Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 45: Grateful for X

I started a gratitude alphabet but I'm starting from the end of the alphabet and moving up towards the beginning. It seemed like a good idea in these topsy-turvy times.

Today's gratitude letter is "X".

What is X? X is all those times when you felt bad. The missed opportunities, the broken promises, the betrayals, the words said in anger, the lost friend, the sick child, the lies, the fear, the sneer and the disdain.

Oh, what? Why am I grateful for all these things?

Let me turn that around and ask: would I only be grateful for the "good" things? Should I only be grateful for the things that make me happy? The things that feel nice? 

Or is being grateful a state of mind and a quality of spirit that endures, anyway. In qualunque momento e ovunque. Anytime, anywhere. Because, fundamentally, being grateful implies that you are aware that there is a world that's bigger than you can know, and you are grateful for that world, and open to its possibilities, to the extent that you admit that although sometimes the possibilities are manifest in an unpleasant or downright horrific and traumatic way, you decide to remain open, and to remain grateful.

Grateful for X means that I accept that awful and horrible things can happen in my life, or I can witness those things happening in the lives of others, and I don't have to either pretend they're not happening, or allow those things to destroy my belief in the power of love. 

No, I'm not talking about "everything happens for a reason." Reason has nothing to do with it. People with an intense, firmly rooted religious life might be able to believe that everything that happens to them is part of God's plan. This isn't a reasonable choice, that is, it isn't based on reason: it's a choice based on faith. You decide to have faith, and then you just have it, come what may.

It's the same with gratitude. Like a long marriage, I'm not going to only stay with my spouse when things are fun, sexy, and fulfilling. I'll also stick around when my spouse is acting badly (I'm not talking about actual abuse here), has the flu, gets old, or is having a life crisis. I will decide to be grateful, and then I'll just be grateful. I'm not only going to be grateful for the good, wonderful, fulfilling things that I receive. I have to be grateful for the whole bundle, or my gratitude isn't worth anything at all.

How do we continue to be grateful in these difficult times? I'm disturbed today. It's pouring out, so the streets are empty which means I can go for my 8 k run, so I'm grateful that I can run. But I have things on my mind: a friend lost her child last week - why? Why should someone who escaped persecution and death in Syria, who fled through Turkey, survived the rubber dinghy ride over to Greece, survived the camps, .... then lose a child in his sleep? I can worry endlessly about my kids for various valid and not valid reasons. I worry about my running buddy who is recovering from chemo. Of course, there's this virus out there that is not a hoax or a conspiracy, but is actually a dangerously infectious virus that can kill people. There's another thing to torment me.  I'm worried about my business: when can we open? How will we open? How will I hear what people are saying if they're wearing masks? (I'm a little hard of hearing and often rely on lips).

But I HAVE to be grateful. For the good things, and for the snakes and toads. 

Grateful for the flaws, the dark patches, the cracks, the scars. Grateful for lessons. Grateful for the black crow, glasses too full, mysteries. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 43: Normal? Who Needs It!

Today's gratitude letter is "y".

I was going to make "y" stand for "Yes!". I was going to write about acceptance. The beautiful messages behind the rainbows and "รงa va bien aller". How we need to submit to the reality we are living, gracefully. How the very act of being grateful for what we have is a radical act.

Yes, this is all true.

But what about the "why" of Y? 

This crisis is giving some of us an unprecedented opportunity to ask "why"? Of course, people who are struggling to avoid violence, feed their families, and find shelter do not have the luxury of asking thoughtful questions. Their struggle is real, and it is getting more extreme the longer the pandemic forces them to stay home, or gives their oppressors a chance to exert power over them.

But many of us can, and should, ask why. I don't mean the little "whys". The questions about the details of our lives: the legislations, the rules, the changes, even the source of the virus and why it is happening now, in our lifetime ... these are important questions, to be sure.

Our lives right now are handing us a golden opportunity to ask WHY? What habits have I been living my life by, that I now have an opportunity to examine? What decisions have I made over the years that have left me feeling uncomfortable, and why did I make those decisions? Why have I not done what I considered to be the right thing? Why do I continue to live a life that I do not love and cherish? What is stopping me from changing my life, radically, if I decide that I want to pursue a different path? After all, we have just proven to ourselves, over the past few weeks and months, that we can actually make radical changes in our lives and still be happy, and creative, and productive.

