Whoever coined the phrase “home sweet home” surely must not have spent 23+ hours at his residence for any significant period of time. My physical world has shrunken as a result of the pandemic, and, at times I feel crippled by the restrictions that prohibit us to move about freely. On the morning of this writing, I saw this gloomy forecast for the days ahead (see pic below). Today, which was 52 degrees and sunny, seemed to be the only day that promised brightness and warm-ish weather. This realization enkindled a sense of urgency within me to get out of the house ASAP.
It’s funny what our brains will do when they are confronted with scarcity. The threat of quarantine led many to flock to the grocery stores; the announcement that restaurants and bars would be temporarily shutting down, led many to enjoy one final night out. When I learned that today was the last sunny day of the week, I did my best to take advantage of the fresh, cool air. That morning, I hopped on my new bike with the intent to take a long ride. Unfortunately, however, I am not a skilled cyclist and had not improved one bit behind the handlebars since my first foray atop these two wheels (more here). As a result, I cut my outdoor adventure short and went back inside. The clock hadn’t even struck 9am yet. I began to do some work, but after only two hours, my back started to feel sore and my mind began to wander. I looked out the window to see the sun pouring in. I was out the door again in under 10 minutes.
To satisfy my outdoor urge, this time I opted for a walk. I strolled around a nearby park and was surprised by the volume of foot traffic along the path. People walked, jogged, and biked alone, in pairs, and in small familial groups. Kids on scooters kicked furiously alongside their fast-walking parents. Couples, young and old, chatted and strolled carelessly. Signs were posted at different points encouraging visitors to enjoy the space, while maintaining a distance of six feet away from other passersby. The sign even went as far as to state that joggers should take a “wide breadth” around walkers when passing. While the path was not narrow, at certain points it felt impossible to keep the required distance.
Humans need space. Not just for the sake of mitigating the spread of disease but also in general. I’m positive that the foot traffic was a little higher today because all non-essential businesses and dine-in services are closed. While the safest place to be during this time is in one’s own home, I shudder to think how all of us would get along without fresh air and enough distance to pace about. New York City recently shutdown Central Park after pictures were leaked showing crowds of people walking, mingling, and resting on benches. It’s a shame that such a beautiful and open place has been closed during a stressful time. However, with the number of new coronavirus cases in the city alone creeping high enough to warrant the creation of makeshift morgues, closing Central Park to keep people safe is justified.
To help slow the rate of infection, some cities have taken steps to impose an official curfew or limit movement to no more than a few kilometers from one’s residence. Restrictions like these can make us feel physically and psychologically trapped. I recently learned from Amy Morin’s book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do that with mental strength one is better able to withstand hardship and struggle (more here). Whether you are a social butterfly or total introvert, a world full of closed storefronts, movement restrictions, and limited to no in-person interactions is sure to affect you in some way. Developing mental strength through self-reflection, socialization (virtually, of course!), good dietary habits, and engagement in activities you enjoy is more important now than ever.
Humans need to be free. If we cannot find freedom in our physical worlds, then we must seek it in the one domain over which we have absolute control—our minds. Over these next few cloudy and rainy days, I will challenge myself to only see the positive in my situation and fill free time with socialization and engagement in my hobbies. Just because this is a sad time does not mean that we are doomed to sadness.
Even in this crazy world, we do still retain all necessary control to bring joy into our worlds, because our happiness starts within us. So, over these next few weeks, Dear Reader, I challenge you to see the goodness that is lurking even when everything looks gray. We each only have one life and I hope you will live it well every single day.