I’m Running in the Rain

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I took up running in the spring/summer of 2016. One morning I woke up early to run and beat the heat of the day. I tip-toed out of the bedroom and put on my clothes and shoes. I slid on my arm band and headed out the back door.

When I opened the door, I discovered it was raining. It was a quiet but deeply set in downpour. I could tell that it wasn’t going to pass soon. I could also sense that it had no malice. There were no turbulent winds or cracks of lightning or thunder that usually accompany a Chicago summer rain. Because I was dressed, and it was only rain. I decided to go out running anyway.

It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had running. I felt liberated. I didn’t feel obligated to sidestep puddles to keep dry. I was drenched by the time I hit the end of the drive. It was still and quiet- nobody else was out. It was just me- crazy me running in the rain.

That day, I ran for the joy of it, I didn’t worry about metrics such as speed or distance or heartrate, mainly because at the time I wasn’t really measuring anything. I was new to running, so just getting on my shoes and hitting the pavement was the only goal I had.

As time passed, I got more into running, and I acquired more “gear.”  I started to use Strava to track my runs, and eventually; I got a smart watch that would track all sorts of measures and give me a bunch of stats.

I ran a few half marathons and finally I attempted a marathon during the 2020 lockdown. It was during the pandemic that I found myself stressed about running. I would be upset with my slow speed and high heartrate. I would run and come home and cry in the shower. I never acknowledged that it was an accomplishment to just get off the couch.

 I hired a running coach who gave me workouts to get faster, and I did. But what puzzled both of us is that I didn’t have a goal other than to run and not get down on myself. I did many pep talks and hobbled through months of rote runs straining to keep positive.

But then I remembered that day running in the rain. I remembered feeling the freedom and not giving a rat’s ass about any of those stupid fucking measures, so the next time I went for a run I didn’t record it. I just went out and ran, and it was weird. It was like when I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I felt a little lost…disconnected…like I was going to miss something important. Several months later I realized that I was not missing a thing.

Perhaps my FB deletion helped with letting go of Strava because after that first undocumented run, I’ve felt so free. I’m not stressed about my speed because I don’t know what it is. Yes, I can tell my heart rate is high, but I’m running! And since I just moved to Maine, I have started to encounter these crazy things called hills, and they are bitchin’. In the positive and negative sense. I sound like Samuel L. as I huff up them but when I get to the top, I know that I conquered that motherfucker all on my own. AND I don’t have any app raining on my firework spectacular of accomplishment by telling me that some people could walk it faster than I ran it.

I don’t feel the need to justify my lack of distance to myself. I don’t have to convince myself that since I’m going up crazy hills that runs less than three miles are okay. I’m running to a pre-set destination and back. In the future, I might just set a certain amount of time.

I like running, and I lost the joy in it. I realize now that I lost the joy in it quite some time ago, and I should have stopped using Strava, unless actively training for a race where distance training matters, years ago because I remember early on struggling with getting down on myself because of speed.

There are a lot of things in life that don’t need to be boiled down to a number or documented for the world to see.

Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I travelled as much as we could. I would carry around my large, bulky camera and take endless photos. I love these pictures, I do, but what I remember are the moments when I didn’t have a camera stuck to my face. I remember great dinners and delicious wine. I remember waking in sunshine tangled in my husband’s limbs after a long, luxurious nap. I remember the run I did in Paris because I got lost not because of my speed. I remember coming around to the main staircase at the Louvre and seeing the Winged Nike and stopping dead. I had learned about her in an art history class and forgotten that she called the Louvre home. She is stunning. I did finally take several pictures, but it’s the moment of rounding that corner that I remember- a moment that couldn’t be captured on film.

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to be dictated by numbers. In the past few days, I’ve sat in the golden Maine sunshine and done nothing but read, write, and run. I have not had a to do list of things to prove my worth quantifiably, and I haven’t felt this much fucking joy possibly ever. Finally, I understand that happiness has no numeric metric. We want it to because then it feels more attainable.

The Hulk’s secret is he’s always angry, so perhaps happiness’s secret is not grabbing on and obtaining but in letting go…in letting be.

Social media has given us a compulsion to prove happiness and thus quantify it, and weirdly, others do the quantifying for us with their likes and comments. It’s an external source that deems our “happiness” good enough or not.

