Finding Joy in the Time of Coronavirus


I start with an update from last week’s guest, Deirdre, before sharing several responses from previous guests on how they are finding joy during coronavirus.

Deirdre’s Update

Last week, I shared an interview that I recorded in March with Deirdre Nelson. I reached out to her to find out how life has changed over the past two months, to find out what life is like for her during coronavirus.

Transcript of Update

Deirdre: [00:00:00] I have to say that not doing too badly, I guess, all things considered. So the last day that I was actually physically in class was March 20th and now is what, April, May something, May… These are blending together. Can you believe now is May 15th so it’s been almost two months since we’ve been out of class and just teaching online and kind of staying home every day since March 20th so I’m doing pretty good. My husband and I had a little…. you know, in the beginning it was like, Oh, we’re always around each other because he was of course also here teaching online, but now we have a little bit of a groove. We’ve got things going fine. We often say that we’re so happy that we have the partners that we have because it’s just, it’s cool. We’re not in a strained relationship or anything. It’s fantastic actually. So we’re really grateful for that. I’m really glad the weather is better, so we’re able to go out for walks. I’m able to go out for a walk. Where I have set up in my room, in my house, I can see outside. The sunshine is there; I can see the squirrels, you know, playing around and doing their things. So it’s nice to be able to have that, not being able to go too far afield. So yeah, I’m doing pretty good. It really helps that the weather is better. If it was the dark of winter, it might be a little bit difficult. So with this whole COVID-19, totally doing okay. I was a bit of a homebody anyway, so that’s kind of fine.
Damianne: [00:01:31] It sounds like things are okay overall, even good in some cases. What’s it like when you need to get groceries? We talked a bit about that before. Last time as we were starting the interview, I think both of us experienced empty shelves when we were looking for toilet paper back then. What’s the situation like now for you?

Deirdre: [00:01:56] Going to the grocery store hasn’t been too crazy. We found the more sane grocery store in the city, so we’ve been going there to get our stuff, but so far things seem to be okay. We got to really pace ourselves for the long haul. I can’t complain. I really can’t complain. I’m working. We’re in good health. Our families are good, our families are safe, our families are still working. They’re still in good health. So, you know, we’re lucky. We’re really, really blessed and really fortunate and we know that and we recognize that. And our friends are pretty much in the same positions that we’re in. So yeah, we’re really fortunate and happy to be so, and know that we are.

Damianne: [00:02:42] We discussed last time how you were planning a trip to Africa in 2021 and you’re someone who likes to travel, generally. People keep asking me about my travel plans. Right now, all my plans are on hold and I don’t know when I will be comfortable getting on a plane again. What do your travel plans look like at the moment?

Deirdre: [00:03:06] It was a plan a little bit further in the future anyway. It wasn’t something we were planning to do like tomorrow. So our big trip that we’re planning to do or we were planning to do in Africa, it’s still there. It’s still in the back of our mind. I still having my big, giant African map now posted on my dining room wall. So it’s still something that we’re thinking about. Mozambique now is kind of on our radar to go to the archipelago and the coast of Mozambique, but I don’t know when that’s going to happen. Maybe 2022, 2023, who knows, but it’s still there. The most significant change in our travel plans were to go to Ottawa, this past, actually, it would be coming up these coming couple of weeks. Hamilton, the musical, was going to be playing in Ottawa and I had tickets to go to the musical with my whole family, and I had tickets of course, to fly to Ottawa. But then, of course, Hamilton is postponed. The ticket has been canceled for the shows. So the show is postponed until December. The flight is postpone until probably December. So we’ll see what happens there. We have plans to go to Newfoundland in August; still hemming and hawing about whether or not I’m going to do that because I don’t feel really comfortable flying to Newfoundland and the country says that they should be opening by June. Gros Morne Park, and I really wanted to go there because I have some friends from Korea who’s opened up like a cottage bed and breakfast kind of idea called the Fish Sheds, shameless plug. And so I want to go check them out and see how it was, but we’ll see what happens. I haven’t decided what to do with that trip yet. Everything else is kind of on hold. I don’t know. You know, who knows? Everything is this, you know, health is most important and not spreading the virus is the most important thing. Travel will always be around, so we’ll see.

Damianne: How’s teaching different for you right now? What’s it like for your students.

