Self-Isolation Diary: A Day in the Life of Amanda Brugel

Photo by Denise Grant. Design by Danielle Campbell.

“I have learned more about systemic racism, slavery in Canada, accountability and even my own privilege as a fair-skinned person of colour in the last 18 days than I have in 43 years.”

As we complete Month 4 of self-isolation, and many parts of the country enter various phases of re-opening, FASHION is winding down its months-long self-isolation diary series, spotlighting how some of our favourite Canadians have been living their lives in lockdown. Rounding out the series featuring actors, designers, influencers and artists is actress Amanda Brugel, currently starring on The Handmaid’s Tale, Snowpiercer and Kim’s Convenience.

Amanda Brugel, actress

So, we are nearing the end of June and approaching Day 4768 of isolation. I’m kidding. Kinda. Two months ago, this would have been a much more depressing, wine-soaked journal entry, however, like many of you, I have finally stopped fighting this new normal and started to accept the unconventional and misshapen gifts it has offered.

I share custody of my two boys Jude (nine) and Phoenix (six) and since they’re with me today, my morning opens with Phoenix’s wet mouth pressed against my ear, whispering that he wants “a snack”. I don’t know why his mouth is wet and I do not wish to find out. I throw a croissant, apple slices and a gummy vitamin on a plate and turn on kid-friendly animal blooper videos. I then head back to bed, but can’t resist the urge to reach for my phone, where I inevitably fall down a news wormhole. Somehow the world has, yet again, changed within the seven hours that I was asleep.

Jude is awake now and it has been 60 whole minutes since Phoenix last ate, so I prepare breakfast and a bucket of coffee which I will put down somewhere and forget to consume. The three of us watch CNN for a bit and Jude grills me on what the journalists and guests are discussing. At the beginning, when the headlines were dominated by COVID-19, my boys were much more interested in their cereal, but now that the majority of news coverage hovers around police brutality and systemic racism, they are much more open to what Chris Cuomo has to say. My ex-husband is a police officer and my children are bi-racial. They have been exposed to these types of discussions since birth, but ALWAYS in private. I didn’t realize how much, they too, would be riveted by public conversations about race.

We now begin the excruciating task of homeschooling. My partner, filmmaker and actor Aidan Shipley, has been quarantining with us, so today, he works with Jude in the dining room and I cover Phoenix. We have discovered that the most effective way to get Phoenix to focus is to promise him full body ankle swings above the couch after every completed assignment. This morning we soared through “sh” words, so Aidan just sprinted over to our work zone, grabbed Phoenix by his ankles and swung him towards the ceiling ten times to celebrate. It’s bonkers, but it works.

Snack number 5.

amanda brugel
image courtesy amanda brugel

I have a Zoom read-through with the cast of Kim’s Convenience for our Season 5 scripts. It’s a very strange exercise to act alone opposite my laptop with zero physical human connection. Also, comedy requires laughter, however, in this medium, we all have to try to stay relatively quiet so that the writers have a chance to hear their work spoken out loud for the first time. So I wind up sitting with my hand clamped over my mouth for forty minutes in an effort to not ruin the read-through. I fail three times. Hopefully, I don’t get fired.

I now have 45 minutes to respond to texts, emails, phone calls and article requests from allies. Wait. I should back up. About three weeks ago, I posted a few controversial messages on Instagram, inviting non-BIPOC to become more vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequently implored them to join the now viral, global conversation about systemic racism. I did not intend it to be contentious, however, maaaaany Black Americans did not approve of my willingness to answer questions or give suggestions. To be honest, this portion of my day has almost become a second job. And while, yes, it can be emotionally draining, it is also the moment in time that I have been waiting for my entire life. My theory; I have asked people for help. I can take 45 minutes out of my day to teach them how to do so.

For the love of God; SNACK TIME.

This is my favourite part of the day. Me and all of my boys head to a creek near my house for “Gym Class”. The boys take their scooters and race ahead, while Aidan and I saunter through a forrest decorated with painted rocks left behind by kind strangers. We read their messages that say “Smile” or “You Are Loved” and “Keep Going” and we proceed as instructed. We eventually end at a small beach beside the creek and skip stones, walk over fallen trees as if they were tightropes and the boys take a dip and search for sea glass. This part right here has been my greatest gift from COVID-19.

amanda brugel
image courtesy amanda brugel

NO YOU CAN’T HAVE A SNACK DINNER IS ALMOST READY. I’m mid dinner prep which is my second gift from COVID-19, because I did not cook before this mess. I would dabble. Reheat. Definitely dine out. Or, wait for my amazing mother to show up with foods. But, tonight I am making Butter Chicken with garlic naan and I haven’t set anything on fire and it smells almost good. We sit down to dinner and commence “Dinner Theatre” games, where we improvise scenes or pass silly questions around the table.

The boys are in their PJs and we take a “night walk” around my neighbourhood. Now that summer weather is here and everyone has stepped a little further out of their homes, we take this time to scream talk at our neighbours from a safe distance and compare notes about the their isolation experience. It’s 28 degrees and smells like fresh cut grass.

Phoenix is tucked in and now I am able to steal a private moment with Jude and allow him to watch the latest Daily Show or Shaun King post. Tonight we are discussing the disparities in African American healthcare in the US. I show him a Nat Geo video on the conditions in slave ships. We talk about how a bunch of K-Pop stans high-jacked Trump’s return to the campaign trail. I have a moment where I wonder if any other parents are having these quiet conferences with their nine year olds. Is this the new bedtime story? I hope so. I have learned more about systemic racism, slavery in Canada, accountability and even my own privilege as a fair-skinned person of colour in the last 18 days than I have in 43 years. I am heartbroken and emboldened, but mostly grateful to take my child along for the ride I didn’t have.

Wine. A bit of news. And an episode of Legendary as a night cap. Aidan and I snuggle on the couch and I recognize that although I miss my old life, I would not return to it for a second. I have grown tremendously from this discomfort. As a mother, a partner, chef and activist. I am watching my world, in real time, attempt to do the same. I am tired. But emboldened. Good night.

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