisure industries. We don’t need dining at restaurants or bars. Not even patios. We do not need people in public, and we ESPECIALLY do not need people drinking alcohol in public, inhibiting their decision making skills. They can do that just fine at home.

We need to look at budgets and re-prioritise where these funds go. If it’s a Taxpayer funded department and money is not going to infrastructure or projects that aid Taxpayers’ ability to live, it’s wasted money. That’s money that could go towards paying off Debt.

2) Letting Experts and Experiences drive policy.

There are people who know so much more than I ever will about all of this. We need to listen to them. It’s not important that they tell us what we want to hear, we need to listen to what we need to know. We need to take their advice and shape protocols around it. Otherwise we’re wasting Taxpayers money. Once more, politicians not doing their jobs.

We are not the only country experiencing COVID. Other countries have tried pre-emptive re-opening. They’ve tried making masks optional. They’ve tried bringing kids back to school. None of these strategies have worked, and we can see just how badly they haven’t worked. If politicians have this data and are choosing to make the same mistakes, they’re either idiots or callous. We need to follow effective strategies and fold them into our methodology. If experts say masks are mandatory indoors, we need to follow that advice. Same goes for social distancing, bubbles, sanitising, maximum capacities, etc. Otherwise we’re wasting money and accruing so much more Debt.

3) Excessive and clear public information.

It is not the fault of the public for not knowing how COVID works. There is a lot of information out there, and what we’re learning about COVID changes constantly. The public needs up to date information. All of the public. Don’t leave rural areas out of the loop either. This information needs to be clear, so people can follow it regardless of education levels. We need daily broadcasts from Parliament that are apolitical and only focused on science. They need to be conducted by experts, not politicians. The public have a right to know what we’re up against, and not to be taken advantage of for the goals of the wealthy.

We also need the Why. People rarely ever learn if you just tell them the What. Without context or deeper understanding, it’s easy to forget. If they know the Why, they can take productive and intentional steps towards keeping themselves safe, instead of making unfortunate but understandable mistakes.

We need to know what a bubble is. We need to know how it works, its goals and objectives. We need to know scenarios in which our bubbles could be popped, leaving us exposed. Did you know that if you’re eating indoors, you’re not being safe if you or anyone in your bubble is next to or across from someone in another bubble? If anyone in your bubble is exposed, everyone in your bubble is exposed. That’s how the metaphor works.

Plagiarise info from other successful countries, I don’t care. I know this is expensive. It’s part of the cost of paying down COVID’s Debt. Do everything in your power to protect the public. Misinformation kills.

4) We need to go back into lockdown.

PLEASE LISTEN TO ME. I know how much it sucks. I know how dispiriting it is, but it’s important that we don’t confuse inconvenience for a violation of our rights. The more people in public, the higher chance of exposure. The more interaction between people, the higher chance of exposure. The more exposure, the longer we have to deal with COVID. Remember, we’re trying to beat COVID, not learn to live with it. We all need to make sacrifices, even if it’s inhibiting what we want to do. We need to look at all the ways that COVID could spread and take away all of those opportunities. We don’t compromise with COVID. Like we were supposed to do in lockdown.

We don’t need to go back into lockdown forever, but until we’re at a point where the cases are low enough they can be tracked by Contact Tracing. Once we know who has COVID, can keep those people safe and isolated. If we have a framework set up that can take care of these people, then we will be able to handle new cases while reducing the threat to lives, jobs and the economy. While lockdown is on, PAY TAXPAYERS WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO LIVE OTHERWISE. Even if the government doesn’t care about the lives of its citizens, it should care that the more people who die, the less tax they get to collect, and the smaller their budgets get. The quicker we deal with this, the quicker we can go back to our lives.

***

Did you know that back in my home country you can shake hands with strangers? Pash a hot person in a public bar? Walk around without masks? My home country is smaller than Ontario. The country has a GDP 1/3 the size of Ontario’s. My country beat COVID, and they have far fewer resources. The reason was cultural, not economic.