Why would we want to go back to the old normal? Why would we want to get back on to the rat track, the spinning wheel of busyness where we don't see each other very often, we never eat together at home, we don't have time to cook, or clean, or spend time with our children, or sit and think and stare at the sky. 

I'm not talking about deciding to start a whole career change, at fifty, because you're bored. That's the easy way out. I'm talking about the more difficult questions: What does it mean that I have children and how much time to I really want to spend with them? How is it possible for me to live with this romantic partner for our whole lives if I can't stand to be stuck in the house with them for longer than a few weeks? What are my coping strategies and how self-destructive are they?  

What if you find out that you actually love staying home and you want to figure out a way to do so? What if you realize that you always find the most miserable approach to any stressful situation? What if you find out that you don't actually love being around people? What if you know, finally, what you've always wanted to do? And now that your mortality has suddenly become a little closer, you realize that you are just going to do it. 

Or not. You may decide to sit on the knife edge for the duration. Constantly reaching crossroads that you don't know how to navigate. Shooting from the hip, saying things out of turn, making new enemies and friends at the drop of a hat. 

You may decide you have had enough, that as soon as this is over (What is "this"?) you will head out, leave everyone behind, change your name and never come back. 

You may realize that everything you've been doing so far is an illusion; that life is suffering; that you have no use; that the world will continue without you as it always has. 

Think about it: what do you want to do? Shall we return to "normal"? Or shall we try to create something from nothing? 

All questions; no answers. I've never been one to tell people what to do; I was a hands-off midwife, always turning the questions of "what should I do?" back to the person asking, so that she could learn her true path. Because, really, you are the midwife of your own life. I am just here to remind you that NOW is the time that you can grasp on to a new way of being. Our window is only open for a little while. Far too soon, the world will be with us again, with its temptations of consuming and rushing and giving away our freedom. 

What shall we do?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 37: Time for Gratitude

It's time for another gratitude alphabet! When you're feeling low, and tired, like there's not enough light to go around, that's the best time to start a gratitude alphabet... but this time I'm going to start at the end and work backwards to the beginning.

So, today I am grateful for Z! Why do I love Z? Because the very last letter of the alphabet reminds me that it's ok to be last.

Ok, I wasn't actually last when I ran my first marathon in 2018... but I was pretty close to it. And I was triumphant!!! Because I finished. All my weeks, days and hours of training meant that I could actually run the 26 miles I set to run.

Z is also for ZZZZ, that is, sleep! Sleep cannot be overrated! It doesn't matter when you sleep: I am a night owl and always will be, even though for a while my life dictated that I awake at 6:30 to get to my cafe on time. But if I could, I would stay awake most of the night and sleep in the morning.

Sleep is the gift we have that allows us to live our wild and holy lives. It has basic benefits: makes time for the body to renew and rejuvenate. Lets the mind rest and process. But why do we sleep? What do we need when we are sleeping? Why do you die if you don't get enough sleep - and first you go insane? Quick answer: we don't know. 

The ancient Greeks believed that the sleep god was named "Hypnos,and the dream gods, the Oneiroi. Hypnos was related to very ancient deities of darkness; his mother Nychta (night), his twin brother Thanatos (death) and his sons the Oneiroi (dreams) who dwelled “past the gates of the dead.”"

As a runner, I know that when I'm training for a race I need to rest my body more than usual. My body needs that time to repair the damaged muscle fibres that are the core of the training process. When I sleep more, I feel better, I run better, I think better ... and I am better equipped to be grateful! 

Right now, many of us have been given a chance to lie fallow. It's time (for many of us) to slow, rest, stay still. I know many mothers of young children who are frantically trying to "home school". Nope, don't do it. Not necessary. Stay still. Get bored. Sit with them all and tell a story. You can do it - just because you've had them in day care forever doesn't mean you've lost the ability to mother. Some of us are frantically trying to learn new skills. Let's see what creative dish I can make today, even though all I want is toast and peanut butter. Learning some quantum physics in your spare time?

