For the love of it

The weekend that everything shut down in Michigan my partner and I were signed up to do a Pi Day run. It was a fun, no stakes 5k on a (kind of boring) course that we’ve done a few races on. The most exciting thing about it was the the shirt and metal….and as any casual runner knows, after a couple years of doing these races neither is in short supply. And I’ve been a regular, casual runner for the past ten years now. I’ve got an abundance of shirts, medals (mostly finisher medals), race logo bearing headbands, hats, gloves and so on and so forth. But I was still quite disappointed when the Pi Day run got cancelled and I realized there would be no new race paraphernalia that weekend…or for quite a while as it turns out.

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Some of the race swag I’ve collected over the years.

In lieu of the scheduled race we were offered the option to defer our registration to another of this companies races or to switch our registration to a “virtual race”. I’ve heard of these “virtual races”, they existed even before the pandemic forced us into isolation, but  I’ve never understood the appeal. I did briefly consider switching my registration for the Pi Run to a virtual race, I really wanted a Pi Day shirt and metal! But that would mean we basically just bought a shirt and silly metal for $45. That’s $90 for the two of us…To a cheapskate like myself that’s not justifiable.

So why then am I willing to pay so much to go run a relatively easy distance on a lame course at a super non-competitive pace? (Because let’s be real, I’ve got no chances of placing at these big events.)

I’ve asked myself this many times over the years and occasionally have decided it’s not worth it but more often than not if a race catches my attention I’m willing to shell out the dough, get up somewhat early on a weekend morning, and go spend some time running with a bunch of equally silly random strangers. Sometimes the weather is quite unpleasant. Sometimes it’s very early. Sometimes we’re wearing ridiculous outfits. Why?? Because it’s fun (and we’re slightly off our rockers). There’s nothing like a crowd of enthusiastic runners waiting around in the early morning mist for the gun to go off. The energy is unique and palpable. There’s a sense of camaraderie, personal challenge, and adventure.

Personally, signing up for a variety of races throughout the year helps keep me motivated as a runner. It gives me a structured goal to push myself towards, it helps motivate me to challenge myself whether it be by running a longer distance or trying to beat a personal best time. It also brings a sense of community to running.

Doing fun and/or challenging races has kept me excited about running for the past decade. But now, that’s all on hold….So what now?

These days, like so many people, I find myself with much more time on my hands than usual and some pretty decent weather. I’ve been able to get out and run three, usually four times a week. But it’s just running with no goals in sight; no fun race, no interesting medal, fun experience or shirt to show for all my time spent running. It’s just running…for the sake of running. Of course there are the usual benefits of getting fresh air and sunshine, time spent alone to let my mind wander, all that but no additional external motivation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. I still have demands on mine and things to fill most of it but, right now during this everything shut down stay-at-home-order (I’m not even sure what to call it), I have the most unstructured time that I’ve had since I was eighteen and fresh out of high school. It’s most certainly a dramatic difference from what I’m used to. On one hand it’s unnerving; I’m not great at self-managing without some sort of structure. But on another hand, it’s quite lovely being able to choose what to do with so much of my time. And the things I’m choosing to do, mostly, are things that I am doing for no other reason than to do them. For example, I crocheted a big fat scarf. We’re heading into much warmer weather, I don’t have any person or purpose in mind for this scarf… I just made it for the fun of it. I liked the colors and thought they called for a chevron pattern. SO I crocheted a scarf. My running this past month has been just like that: it doesn’t necessarily have a purpose or plan, there’s no real reward other than the enjoyment of the time spent doing it. Right now that’s enough.

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The wide chevron scarf in progress. 

So much about this pandemic and being “quarantined”, about this forced slamming the brakes on life as we know it, really sucks. For so many people it does. I get it, I’m living that too. Seniors in both high school and college are missing out on socially important milestones and there’s no getting those back. It’s especially hard for students who are missing their final season of a sport. In the grand scheme of things that might be inconsequential but in reality it’s a heavy loss to bear. I’m not going to put a positive spin on that, not even going to try, but I do hope some of those athletes are using this time to engage in their sport, to practice their craft at whatever level they can, just for the sake of doing it.

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I need a moment

I need to take a moment to be sad. To just sit with this deep, gut wrenching sense of sorrow and loss that’s been pulling at the edge of my existence for a while now, a little blurry but definitively present. This week, though, it’s brought it into focus. Sharp, clear, unignorable focus. This week, with confirmation of the end of the school year for all the kids; this week with the news that my education and progress will be significantly delayed; this week is ominous and dark in contrast to the sudden spring we’re experiencing outside.

