An International Women’s Day Conference, Retreat & Celebration on Isla Mujeres

We Move Forward by Staying Put

By Janeen Halliwell

I can’t recall a time in my life when staying put was necessary to move forward. It is now. Alarmingly so.

It was 2 p.m. on March 27 when a jarring ‘emergency alert’ blasted from my cell phone telling me and all other Canadians that each of us could be a carrier of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus and we must stay home to minimize the spread.

On that day, the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada was 4,621. One week later and the number of cases is 11,284.

Canadians are for the most part taking heed of the government’s request. We are staying home to contain the virus and flatten the curve with the hope of moving forward with our personal and professional lives sometime soon(ish). My mother, Mary, and I share a home in Belleville, Ontario, and are experiencing the COVID crisis together.

Let me tell you a bit about Mary. She is a spry 83 year-old who on March 2nd had heart valve replacement surgery. She is recovering well and spends hours a day in our laundry room, which now doubles as her art studio. Painting during the crisis has been therapeutic for Mary, but it has not extinguished her fears. Last night, she came into the kitchen before going to bed and declared “I’m getting scared.” I understand why. Not only is Mary elderly and recovering from heart surgery, she also has a disease called sarcoidosis and is short half a lung because of it. Mary is one of the vulnerable ones. She should be scared.

A bit about me. My name is Janeen, and while I feel 30-something in spirit I am in my mid-50s. I am engaged to marry Paul, my forever love, but a year later than planned. We had to postpone our nuptials until next spring, but quickly came to terms with this small sacrifice, knowing many healthcare workers and others tackling and managing the COVID crisis around the world are making much bigger ones.

I am experiencing work and financial stressors though. I co-own People Minded Business Inc. (PMB), a consultancy that works primarily with non-profit organizations in the area of strategy, innovation and creative problem-solving. Much of PMB’s work has been postponed. This situation is stressful, but the Canadian government is introducing coronavirus wage subsidies which will help with paying the bills until the worst of the pandemic is over.

Like Mary, my core source of stress is the fear of catching the virus. I am my mother’s daughter. I too have sarcoidosis and I am also short half a lung because of it.

Mary and I understand that we must stay put in our home to stay safe from the virus. We also understand that we have plenty of company. Of the 7.8 billion people around the world 16% are over the age 65 and they are likely to become very ill and possibly die should they catch COVID. I don’t have an exact figure for the number of people around the world who have medical conditions that compromise their ability to fight this horrific respiratory virus, but I do know the conditions are many and the number is high. I think I can legitimately speak for everyone who is in this same boat/house, we’re all feeling like Mary. We’re scared.

But, we’re not helpless. On the contrary. Today while listening to a televised press conference, I heard Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, state “we can all make a difference by taking the right actions.” Her words were spot on and they were empowering. If Mary and I stay home, we have the power to be virus-free, to keep pressure off our healthcare system, and stem the growth of COVID-19.

The choices that Mary and I make today will impact our reality tomorrow, a week, a month, and months from now.

I want my mom to enjoy the gift of her new heart valve, and to enjoy many more years of a good life. I want to marry Paul on May 29, 2021, and to grow old with him, as it took me many, many years to find him. And, I want to continue to move forward and live my best life. I wish this for you too.

Janeen Halliwell is the founder of We Move Forward, an international women’s day conference held bi-annually on Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, Mexico.

Since 2012, women have traveled to “Isla” to experience WMF, a 3-day conference & celebration of ordinary women living extraordinary lives. We quickly form community and create lasting friendships. We share our stories and our strength. This will happen again. We will move forward from the 2020 pandemic and we will gather again on the Island of Women.

Until then, and during this tough time in our lives we will be sharing ‘We Move Forward’ stories – written or short videos – on the WMF blog page. If you have a story you would like to share, please submit it to We welcome all submissions, and while we can’t promise to post all stories, please know we value your experience, appreciate you sharing, and are ‘with you’ during this tough time.