Information from experts was prioritised, heeded and understood. Communication was transparent, informative and easy to follow. The public knew why they had to take actions like wearing masks, staying home, keeping safe distance. Because of this, the public was able to take the initiative and do what needed to be done to keep each other safe. They beat it. Boring story, but a better ending. Let’s end this too. Please.

Would a kinky music group be a rubber band?

Things I’ve learned about stretching:

First rule of any fitness: If it hurts, stop.

There’s a difference between tension and pain. Tension is something you can work through. Pain is a sign to step back.

Dynamic and Static stretching are different, and to understand it’s helpful to think of a rubber band. If you take a rubber band our of a freezer and pull on it, chances are it will snap. If you warm the rubber band up first, it will slowly expand the range it can stretch. It’s the same thing with Dynamic and Static stretching. Dynamic stretching (pulsing into a stretch rather than just holding it) is great when you’re starting a workout, and Static is great for cooling down. BUT IT’S NOT JUST THAT CLEAR CUT.

Once you get used to the difference, you can use Dynamic and Static stretching interchangeably to get the most out of a movement. Say you’re bending to the ground with straight legs and you’re not getting as far as you’d like, stop. Gently bend your knees. Then cycle back and forth, straightening alternate legs. You’ll probably find that in those small increments, you can stretch further than you could in a Static stretch. Once your legs feel sufficiently warmed up, try going back to Static stretching, straightening both legs. It’s likely that you’ll be able to stretch deeper than previously. You can do this again and again until you have the stretch you’re looking for.

Once again, if it hurts, stop.

You can step back and recalibrate at any point. If something doesn’t feel right, ask yourself why that is. Can you gently change the angle? Rotate somehow? Move other parts of your body to stimulate different muscles? Here’s an example. Spread your fingers out as wide as they go. Now bend your index finger. Bend your hand forwards and back. Feel what the movement does. Now try this with your middle finger bent instead. Move through all your fingers one by one. Do you feel how it engages different parts of your hand? These are all technically mildly different stretches with different applications. If you do this with rotating your wrist instead of bending your hand, do you feel a difference? It’s the same with most stretches. If you’re bending to the ground with straight legs, what happens if you rotate your torso? Trying new things out is a great way of exploring how your body is connected, and may lead to releasing tension in areas you didn’t realise you were holding them.

I must repeat, if at any point it hurts, stop.

Just because you know that a particular muscle is sore, it doesn’t mean you can take care of it right away. Sometimes particular muscles are near inaccessible until you’ve relaxed the surrounding muscle. Say you have a sore knee, and stretching isn’t helping. Could you try stretching your ankle? Your quads? Your abductors (outer leg) and adductors (inner leg)? Your IT band (a long thread that runs from your knee to the outside of your hip. You probably have IT band issues, we all do)? They’re all connected in ways we don’t realise. The good news is that once you stretch all the surrounding musculature, the particular muscle is likely a) already feeling some relief and b) far easier to work into.

BE PATIENT. Never rush. If you’ve just done a deep stretch, please do not pull out of it quickly. Slowly release that tension. Remember what I was saying about the cold rubber band earlier? Same thing. Work back into it. If you’ve been stretching your knee, maybe start by gently wiggling your toes. Then rock your foot from side to side. Rotate your ankle. THEN start to straighten your leg. I know it sounds silly to spend upwards of 30 seconds to a minute coming down from a stretch, but if the goal of stretching is either healing or preventative action, take care of yourself and spend the time.

Learn to tighten your core. If you can tighten your core, it helps you isolate particular muscles without putting unneccessary strain on supporting muscles. Stretching with isolation is an entirely different level of stretching.

It’s very helpful to examine your framing around stretching. Is it something you do to get you ready for a workout? Or are you looking for long term change? They have different applications.

The bad news is that stretching for long term change is not as quick a process as most of us would like. Some things take a long time, and the bigger issue it is, the longer it takes. There’s pain management, and there’s fixing body trauma. The more you learn about stretching, the more there is to learn. You may even realise just how much tension you’ve been holding, and be amazed by how long you’ve been holding it.

The good news: The way you think about your body might be wrong. Things that you assume are the way your body works might be patterns you’ve created around ingrained and normalised tension. These are things you can change, and potentially fix.

