(Not) Doing it All


There’s a walking route that’s become our default over the years for an easy stroll with the dogs. It’s quite lovely, really. Within a few minutes of leaving our busy street we’re on a dirt path between corn fields and the Farmington River.

It’s the first part of a route I used daily when I trained for a half marathon so I can tell you exactly where I should be if I’m running a 10-minute mile and have been running for 26 minutes. 

Yet I have no idea how long this loop takes to walk because I try to leave the phone at home and just enjoy my human and canine company. Sometimes we see other people walking with their dogs, to the delight of Roxy and the chagrin of Stuey. Sometimes it’s just us. There’s often a sunset.

But now we’ve got company. And it’s really pretty great. The other evening we said hello to a family of six as they rested on the little bridge overlooking the Pequabuck River, just as it merges with the Farmington. We’re probably neighbors but we’ve never seen them out before. What do they normally do at sunset, I wondered. 

Sheltering in place is freeing up some time for many people. And although this is some scary stuff our world is going through, a silver lining is the additional fresh air and exercise more people are getting. You’ve probably seen memes showing how happy dogs are that many of us are home more now.

But this extra time can also make us feel inadequate for not doing more. I got an email from a well-meaning person this morning suggesting that I use this down time to write another book. Sigh.

I usually spend a bit of my day exercising but I can’t because of an injury, so I have even more extra time on my hands. I should be able to accomplish so many things. I see Facebook posts by friends who are recording music and organizing their pantries and otherwise being awesome. For some reason, though, I’m stuck. 

I’ve owned a ukulele for probably two years and I still can’t play it. I thought this would be a good time to cross that off my list so I took it out. But I can’t seem to get motivated. It sits on my coffee table, in the way, barely touched.

I borrowed a jigsaw puzzle from a friend and took it out of the box last night. My guess is The Fiance will be the one to complete it. He also cleaned out the gutters. And hooked up our new stove. Jerk.

It could be the pain from my injury is messing with my head. Or maybe, like other people are probably experiencing but haven’t yet acknowledged it, we’re paralyzed by the fear and uncertainty of this virus.

Friends are dealing not only with this fear but also the challenges of working from home while attempting to educate their young children as effectively as their teachers do. I tell them to cut themselves some slack. Simple. It’s funny how much easier it is to give advice than take it. Maybe I should be giving myself a break about not organizing my sock drawer or learning to play an instrument. 

It’s OK to binge watch some bad TV and not teach yourself a new language. It wouldn’t hurt for some of us to start appreciating a slower way of life. Yesterday I used the drive-through to buy a pound of coffee, then deposited some checks at the bank, and picked up a prescription. 

And that’s enough. So is everything you’ve done today, even if it’s not very much at all.

Gimme Shelter (in place)


The last time I had the flu was during the Reagan administration. No kidding. It spread through our high school so fast that we had to cancel a basketball game because we didn’t have enough players. 

I really don’t ever get sick. I almost never get a flu shot (although, did they make me when I was pregnant? Those days are a bit of a blur.) But this year my mom was getting chemotherapy so I made the decision to get one. After I got my shot I kept thinking I was getting the flu — not because I think the vaccine gives you the flu — but, you know, Murphy’s Law.

Now I’m at the stage of this pandemic where I, like many of you, can’t stop thinking about symptoms. Is this tickle in my throat my first symptom? Am I sneezing more often than normal? Is my obsessive cleaning too obsessive? Or am I not doing enough? 

Maybe you’re worrying about your elderly parents or your child who has asthma. Or maybe you’re just bored. Or angry because your plans are getting cancelled. Or panicking because you’re not getting paid. I feel for my friends who are sheltering in place solo. I feel for graduating seniors. And brides-to-be.

I know lots of parents are feeling inadequate because they’re not really doing anything well — they’re supposed to be working and educating their kids at the same time. And keeping the house stocked with toilet paper.

I’m not only worried about getting sick or getting my loved ones sick, I’m frustrated because this is the time of year that Roxy and I visit the most schools — sometimes two or three times a week. This is our busy season. Not only do the boxes of books remain unread in my basement, I lose out on the much-needed boost I get from connecting with kids about rescue and writing. I can’t stop thinking about the kiddos in this picture, whom I saw just a day before Hartford schools were closed. Most of them, I was told, had been eating at their school three times a day. 

We all react differently to crappy situations. Let’s be (virtually) present for each other. Let’s try to be understanding of the ways we all react to this new kind of stress. And let’s cut ourselves some slack. We will get through this.