My sister reminded me of this quote from Winston Churchill yesterday: “this is not the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
That’s where I think we are in this pandemic. In most of Europe and North America, social distancing is doing its job, and we are starting to have conversations about what it will take to start moving about more freely. But — the pandemic isn’t “over.” We won’t have a vaccine for a while, we don’t fully understand how we develop immunity to the virus, and the possibility of a second wave of the virus is high. And, even with all of this, we need to start figuring out how to do some of the things again.
None of this is … delightful. The only thing we know for sure is that we aren’t going to return to our previous ease of full movement any time soon, and life is going to include a lot of uncertainty for a while.
I don’t think this is easy for anyone.
But something about knowing for certain that things are going to remain uncertain has been freeing for me this week. I had a bit of a shift, from hunkering down just to “get through this” to recognizing that not-normal is going to be normal for a while. And this means I need to reframe my relationship with time, my space and my body.
I wrote last week about my observation that there are four rough tendencies about movement at this time: Adapting, Redefining, Surviving and Discovering. I noted at the time that I was really veering between Redefining and Surviving — i.e., sustaining a daily workout program, but only because I know it’s critical for my mental health. I’m finding it hard and I’m not taking much joy in it. The other day I actually wandered off in the middle of my workout to make more coffee and fold clothes, tuning out the joyful presence of my coach Alex and our little community.
But then something clicked, this week. Maybe it was the hint of spring (I mean, the hint of spring after the freezing rain and snow we had earlier this week), and maybe it’s knowing the curve is flattening, and most of my clients have emerged out of crisis into tentative restarting. Somewhere in there, I clicked out of hanging-on mode into this-is-my-life. I realized I’ve just been sort of … occupying… my days, not living in them. So how do I engage with this life with a bit more vigour? Where can I find more joy in movement when full social distancing is still in force?
When I sit quietly and reflect on it, I realize I’ve been in this kind of stasis in a lot of parts of my life, not just movement. I’m on pause from what matters. So how do I re-engage some of what I most care about?
Like many people, I really miss incidental movement. I miss just … roaming around, doing what I feel like. I’m working out most mornings a week with my virtual workout team and the lovely Alex, whom I’ve written about a whole bunch. And I’m running or going for long walks a few times a week. So I am ticking off workouts on my total number for the year. But many many days, that’s IT. I work out fairly intensely for an hour in the morning, and then… mostly, I sit. And because of that combination — bulgarian split squats or what have you and then stillness — most days I’m stiff and sore.
Usually, I’m the queen of incidental movement, constantly preaching at people to “make your day harder” by choosing stairs over elevators, walking over transit, cycling over cars. (My ex once told me that the best thing about our divorce was that she didn’t feel pressured to walk everywhere anymore). But when you don’t go anywhere, you don’t walk places. I’m not getting those 2000 chunks of steps I usually get walking to the streetcar, the flights of stairs from walking up to my unit from the street. Because I never go anywhere.
For me, not moving spawns even more not moving. Earlier this week, I found myself avoiding going outside even to walk around the block because “it looked cold.” (It’s April — it’s not THAT cold). Then I flop on the couch and eat more things, because the things are there. And so am I. Always there. Not moving. Getting stiffer and more sore. Not really DOING anything.
For most of my life, organic movement has been a pretty profound value for me. With my coaching clients, a lot of our work right now is to figure out how to live their values even as circumstances are weird and uncertain. So how do I build more organic movement into my life, even as we’re still under strict social distancing, with bylaw officers hulking in all the parks?
For this week, I think I’ll try a two pronged approach: short errands and quick walks around the block. I went out Friday for a quick walk to pick up cat food from my vet. Ordered by email, with a secret knock and a furtive, masked, almost silent shoving of the food into my arms through a cracked door. But the sun was out, and the light is becoming more welcoming, and the breeze was soft on my face. Out and back in 20 minutes, and I felt so much more ready for my next phone call. And more like… myself.
And feeling more like “myself” — I’m more available to be more creative and forward thinking in other ways. I can tentatively take myself off “pause.” Not into fast forward — I don’t need to start training for a marathon or pushing the boundaries of the social distancing expectations — but I can reconnect with what I value. Starting with being in my body in a more mindful way.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is going to spend just a little less time lying around with her cats.