Be grateful for the chance to still and listen to that small voice. Are you bored? Good.

Monday, April 20, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 35: Marathon

Training for a marathon is fun, but it isn't easy. This time I didn't download a program like I did in 2018 (Fredricton). Neither did I download a bunch of programs and move back and forth and get all frazzled, like I did in 2019 (Edinburgh). I just use my Runkeeper app marathon training program, for someone who can train 7 days a week and wants to finish in around five hours. Easy peasy.

Well, of course, it isn't easy peasy to run 42.195 kilometers without practising for it. So that's what I'm doing. My race got cancelled - Ottawa Marathon - and so I'm going virtual and I plan to run around a mile loop next to my house, 26 times.

It's going to be fun! My family will be hanging out on the porch with water, Nuun, Rekarb maple syrup gels, orange slices and bits of banana. They'll have the music blaring, and they'll take a pic of me every time I pass. The last mile, they're all gonna run with me, even my dog (who's been my running buddy throughout the winter).

I often try to apply my marathon experience to my daily life. If I'm at the cafe and it's 3:30 pm, and we've has a busy day, and I still have a ten k, and I have a mountain of dishes, and we had a bunch of rude customers, I just breathe and imagine I am at mile 20. I know I can run 42 k, so small things shouldn't matter, right? I am luckier than the huge majority of 63 year olds ever anywhere, and I can still run and move and all that.

Of course, this new challenge is a little more complicated. But humans are eternally adaptable, and we are adapting as well as we can to the situation. I see so many people every single day who are fighting against angst and despair, by giving to others, taking care of their own, taking care of themselves, remembering their social responsibility, trying to do good. 

The Covid19 marathon is different: we don't know the distance, we don't know who will DNF, we don't know its rules, the course, we don't have a GPS to tell us the way or volunteers to give us water. The virus has its own rules and only nature knows what the final score will be. Except that nature doesn't actually care. So we, the runners, just have to do our best, put one foot in front of the other, take care, take care. 

My training is going well. I have all the time in the world to run, as I've closed my cafe for now. I'm running faster. Sleep helps. Stress doesn't, and of course I am stressed. When can we open again? What will it be like? How safe can we make our space? But the good thing about running is that part of the deal is you don't give yourself time to think and ponder. The body takes over. 

Some practical tips for training during this time:

  • Lower your expectations. Everyone is living with added stress, some more than others. You may find you're needing more sleep, eating differently, and of course if you're an essential worker then - we love you! - you are battling fatigue. While it's usually a great idea to push through in normal times, it may be better when you're trying to stay mentally and physically healthy to ease up a bit on yourself.
  • Stay safe!! That computer simulation that went viral had some validity: infected slipstream snot could theoretically reach and infect an unmasked person up to ten meters behind them. ("For walking at 4 km/h a distance of about 5 m leads to no droplets reaching the upper torso of the trailing runner. For running at 14.4 km/h this distance is about 10 m. This implies that if one assumes that 1.5 m is a social distance to be maintained for two people standing still, this value would have to be increased to 5 m or 10 m for slipstream walking fast and slipstream running, respectively, to have a roughly equivalent non-exposure to droplets as two people standing still at 1.5 m distance. This leads to the tentative advice to walkers and cyclists that if they wish to run behind and/or overtake other walkers and runners with regard for social distance, they can do so by moving outside the slipstream into staggered formation when having reached this distance of about 5 m and 10 m for walking fast and running, respectively.") 
  • Stay safe!! Don't run trails or neighbourhoods that you would avoid, just so you can run alone. The Covid crisis has already created a huge increase in gender-based violence; women running solo, be aware!
  • If you have extra time on your hands, move your schedule around if you feel like it. If you're not feeling the long run, don't do it. This is a time for introspection, change, loosening. 
  • Strength training, yoga classes, meditation are all available online if you want to learn some new skills that will keep you running strong.
  • Don't dwell on the disappointments. Yip, all our spring and early summer races are cancelled. It sucks. We've lost money. It sucks. Let it go.

