To See Ourselves As Others See Us

Until today, my major concern in relation to Coronavirus was to avoid contact with other people. I did not want to bring the virus home and I did not want to carry it to the people I love and live with.

hand touching glass
Photo by Josh Hild on

Before I returned to Canada I spent a week in self-isolation. I didn’t leave my apartment at all. My roommate brought me groceries and news from the outside world. I did not want to risk becoming ill partly because I knew that any symptoms would mean I could not get on a plane back to Canada.

Additionally, I did not want to get sick because I did not want to have to deal with the bureaucracy and expense of the American health care system. So, I stayed apart.

When my roommate, who is very social, went out and about without much change in her normal behaviors, I talked to her about my concerns. I was afraid she might bring the virus home to me. She, very graciously, assured me that she was taking normal precautions like taking off her shoes and washing her hands when coming through the door. In addition, she started changing her clothes when coming home. She also made some changes to her travel plans.

man wearing paper bag on head
Photo by cottonbro on

The need for caution stayed with me, and when I went to the airport to catch my flight back to Canada, I wore latex gloves and an N95 mask. I had bought a pack of masks last year when I was cleaning out some mold, and I still had most of them. This seemed like a good opportunity to use the rest of them.

I have been back in Canada for two days now, and haven’t left the house. I have a suite separate from my son and his family and we are keeping away from each other. When they had food to share yesterday, they left it outside my door. I, in turn, shared my leftover masks and gloves and left them outside the same door for them to pick up. That’s how we live now.

face mask on pineapple
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Today, I realized I wanted fresh air and I texted my son to see if he and my daughter-in-law were ok with me going for walks. I promised to steer clear of people as much as possible. They said, of course, it was ok. The fear, they said, wasn’t my being in contact with other people. Their fear was contagion from California and/or airports, not from Albertans.

That is when it dawned on me. I have become what I had feared. I may be a carrier of the virus. Far from being the noble, cautious, uncontaminated person I thought myself to be, I realize that is not how I am now perceived.

In Canada, the threat comes from abroad, and in Alberta, it comes from California in particular. What matters in this infected world is not how we perceive ourselves; it matters how others perceive us.






  1. So glad you’re home, Anne. Better to weather this out (no pun intended) in Canada than in U.S. Glenn and I have been self-isolating for almost 2 weeks—since I got bad cold or flu. It is almost certainly not Covid19 (had the test last Monday and haven’t heard back, which is a good sign). I think we’re going to be a little bit nervous when we finally venture out for groceries, probably later this week. I hope your room-mate in California starts behaving more carefully. Welcome home. I’m glad your country called you back.

    • Sorry to hear you’ve been sick, Nancy. I hope you are feeling better soon. Going out for groceries is one of the few things we can do right now, although Ken and Julie have been getting mine and will do so for the next couple of weeks.

      My roommate in California is reluctantly coming to terms with self-isolation but its going to be a lot harder for her than it has been for me.

  2. Anne, being a nurse this is how we were trained with universal precautions especially during the 80’s and HIV outbreak. We were told act like you have the disease and you don’t want it spread to others. Hand washing and social distancing is the 2 most important keys to avoid Co-Vid 19 as much as possible. Sometimes when watching the news it gets depressing , like i”m not going to hug my Grandchildren that live with me? Once your 14 days are up (I’d give it 15) then when you interact with your family my guess is social distancing and hand washing…..this leaves one with so much emotional distancing. I can send you virtual hugs and just wrap your arms around yourself! I have started keeping a log of where we go on a daily basis and who we come in contact with if any one. Yesterday I am proud to say I found a bundle of paper towels and a case of bottled water at a store I had stopped in after paying bills. Sadly 2 of our local utility suppliers don’t do on line payments. It is now going on 4 weeks for us and we do spend time outside walking weather depending. I called my brother who lives in San Diego his son is in Spain and unable to come home. He says it is very bad there. It’s not boring ever at my house but I am feeling the emotional exhaustion at least I am sleeping better!

    • Oh, Sue. I can only imagine what it must be like for you with the children. You are right about the emotional distancing. I’m not fond of using the phone, but I think that is going to be my lifeline for the next couple of weeks.

      I can’t believe you have utility companies that you can’t pay online! That just blows me away.

      Hang in there. We will get through this somehow.

  3. I have a friend who came home to Utah, and a huge family, from China back when this all began. It gives us an idea how it must have felt for her as well, even though China is a massive country and she didn’t come from anywhere near the start of the outbreak… she was coming from THERE. Fortunately she’s now back to being a Utahan just like in about a week you’ll be a not to be feared Albertan. 🙂

    • As hard as it is to be quarantined for a couple of weeks, I feel grateful that I have family nearby who can help me with getting groceries. I also have all the heat and light I need, which is more than some people can say. Yes, I won’t be feared so much after this, but I’m still going to practise all the precautions when I’m out and about.

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