Blogging could fit into this category, but like running it’s an outlet. It feels far less personal than posting a picture on FB and only getting one like perhaps because the picture is in real time- a rawer state of self and because liking something on FB is so goddamned easy that it hurts, stupidly so, but it does nevertheless, when people that you know aren’t deeming your life satisfactory.

So, fuck the metrics, I’m running in the rain. I don’t know how far or how fast, but I don’t care because it doesn’t matter. I’m letting go and it feels so much better, more than I ever thought possible.

Laundry and Practicing French

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My friend Jessica taught me a great hack. She told me that if a piece of clothing is handwash, she throws it in the wash and if it makes it great, and if it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be.

Okay, so this isn’t really a hack, and admittedly when she told me this, I did some judging about possibly ruining perfectly good clothing. Until I remembered I had a sweater that has been sitting on top of my dryer for the last four months waiting to be handwashed.

So this week, I took a page from Jessica’s book and threw it in with my other gentle cycle clothes and guess what!? It was fine! Now I did lay it flat to dry because I wasn’t going to tempt the laundry gods that much, but the point is Jessica gave me a shift in perspective.

Perfectly good clothing isn’t doing me any good if it sits atop my dryer for months on end needing to be handwashed, so if it doesn’t make it, oh well, I wasn’t wearing it anyway. This concept is so liberating! I broke the “rules” and the world didn’t crumble.

When I think about it, we are, or at least, I am running around with a lot of stupid concepts and limiting constructs in my brain. For instance, I have been learning French with the Duolingo app since 2016. I didn’t get really devoted to practice until 2020 during quarantine. Learning French gave me something to do and gave me a sense of worldliness while never leaving my condo.

Anyway, Duolingo helps motivate you to practice with counting how many days you practice in a row. I currently have a 570 day streak going, so I have a lot on the line to make sure I practice daily. However, some days it’s 9:30 PM all I want to do is go to bed, but I need to practice damn French in order to not lose this streak which actually has no consequences if I were to lose it. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to practice which isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s nearly time for bed I usually just open the app pick a few lessons I’ve already completed to get my daily experience and keep my streak, so I can go to bed.

Lately, this has been happening more and more. I feel like I’m being lazy and cheating because I’m not covering new material or “moving forward”. And I have to remind myself that it’s not. I’m still practicing even if it’s stuff that I already know. It’s because of this “lazy” practice of old lessons that has finally pounded into my brain that it’s not le arbre; it’s l’arbre, and that pizzas, bedrooms, and neckties for some God forsaken reason are feminine.

Granted, learning French just because and throwing a handwash sweater into the wash are low stakes, but the amount of judgment I lay on myself for them is phenomenal. It’s as if I’m scared that they are symptoms of larger and deeper issues such as being lazy or not doing the right thing. And I think the sad thing is that this isn’t an “if”, it is what I’m scared of, so I need to remind myself that I don’t need to make huge leaps of progress in everything I do or do something just because a tag says I should. I just need to show up and stop judging myself so damn hard because I am enough. We all are.

The awesome news is the sweater is now clean, and I know off the top of my head what sweater is in French: le pull. And that’s weirdly exciting

The Signs to Move Forward

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I have had the same dream for the last eight years. The dream’s circumstances and setting fluctuates, but the core result and feeling is always the same: I have left my job, and I deeply regret it. I spend the entirety of the dream trying to get back to my old job. When I wake, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief that it was just a dream.

However, towards the end of last year, a series of events led me to conclude that perhaps despite the fear of uncertainty, it was time to leave. It wasn’t an easy decision. I’d worked at my firm for over ten years. I made good money and had good benefits, but it just felt like it was time. I decided that in the new year around January 17th, 2022 I would give notice, but I was tentative about it. I decided I would see how things went over the course of the next few weeks.

And then things started happening…

A few days after I made this decision, I learned that the big software roll out that the firm had been attempting for the last year was going to launch on January 17th. I thought to myself: “How fortuitous.”

About a week later, I randomly chose a documentary to watch on Netflix about industrial musicals, and the last thing in the documentary is a musical number called “Take that Step.” It urges people to do that crazy, scary things because great things are in store ahead. After I picked my jaw up off my lap, I glance at the ceiling and muttered: “Alright, then”

The year came to a close and sadly Betty White died just shy of her 100th birthday which would have been on January 17th. What is happening?

I went for a run and suddenly felt this crazy sense that if I was going to keep living I needed to leave my job. Later that day, my fortune cookie with my Chinese takeout said: “Find work that isn’t ‘work’.” Holy Toledo, OK! I get it.