Story time: Last week I was thinking about that thing where you put an arm behind your back and reach over with the other arm to grab it. Ever since I was a child, I’ve only been able to do it with my left arm behind my back. So I tried to consciously think about what would need to happen to do it with both arms. I pulled my right arm behind my back, and gradually inched it up. I got a thick rubberised band and grabbed one end with my right hand. I pulled my right hand behind my back, and used my left hand to pull on the other end of the band from above. Then I noticed there was tension at the front of my right shoulder. I did a chest stretch with my right arm taught, and felt around the front of my right shoulder for where the pain was centred. I pressed down on that spot with a finger on my left hand. While flexed, I massaged this spot and gently worked out the tension. I tried the arm behind my back thing again. I did it. For the first time in my entire life, I could reach my right hand behind my back and grab it with my left.

This whole process took five minutes. Five minutes, with the right knowledge, meant I could correct something I didn’t know wasn’t working right. Take whatever metaphor you want from this.

That’s also not the extent of it. In the past ten or so days I fixed wrist issues I’ve been dealing with since I fractured my ulnar styloid two years ago. I released a whole block of tension in my back I thought was just how my back worked. My entire back eased up. I did not know that your whole lower back was not supposed to tighten when you tighten your core. Things had been that way for so long, I thought that was standard. My body physically is different now. My shoulders are not constantly taut. My back was literally swollen with tension, and that has all receded.

Around ten years ago I tore my PCL. Knee pain has been a constant in my adult life. Last week I spent over an hour working on my knee. Testing each point of articulation, breathing deep and gradually working my way through it. My knee no longer hurts. Seriously. Over a decade of daily pain, and it’s gone. Whoosh. I could not believe it. I’m not saying it’s fixed forever, but it’s at such a low level that it’s incredibly easy to maintain, and I know how to ease it back to normalcy going on. If you told me two weeks ago I’d be without knee pain now I would have loudly and rudely laughed in your face. And enjoyed it. Turns out, things we think we know aren’t always true.

The worst and best part is, I still have so, so much to learn.

My presence is a present kiss my ass (once lockdown is over, if you’re into it)

The other day I got high and rammed my body with an inadvisable amount of caffeine. Then I found presence.

So during this pandemic, on my days off, I’ve been getting high for midday workouts on my balcony. I’ve stopped doing anything weight based, just low impact joint friendly stuff. I do my own guided stretching that can take anywhere from twenty to ninety minutes, then I’ll do a 30 minute Youtube workout video (quick plug for The Body Project, by the way. Fun and easy to follow for a whole range of fitness levels). It’s also a good time for me to let my thoughts wander ad infinitum. I’ve never been great at concentrating. My thoughts seem to be always in many places at once. I’m sure the weed wasn’t helping there.

After turning my blood to coffee, I wasn’t bucking this trend. I walked out onto the balcony and couldn’t stop my thoughts from racing. Not doom and gloom stuff, just what would a dog look like in a turtleneck?/when do I get to play Magic again?/what am I gonna eat for dinner tonight?/how much of Gremlins 2 do I remember? Altogether it wasn’t conducive to my goal of stretching and working out.

So I gave myself a Time Out. I sat down on the chilly bin and stopped. I closed my eyes, made myself take deep breaths and asked myself a few questions. Is any of this important enough to focus on over what I’m doing? If not, will I need to address it in the short term? If not, is it more of a long term thing? If so, why not put it aside until it’s necessary? Why waste my time and energy on these things that don’t matter right now? Why shortchange something I enjoy for no reason? Why not put my effort towards getting more out of my stretch, enjoying the music, and just being where I was?

And things stopped. I calmed down. I started stretching, really taking into account what I was stretching. I found where to push, what was helping and what wasn’t. Whenever an intrusive thought came up, I asked myself it was important at that time, or if I could think about it later. If it was important, I addressed the thought, then got back to what I was doing. If it wasn’t, I shelved it for later. I had a fantastic workout, and whenever a new thought came up, I continued with this process. Very quickly, I found it quite straightforward to just be where I was.

