The Pandemic Diaries: 'Being off the road has gifted me with a slower pace,' Brett Kissel says

By Brett Kissel, as told to Julia McEwen

This piece originally appeared as part of The Pandemic Diaries series in Issue 728/729 of HELLO! Canada magazine.

What were you doing when COVID-19 became a fact of life? We invited some Canadian stars to answer this question while documenting their lives during the pandemic – the highs, the lows, how they coped, what they learned.

Nearly six months into lockdown, and as the summer draws to a close, our celebrity-diarists – a mix of famous faces and behind-the-scenes superstars – are sharing those stories exclusively with HELLO! Canada readers. Their revealing, touching, at times humorous personal essays, accompanied by candid photos, show just how much we all have in common as we continue to navigate these unusual days, separately yet together.

Below, singer/songwriter Brett Kissel shares how writing a list of what he was grateful for helped change his perspective as lockdown began.

When the realization – and impact – of lockdown came into effect, my first real emotion was fear. Life came to a screeching halt and my job, as an entertainer, had suddenly ended. What was I going to do? What about my band – and my crew? What about my fans? It was a hard pill to swallow, but with the support and guidance of my wife, Cecilia, I overcame that fear quickly.

Early on in the pandemic, I was in damage-control mode trying to plan for my family's financial security, making sure we had enough food and supplies, and making some very difficult decisions about temporarily laying off team members. I was overwhelmed, but Cecilia helped me reframe our circumstances by asking me to write a list of all the things I was grateful for. All the things I appreciated. All the things in life that were still available.

That shone a light on all the positive aspects of my life and helped me feel better, triggering a mindset shift that I've held on to. In fact, I've posted that list on our fridge and I look at it every day.

Brett, 30, and wife Cecilia are parents to Mila, 4, Aria, 3 and 18-month-old Leo. Photos: © Brett Kissel

The biggest positive outcome of the pandemic has been the quality of time I've been able to spend with my family. To put things in to perspective, since 2015 I've not slept in the same bed for more than five straight nights.

Until March, I was working and travelling non-stop, but being off the road has gifted me with a slower pace. It's almost like I've been able to steal time back – I've missed many milestones over those last five years and I feel like I'm making up for that. I haven't missed a single bath time, story time or bedtime in months, which is so fulfilling.

After a month of self-quarantine with Cecilia and our kids, we grew our bubble to include our grandparents – this was a big priority for us. Fortunately, we have an incredible family farm, with plenty of space, about two hours outside of Edmonton. So we hunkered down there over the winter to shelter in place. It was an amazing experience and I'll look back on that time with so many fond memories of having my kids interact with their great-grandparents.

The family sheltered in place at their farm in his native Alberta. Photos: © Brett Kissel

The extra time has also allowed me to try things I've always wanted to get better at, including getting acquainted with the grill. Now, in all honesty, I did have a few disasters that nearly burned down the neighbourhood, but I've mastered a few pork recipes and I can serve up a perfectly grilled rib-eye steak! The downside to that is I feel as though I've put on the "COVID-19 pounds," so maybe my next project will be to get in shape.

Next to performing, what I miss most is hockey! I know it may be insensitive to say, as there are so many other giant challenges the world is facing, but going to hockey games and watching them on TV is part of Canadian culture. Also, every time my wife and I sat down on the couch when the kids were in bed, she'd fire up one of those Real Housewives shows – and I was reminded again and again just how badly I missed hockey!

Photo: © Brett Kissel

As well as being with my family, I've also spent this time writing, recording and creating. Global pandemic or not, I was going to be working on new music. Last year, I made a promise to my fans that every New Year's Day, for the next three years, I'd release something new, starting with Now or Never in January 2020. And as an entertainer, performing is my passion. Without it in my life, it's been tough to find my identity. Despite the obstacles, I've found ways to be creative and take control back for my own life and career.

I started with virtual concerts on my social channels, then organized Zoom concerts. Finally, I just wrapped a drive-in 14-concert series that truly brought back the power of live music for me and for my band. Most importantly, our drive-in concerts brought back a sense of normalcy for my fans. The minute I hit the stage, I had a conversation with my fans. We acknowledged the challenges were were all facing, but we celebrated what we were getting through. And even though we had to be apart, we were brought together thanks to the power of music.

Some of the best memories of my life were made over those weekends, and I'm so grateful that we were able to bring live music back to Canada.

In this challenging time, it’s really hard to be separated from family and friends. It’s also a time when everyone needs a beautiful escape. Here at Hello! Canada, we’re still busy creating the magazine you know and love, to spread positivity and provide some entertainment as a gentle reprieve from all the hard news. And with our new special offer for subscribers, there’s never been a better time to have Hello! delivered directly to your front door. Why not treat yourself, or someone you love, today?

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