It brings me back to a time when my kids were babies and young toddlers; some days were rough. There was layer upon layer of defeat and frustration piled on throughout the day but there I’d be, keeping it together, until someone threw a toy and it accidentally hit my face, maybe caught the corner of my eye, and it really hurt. Just for a second, but the pain was intense and it brought to a head all the feelings I’d been pushing down and keeping under control all day. And suddenly I’d be sobbing because it’s not just that few minutes of physical pain that you’re feeling but the summation of all that you’ve been carrying up to that moment. 

I know that we’re very likely going to be okay, that in the grand scheme of things we’ll get through this, probably changed but still intact. I know that I’ve made it through much, much worse and that the way through is one day at a time. I know that I, and my family, are fortunate to have the safety and stability to bunker down and that thus far we are fortunate that the only losses we are mourning are losses of what we perceived our short term futures would be. Because many aren’t so fortunate. I know that, and that’s all good and fine. But, today, I still need this moment to sit with my sorrow because it is real and it is valid; the only way past this is through it. 

Sitting with the Uncertainty

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March 2020: the month of the 1000 piece puzzle

I don’t know what day of “quarantine”/”social distancing”/isolation we’re on here. Heck, like most people now, I don’t even know what day it is. I do know that it’s almost the end of March and that I’ve got a big presentation to give (online) tomorrow and that that presentation which is supposed to last half an hour is not put together yet.

I’ve been suffering from too much time. Even when life has maintained its normal daily structure too much time is a phenomenon students and professional procrastinators throughout the globe are familiar with. It occurs when you know you have plenty of time to finish something but instead of spreading the work nice and evenly over all that time, you tell yourself “I’ve got time.” As in, “I really should start researching…but I’ve got so much time still.” In this pandemic induced stopping of nearly all time related obligation (for most of us), the too much time phenom has kicked into overdrive. It’s on steroids and is raging.

But this blase attitude, this extreme lack of motivation to do the things I need to do in allllll the time I now have available to do them, it’s more than the usual procrastinating tendencies. There’s a vague sense of purposeless that presses down like a heavy fog. The emotional roller coaster that takes you from “but look, I’m able to run almost every day and I’ve been getting so much sleep” to crying in the bathroom because Detroit is burning and so many people are not working and how are we all going to pay our bills and eat??? Back to thoughts of how much I’m saving just by not driving 110 miles back and forth to Detroit every day and then again to worries over my parents and my brother-in-law with frequent lung infections who was left a single parent by my sister’s sudden death a year and a half ago… and so I wander around the house and stare vaguely out the window. I try to check in on friends and family but get distracted by the cesspool of social media. And the hours somehow tick by. Slowly. But nothing happens. My presentation isn’t done. The information for my upcoming (also online)  tests and quizzes sits untouched.

Lat night while staring at my computer and feeling very stressed about the work I wasn’t doing, my best friend tested me with a question about her son’s teeth. All the dentist offices are closed until who knows when so an almost third year dental student is an okayish substitute. After we went back and forth about the lesion in her teenager’s mouth we started the usual chit chat about daily life, the kids, etc. Because some things haven’t changed. “Today was very somber, everyone is getting very weary around here.” she texts. I know exactly what she means; the reality of the current situation is setting in. At first there was a sense of novelty about everyone being stuck at home. Things were changing day by day, it was novel and sharp; there was a sense of urgency to take collective action and stem the tide of this pandemic. Very rah-rah-cis-boom-bah! And you could kind of pretend that the kids were just on an extended spring break from school and that’s cool and normal enough to get through it. But now there are rumors that they won’t be back this school year. There is a heavy sadness for the graduating (maybe?) classes who are missing all the festivities and emotions of such a pivotal moment in their young lives. We’ve been at home for almost three weeks. Or maybe this coming week is the third week. We’ve been at home, our lives have been slammed into a bleak limbo, for a timeless amount of time that will go on for unknown many days or weeks more.

And that’s it; that’s life for so many of us. We sit and watch the news, wondering who to trust and what is real. We watch the numbers climb ominously: confirmed cases of the virus, number of Covid-19 deaths, hospitals that are at capacity. Here in Michigan we look at the county-by-county break down of the number of cases each day and hope that we’ll see the effects of the Social Distancing protocols Stay at Home order that’s been in place since mere days after the first couple cases were confirmed. We need all this sitting and waiting to mean something.

We need results!

But what we have is uncertainty and all we really can do is just sit with the uncertainty and try to be at peace.