I sit a lot. How about you?
In my writing studio, first thing in the morning, I settle into my “Bliss Chair.” (Have you added your blessing to it yet?) If I’m not careful, I’ll still be in that chair, happily lost in my creative projects, at 6:00 p.m., when my husband gets home from work.
Not so good for my body, sitting that long without a break. Not so good for the rest of me, either.
So, several years ago, I adopted a new habit. I set my phone’s timer to chime every half-hour. When I hear that sound, I get up and walk briskly for five minutes, then return to the task at hand. In this way, by the end of most days, I cover five miles … without ever leaving my house.
As I write this, sunshine is pouring through my studio window onto the lazy cat crowding the computer on my lap. But outside the glass the temperature is -6ºF. With the wind kicking up, it feels 10 degrees colder. To step out the door is to risk frostbite and tumbles on the ice. You hurt to breathe.
So, in winter, I walk around and around our kitchen island, my phone logging my steps. That’s right, five miles a day around our kitchen, five minutes at a time.
Sound boring? Could be. Or not. It’s all what I make of it.
Walking in circles doesn’t require much mental effort. So, often I do business during my linoleum strolls: prepping for interviews, attending Zoom trainings with my video turned off, untangling thorny knots in my fiction, planning my next block of Bliss Chair time …
My kitchen walks are also prime time for all sorts of entertainment. Smartphone in hand, I study Spanish. Do jigsaw puzzles and memory games. Call friends and relatives to catch up. Listen to music and podcasts. Sing. Read. Watch short videos. Search for new recipes to try …
My walking is contagious. When son Nathan is home from college, we often fall into conversation, following each other around the island. Our cats, too, like to get involved. They chase after the long purple ribbon I drag like a tail as I circle. We make a happy parade.
See? Not boring at all. Not intimidating either. I never set out to walk five miles a day. I just set out to walk five minutes. Then five more minutes. And five more …
This is what I choose: to make significant what could otherwise be tedious and dull. All I have to do is keep my walking shoes on.
* * *
To some degree, this pandemic, too, is what we choose to make it.
I don’t know the situation where you are, but here in Brookings, many of my fellow residents are content to pretend that the pandemic is over (or was never a real thing, in the first place). Meanwhile, our COVID case count is spiking to record levels. Our hospital is short-staffed and overrun with patients. Both our mayor and the lead administrator of our health care system have been pleading with us to do the basics: get fully vaccinated, wear good masks, and avoid large gatherings. Still, we go on pretending, for all sorts of reasons.
Even the most considerate of us are tired of walking in pandemic circles. We’ve come so far, we’ve done so much, to protect ourselves and others—enough already!
But we dare not stop. Not yet.
These strange pandemic times might seem like a dreadful book by a lousy author that disaster has forced us to read. But they’re also a living, breathing chapter in the story we’re writing with the pen of our lives.
Sure, in substantial ways our lives are different from what they used to be, and from what we’d like them to be. (What else is new?) But allow me to state the obvious: we’re among the fortunate. Unlike 5.6 million pandemic dead worldwide, we’re still very much alive, with more love to give, more joy to feel, more goodness to contribute than can ever be measured.
Do we have the “staying power” to continue walking these same pandemic circles, day after day after day? Of course we do! Let’s choose to walk them with a little style, a little rhythm and color, a little grace and zest and verve. Let’s find our “twinkle toes.” Let’s do whatever wakes us up, feeds us, carries us along—whatever helps us not to waste this precious, unrepeatable day.
If we walk like that, even for five minutes, we’ll be part of a mighty grand parade.
Photo by Abel Robles on Unsplash