What to do while we wait for good news

Meals and masks, moistly speaking

Thanks for reading At The End Of the Day! This newsletter aims to boil down a paralyzing amount of news to information that helps you make decisions in life with those you love most — your family, your friends, yourself.

Moistly speaking, I really needed that

I’d like to watch daily briefings live, in their entirety, but I can’t keep up. I’m juggling two jobs (making a podcast and finishing up a teaching term) while helping a sensitive 8-year-old with his math in French (please read that again – “math” in “French” -- and have a shred of pity for me, it was the toughest thing I did all day).

Yesterday evening, by the time I had a few minutes to catch up, #speakingmoistly was trending on Twitter. In case you’re also doing French math lessons under a rock, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was speaking on Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam’s guidance regarding masks (more on that in a minute).

Speaking off the cuff, Trudeau said: “If people want to wear a mask, that is ok. It protects others more than it protects you, because it prevents you from breathing or, or, or uh, speaking, uh, moistly on them.” Speaking. Moistly. On. Them. “What a terrible image,” Trudeau said quickly afterward.

ROTFL. Please. I implore you. If you haven’t seen it, will you watch this video? There is something about it that makes me laugh every single time.

Everyone knows the word “moist,” is the worst. Personally, I’ve never held that strong opinion but I am of Planet Earth, so I know others do. Hearing someone earnestly try to speak plainly on important public health information and stumble into a word soup they clearly regretted immediately, made me LOL really hard. It’s not mean-spirited, just a genuine laugh with no politics attached. Something we could all use.

I’ve been thinking about laughter lately. Since COVID-19 imposed our social isolation, I hit a point where I lost my sense of humour. I was all practicalities, working and squirreling away plans for when illness might strike my family.

Then I read a news story about members of the military giving tips on how to survive stressful situations in close, cramped quarters (hilarious!). Besides meals and regular routines, I was reminded that a key skill, and useful survival tool, is keeping a sense of humour.

So, at the start of a phone meeting yesterday, I tried out a joke. Actually, it wasn’t a joke so much as a rambling half-apology for being late and describing a cartoon I had read.

(Credit: The New Yorker)

To my amazement, everyone burst out laughing. It spun out into further laughs. “And it’s not like you can cut out early by saying, I have to run!” a colleague exclaimed. “Where you gonna go?!”

Sometimes I’m so focused and intense I don’t remember to laugh. In this moment, a group of colleagues laughed heartily on the phone before getting down to work. It felt cleansing.

Culturally, we’re past the initial phase of shock and bated breath and have moved into a kind of giant waiting room. Waiting for summer. Waiting for the benefits of physical distancing to show themselves. Waiting for some good news, anything positive.

Besides hand-washing, keeping your distance, and managing the grim realities of getting sick, one more thing we can do to survive this together, long-term, is to try and make someone laugh.  

Humour can actually help us stay healthy.

Who would you rather be stuck in the house with, a Debbie Downer or Ali Wong? Bringing laughter in to your world is something you can actually control. Revisit your fave David Sedaris book. Go down a YouTube clickhole (I discovered, through a friend, that I have a penchant for news anchor fails, the release of laughter heightened by vestiges of my own worst nightmares from when I worked in live television).

The other day, the kids ate a meal (who knows which one really, it’s relentless), as my husband read from an email from his dad titled, “Have you seen these one-liners?” Every quip about social isolation became funnier than the last. Here’s one that really made me crack up:

This morning I saw a neighbour talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house and told my dog. We laughed a lot.

If you’re not laughing, maybe it’s because I didn’t include the warm-up act of the previous half-dozen Dad jokes.

Seriously, we can all get funny. You have plenty of dark inspiration and weird new life routines to make fun of. Hop to it.

TLDR

  • Even a pandemic press briefing can yield a harmless laugh. Go with it!

  • Make it your mission (like military folks) to crack jokes. It’s a survival skill

  • Watch or read something funny. Lord knows you’re consuming a ton of very unfunny information right now. Do it as a kindness to yourself

Masks are a go

Masks aren’t something we’re used to wearing. During the SARS outbreak in Toronto in 2003, during which 44 people died, I remember the news footage of people in Asia versus Toronto. We weren’t wearing masks here. They’ve just never been part of our culture in the West.

Until now.

Yesterday, on a rare drive to the grocery store, I saw almost as many people wearing masks as not, a true change from just one week ago.

I take it as a sign that people are conscientiously following advice from public health officials in Canada.

Advice on masks was debated for weeks but we can lay it all to rest now that Dr. Theresa Tam says, sure, wear a mask. But remember they don’t necessarily protect you. We’ve always been advised to act as if we have the virus and to take measures to protect those around us. That’s what will flatten the curve and that’s the benefit of wearing a mask — protecting others.