I came in and talked excitedly to my girlfriend about giving myself a time out. She looked back excitedly and said “babe, that’s mindfulness meditation”. And I stopped. And I thought. And I realised she was right.

In the past few days, it’s made EVERYTHING better. I assess every thought/task and ask myself if it’s urgent. If it’s not, I’ll put it away for later. I focus on what I’m doing. I put full effort and intention into one thing, then I move onto the next. I’m still doing things at the same pace (or more efficiently sometimes), I’m just doing them better. If I’m spending time with my girlfriend, I’m there with her. Kissing is better. Touch is better. I’m listening more. If I’m playing Magic, I’m consciously thinking of the best play, taking into account all the information at hand. If I’m watching TV, I’m paying attention rather than thinking about other things I could be doing. I know that this sounds complicated or exhausting, but it isn’t. It’s the opposite. I trust and love myself to know that I have my best intentions at heart, so I can gauge what’s best for me. If at any point that changes, I’ll figure out how to adapt and move forward. If I’m wrong, I accept it and look for a better option.

Forgive the stoner philosophy, but I’ve realised that life is an infinite series of moments. At any single one of those moments, we can decide to change. We’re not stuck with thoughts or opinions because we had them. We can change with new information. Sunken cost fallacy is bullshit, and being wrong isn’t a curse. Ego is. There are lessons in error. If we realise we’re wrong or misguided, we can stop, take stock, and figure out the best course of action from then on. With ANYTHING. There’s absolutely no purpose to holding onto resentment, regret, or self-doubt. If it’s not helping us, it’s worth taking apart and asking what it’s doing for us. Is there a reason I’m fixated on this? What is it really trying to say? Is there a more constructive way to look at it? Is there an alternative line of thinking? Is there a way to turn this around? If it’s not a quick fix, are there steps I could take? Will that take moments? Days? Months? Years?

Cool. No better time to start than now.

On, Tario!

I think that this is an important article for Ontarians to read. Our public health communications have been an abject failure, and have directly caused preventable deaths.

So many of the issues that we’re facing now: Conflicting information, Communications that are difficult to parse or misleading, and the lack of a timely response backed by science, not spokespersons, are a direct result of cuts to public organisations for the sake of “fiscal responsibility”.

This is exactly what Ford said he was going to do, and sometimes it’s worth believing what people are saying rather than listening to their rhetoric.

I don’t know what contact any of you have with Ford’s base, but it is vitally important for all of us to put in the work to educate people on how the actions of his government have directly harmed the vulnerable. I’m not talking about “cancelling” relatives, or shitting on them. I’m talking about frustrating, methodical conversations where you listen to their concerns and lead them towards real information. It fucking sucks, but continuing to let partisan bullshit prevent actionable change for the better is actively harming us. We need to be better, and that starts with us.

A genuine “Whys” guy

Back when I taught kids’ gymnastics I quickly found that people learn when you give them the Why, not just the What. If you know what the purpose of a behaviour is, the benefit is much clearer.

I have read a bunch of Ontario’s COVID Stage 2 announcement and it is not that.

The document is long, with a bunch of sub pages. To find the information you want requires a lot of clicking. Most of the information on the different pages is very similar, just tweaked for the current topic.
And then it mainly tells you What to do.

By not telling the public why we adopt certain behaviours around COVID, we’re putting the onus on them to find it themselves. This is easier for some than others, and those who find it difficult will likely get discouraged. EVERYONE deserves this info and the right to be healthy.

It also sows the seeds of misinformation. If people are finding it too hard to parse how COVID works, they’ll go for the explanation that they understand, because then they get to feel better about themselves and their place in the world. They understand it now. Fin.

But it’s not. If people are ignoring information in favour of what they want to believe, they will continue to do so if it’s easier and continues to make them feel good about their competence. This leads to partisan rifts over facts, which is always worse for the public.

You don’t have to Make It Sexy, but public information should be clear and easy to understand so the public is informed. If you’re not telling people Why to follow your instructions, you’re not doing your job. People need to know Why these COVID measures are in place.

