I’ve been struggling to write something new here for weeks. Nothing sounded right, nothing struck the right note. Today, I finally figured out why.
As my son puts it in the latest news about the Honnold Foundation, “I’ve been struggling to write anything that doesn’t sound inconsequential in the face of a global pandemic.”
He’s right: we are inconsequential. Humans could disappear from the planet and the planet would keep on turning. It doesn’t need us. The converse is not true.
Have you been struggling to stay calm? To not break into tears at surprising moments during your day? To force yourself not to think about next month, or three months from now?
You’re not alone.
A little over a week ago, I put the finishing touches on my plans for the climbing trip of a lifetime — two and a half weeks, guides, partners, lodging, in some of the most beautiful climbing destinations in the western US. I’d tried for 10 years to make it happen, and finally, this year, it all came together.
And the Corona virus — CoVid 19 — made it all fall apart.
So I’m home instead, ‘sheltering in place’ as everyone should be doing, doing my best to flatten out the curve of this growing pandemic. Before it kills even more of us. Instead of climbing at the gym or on a crag in the Sierra, I walk my neighborhood. I run (or rather, I jog & walk; my new foot doesn’t like running yet). This is my new climbing gym:
This new life of mine, sequestered at home, alone, is not much different from my life of the past year. Fourteen months ago, my foot was taken apart and put back together, a massive surgery involving the sawing of several bones, fusing of bones, pins, plates, screws. Lots of horrible insults to the natural body.
For 4 months post-op, I was prisoner of my house, limited to what I could do while holding handlebars (knee scooter) or crutches. You can’t hold or carry anything that way. Couldn’t cook. If I managed to heat something in the microwave, I couldn’t carry it to the table. I was always hungry.
The books I’d stockpiled to read during recovery sat there, mocking my drug-addled brain. Couldn’t read, or email, or concentrate on anything screen-like. (Each time I tried to wean myself off the drugs, I discovered why I needed them!) My kids live 600 miles away. And apparently my local ‘friends’ were all waiting to hear from me on FB. One friend came, twice, and cooked me a meal. Those 2 days, I ate well, and gratefully.
I thought that this current ‘sheltering in place’ would be similar. I was wrong.
No matter how grim, hard or lonely my recovery from surgery was, I knew it would end. I’d be back on my feet, able once again to cook. To do laundry. To shop, read, check my e-mail or FB messages. To take out the garbage. By myself.
We don’t know how this pandemic is going to end. Or when. Or how many people will not live to see the end of it. It’s hard to not let those thoughts take over our minds, as we run through the empty streets or drive past stores that have nothing to sell.
When I was little, I used to laugh at my mother, who always wore white gloves when we left the house to go ‘into the city’ (from Queens into Manhattan, via the subway). I thought it was silly. She hated to touch the railings, the token machines, anything in the train cars. She’d had polio, as a child during that epidemic; she knew what we should all have been afraid of.
And now, here we are again. I don’t laugh about germs anymore. I wear my own gloves.
But our particular adaptability, as humans, is to rise above. To control those thoughts, and be happy anyway. So I’ll leave you with some of the happy things I saw on my run today, only 2 blocks from my house. I hope they bring a smile, and beat down the worrisome thoughts that seem to grow every time we turn on the TV or call up the news. And if that doesn’t work, just turn it all off and go outside and take a walk — guaranteed to lift your spirits.