I'm planning on running my marathon on May 24, 2020.  For each mile I run, I'm going to ask my friends, family and others to donate a dollar. I have created a campaign to raise money to distribute food in Luwero, Uganda, to the most vulnerable families who cannot eat because of their lockdown restrictions.

I'm asking you all to send me your suggestions: if you have a campaign or a charity that you think is valuable, please let me know! Let's help others, by running around a city block!

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 28: Risky Behaviour

When life hits you sideways with a truck, you get back on your feet as well as you can, make the best of it, or you die. I'm here to tell the story, didn't die yet, and I'm thinking about clever advice I could hand out on the social media.

So I'll tell you this: trauma breeds trauma. 

We're all born into it. Catecholamines are produced, along with cortisol, in both the fetus (and the newborn) and the mother before, during, and after childbirth. These hormones, known popularly as "stress hormones", allow the newborn's body to adjust to the rigors of life on earth. This happens metabolically, whether the baby is born in water, in air, or on a surgical table. Actually, catecholamine levels are higher in babies born vaginally, because those babies are born "physiologically" and have a physiologic reaction to being born, which helps them breathe.

Birth is risky. That doesn't mean we should rush to the hospital and get fixed up with intravenous pipelines if we are giving birth. But it IS risky, for mother and child. Life is too. In fact, the older you get, the higher your chance is that you will die sooner. Of course, parents are usually around to protect the young ones from behaviours or events that are too risky, but they can't be around all the time, and sometimes they just aren't.

I've lived a pretty risky and interesting life, in all sorts of ways, and miraculously I've survived, like that old Timex watch from television commercials a lifetime ago. I must have at least nine lives (there was that time when we were crossing the railway bridge, and the guy with the shotgun... then the year I travelled through Africa solo, oh, and the drug mule thingy...), and I don't know which life I'm on now, but some of my more scary moments are tending to pop up in front of me these days, and I kind of want to wear bubble wrap (but you can't run in bubble wrap!).

In these surreal days, we are faced with mortality: our own, our friends' and loved ones', random strangers'. We are trying to #staysafe. Trying to #stayhealthy. We are told to #stayhome. We are talking about numbers, risks, science, masks, ventilators, viruses, pneumonia, sickness, plagues. We are blaming: the Chinese, Bill Gates, the Jews, Trump, the government. We are all doing our best.

And we're worrying. And as we worry, our stuff is going to rise to the surface. When we are robbed of our busyness and our schedules, we have time for our demons to rise up and confound us. Some of us have tame demons, some of us don't.

My demons decided to haunt me this week, and the only way I could put them at rest was to keep on running. And I don't mean that metaphorically. I started a run streak on December 31, 2019. I run at least a mile a day: so far in 2020 I've run over 400 k. 

When I run, I can feel my body working. I know that I'm alive, I'm good, I'm okay. My lungs are strong because of the mountain air I used to breathe when I wandered in the Rockies. My frame is strong: farm work and five babies helped with that. And thankfully, when I'm running, my mind goes into low power mode and my imagination stops streaming, and my spidery thoughts relax and spin pretty webs.

I'm not suggesting y'all go out and start running - far from it! In fact, I wish y'all would stay home like you used to, so that I can have the sidewalks to myself again. I'm just letting you know - those of you who can't understand why ghosts from the past are haunting you, or why old angers or sadnesses are reliving themselves in your mind, or why you might feel like crying for no reason - I'm letting you know that you are not alone. 

And if you see an old lady with a gnarly look zooming down the road, or down the trail, stay away - she's chasing demons!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 24: Spiritual Awakening

On my run yesterday I passed a young woman visiting her grandparents. They were tucked up comfortably on lawn chairs just outside their front door. She was sitting on a camping chair on the sidewalk, chatting and visiting with them. A lovely, normal and bizarre sight in the times of the modern plague year.

Here in my household we are preparing for Passover. This is a holiday that has some pretty weird echoes with our situation right now. I'll get back to that. For now, I'll say that all seven of us in our "nuclear" (read "nuclear explosions") family have different religious beliefs, ranging from atheist to secular, to very observant. I sit on the sidelines with my Earth Mama placard and my deep understanding of We as One and my conviction that Nature is a Terrible Beast and somehow tapestried into and with the Divine.