Deirdre: Online teaching is fine. The students I have are international students and they are great. I have a few students, one in Bangladesh, one in China, and one in Hong Kong, all of which had planned to come to Canada. The Bangladeshi student was already here, and then he went home for the holidays, Christmas, and then he got stuck there so he couldn’t come back. The other two students, I think, they have never been to Canada, but they’re still signed up for the language course. So it’s great to see and hear from different parts of the world how everything is happening. It is of course a little difficult to get the nuances of, you know, I teach a language through the internet, so it’s a little difficult for them to do some of the listenings or the pronunciation activities sometimes because they might not hear the clear nuances of the language. And then facial expressions, you have to really pay attention too. The hand gestures aren’t really, their body language isn’t there. So it was a little…. Some things get lost in translation. But other than that, I think everything has been okay. We’ve transitioned over to online learning pretty well, so I can’t complain about that. And everyone is a lot more patient. We’re all trying and we recognize that. So there are some challenges in terms of test taking and you know, academic honesty and things like that. But again, you just try to mitigate that by making questions a little bit more thought, a little more thinking, not just kind of, you know, true or false. So that kind of thing. So that seems to be working. My schedule is more or less the same. Teaching is going well. I do find it a little bit taxing though, teaching online for five hours a day. So I have a three hour class in the morning and a two hour class in the afternoon and then one hour lunch break, and it is kind of a bit much. It’s a lot of Zoom strain, Zoom fatigue. I’m sure you’ve heard about it all in the media and stuff. So yeah.

Damianne: [00:07:04] I’m definitely familiar with the idea of Zoom fatigue. I’ve been working remotely for almost two years now, and so all of our communication is online, mostly through Zoom and through Slack and that kind of thing. And since Coronavirus started, many people want to have more video chats, but I’m finding that I don’t actually want any more video chats than what I’m having already with work. I spend all day on the computer and I might want to connect with people, but I find the idea of another Zoom meeting and the online interaction to be exhausting at times.

Deirdre: [00:07:53] Definitely that. So when Fridays come around, I don’t have an afternoon class on Fridays, so when Friday comes around, I’m usually just ready to go to bed, like right at noon. So yeah, it’s a bit much for the brain, teaching online. I have a job. I really do and I’m healthy and my family is healthy, and so that’s most important. The biggest thing is just finding the energy to do stuff after spending time on the Internet all morning and the better part of the afternoon, like finding the time to do stuff. So I thought when all of this happened, when they said, Oh, you’re going to be teaching from home and you’re going to be, you know, online. I was like, great, it’s going to be better for me because my commute to work normally took about 40 minutes. So I was like, yeah, great. I can save all this time. No, not saving any time, not saving any time at all. In fact, I’m probably more tired now than I would be if I were in the car driving back and forth. So I have to figure out a schedule so I could be able to like get some exercise in, not just veg out on the sofa and binge-watch Sex and the City, which I’ve been doing, which I, you know, I’ll say it, I’m not ashamed. So yeah, I’ve got to figure out some things like that. But otherwise, things are great and I cannot complain.

Damianne: [00:09:16] My sister and I have been baking. We usually have dinner together and then watch something on Netflix afterwards. What’s giving you joy right now, well, besides watching Sex and the City.

Deirdre: [00:09:31] Well, I’m still able to connect a lot with my family. I think I mentioned before that I live quite a bit away from my family. They live in Ontario and I’m in Manitoba, so we’re still connecting with Zoom calls. We chat, we FaceTime with the little kids in my family who were actually teenagers and in their twenties. We text message a lot; we’re going to try this Netflix movie watching party. So that still gives me joy. And the friends that I have that are still in Ontario or in the States, we’re trying to connect a little bit more actually because of Coronavirus. So we set up a couple of Zoom chats and stuff and just kind of are talking more and emailing more and keeping more in touch actually, and these are friends that I’ve had since like high school, so that’s kind of neat. Being able to go out for walks with my husband and I like to cook a lot, so we’re experimenting with different kinds of things in the kitchen. So we’re making a lot of bread. We’ve got a bread maker before this whole thing happened, so it was kind of cool. So we have this bread maker, we’re making bread, we’re trying different flavors, different kinds of dishes, middle Eastern stuff and Mediterranean stuff, Indian stuff. Like we’re, yeah, we’re just kind of exploring.

Updates from Other Prior Guests

I also got some updates from other previous guests on Changes BIG and small. Here’s a voice memo that Kim Cofino, my first guest on the podcast, shared:

A simple thing that’s giving me pleasure during this COVID-19 lockdown time is going for daily walks and appreciating the little beautiful things that I can see in this city around me. Bangkok is a pretty busy and crazy city, but during this time things are quite quiet and I can appreciate all the different plants and unusual architecture and interesting people that are kind of out on the streets. Even though it’s super quiet out there, I think it really helps to think about what you’re lucky to be able to do as opposed to thinking about what you’re restricted from doing. So I appreciate the fact that I can go out for walks, even though I used to really walking in the park and now I’m walking on the street. I appreciate the fact that I can still go outside.

