We are now entering the fourth week of schools closed, stay-at-home orders, and trying to flatten the curve. Maybe it was the novelty of it or the challenge of reworking normal life, or maybe it was because my family is intact, together, and managing okay, but after four weeks, it seems like we’re entering a new phase. We’ve laughed at the memes, watched Sting sing “Don”t Stand So Close to Me,” thought about the poetic responses to the pandemic, and I even attempted (and failed) to binge-watch a Netflix series (The Good Place). But now I am wondering what this new life will leave us with on the other side. I think about these things when I am exercising, also an activity that has been changed by this new indoor life.
Initially, my aggressive approach to running (from zero to 5 miles in a week) felt good, but then my old ankle injury reared its ugly head, and I had to resort to my bike on its trainer in the dining room. I’m skittish about hitting the road and face planting again, requiring a trip to the ER, and using up resources that need to be saved for those who fall ill. I’ve been down that road, and I don’t relish the idea of getting COVID from a bike accident. The bike accident alone was enough.
Biking outdoors is my preference despite my crash, and I love the open road, only a few cars, and the sounds of frogs, the wind, and the warmth of the sun. But, its been 40 degrees, rainy, and windy, and each day as I climb on the bike in my dining room, I crank up the music, close my eyes, and envision my favorite hill. My set up isn’t too bad, and I have windows to allow me to see the world, or at least my neighbor’s yard. So far, only once has my riding interrupted my kid’s zoom class — he kept shouting at me that he couldn’t hear the teacher, and then I realized that he was in a zoom. I had the volume way up, perhaps to “Beast of Burden” and the bike makes quite a racket on its own.
These days are strange ones, and somehow I’m not bored. I guess I find things to do — working, reading, writing, cooking. Keeping after the usual chores. I don’t want to let these days go by in a blur, though. I want to pay attention. I want to use this time to re-think about a life that could be different. I’m sleeping later because I am not getting up at 4:30 to get to a spin class before school. I’m making food to give to neighbors. I’m actually writing, a little.
On my rides to nowhere, I am contemplating the past and the future, wondering about how much this enforced slow down might change us. Wondering whether we can re-emerge from our cocoons of silence into a world where we spend time in new ways, where we make a different set of priorities, where the workdays are 6 hours instead of 12 hours. It’d be a shame if we don’t come out of this with a new set of wings that will let us fly over the unnecessary and help us to pay attention to what really matters.