Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Quagmires of Quarantine (-Lite)

 Something landed in me today that made me laugh out loud. Thankfully, I was sitting by myself so no one heard me and could worry about me. 😉

As I was considering my daily routine, becoming increasingly predictable and mundane amidst increasing anxiety & urgency of our tumultuous times, I found myself wondering why CrossFit felt so different, so freeing, so energizing, so active. Then it dawned on me with a laugh: “CrossFit is the one place in my day, each day, where I don’t have to make any (or many) decisions for myself, nor feel like I ought to be doing more.” It is a beautifully structured and daily-varying routine of physical warm-up, movements, strength-training, workouts, clean-up. The movements and weights are fairly determined for you, by experience or by coaching-staff. You can spice up the moment by disputing or negotiating parts of the workout, but even that is just for kicks. It’s comforting to have another “who is always right” and charms you into a good challenge for the day. 

CrossFit is an anchor in my life these days because it’s the one place where I don’t feel the Angsts and Apathies of Quarantine-Lite.**  I don’t feel like I have to do more, or be more. It’s become my ‘Just Right’ space. Now isn’t that something worth noting aloud? And is there wisdom here for me to bring into my otherwise rather listless and unfocused days? 

For context: I wouldn’t call myself depressed, per se, but I am also not my usual self. At least the self I’ve known these last several years. I have a lot more time on my hands, for one thing, given I no longer drive all over southwestern and central Ohio every week for circle-gatherings. I’ve also made some ‘transitional decisions’ these last months that have vastly altered my weekly rhythms. I am no longer holding circle twice a week, every week, so I am also no longer preparing agendas and planning circle-way gatherings. I’m no longer in as much phone-chat conversation with a dear friend, Lisa, because we don’t have to plan for circles each week. We are still delightfully connected, but the rhythm and need of our connections has changed for us both. With more time on my hands, I can be about much more for my own soul—creative explorations, handcrafts, cooking/baking, writing and more—though I struggle to know quite how to begin, enter in. Brian and I have been really enjoying the more extensive time together, which has already shown some beautiful fruit in unexpected ways (home, his congregational setting, my own writing musings for work). So there is an undercurrent of contentment in this Quarantine-Lite time, even as its limitations and confinement are stressful and deadening.

These limitations and confinement sneak up on both Brian and me, though we ‘act out’ in them in different ways. He’s exploring rums from all over the Caribbean and deeply investing time and energy in his family tree; I’m returning to some non-work/non-administrative things like knitting, reading novels, walking/running, gardening. Yet my days are listless and unfocused, when I don’t have obvious work meetings or performance-products to show for the day. Normally, I’d use ‘interim times’ and ‘spacious days’ for reading, writing, work-product of an academic and a woman coming into ‘her own.’ But now I am easily overwhelmed, wearied, and distracted, seeking connection ‘out there’ more often on Facebook or Instagram than I ever used to do. Which doesn’t remotely feed the hunger within me, of course. May even increase it, heightening my anxieties and urgency. This can goad me to get involved for social change, which hasn’t been all bad. But more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself staring off into space for long periods of time, feeling like I ought to be doing something more. But then I hear my friend’s wisdom to me: If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. I don’t know what to do. So I sit, breathe, pray, listen, wonder...panic, obsess, worry...then sit some more, breathe some more...

[For those with kids on top of already full time jobs, I bow to the overwhelm of this time for you… Brian’s and my choices were different and so our paths in this pandemic time are different. Que cera, cera :)]

So it delighted me this morning, when I laughed aloud. It was energizing to realize that the CrossFit ‘hour’ is the place where life is all laid out for me for the next hour. I am free from my urgencies to do more—workouts are usually quite sufficient for my capacities. I am unburdened with the anxieties in extended stillness. No wonder it’s so non-negotiable these days. I get one hour a day “away from” my own version of Quarantine quagmires. 

Then, of course, I wondered if there were other CF wisdom that might leak into the rest of my day…?

I remember when I needed to get my summer course grading done, well aware that as soon as I did get it done, I could have a ‘summer’ like some people were having. I also had to clean the kitchen floor, complete that month’s finances, a couple other task-y kinds of things. None of these things did I want to do. I wanted to take a nap, maybe sip some iced tea on the porch with a friend (socially distanced, of course). I found myself thinking of the Tabata clock, and voila! I set myself a series of intervals, with my ‘whiteboard’ on the fridge. And wouldn’t you know—I got it ALL done, within less time than if I had tried to do each task “as a chipper.” I giggled and texted a friend. I couldn’t believe I actually got all the papers graded, and the kitchen floor was spic and span clean. Very different tasks, so of course they lent themselves well to intervals, with proper resting of the faculties of each while doing ‘the other.’

What is the CF invitation for listless days, then, beyond ‘more movement’, an increased pace of which my body probably would resist and complain about…?  I like the holistic rotation of things that comes with a week’s CF rhythms, so perhaps my days need a bit more structure, with greater diversity of ‘tasks’ or ‘intentions.’ I’ve moved my ‘work office’ downstairs, for the most part, with the intention that United work happens there. This frees upstairs spaces for writing and circle work. My pull-up bar and even an electronic piano (with weighted keys) are now in ‘my work office,’ which would mean I could take breaks from all the Zoom stuff with pull-up hangs/releases like I used to do, pre-Quarantine, or fiddling around on the piano (with my headphones on, so as not to disturb Brian’s workaday Zooms).

Hmmm… I think the second ‘gift’ is seeing this time in a bit more gentleness, even as what Gerald May might call “The Slowing.” I love the structure and order of the CF hour, not having to be in my head or energies except to move, to pace myself, to ‘just get better.’ Perhaps my life is getting that same structure and order now, except it is simply a slowing, an intuitive-inside order instead of an outer-driven order, measured by enrollments or writings or events held. Perhaps I can relinquish the head-driven experience of this time, moving into my heart and belly a bit more. Trusting that when I know what I am to do, I will know it and do it. Because I am reaching outside of myself, outside of my comfort zones. I am moving into the change I yearn to see in the world, baby steps at a time. So trust the hidden order. Just show up.

Move at the pace of guidance, as another friend wrote in her book, The Seven Whispers. There we are—that’s the felt connection between my CF hour and my listless life. CF hours are movement at the pace of guidance, in the physical-fitness world. Sometimes you move as fast as you can, but other times, like today, you simply keep moving. Just keep moving.

The world is burning, yes. The suffering and fear do seem all around us. Yet the best I can bring is my most grounded, open-hearted, curious self who is willing to show up. At a pace being decided by other human beings, by the universe, by the Great Mystery we can feel in the Hum, I can move just a little bit, each day. Move at the pace of guidance. I can wait for the new order, knowing it will let me know from the inside, and I will respond.

Just show up. Each day. In heart and belly, leaning into kindness always, asking myself, "Am I showing up here?" Yes. Just show up.

**[We have taken to calling this time Quarantine-Lite because I/we now go out of my home for necessaries, which include regular CrossFit classes, but we are continuing to make Quarantine-driven decisions about the rest of our lives: food-sources, social visits (with others outside their homes or others here in our home-porch spaces), work/teaching/meetings, restaurants (occasional take-out, but rarely; not dining-in) and travel, even as low-key as ‘rambles’ to retail or natural spaces like parks, trails].

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