Say it with me now

Hi. Long time no see.

Happy New Year, by the way. And happy belated every-holiday-between-July-and-now. Because that’s the last time I was here. Not because there was nothing to say, but because there was too much to say.

I didn’t know where to start or how to even begin gathering up all the big, loud feelings that were launching themselves into the void and organize them into something comprehendible. Being chronically ill and disabled during a pandemic that happens to be disproportionately affecting the disability community while also making it exponentially more difficult to access the routine healthcare required to exist as a chronically ill and disabled person is…an experience.

But now some of those feelings are yelling to be written out.

So here we are. Let’s do this.

Let’s talk about the pandemic.

I know, I know. We’re all tired of talking about the pandemic but we have to keep talking about the pandemic because ummm, there’s still a pandemic and there are a lot of people out there who know there is still a pandemic and yet are acting like it’s okay if they act a little bit (or a lot bit) like there’s no longer a pandemic.

Spoiler alert: it’s not okay.

If you haven’t been following along at home, COVID-19 transmission rates are too high in too many places right now. The pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere. Quite the opposite, things with the pandemic are the worst they’ve ever been in many places across the country and around the world. Yes, vaccines are here, and with them so is hope! But when we’re talking about a global population of over 7 billion people, well, it’s going to take a while.

We’re still very much in this.

In the meantime, I want you to think about the people in your life who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Do you want to help keep us safe? Yes? I’m hoping the answer is yes. Okay. So that means you wouldn’t show up at our front doors without a mask, push your way into our homes and start coughing, unleashing your potentially COVID-containing droplets all over everything, right?

Of course you wouldn’t do that. I know you wouldn’t do that.

And I wish that were enough, but it’s just not. Keeping us safe involves a lot more than just staying away from us.

Time and time again we have been told that transmission in hospitals and long-term care facilities and schools is a reflection of what’s happening in the community. Healthcare facilities and schools are full of people, people from the community. They are not isolated settings and so despite even the strictest protocols and the best intentions, COVID-19 will find its way in.

And those vulnerable people in your life that you want to help keep safe? We exist in those settings.

It’s not enough to just not show up at my door without a mask and push your way into my home. Because sometimes I have to leave my home. You might think your meet up with a friend doesn’t affect me, but your friend’s coworker might be roommates with a teacher and that teacher’s student might be the daughter of a nurse and that nurse might be one accessing my central line at my infusion. Plus an infinite number of other possible chains of transmission where a conscious choice to go against public health guidelines will result in someone who did follow those guidelines being devastated by COVID-19.

It’s not enough to just stay away from the vulnerable people in your life.

If you have ever wanted to do something to help me throughout the years of my illness, here is your chance. Stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines.

If you believe that disabled rights are human rights, if you believe that our right to health care and safety is as important as your right to the same things, here is your chance to prove it. Stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Stand in solidarity with us by seeing us safely through to the end of this pandemic. We need you to stay home when you can so that when we can’t the places we need to go are as safe as possible. We also need you to protect our healthcare systems so that when this is over there are still systems in place to take care of us, all of us, but especially those of us who regularly depend on them for stability and survival.

If you were shocked and saddened last year to learn about how deeply ingrained systemic racism is in our society, if you posted a black square on Instagram or used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, if you committed to “doing the work” to be actively anti-racist, then you need to stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Because systemic racism has resulted in this pandemic disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous and people of colour in so many ways and for so many reasons including that they are more likely to live with underlying health conditions putting them at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.

If you are a feminist and you respect and value the contribution women make to the labour force and believe in their right to workplace safety, then stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Because women are over-represented among teachers, childcare workers and healthcare workers. And women of colour are over-represented among the healthcare workers in long term care homes, the same homes that continue to be devastated by COVID-19 almost a year into this pandemic.

If you believe that someone’s innate value as a human being is not dependent on their income, then stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines. Because people working low-paying essential services jobs don’t have the option of working from home. Because people experiencing homelessness deserve to be protected, too.

And if you ever clapped and cheered for healthcare workers, or called any of them heroes at any point during this pandemic, then you need to stay home. Don’t travel. And follow public health guidelines. Because anything else is hypocritical. Because we cannot take for granted that they will keep showing up to work. Because we cannot expect them to leave the comfort and safety of their own homes if we’re not willing to do everything in our power to make their workplaces as physically and emotionally safe as possible.

We are not all in this together. We should be. But we’re not. And we never will be. Some of us have more privilege in this pandemic than others. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. Any privilege that we have was lucked into, not earned, and it is our responsibility to use our privilege in order to bring all of us as close to “in this together” as possible.

So stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines.

Because anything else right now says that you believe you are more important than all of the groups of people I just talked about.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way. Okay. So take a minute right now and think about it. Ask yourself if your actions are in line with what you believe. Ask yourself if you are okay with expecting people already at greater risk during this pandemic to bear the burden of your privilege.

I know we are all tired as we come up on a year of this pandemic. Things feel overwhelming and hopeless sometimes. Pandemic life is uncomfortable. What is being asked of us is hard. For all of us, no matter how much privilege we have, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.

But it is not okay to put the comfort of some above the safety of all.

We are not all in this together. But we are all in this. And we are all still in this. We are the ones who have to get each other through this.

So say it with me now:

Stay home. Don’t travel. Follow public health guidelines.

We can do this. Let’s get each other through this.