The signs seemed to be everywhere, but what I find the most amazing is that after I decided to leave the firm, the dreams stopped.

I left the firm two weeks ago. Right after I left, I dreamt of my old co-workers. We are all together hanging out in a bar. We were happy, and I felt a deep connection with them. They were happy, peaceful dreams. I realized the good pay and benefits were nice, but I stuck around for so long because of the people. These dreams seemed to tell me that I made the right choice, and I don’t need to work at the firm to keep those friendships.

I am now open to new dreams and new signs. I took that step and am ready for whatever happens next.

Washing the Dishes

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“Wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

What in the fuck does that mean?

My friend Jessica sent me a preview of The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh to see if I would be interested in reading more of Hanh’s work. When I came across this bit about the dishes, I didn’t have high hopes. After re-reading the sentence about four times, I gave up and kept reading which if I had done so in the first place, I would have saved time and a headache because Hanh explains:

“If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes…’ If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things…Thus we are sucked away into the future- and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”

Damn…I never thought of it that way before.

In the last two years, many of us have been overwhelmed and thus sought out mindful practices. We were hoping to find some control; however, I don’t think mindfulness is about the things we control; it’s about letting go of the things we can’t.

For years, I have attempted to control my live through the organizational vehicle known as the list. I used to have lists for everything. They made me feel secure and with it. I could physically see my productivity in black and white. But somewhere a long the line, the lists began to control me. The things on the list that I had yet to complete would haunt me. I would be restless and found it difficult to relax because I should be doing something “productive.”

So a few months ago, I abandon the list almost altogether. Now, I only make lists to go to the grocery store, when I’m packing for a trip; to remember the books I’ve read; and work tasks. There are no house chore lists; there are no habit trackers; there are no “measures” of productivity. And yet, the dishes get done and the laundry gets clean either when I get to it or when I’m out of clean plates or underwear. Despite, not tracking I meditate daily; I practice my Duolingo French regularly. My running miles have slightly increased, and my daily consumption of fruits and vegetables seems to be adequate. I don’t have lists and yet at the end of the day I’m exhausted with the pleasant feeling of a day well spent. The proof is in my mood, and the delicious babka sitting on my kitchen counter.

The freedom from lists has allowed me to wash to dishes in order to wash the dishes. When I’m rushing through a run because I feel I need to get it done, I find myself slowing and saying: “I run in order to run.” When I’m trying to fall asleep at night, and my mind is running amok with what to do tomorrow, I remind myself: “I sleep in order to sleep.”

So perhaps there is a future for me and Hanh’s work as long as he’s willing to explain himself, and I read in order to read.

An Ending and a Beginning

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Ten and a half years ago, I rode the elevator to the 30th floor decked out in a pencil skirt and sensible commuter shoes. My bag held my lunch, my non-sensible but adorable heels, and my elephant coffee mug.

I had purchased the mug during lunch at the World Market in Evanston when I was feeling particularly low about my job. The retail therapy made me feel better in the moment but did not prevent me from eventually getting sacked by the devil herself who was, at the time, masquerading as an executive director of a not for profit and my boss. All my female compatriots (this is the best word for them because in those trenches we were far more than co-workers) felt the same sting of her pitch forked tongue. And while they were appalled at my firing, there was a tad bit of jealousy. Yes, I was about to battle mount purgatory trying to figure out how to pay my student loan debt, but at least, I was out of the vestiges of that hell.

Miraculously, four days later I landed a temp to perm position at a law firm. When I called my roommate to tell her I got a job, she was so flabbergasted by my falling-into-a-bowl-full-of -shit-coming-out-smelling-like-roses fortune all she could get out was: “Shut the front door!” Followed by that awed silence that occurs when something outlandish happens, followed by: “You weren’t unemployed; you had a long weekend.” At which point her boss must been bumbling by because she abruptly hung up the phone.

After two temporary months, I started to inquire about my future. When the head paralegal asked my boss if she should inform me I would be placed permanently or not, his response was: “she isn’t already?” The head paralegal replied that the HR department had said the firm had no open positions unless the woman on maternity leave who I was temping for decided not to return.

My boss called me into his office and said that I would either be his assistant if his didn’t return, or they would find something for me to do, if that was fine with me. I blubbered out an ineloquent yes. He told me to go tell the HR department I was hired. The look of sheer incredulousness on my face prompted him to ask if he should come along. This time I spouted a firm and resounding- YES.

