covid19 · fitness

Catherine arrives late to the pandemic party; banana bread, anyone?

Hi there—sorry I’m so late to the pandemic party! Yes, I know the invitation said March 14, 2020; I got it. What kept me?

No, I didn’t get stuck in traffic, because there wasn’t any. At all. For months.

No, childcare wasn’t an issue, because I don’t have any kids to look after and school from home while also working.

No, I wasn’t out in the scary, contagious world, treating sick people, feeding them or supplying them with their essential needs, risking my own life and health in the process.

Nonetheless, I was pretty busy.

March: yoga-zooming like there was no tomorrow (which was definitely a possibility then).

March-April: showing up to teach-lite on zoom and respond to a mass of emergency emails from students in crisis.

May: more zoom work; attending rough-and-ready pandemic-approved substitutes for church, socializing, movement, events e.g. (a friend’s 90th distanced birthday party, everyone shouting their good wishes to the birthday girl).

June: more school zoom events, as if the term had never ended. The work days/weeks went on and on.

July: respite! A defiant, risky but worked-out-in-the-end trip to South Carolina to see family, and a North Carolina mountains distanced family vacation; yes, I’m lucky and grateful for the privilege that afforded me this boon.

August: no idea; maybe pre-semester paralysis? Sadness? Too much time inside.

Sept-Dec: head down, more zoom teaching-lite (no one fails this term); more distraught student emails, more zoom events.

Dec-Jan: another defiant, somewhat risky, but this time with genuine quarantine and rigorous distancing and testing, visit with family.

Feb: Was that last month? Who knows?

There’s this idea out there in social media-land that the pandemic has been an opportunity for people to make use of the shift to time at home (for those whose jobs and lives allow it) to do all sorts of things, like:

  • Bread baking
  • Home renovating
  • Zoom eventing with friends, family, community
  • Outdoor exploring
  • Pet adopting

Yes, some of us have done some of those things sometimes. We’ve also experienced sickness, loss, grief, paralysis, anxiety, depression, isolation, fear. Speaking for myself, I’ve had my share of all of them. And, I’m a lucky person who still has a job working from home and family who are either well or recovered/recovering from COVID.

Now we are on March 7, 2021. The pandemic is still with us, the vaccination roll-out is happening, but very slowly. People are talking about return to normal, or return to new-normal (don’t get rid of those masks, people; they’ll be with us for some time to come).

What do I want to do, now that I’ve finally arrived at the Pandemic Party?

More home improvement:  Last summer I fixed up my back porch for outside safe-socializing. And it was so much fun having people over. I want more of that this summer—more plants, more nice places for people to come to visit me (regardless of pandemic status). I have a front porch that I want to set up as another nice gathering place, replete with flora.

More cooking: During the pandemic I got a lot of takeout, and fed myself as best I could. But there was no joy in it at the time, nor much energy or creativity. Now that we’re maybe seeing an upswing, I’m yearning for new tastes and new domestic activities. I’m currently in love with sheet pan bakes. Boy, I can’t wait to cook for my friends—but that can wait until summer…

More riding and walking and swimming and kayaking and hiking, all outside: over the past year, it’s been so hard to leave the house. Friends help a lot (thanks, Norah!), and many of us have plans. Some involve resuming previous rides (hello, Friday coffee rides with Pata!), and others involve developing skills for bikepacking (hello, Michele and Pata! You said you’d help with this…). I’m planning to commandeer one of my sister’s recreational kayaks next time I’m in SC, bringing it back with me to use in rivers and ponds and flat coastal water. It’ll be a process, getting the routine down. But there’s time.

More writing: this winter, I took a 6-week personal essay writing class online with a great place for teaching creative writing of many genres, Grub Street in Boston (which is all online these days, so check them out). I’ve signed up for a 6-week op-ed class starting March 10, so be prepared for more op-ed-y blog posts to come…

All of these goals and desires and needs of mine pre-dated the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, it seemed to me like I should now use this time to work on them. But I was too busy being upset and paralyzed to do much then. Even though the pandemic is shifting and life-as-it-was may come back in some ways, I am not shifting back to life-as-it-was. I want life-as-it-can-be, focusing on what’s most important to me—friends, family, movement, meaning, community, vocation.

Will I get on a plane again? Yeah (although probably not without a mask for the foreseeable future). But has my view about what kind of life I want changed? Yeah. Like I said, I’m late to the pandemic party, but I’m here, and I made plenty of banana bread to go around.

What about you, dear readers? What features of the pandemic party do you want to keep going when the virus dies down? I’d really like to know what you’re thinking.