a young boy on a video call with family while his brother cries in background
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This is the Best Gift You Can Give Yourself Right Now

Mar 20, 2020

Dear Canadian parents (or whoever finds themselves reading this),

I am going to be honest and tell you that there have been moments this week where I have not been OK.

I’ve panicked about things like not having protein in my house. I’ve panicked because after realizing this, I noticed that I couldn’t get a single can of tuna at a local convenience store, grocery store or even Amazon.


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I tried Instacart: nothing. I tried everything. Tuna was nowhere, it seemed. I cried about tuna. I messaged my friends about tuna.

What happens when all of my beans run out? There’s no tuna. It used to be that there was too much.

"It’s a gift that’s different from just simply “quieting your brain a little,” which I know is not always easy."

And of course there are other concerns, more pressing concerns, like my sister, who lives in the U.K. and is a school teacher who is still required to go into work on a rotating basis. If she were working in Ontario, I’ve thought, she’d be safer. I have cried thinking about her. She’s one of my best friends. She also has to renew her visa in August — what happens then?

I’ve picked up prescriptions, and all the while people coughed. And in my head I couldn’t stop thinking: those coughs are dry Kevin — get home, wash your hands and everything will be fine.

But to be honest, and I’m sure you feel the same way, I’m tired of panicking. So, I gave myself a gift that has actually made me feel better. It will, I believe, make you, your kids and your family and friends feel better.

It’s a gift that’s different from just simply “quieting your brain a little,” which I know is not always easy. Although I’ve since acknowledged that my sister is smarter, healthier and younger than I am. And that grocery stores will get more tuna (I still get angry thinking about people panic buying essentials while many, including myself or this mom in search of diapers for her baby, can’t find them).

The Gift

The gift is this, and you don’t need to keep it a secret: video chatting. It’s on phones, tablets and computers. And to be honest, I don’t really use it except for when my sister and I chat on weekends. But I’m using it a lot now.

Now my friends reach out to schedule group viewings of Cats on Zoom — my friend will screenshare and we can laugh and make comments about the CGI.

They’ll call me on my lunch break to show me their kids eating lunch. It’s comforting to watch kids eat lunch, because I can forget about my own lunch worries for a second. During this particular break, one friend was making banana bread (gotta use the bananas before they go rotten, he says) while the other fed her kid a piece of pancake with avocado on it. And it was really nice.

"Because few people are going to parks, or on long walks. There are no water coolers or coffee breaks."

Me and my friends are also booking chats at night because there’s power in seeing a friendly, familiar face to close out your day. One that you’re not sequestered with most of the day.

Last night, via video chat, a friend told us an incredible story. We were so surprised and delighted. Storytelling continues, even via cam. We were all so excited. We said hello to her husband and cat. And to think the last time we talked we were discussing how figs — and strawberries — make you amorous. 

Each visage is a break in the day — on days that could quickly become dull and maddening if you aren’t creative.

Because few people are going to parks, or on long walks. There are no water coolers or coffee breaks.


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A Series of Reminders

And sure, “being creative” can often be challenging and expensive but I’m here to tell you that video chatting is neither of those things. It’s the easiest and cheapest gift you could give yourself right now.

On a recent Google Hangouts video chat, one friend was wearing a hat and then we all did. We all talked about whether we could wink, whistle or snap. I performed all three feats at once, to prove I could. I did, sort of (I’m a terrible winker). We laughed.

Video chatting is also a refreshing reminder that people are OK. And I think we need that right now. It’s too easy to get into panic mode. The mode that leads to shortages of Lysol wipes. To tuna hysteria.

So when the kids go to sleep, wouldn’t it be nice to pour a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and call a friend who is doing the same thing? Maybe you get back to life a little, and talk about something other than COVID-19.

"Whatever — if only for a moment. Wouldn’t that be nice? It sounds really nice to me, like lighting a really expensive candle."

Complain about your partner. Or that gross poop your one kid did. Whatever — if only for a moment. Wouldn’t that be nice? It sounds really nice to me, like lighting a really expensive candle.

And in the morning, when the kids are all energized, maybe it might be nice to reach out to a relative and book a video call. There’s always value in pausing, but it’s better to pause in pleasant company — so call a grandparent, a cousin, a parent or friend. Remind yourself that this too shall pass, but for now, family can still be important. And you can be there, just in a different way.

At a time when we’re being advised to disconnect, there’s no better gift to yourself than a connection.

Hell, I’ve even scheduled a Whatsapp date. Because I need to live my damn life.

Video chatting: try it. Take your life back.

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