If the public understands how COVID spreads, then they’ll be able to take ownership over their behaviour, and understand how dramatically it affects the spread. The more people who understand how it works, the quicker we can mitigate the spread and get back to safe reopening.

There is no reason a children’s gymnastics class should be unable to understand this information. That’s how clear it needs to be.

Here’s a little song I wrote…

So it’s come to this, has it?

I don’t know why I phrased that so ominously. I’m elated. Look, I may be a sincere person, but I’m rarely if ever sentimental. Today is my last day of daily writing. So it goes. This writing project was been a necessary part of my life for many years. Having a creative outlet during the tough times helped immeasurably. I’m not gonna begin to pretend I always wanted to write. Maybe I actually wanted to write five times per year. The other 360 times were under my own duress. Then multiply that by seven. I decided that I would write every single day irrespective of what I had going on. If I was tired, it was 3am, and my organs were seeping out of my skin from fatigue? Too bad. Writing still needed to happen. This also meant that most days, I really didn’t feel like it, but forced myself. I might not be sentimental, but I can be quite disciplined if I tell myself I have no other option. I’m not kind when it comes to diligence, I just decide that I don’t have a choice and suffer through it.

The best part, is that I essentially did my summation entry yesterday, so today I can be back on my usual brand o’ bullshit. I dunno. My brain is a little loopy at the moment, which feels fitting. We’re moving house. I’m surrounded by detritus, which is an unkind way to refer to our belongings. To be fair, on a long enough timeline we’re all detritus. I’ve been throwing things away all day, which is one of my favourite things to do. There’s little I love more than shedding the past and moving on. I don’t really like owning stuff. I hate that I gradually accumulate more things. Fortunately, my trash can be another man’s trash. Or woman. Or anyone along the gender spectrum. Gender is a construct, and wholly irrelevant when we’re talking about things I may have cared about at some stage. Then again, at some stage gender was a thing I cared about. Plus ça change, eh?

Mostly, it’ll be weird for my parents. Seeing an entry posted every day is the only way they know I’m still living. I think my girlfriend reads too? I never really accrued much of an audience, but that also wasn’t the point. The point was to have somewhere to jot down thoughts, work on improving as a writer, and finally figure out some kind of stance on the Oxford Comma. Obviously, I’m pro. I didn’t even write the sentence that way on purpose, it just happened.

I’m also thrilled that the summation of this project lined up with me getting my shit together. I’m in a great place. My girlfriend and I are about to move into an all new apartment together. I’m leaving the only Toronto home I’ve ever had. I have an expansive circle of friends I adore. I’m stoked to be working in Described Video. It’s challenging, creative, and ever evolving. I’ve done a lot of work on my mental and physical health over the years, and they’re both paying dividends. Moreover, I’ve learned how better to process, accept, and move forwards. I’ll struggle again, and again, and life will be riding those waves. It’s what we do, no?

I remember going out for dinner with my mum once. We used to do that kind of thing. Go out to the movies, get dinner. We were homies. We went for a fancy dégustation, because we both share a love of food. It was a fantastic meal, and a lovely evening. At one point I levelled with her. “Mum, you need to understand that I’m never going to be truly happy. I know that there’ll always be something holding me back, and that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it, and I think it would be healthy for you to stop having that expectation.” It was a horrible thing to say. I don’t think she took it well, but I meant every word of it.

Sorry mum. I lied.

If someone suggests getting a puzzle I will personally cough on you

Shit just got real.

It feels that way in any case. A sort of malaise has gripped society. People cast their gaze down on the subway. They avoid each other like the plague. No pleasant conversations between strangers. Toronto has become a lonely citadel, folks pass in the streets like shadows, avoidant and scared. Oh wait, that’s just what living in Toronto is like.

