The author is seen here in July pleasantly enjoying a mountaintop in Denali National Park, with no training in mind. (Photo courtesy of Gillian Braver)

The author is seen here in July pleasantly enjoying a mountaintop in Denali National Park, with no training in mind. (Photo courtesy of Gillian Braver)

Tangled Up in Blue: Pandemic Priorities

I had a lot of goals at the start of this year.

I was well on my way to not using a single, single-use coffee cup in 2020. This is a big accomplishment for an avidly forgetful, coffee shop connoisseur. But, when the new coronavirus started eeking its way into daily life, reusable coffee cups were a low-hanging, virus-spreading fruit and my use of paper cups has been adding up in the months since.

I had planned on setting a new personal record in the Mount Marathon Race. While sitting in the shade of the mountain a few nights ago, long after the scheduled race day had passed and even longer since it was canceled, I realized I had only done the race course once the entire summer.

I didn’t miss the training schedule, up and down the mountain a few times a week, but I distinctly miss the feeling of embracing friends, fellow racers and volunteers at the finish line on July Fourth.

I had wanted to spend more time camping in new destinations with someone I loved spending time with, but they moved away. And it wasn’t because of the coronavirus, but there are a lot of “what ifs” associated with relationships during a global pandemic.

I had planned to, I had wanted to, I was going to … do a lot of things. And, like the rest of the world, those plans, desires and goals were derailed, but I’m not special because my race up a mountain was canceled, because someone I care about is in a different time zone and, least of all, because I can’t use my cool reusable mug.

Nothing is as planned. We’re all pivoting at a preposterous rate, just trying to figure out what we need to keep upright in an ever-shifting landscape.

And so, I pivoted my goals. Now, I just want to be happy.

All day long, I feel like the weight of a hundred days are dumped onto my shoulders. Anyone else?

Listening to the news in the morning? That’s a week’s worth of stress concentrated into a 10-minute recap.

How’s navigating life and social interactions during a pandemic working for you? Not great, but I keep smiling at strangers even though they can’t see it beneath my mask.

We’re all constantly finding new ways that the pandemic has infiltrated our life and the lives of those around us, like the quarter shortage that has left the laundromat owner scrambling.

In the face of it all, I can’t promise myself that I’ll be happy all day, every day. It’s unrealistic during this emotional time when I’ve been prone to screaming all along a trail while running with friends, framing my catharsis as a bear deterrent.

I also can’t pretend that this zen is something I had ready and waiting in my back pocket. Tuning into my emotions is new for me, the girl whose mother once bemoaned through the phone that “she just never stops crying” after a particularly hard breakup.

But I am keeping tabs on my emotions now, recognizing them and feeling them. I find their source, often anxiety, and try my best to alleviate it or I let them run through me so that the next morning, I can wake up refreshed and happy and lightheartedly enjoy my coffee from a paper cup, or lackadaisically run up a mountain or pack my tent for the next exciting adventure exploring my backyard.


For the Clarion

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