Wearing a mask shouldn’t give you a false sense of security. Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you can get close. You still need to stay 2 m away from people who don’t live with you.

If you’re making a mask, here’s a quick and easy folded version from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in the United States.

Here I am in mine, as I’m lucky enough to know someone who can sew and who cared enough to task her partner with dropping it off on my porch while he was out for a run (thank you, Jillian!).

(My spring time lewk, top. My friend James with his integrated, protective chic)


Remember to wash your mask in hot water every time you use it.

And small post-script, it is super-annoying to wear a mask so I don’t even know why we’ve all been clamouring to get the green light to wear one. I much prefer just staying home. Wear it if you’ve got it. Otherwise, breathe freely AT HOME!

TLDR

  • Canada says yes to mask-wearing. Masks are meant to protect those around you

  • Practice good mask hygiene by washing it every time you wear it

Kindness is an act of self-care

I got an email from our family doctor’s office that included a list of self-care tips for coping with anxiety and uncertainty. Lots of great reminders on the list, including deep breathing, good music, limiting upsetting media coverage and one more thing: kindness.

I’ll get into that in a sec. First, let me tell you what I did yesterday afternoon.

A friend recently gave birth to a sweet little bean of a baby. I messaged her husband asking if I could send a food delivery over, something decadent and cravings-worthy. He suggested she would love ramdon, a trendy Korean dish from the movie, Parasite. (Koreans actually call it jjapaguri but there is no way a non-Korean speaker could ever pronounce that, so the movie translation invented “ramdon,” which is a combination of “ramen” and “udon.”)

(Super classy recipe video, love this)


I googled it and was fascinated by the cultural and class significance of this meal, which is basically instant noodles topped by steak. There isn’t a restaurant to order it from, that I could tell, so on a busy day (is there any other kind?), I headed to the Korean grocery.

Since I was going anyway, I messaged a few friends who might like a drop off. They gave me small lists of kimchi, sliced ddeok, mandu, furakake -- items you might not get on your usual weekly grocery run.

I loaded up and then drove to deliver.

When I got to the first house, my daughter’s little friend waved at me gleefully through the window. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her sweet moon face. Her mom, my girlfriend, palmed a paper-wrapped package onto her doorstep for me and stepped back.

“Oh my god, what?” I said as I opened it. In exchange for this little favour of groceries, which was really nothing, she was giving me the most gorgeous slab of her handmade soap.

(This soap block smells so fresh, I drool)


“I can’t even use this! I’m just going to keep it on my desk, it smells so good!”

“Use it! You need to!” she exclaimed. Right, true. We do need to wash our hands.

I was so touched. I love her luxury soap so much. She absolutely didn’t need to do that. But I understood the vibe of reciprocity. It feels really nice.

At the next drop-off, I stood on the sidewalk chatting with my friends for a nice catch-up as Chris regaled me with stories of his daughter’s kindergarten class on Zoom.

“She doesn’t know how to work the computer! I had to sit there for an hour and a half with twenty-five kids! The teacher was trying to teach these kids how to mute their mics!” Oh my god, I laughed at this.

I got home, made the ramdon, and drove the meal over to my friend, the new mama.

We had a chat, at a distance, and I met her wee 4-pounder. It was a wonderful moment to meet this teeny babe and see my friend as a new mom.

Everyone thanked me for the deliveries. But it wasn’t a sacrifice or hardship. I was the one who got pleasure, freeing myself from work and my own mind-zone for a few hours (it can get rough in there).

I’m smelling this soap slab right now. I’m laughing about the gong show kindergarten Zoom. I’m thinking about tiny, sweet babies.

Kindness is indeed an act of self-care. In a time when we are concerned with health, mental health included, we should remember that research shows kindness can boost oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins, all juices that improve our overall mood and contribute to good health.

There’s even a term for how our brains react to performing acts of kindness, called the “helper’s high.”

I miss my friends and wish I didn’t have to. COVID acts of kindness are a small, non-video-conferencing way to keep us connected and centre our good health.

 TLDR:

  • Boost your health and self-care with whatever works, including kindness, a really rewarding act

As I sign off here, my son is in his first remote chat with his teacher (she is doing small groups only — geniale!) and I caught a bit of Ontario premier Doug Ford’s press briefing, in which he thanked pharmacists, truck drivers, grocery store workers, garbage collection and all those, including healthcare, who do essential jobs to keep our society afloat. I think of all the people, especially among family and friends, who do these essential jobs with deep gratitude.

Thank you for reading At The End Of the Day! Leave me information on what you thought of this reading experience, it would really help me develop this into something useful for you.

Take care,

Hannah