Sarcasm aside, something does feel off. My coworker came into the office for his shift, and he carried this anxious tension. I get it. We talked through things. We’ve had to adopt an expanded shift rotation aftter one of our coworkers returned to the country. All the live DV is down to one coworker and I. We may make a little extra cash, which is nice. I’m sure at some stage I’ll have to go two weeks without a paycheck. Woof. It’s an awfully big hit on the back of moving to a new apartment that costs half as much again as our current one. I’m sure we’ll be far from the only folks suffering. All of my freelancer or arts friends are reeling from the impact. Theatres closed, comedy venues shut down. Restaurants and bars must be staring down the barrel of a grim month. Everyone in our corporation have been encouraged to work from home if possible. It’s a monumentally shitty time for my home computer to shit itself. A friend’s gonna help me fix it, but he won’t be around until Tuesday evening. While I was offered the next four days off, I asked my boss if I could come in for my day shifts until Tuesday to stave off boredom. What am I supposed to do at home if I don’t have a working computer? Hell, even the libraries are closed. Fingers crossed I renewed my library account to check out books online.

General services have shut down. Libraries obviously included. The scope of the shutdowns is staggering, unprecedented and wholly surprising. By the sounds of it, it’s also sensible. I asked the question to friends over whether I should stick to outdoor cardio and home calisthenics instead of going to the gym. Affirmatives all around. “Stay home, flatten the curve” was everyone’s advice. Guess I’m back to doing bodyweight home workouts like I did before I could afford a gym membership. Fucking sigh. If it helps, it helps.

We’re still a few days off needing another stack of toilet paper. Fingers crossed we don’t have to resort to tissues, paper towels, or drip drying. The smart move would be committing to a bidet. At the same time, if we’re moving house in a few weeks, I don’t really want to install a bidet only to almost instantly remove it. It’s also weird having to move in the midst of a pandemic. Is it unrealistic or unsafe to get friends to give us a hand under these circumstances? Is hiring a professional moving company any better? Who’s to say a sick contractor has the piece of mind to say no to much needed income? In this scenario, who do we trust?

All I know is that I’m severely ill-equipped to deal with being stuck at home. I’m so much of a social glutton, and it’s rare for online communication to scratch those itches. I’m probably desperate enough for interaction that I’d start live streaming mundane activities. Would people want to watch me fixing a bowl of porridge? Cleaning the litter box? Ranting about capitalism while I fold laundry? There are a lot of bored people on the internet, you know. Maybe I’ll see if I can finish the zombo.com back catalogue.

Shit, I’ve been home for 45 minutes and I think I’m already bored. Hope dies here.

Is anyone coming at Cleopatra these days?

I biked to work in shorts and a T shirt yesterday.

Which is to say, all things come to an end eventually. I didn’t think I’d ever grow up to be someone who talked about the weather, but my youthful exuberance had to run out at some point. I’m feeling scattershot and muddled today, so it’s gonna be an eclectic hodgepodge of miscellanea in today’s entry.

Speaking of things ending, just over two weeks left in this project, baybee. I won’t cease to have my doubts, but I may stop airing my doubts in such a frank and public forum. March 25th is my last day of daily posting on here. Will I return periodically to air my feelings? Probably not. This isn’t nearly as bittersweet as you’d think. I like writing, but it’s not my lifeblood. I started all this at a time where I needed creativity in my life, and now I get that through my job. I’m satisfied by that, which feels like an absurd privilege to say. Sure, I enjoy it whenever I get to the end of an entry and it happened to turn out okay. I’m under no illusions though that the bulk of my output is absurd, and not of a significant quality. Being able to let go of having to fit writing into my schedule every single day will be so freeing. When I’m on holiday I’ll be able to just be on holiday. Being totally present rather than retreating to a page to recap. Isn’t that amazing? If I’m camping I won’t need to bring my weirdly heavy portable keyboard.

COVID-19 is turning out to be a pretty big deal. It’s wild seeing the magnitude of its presence. Massive events are being cancelled or altered. I heard they were talking about playing NBA games in empty stadiums. SXSW is not happening, which I can imagine is gonna be a huge blow to the indie film circuit. My friend and I have tickets to a podcast festival in NYC in May. We’re wondering whether it’ll still be on. At worst we just kick around NYC for a few days, which isn’t a terrible outcome. I’m thinking ahead to summer and wondering what’s gonna happen with all of these festivals. Montreal is festival central, will Just for Laughs, Fantasia, Boots and Hearts, etc still go strong? Which industries will suffer the most? Will flights get super cheap as a result? Will grocery deliveries capitalise on the panic and jack up their prices? Will anyone die in a supermarket brawl over toilet paper? How will Hollywood manage to lure people out to see films? Is this all a massive overreaction? Or a valid pandemic response? I tend to think the latter, but only time will tell.