The HR department was a one woman show, and she was the equivalent to a gargoyle. She had been there since sometime in the 60s, and I’m pretty sure Captain Blackbeard had more sentimentality for the humanness of his crew than the HR lady did at the firm. However, the good news is that the HR lady had more of the rank of cook- necessary but no profound authority.

Anyway, my boss told her I was to be hired in some capacity in the near future. A few hours later, while I was on the phone with a client when a mass email was sent to the whole firm announcing the woman on maternity leave had quit, and I was hired as her replacement. Moments after I got off the phone, my recruiter called to congratulate me and stated she thought the starting salary was generous. I replied by asking what it was.

So that’s how I ended up on the elevator with my coffee mug, Tupperware, and sensible commuter shoes. Over the years, the Tupperware went to and fro and heels became lower and lower, but the elephant coffee cup always remained through early morning blurry eyed phone shifts, midday drudgery of drafting yet another motion, and evening scrambles prepping for trials. That is until last Friday when I washed it out, dried it, and placed it in my bag to go off in search of new adventures.

My time at the firm has been a wild ride and one I’m very glad I took, but towards the end of last year I could tell it was time to move on. So I started the year off by making my exit. Honestly, I don’t know what’s in store next. I know I’m moving half way across the country but beyond that I’ll figure it out just like I did 10.5 years ago.

And my trusty coffee mug will be by my side for whatever fate has in store and weirdly that’s a mighty fine comfort. That day of morose retail therapy has paid for itself more than I could have possibly calculated. So a big thing has ended and yet another has begun, and I’m excited to see exactly what it is.

A Question for Corporate America

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The proposal: Over the last year and a half, I have discovered that working at home enables me to be more focused and efficient. My work performance supports this conclusion. I understand that working 100% remote is not feasible, but a hybrid work situation could work well, with two days in the office and three days off site. Naturally, special events and meetings would require additional in office attendance. This last year has been exceedingly difficult, but this crisis has taught us to look at the world in new ways. Has the company considered hybrid work schedule as a possibility?

Mass e-mail to entire company: We will re-enter the office at full-capacity on July 6th. You will be required to prove your vaccination status. Looking forward to seeing everyone then.

The unspoken conversation with the man:

Question: Give me one good reason, why I can’t work from home?

Answer: People aren’t working at home. They are distracted and not on task.

Response: I am not people. I work well at home. I have the results to prove it. You are punishing me for others’ bad behavior. How about you man up?! Tell those who aren’t working that they will need to work in the office but productive employees can be remote. Also news flash: those screwing off at home did so in the office. You just didn’t bother to ask the IT department for their browser history.

Question: Give me one good reason, why I can’t work from home?

Answer: We don’t want our space to go to waste?

Response: There will be people working in the office. See in re: people who screw off. Also, there are people who want to work in the office. And as I stated in my proposal, I will be practicing a hybrid schedule, so I will be here two days a week. You could also reduce our space and sublet a portion of it, so you don’t have overhead you’re not using. Although, nobody seems particularly perturbed that the lead partner’s enormous and overly decorated office sits empty seven out of every ten days.

Question: Give me one good reason, why I can’t work from home?

Answer: Face to face time is need between employees to create a positive working relationship within the team.

Response: I don’t recall that working so well before the pandemic. We had entrenched office politics and events were created to build us up as a team because working side-by-side wasn’t getting the job done. A hybrid schedule would still allow time to interface but possibly would prevent people from getting on each others nerves. You might also spend less time sending out e-mails about coffee cups accumulating in the kitchen sink and explaining that not everyone thinks a cloud of perfume is a pleasant smell.

Question: Give me one good reason, why I can’t work from home?

Answer: Umm…

Response: PRECISELY! We have the technology. It saves time, money, trees! It makes me happier and thus healthier.

The world changed, and I discovered somethings. I’ll be damned if I go backward just because it makes you feel better. We stopped using leeches because we learned that made most health conditions worse. We stopped using horses and carriages so we could get around faster. We started using e-mail because it was immediate and saved paper. The world won’t collapse if we don’t go back to working in an office five days a week from nine to five. It will adapt to it.

Change is hard and scary, but I’ve learned in the last year that not only is there a lot to gain from it. It can excite. It can be an adventure. You just need some courage and an attitude of this might not end in fiery doom.

