Guest Post: Covid-19 hit like a shockwave

Covid-19 hit like a shockwave through everything we had thought was normal.  We had seen draconian restriction hitting other nations but had never imagined that this would happen here.  But it did.  Schools were shut, all shops, cafes; the cafes I would one sit at, piles of books on the table, laptop open, sipping coffee while I worked away.  Those cafes were the personification of my motivation.  There I could people watch, feel a little self important with my laptop and typing, drink coffee and most of all focus without all the distractions of being in my flat.

My flat, is where I ended up being all day everyday; save an hour of exercise. My flat, that didn’t quite feel like my flat.  I was after all mid divorce.  My soon to be ex husband had pulled out of a sale, occupied the family flat and his mother refused to budge from our other what would have been an ‘investment’ property.  So I was pushed to rental, working with a limited budget and wanting to stay in the prime location of central Hove, it felt like the closest thing to home in this nation that was not really mine.  It was not downtown Toronto, but it had quirky shops, and cafes, the beach, parks, my children’s school and most importantly my friends.

Nothing became more important in those cooped up month than bumping into my neighbour/good friend while taking out the rubbish. And seeing good friends walking along the seafront and having a two minute distanced conversation.  We were all at home, and so it seemed impossible in my hour outing to not help but bump into someone, and not just anyone, usually someone dear to me.  This was why community was so crucial.  And while I dwelled in a small basement flat, with a study made into a makeshift room, while the legal battle to achieve some sort of equality in my divorce agreement began, I was surrounded by friends and this made it all the more bearable.

Community was so crucial

My little garden at the back of the flat bordered my lovely neighbour.  We would sit opposite of the wooden fence, drinking tea and talking about life while I got used to my children spending nights at their dads, without me.  It was an impossible time.  And then there was my immigration, I was not longer to be a spouse, so as my visa came to an end, I began applying for a parent visa.  This country I had always been so desperate to leave, after all it was only meant to be a year sojourn before we settled in Canada, suddenly a worry as to how I would stay here.

And there was my studies, on top of my children’s studies.  They would homeschool while I researched. And ideas kept me company on the lonely childless weekends of lockdown. I had no one around but these concepts and making connection breathed life into my isolation.  So, it was a gift in some ways.  My work had largely dried up, I had been supply teaching before all for this all happened.  And so my child free time was spent with my laptop.  I had to adjust to not being in a sunny cafe, or a rainy cafe, or whatever, at least it was a ground level cafe.  Now I was below ground, in a writers cave with Netflix on tap for distraction.

It was not easy of course, spending this time cooped up and having PhD deadlines.  Not having classmates to discuss ideas with, not seeing your lecturers in person, not having the motivation of sitting in a cafe and knowing that in the public eye Netflix was not an option, and without the stress release of going to a weekly yoga class, or reprieve of seeing friends all added up.  And homeschooling. It was not easy.  And I am grateful therefore to the safety net that was provided.  But, in many ways, it was a godsend.

— Mona Manjot Kaur Dhaliwal


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