If I seem all over the map today, it’s because I’ve been busy with other things while writing. This is what I was talking about fitting writing into my schedule. While doing this entry I’ve been trying to sort transit for a festival in July, checking in on a situation at work, making lunch, organising a date for Thursday, and preparing stuff for my work shift this afternoon. It was either cramming writing between all this other stuff, or do it on the TTC while heading in to the office. I tend to like my commuting time to relax and get mentally ready for the workplace, but mostly I want an excuse to listen to a podcast without getting distracted. Can you blame me?

Oh shit, it’s nice out. I could bike today. Where are my shorts?

COVID operations

I think this might be my first ever pandemic.

You live for long enough, you accumulate experiences. After having gone through something, subsequent times feel less shocking. I guess this is growing up? Your first solar eclipse is a big deal. You’ve always known the sun to shine bright, then HOLY SHIT it’s a dim daytime. People get special glasses, etc. The next time a solar eclipse shows up you’re like well, it’s a departure from the norm, but it’s no longer shocking. I still do love the glasses though. I remember sicknesses going around schools/kindergarten. Chickenpox, the mumps, etc. I guess that’s slightly different, because you get your immunity and it stops being an issue. Still, they were scary once upon a time. Then other people get mumps and you’re like yep, I remember how that was. Taking two weeks off school, renting a Sega Mega Drive with Sonic 2 and Mortal Kombat 2. My older brother called me a “cunt” when I beat him and it was the first time I heard that word. It would be years before I knew what it meant. Memories, y’know?

I haven’t been through a true pandemic before. Sure there have been superbug scares, but they never really amounted to anything tangible. Of course, that’s a heartless thing to say. I’m sure people got sick and died, but the spread didn’t reach pandemic levels. Now in 2020, the fifth subsequent year that The Lord hath forsaken us, we have COVID-19. It’s spreading rampantly across the world. The US government has obviously shamelessly bungled the operation, because of general ineptitude, hubris and idiocy. I’m sure those in power have the money for personal medical attention if the need arises. Unfortunately, their choices and lack of action mean that many will die needlessly. I don’t know why health coverage is so despised by the right in the U.S. Unfortunately it’s not even “their loss”, because the innocent will suffer from the fallout. Grim, sad situation.

I think I’m pretty realistic about COVID-19. It sounds by all accounts to be a pretty infectious flu. Deaths of those under 60 seem to be quite rare. If you’ve got a fairly robust immune system, it will probably be an unpleasant experience, but not life threatening. I don’t want to catch it, but I’m also not petrified of what will happen if I do. I’d have to take time off work, which would put me in a financially frustrating situation. All things considered, not great but a much higher floor than others may face. I’ll probably be okay, so that’s great.

But it doesn’t stop there. This is a pandemic, and it’s very much not just about me. I tend to think that a certain amount of empathy is important in cases like this. Just because I’ll be okay, the same can’t be said for older folks that may cross my path. I have friends who are immunocompromised. If I got COVID-19 and passed it off to them, they could well be in a life threatening situation. That’s a big deal. I’ve always washed my hands. I’m unlikely to stop touching my face, or become pedantic about sanitiser. At the same time, I do think it’s worth taking a step back from my normal slovenly behaviour and considering how to change certain habits. If it makes a difference for others, it’s hard to see a little extra effort as a dealbreaker. Maybe I use the hand sanitiser dispensers in my work kitchen. Maybe I become a little more diligent about cleaning equipment I’ve used at the gym. I won’t upend my life. I’m still gonna be riding the TTC, which I’m certain is a hotbed for germs of all variety. I’ll still go to shows, hug/kiss friends, and eat with my bare hands, but maybe I’ll do some other stuff now.

My first pandemic doesn’t have to be my worst one.