So there we go.

During the Passover Seder, we speak of the Jews' escape from their lives in Egypt to a brave new world across the desert. Themes such as plague, authority, compassion, cleanliness, restrictions, food, mathematics, and freedom enter into the evening, as well as concepts of what childhood means, how we categorize each other and our children, and most of all, Order. The whole evening follows a particular order that has been so since the beginning of the holiday, and we recite it at the beginning of the evening and we move through each step carefully.

Right now, we are living through a time where all of these themes are radically in play. I feel like I am spinning on the knife edge. Plague? We are living it. We have unleashed a plague upon ourselves that is killing many and creating confusion, suffering, and possibly a new order but possibly not.

Authority? Yes, authority is playing a big part in our lives right now. Do we do as the government asks? Do we believe them? Is it right for police to enter your house without a warrant? Who in a household has the right to tell others what to do, if everyone has different ideas about social distancing and hygiene? What do we tell or kids, when we have no control any more?

Compassion! Now is the time above all to be compassionate - to others, but also to ourselves. Ugly thoughts have swam up from my deeps over the past three weeks, I'm sure they've done the same for many. When someone acts with anger right now, try to drape them in light and move on. When you're had enough with yourself and want a break, take a walk outside of your mind and give yourself some compassion. Be compassionate of others; take social responsibility and keep your distance, wear a mask, stay healthy if you can.

Cleanliness! We are ordered to be clean! So before the Passover week we spend weeks cleaning the house, getting rid of breadcrumbs, making our living quarters sparkling clean. And now, even more so, during this pandemic, it is so important to be conscious of cleanliness. Wash your hands, as often as you can. Wipe stuff down, donate money to projects that are providing hand sanitizer and soap to marginalized communities. Don't touch your face, be conscious about what you bring into your house.

Restrictions: During the eight days of Passover, we are not supposed to eat any grain that can be leavened. And we eat Matzah which is a cracker made with flour and no yeast. These restrictions have been made light of, and they've been made heavier, depending on the personality of the people following them, or the religious establishment they belong to. You can actually go so far as to bleach your dentures (a true story) or you can just do a Seder on the first night and ignore it the rest of the time. That's the thing with religious restrictions in a liberal democracy: no one will cut off your head if you don't follow the rules. But actually, if you flagrantly ignore the restrictions put in place around Covid19, then there's a good chance that you and yours will get sick, and maybe even die.
Which is kind of creepy because it begs the question, that religious people might ask, whether following the earthly rules and not dying is more valuable than following the divine rules, getting sick, and dying. Conspiracy theorists also may follow this twisted logic. I figure, like I said a month ago, best to pray to Allah AND tie your damn camel to a tree.

Food! We eat ceremonial foods during the Seder, but we don't actually get to eat our meal until it's over, in our house that's usually around midnight at least. We prepare the food very carefully, washing it well. And of course our menu is completely changed around because we don't eat any grains or seeds. Zero. It's pretty interesting from a cooking point of view, and challenging. Luckily, since we are in stay-at-home mode, we have the wizard chef living in the basement ( his partner is in Italy, living through the plague there). And this year, everyone is cooking and experimenting with how to cook from scratch and make stuff you've been buying for years. Not only that, food and suffering has become a huge problem in places where every meal has to be struggled for. People are hungry, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, and in your own back yard.

Mathematics? There's a weird couple of pages in the Seder book where we start talking about mathematically how many plagues there actually were the year the Jews escaped from slavery. The echoing across the centuries is bizarre: everyone is reading about statistical this and that: how are we flattening the curve? New cases? Deaths? Which country is better and why? Testing? What percent? Age groups?

And Freedom! Freedom? Where is our freedom? How is our freedom? From an illusion of freedom under advanced capitalism where many of us thought that freedom was about being able to buy stuff and experience stuff, we are being forced to recognize that we don't have any freedom at all, really. Some of us believe that the whole pandemic experience is being used to whittle away at our social freedoms. I don't believe that. I think everyone is scared shitless, and they're all just scrambling.