You always complain about the bottom-line but the real bottom-line is you like to buy your way out of problems. However, this is a “problem” you can’t buy your way out of. I don’t want more money. I don’t want free daily breakfast or nap rooms or unlimited vacation days. I want to be able to work the majority of my time in my yoga pants where my breaks consist of throwing laundry in the drier; my commute is snuggling on my couch with my mastiff; and my lunch is healthy and thoughtful not just what I could grab the seven seconds before I needed to leave the house.

Haven’t you heard, money can’t buy happiness, but happy employees can make you money.

There is light?

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What is this feeling?

I’m trying to concentrate on Gandhi’s Autobiography, but I keep getting distracted. There’s this odd sense of lightness, almost as if I’m about to float. In order to keep grounded, I find myself constantly shift around in my seat

It then occurs to me:

Good God. Is that hope I’m feeling?

Hope started to leak out of many Americans lives in early November of 2016 like air escaping through a pinhole in a bike tire. Over the past four years, the hissing has gotten louder. The tire outright blew in March of this year. We needed a new tire; duck tape has its limits.

As does bullying, misinformation, name-calling, and tantrums usually associated with toddlers. What some happily mistaken for resignation was actually patience.

This patience turned to dignified calls of action to vote; to know your rights; to take a stand for not only yourself but your fellow man.

When it was announced on Saturday that Joe Biden had been named President-Elect I didn’t quite know what to do; partially, because I couldn’t believe the American people had done it. I will say that we, as a nation, are full of surprises. First black president, followed by the first orangutan, and now the first black, woman vice-president. Before the pandemic, I would say off-handily, “What could possibly be next?” But these days the universe seems anxious to rise to the challenge. Thus I will simply be happy with this delightful turn of events and new, quiet hope I have.

I don’t think it will fully bloom until after January 20th, but I will carefully nurture it in the meantime. It’s just lovely to have something to fight for that has an end in sight.

Voting for the World

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When growing up, we always watched the news. First, world and national news followed by the local news. My parents said it was important to know what was going on in the world. I didn’t mind. Tom Brokaw had a nice voice to listen to anyway.

I could understand the news, but when my mother said, “Your dad and I need to vote.” I was thoroughly befuddled. What in the world for? We live in nowhere, Iowa next to a town with a population smaller than the number of Congressmen in the House of Representative. When I was stupid enough to voice these thoughts aloud, I received a stern lecture in civic duty. I was in third grade after this I took particularly interest in politics. This made my mother proud until I wanted to ask questions about President Clinton.

Luckily for her, I wasn’t interested in cigars or stains. I had a question about impeachment. Apparently, it was a stumper because I remember her having to ask a colleague at work.

When Bush was given the Presidency in 2000 and then 9/11 happened, I began to truly understand how little ol’ Iowa could be affected. It wasn’t until the 2008 election when I was standing in Grant Park with hundreds of thousands of people and CNN (which was being broadcast on a jumbotron) cut to crowds in Paris and Sydney that I realized that my president affected not only the backwoods of America but the entire world.

When Trump happened, I found myself the next day sitting on an “L” train with the usual morning crowd. The sun was bright and jovial shining in through the windows and yet the collective mood was heavy and somber as if we were all hurdling toward a funeral instead of our respective jobs.

The night before Trump’s inauguration, I saw Hamilton for the first time.  There was a leaden weight on my soul as I watched the story of our country being born on the night before I, and many others, felt it would, at least, symbolically die.

I now sit in my seventh month of quarantine/social distance/working from home/everything has gone to hell and I’ve been dreading this day- November the 3rd. I don’t watch the news like my parents and it certainly won’t be on tonight.

If Biden wins Trump will not go quietly. If Trump wins, I will be looking for remote jobs that allow me to work in other countries, and I will possibly be signing up for an intensive language course in French. (My husband and I really like Montreal) or Portuguese (Portugal has easy requirements for gaining temporary residency.) Yes, we’ve done our research.

However, if we move, we will possibly become those people affected that don’t have a say.

When Ruth Bader Gingsberg died a couple of weeks ago, I just wanted to get drunk and hide. But that certainly wasn’t Ruth’s way. I signed up to do an 87-mile run in her honor over the course of a month. It will give me a chance every time I grab my running shoes to remember that taking part matters- deeply. And voting is my way to inform this senate; this President; this government, that: I dissent.

The Treadmill of Life

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Life during a pandemic is like going for a run on a treadmill.