24 thoughts on “Say it with me now

  1. Miss you Catherine. If anyone is maintaining this beautiful space that Catherine created and poured her heart and wisdom into, please would you let us know if she’s ok? Obviously she’s not ok; she was so unwell, but she was a beautiful extraordinary soul … and I hope she is still hanging on in there somewhere. Much love,

    • Hi Angela – I’m okay!! Sorry to have worried you! I keep meaning to post an update but then it just never happens. Things aren’t easy but they’ve also been a lot worse and all things considered I’m doing just fine. There’s a lot of joy in my life, and in the context of my own life but also the state of the world, just being able to say that is a win and a privilege. Thank you for caring 💛

      • Heyyy Catherine!!! What a lovely surprise! No pressure to update or write intended, just so happy to hear you’re okay – even in not-ok-ness – and still finding joy. Yes such crazy times in our world and we can’t take a moment for granted. Let’s keep cherishing simple joys and our loved ones. Thank you and take care 🌻🌎✨🥰

  2. Hi Catherine, you’ve been in my thoughts a lot. Yesterday I saw a nature programme featuring glow worms. The adults can’t eat, because digestion takes energy and they need every bit of it just to be, and to emit their bioluminescence. It occurred to me that they probably don’t even see their own glow; only others can. I just wanted you to know that even if you’re not feeling very energetic or sparkly, your glow reaches all the way across oceans, all the way here to UK, even when you’re quiet and not able to write. Hope you and your loved-ones are as ok as possible and sending love and sparkles xxx 😘 ✨

  3. Love your eloquence with your words, as always. Thank you for echoing the thoughts of so many.
    I’ve been offline a lot lately but always manage to read your blog even when I cannot respond immediately. As I type this I am wondering how you are managing and hope you are surviving okay. Recent circumstances and events are quite a challenge to one’s mental health so I am sending my best wishes to let you know you are not alone in the daily struggles. There are people who ‘get it’ xx

    • Hi Jodie! It is a very challenging time, hey? I am managing okay, thank you. I’m doing my best to compartmentalize and focus on the joy and the levity wherever I can! Doing my best. Aren’t we all? Sending some love and encouragement back your way!

  4. Yes, I shared your post too. When the hospitals are too full of covid patients take up all the resources. They took all the food that the old and disabled could not get to also. They shut down restaurants that the chronically ill living alone sometimes count on because we have no energy to do simple cooking. What they take from us is devastating to the chronically ill, and we are left to try and keep ourselves going for months at a time without help. I noticed when I get to go in, doctors and health care providers are tired, make more mistakes and when you tell them you cannot take an antibiotic that can devastate your body in more than one way than the allergy to it you have, and your precarious body resources could not fight both. When it can kill you, and you ask for another better antibiotic and they just say, “use what we gave you, everyone else uses it just fine.” We become less than human, we become garbage to just be swept aside without a care. When we pass they will say Covid did it so they do not have to feel bad it was negligence and indifference. I try to get people to understand, but God help us all. This virus has the capability to make those healthy people become just like me. What will they think then. Sorry, to be so negative, but not sure I will survive even if I stay inside, because I cannot treat myself. I do not have the knowledge or the skill or the strength to fight my body and all the rest. Good luck everyone and may God bless and keep us all under His care until this passes.

  5. Hi Catherine,
    I don’t often comment, but I always—literally every single time—greatly appreciate your posts! You vocalize so very well the experiences and emotions of us chronically ill people, and God has definitely gifted you with much talent in writing/communications! Keep up the good work! 🙂
    P.S. Your blog is still the one and only blog I always follow. 🙂

  6. You always speak so well and it echoes what’s in my heart as well. Thank you for being able to use your words so effectively to get it across!

  7. Hi Catherine! As always, beautifully written and powerful. Thank you. I have to admit that you tripped me up on the answer to your rhetorical title. I thought it would be some variation of “We’re All In This Together,” e.g. “We’re Not All … ” or “We’re All In This, Just Not Together.” I like your answer better, just embarrassed I didn’t see it coming – even as I was admiring throughout your piece how you rhythmically kept coming back to it. I must be getting old (er). You’re the most elegant (amateur) writer I’ve ever encountered on the internet. Sincerely. Right up there with the Washington Post’s highly gifted and Pulitzer-prize-winning columnists. So  please keep writing! And of course, stay safe!

    • I completely agree with Joseph: “ You’re the most elegant (amateur) writer I’ve ever encountered on the internet. Sincerely. Right up there with the Washington Post’s highly gifted and Pulitzer-prize-winning columnists.” (Which is probably exactly why yours is the only blog I always follow. :))

      • Someone quoting me? What? That’s a first. Thank you! And, Catherine is the only blog that I follow, too. Besides her content and message, she has a quality to her writing that I so admire. Her “ear” is, in my opinion, pitch perfect. While most of her posts (as you know) are serious and mostly follow the theme of chronic illness, I discovered Catherine a few years ago when googling something like “romantic pond ice skating stories” and found this wonderful, humorous riff on Catherine’s soft spot for Christmas movies:

        • Both of you just made my day! As I said to Rachel above, I am very honoured to be the one blog that you follow. And Joseph, that is so hilarious how you came to find my blog. I love it!

          • Catherine, helping make your day, along with Rachel, is now a highlight of my day! Now let’s see if the Super Bowl can top that !!! ,,, And, if you’re ever in the mood to write a short story, always keep ‘romantic pond ice skating’ themes in mind – you’re a natural 🙂

  8. Catherine. I always read and think about your posts. I am a person at risk, being 70, diabetic and having had bypass surgery recently, but you are an inspiration to me and to so many others. I have been following all precautions since last year at this time and washing regularly, wearing a mask always and staying away from others are not difficult to do when I consider the downside of being the reason a single other person gets a Covid 19 infection. Thank you for reminding everyone that we cannot take even one shortcut to protecting the world from this pandemic. I am glad that you are doing well and hope and pray that 2021 will be a better year for you than 2020.

  9. What a great post Catherine. My wish is that lots of people read this and pay attention to it and follow the rules – being considerate of others should be what every human being does and not what the minority of humans do.
    Take care and stay safe xox

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