I do know, however, that my most frightening and scary times were the times when I experienced a sort of freedom, and those moments were the ones when my intense conviction that there is a Creator, there is a purpose, my purpose is love .... when that conviction was born. And giving birth to a deep knowledge is no less painful and ecstatic than giving birth to a human. When I wandered, alone, in the mountains when I was very young, I was afraid, but I also knew that my survival was not in my hands. Was the moose who walked next to me with its calf taking care of me? Possibly. Was anything taking care of me? Possibly not.

I don't know what's going to happen. If I'm going to get sick and die. If we all are (unlikely, says the scientist in me). I'm lucky, I've had a huge life so far. You don't know what's going to happen either, so dig deeper, and find yourself. Give to others, break your rules. Stay home. Stay healthy. Call a friend.

Dive down, people. It's all we have. Love each other. Embrace the tumbling down of all the things you knew to be true. #spreadthelove #freedom

Monday, April 6, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 22: Birth and Choice

My dear friend Syd reminded me of something the other day when she suggested we all stop talking about "lockdown". Lockdown is something that happens is prisons. It's a scary situation when all of your freedoms are taken away. What we in Canada are living through now, most of us anyway, isn't that. It's scary and several of our taken-for-granted freedoms have been curtailed, but we are not in "lockdown".

I would like to take a minute to think about all the people who have had their lives deeply shaken by this pandemic: some people have lost their lives, others have lost loved ones. Some people's futures are changed beyond recognition, other people's present lives are changing as quickly as thought. In some countries, the biggest risk is starvation because there's no way to get out to get food and no way to make a living. In others, people are struggling to get by on what little they have.

But all of us in this world, together, are living through this historical event, whether we like it or not. We all have to figure out creative ways to live, to rise up to the new challenges we are faced with. Here in Montreal, most of the people I know are staying home, except for the health workers amongst them. Those brave souls are out in the hospitals and clinics, keeping us healthy, providing for the sick, and juggling their own lives and families with the needs of others.

I worked as a birth attendant for twenty years, and I trained doulas for fifteen of those years. One of the qualities I always valued in a student doula was flexibility. If a doula has that quality of making virtue of necessity; if she can take a challenging situation and make the best of it, then I am confident that she will provide the very best care for her clients. It's tough, sometimes, when a client wants her birth to go a certain way, and you as her doula know that it's unlikely that it's going to go that way. It's tough when your client is going to birth in a hospital where you know that the protocols don't "fit" with her beliefs about birth, or when things take a turn and interventions are needed. In these situations, I teach my doula students a few main lessons.

The first one is: when you and your client enter into the hospital, you are entering someone else's home. In the hospital, you don't make the rules. When you're in someone else's "home", you follow their rules. When your client is in labor is not the time to try to change the rules. A birthing woman should not have to spend her labor time battling with her attendants. She should have a realistic idea of what will happen. If she doesn't agree with the rules, then she should make other arrangements.

The second rule is: as the doula, you are there to support your client throughout the journey. In every scenario, with whatever tools you have at your disposal. Again, now is not the time to argue with the medical staff. Now is the time to concentrate on accompanying your client as best as you possibly can, so that their experience will be positive.

The third rule is: love your clients, love the staff, love the birth experience, love the baby. The more love you can spread around, the better.

Two major maternity wards (also here) in Montreal announced this week that because of Covid19, patients giving birth would not be allowed to bring anyone into the birth room. Not a doula, not a partner, not a mother. This has sparked a huge controversy and many people are angry, many are worried about how their birth will unfold, and petitions and news articles are all over the social media.

I do understand how scary it is to give birth alone. I've done it, in a foreign country, and it's not pleasant. (Actually, that's an understatement. It's traumatic and awful. But I didn't have a doula, and I didn't speak the language.) I believe that the maternity care system here in Quebec is broken: it's been broken for a long time - there aren't enough midwives; the laws around midwifery care were badly conceived; the maternity wards are understaffed and overly restrictive. In twenty years, I've heard many, many awful stories about giving birth in Quebec.