Kim Cofino, Change Starts with One Small Step, episode 1

One thing that I noticed in the responses is that the same themes show up again and again.

The Many Different Ways of Finding Joy

People are finding pleasure in things that have rhythm, in connecting and in creative pursuits. Some of you may also be baking bread or taking time to savour your favourite foods as Emily from episode 6 is doing. You may be trying new things, either because you have more time or because you’re somehow overcoming fear. Angela, from episode 19, talks about having her meals on her balcony while she enjoys views of nature. Coronavirus may be preventing us from doing many things that we’re used to. Or we may have to do things differently. Ask yourself what are the things that you couldn’t do before that you can do now? This can be as simple as sleeping in an extra 10 minutes, standing on your balcony in the middle of the “workday”, making roast vegetables for lunch. What new opportunities do you have to do things that will make you happy?

There are some people who are more productive now, for example, Praveen from episode 5 who’s re-learning how to code, and Rossana from episode 3 who’s doing renovation projects around her home. Or maybe you’re like Samira in episode 28, and the one thing that you need to do every day is going for a run or some other kind of workout.

You may be the opposite. You may just need a break, to watch some television and laugh, to go through your address book and call family or friends, to meditate, listen to music, or just sit and be.

I’d like to honor and celebrate all the ways we’re thriving and surviving during coronavirus. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or someone else, it’s okay. Whether you feel like you need to do more or less, it’s okay. Wherever you’re finding joy, whatever actions you can do now that you couldn’t do before, take a moment to celebrate.

Read the Full Updates on How Previous Guests are Finding Joy during Coronavirus

Finding Joy in Baking…

I’m having so much fun in the kitchen right now. I’m living in California again and having access to ingredients that are familiar to me (and the ability to read labels without the aid of a translator) is bringing me such pleasure. I’ve got a sourdough starter that I’m growing and tonight will make pizza with it. At the farmer’s market today I got cherries which are one of life’s biggest pleasures for me. So basically, I’m really enjoying eating, LOL.

Emily Sliman, Find Something that Makes You Happy, episode 6
focaccia bread that my sister made last weekend

I just started baking bread for the first time! I’ve also been a little bit wary of my small Japanese convection oven. I’ve baked a garlic, parmesan, herb loaf several times now and am LOVING IT! I also can finally take advantage of my balcony since I’m working from home and having breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner out there in the sun with the mountains in front of me. Definitely not an option before!

Angela Ngan, Trust that Things will get Better, episode 19

Finding Joy in Learning and Creating

We are doing fine. What more can I ask, I am in a beautiful country with a beautiful family. 🙂 Having said that, I am currently coding every day so I can get back to full-time dev work soon. What brings me pleasure these days is trekking around North Vancouver with family. And when I understand a programming concept that I have been trying to understand for a while, the moments of epiphany are frequent and full of fun!

Praveen Selvasekaran, You can Learn Anything, episode 5

So, what is bringing me pleasure lately, and keeping me sane is small Reno projects. I’ve moved to my house 16 months ago and never had the time to work on it because I think I spent more time outside Canada than actually here last year. So now I can’t travel, I’m working on painting walls, decorating the house. this is keeping me busy because when I’m not working, I’m planning what to do next. I have also started painting/ drawing again. One of the things I wanted to do was use some of my drawings to decorate the house, so I’m working on that too.

Rossana Menezes, How Community can Support you with Change, episode 3

Finding Joy in Movement

I feel that taking care of myself by going for a ran each morning has helped me to stay sane and extend a helping hand to everyone. My joyful moments are calling friends and acquaintances all over the world to share encouraging thoughts with them. Sometimes, after just listening for a long time, the person on the other side of the call often says, “Thanks for calling because I had all these things running in my head that I didn’t know what to do. You helped me to muster up and look at things from the positive side”. Other things that bring me joy are watching my home plant grow each day and making up recipes of delicious food from leftovers in my refrigerator or storage. I am thankful for each day and overjoyed to see my children doing well on Zoom every day!

Samira Bello, Life in the Time of Coronavirus, episode 28

Want to participate in this project? You can send me a voice memo by emailing Or if you prefer, you can fill out the form here. Access the rest of the posts in the series on the spotlight page.

You can find the submissions from other participants in the spotlight series.

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