When you run on a treadmill time passes, you go a distance.  You burn calories. You sweat. When you are done you have done something, and yet, you are exactly in the same place as when you started.

Life in the pandemic has been eerily similar. Time has passed. We’ve accomplished many things. We’ve done things that have been on our to-do list for years, and we’ve made new discoveries. In reality, we may have been more productive in the last three months than we were in all of 2019. Yet there is this restless feeling of nothing happening. We see the things that we have done just like we see, on a treadmill display, the distance we have gone. But it doesn’t feel the same.  The feeling of accomplishment is dulled.

The saying: “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” comes to mind. Perhaps movement and distance make the brain efficiently satisfied. I have done such a stack of things I should be ecstatic. Me, the productivity princess, have leveled up to task completer queen consort. But I don’t have this feeling of a job well done. I don’t feel relieved that things are off my list. I just have this insatiable urge to look around and say: “Now what?”

At the time of originally writing this, it’s Saturday at 3:20 in the afternoon. I have gone for a bike ride, called my parents, prepped dinner items that need to chill and marinate. I have made ice cream batter and churned a batch of gelato. I have made tea and done the dishes. The laundry is completed. The house is clean. I have painted and read. I now sit here wondering what in the hell am I supposed to do-particularly when I’m done scribbling this.

It’s such an odd time because I’ve done so much and yet I feel that I’ve done so little because I’m in the same place I started, and having so much time to still pass, my brain thinks I couldn’t possibly have been productive.

I don’t like running on a treadmill and while I like working from home, I don’t like pandemic quarantines. They, like running on a treadmill, have a purpose of which I can appreciate and make myself perform when necessary but are a poor substitution for the real deal of living life and running outdoors.

I know that officially lockdown has come to an end. Restaurants are opening as well as salons and other less essential places of business, but I know we aren’t out of the pandemic woods yet. As bored as I periodically find myself, I can’t bring myself to take these re-entry steps yet. And so, like I do on blustery wintry mornings, I will continue on the treadmill of life for a bit longer.

The Relativity of Normal

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What’s so great about normal?

It seems everybody these days keeps yammering on about how they cannot wait until things get back to “normal.” I think what people really want are things to get back to being predictable. Isn’t that the true root of normal?

A normal day for me pre-pandemic looks a lot different than a normal day for a farmer or an actor or a surgeon. However, what we all have in common is that the farmer, actor, surgeon and I could tell you what we expected to see, do, and experience in a given day.

Personally, I find normal bunk and if anything, when all this is over, I’m most concerned and scared that things will go back to “too normal.” We won’t show our growth, our discoveries, our learning. Normal isn’t about doing what’s best or doing what’s right.  It’s about what we’ve accepted as individuals and as a whole. It’s what we are used to and comfortable with. We know it. We can process it. We can handle it. So, we think it’s okay; it’s fine the way it is.

This pandemic sucks hard. But I’m grateful for the time that it has given me. In the last nine weeks, I’ve pushed myself more than ever. I started painting. I had this love of painting, but I was always too scared to try. Now I do weekly projects, and I don’t dread them because I might screw up. I feel this nervous, anticipatory excitement I’ve never experienced with painting before.

I bought a bike. I wanted a new bike. I kept putting it off. I grew up in the country where one didn’t have to contend with traffic and stop lights and pedestrians. With the lakefront trail closed, I have to ride on the street and it’s scary, but at the same time exhilarating. I’m getting myself to learn and try new things.

I’ve done more for my writing career in the last nine weeks than I have over the past two years. I wrote and submitted an essay. I’m working on my pitching game. It’s not going super well, but I’m trying. I’ve re-discovered meditation. I’ve come to the realization that my to-do list making is harming my sanity instead of helping it. I’ve realized that a walk can do just as much for me as a run.

We used to bemoan normal. We abhorred the commute trudge. We whined that we didn’t have enough time to do all the things we wanted to do. Now many of us have no commutes and all the time in the world and somehow, we are still upset about it.

Yes, it would be nice to run and not dodge people like the zombie apocalypse. It would be nice to go to the grocery store without a mask and see all the shelves be full. I would love to go to a bookstore and peruse all the lovely titles or grab a drink with a friend. These things are great, and these will return. And “normal” will return because we are human and creatures of habit; however, I just hope this reincarnation of normal is one that’s more thoughtful. One that is less about going through the motions of life and accepting things the way they are because “that’s the way they have always been.” I guess you could say I want normal too, just different than the norm.