But this is the worst time to start to fix it. The worst time to try to change it. The worst time to push against a policy that actually will save lives.

It's a difficult time to give birth. It's a difficult time to stay alive. It's even a difficult time to die, as funerals are restricted. But this is a time when we can use all the resources we have to make our experiences better. So, doulas, I am calling out to you to do your very best work, and prepare your clients with love and compassion so that they can look forward to their birth with joy, and they can enter the hospital knowing that, yes, they will be cared for. The nurses are in fact there to care. You will be FaceTiming them from your home, guiding your client with your voice, letting them know that you love them, that they're doing a great job... using all the skills and creative tools at your disposal in the trying times.

After this is over, let's fight together for decent maternity care! Let's make a note that, yes, maybe hospitals should be for sick people and birth belongs somewhere else. Let's fight for more midwives, for more birthing centres, for an understanding of pregnancy as a normal, healthy event. But let's save that fight for later. For now, let's try to live together, with love. Doulas, be creative! Use your voice to provide support for your clients, where they are.

In these complicated and challenging times, let's pool our resources to work together! Spread the love!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 17: Do the Right Thing ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

This post is all about how we are treating each other, as we all hunker down throughout Canada to weather this storm. I just found out today that eight people I know, including some kids I helped get born, are sick with Covid19. This is real. I hope everyone reading this is staying safe, staying home, spreading the love, and honouring our essential workers.

I run a small vegetarian cafe.  I'm looking forward to retiring, but I'll probably have to work longer than I planned because of this pandemic and the financial fallout that will follow. I attended births for twenty years and I was founder and director of a charity here in Montreal that provided free doula services for marginalized families. We received very little funding: every so often a paying client would donate $500 or so. To clarify, I know I'm very wealthy compared to most of the planet's inhabitants. I also know how to run a charity, and I know how to run a sustainable, successful, and ethical business.

So I am confused about the decision of the Ottawa Marathon to propose only two options following the cancellation of the 2020 race. Those are: 1. run a virtual race and get your bling or 2. get a 50% off next year's race. No refund, no free deferral, no fall race.

Here's why these two options don't work:

  1. Let's start with the virtual race option. I registered for the marathon. I'm not training heavily right now, because I don't want to put my body at any risk. I'm keeping my runs at two hours max, which for me means less than 20k. So how would I run a virtual marathon without any training? Also, when would I run it? As soon as this is over I will be working like crazy getting my business back on track, I won't have time to train. And, if I wanted to run a virtual marathon I wouldn't have bothered spending $160.00 to register for the race; I would have just run 42 k around the city.
  2. The second option? I don't think anyone would actually pay 150% for a postponed race. Really? You would? 
  3. Now let's look at the business side of it. As a small business owner, I also host events and retreats. I have money put down for my retreats in Italy this summer. Guess what? They're not going to happen. I will not be making the money I hoped to make, but you can be sure that the money that I already received as NON REFUNDABLE deposits will be paid back to anyone who asks. Why? Because it's good business to care about your clients. Because then they will be back. And hey! Because we are experiencing a worldwide pandemic and we should treat each other well. 
  4. The whole charity argument also confuses me. I'm assuming that the donations are made from the day that registration opens. So I'm assuming that all the donations get put somewhere until the race is over and they get paid out? So I'm guessing Scotiabank has a little stash somewhere of all the donations? And they might be racking up some decent interest? Couldn't that money be used to pay back the registrants?
  5. I've only run two marathons so far, and I just checked out what they're doing. The Edinburgh Marathon is also cancelled for May 2020, and they are also receiving a lot of criticism about how they're handling it. The Fredericton Marathon  offers three options: defer for free to 2021; receive a 50% refund; do the virtual race.
Bottom line? The Ottawa Marathon should offer a full refund or a free deferral for all of its registrants. Or, offer an option where we can donate our registration fee to a charity of our choice. It's the right thing to do. We are all in this together. Some of us will get sick, a small percentage of us will die: how isn't the time to make money on the backs of others. We paid money for a product, please do the right thing! 

Stay home. Stay safe. Keep running!