Lessons learned & silver linings.
Sometimes it seems like March 11th was another lifetime ago. The reality is that it was a little over 100 days ago, which really isn’t long in the grand scheme of things. It feels like a lifetime ago because so much is different now. What used to be normal feels so out of place. Faces I was used to seeing on an every week if not every day basis have faded away. This opening sounds sad and depressing, but honestly… this has been really good for me.
A characteristic about myself that I think makes me likable (I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the people who like me, I guess.) is that I’m friendly, outgoing and I’m always down for an adventure. At least, that’s who I am on the outside. When put into group situations my extroverted side comes out. I thought that was really who I was – I mean if you look at how I have lived my life, from my career to my social life, you’d paint me as an extrovert. And I am… but I’m can also be introverted. I guess I’m what some would call an “ambivert”. The social distancing, quarantining, etc. of this pandemic has brought out my introverted side, and it has been good for me.
I used to be extremely uncomfortable with being alone. Because when I’m alone, there’s no distraction from my thoughts. There’s no distraction from how I feel. For me the line between alone and lonely is very thin, and lonely is not a feeling I think anyone likes. Summertime is normally a struggle for me for this reason. My husband works as a stagehand, and summer is their busiest season. It is completely normal for him to work 100 hour weeks. To drive home and sleep for 2 hours then get back on the road again. The hard work, long days and lack of sleep worry me. He may not know this (well, he does now) but I am almost always afraid that something will happen to him. His line of work can be dangerous in itself, and being on the road at crazy hours of the day and night with very little sleep is frightening. He assures me that he is a good driver, and I know he is, and that if he felt like he was too tired he would pull over or he wouldn’t come home. But it still worries me. And on top of it, I’m alone a lot… and I’m lonely a lot.
So every summer I distract myself from the worry, stress and loneliness. I plan races and trips with friends. I run with my local running group. I work a second job. I go to concerts, to Cedar Point. I go to work, come home, run, sleep, wake up and do it all again. On the weekends I’m either working my second job, racing, going on a trip, going to a concert, hanging out with friends, or all of the above. Race and concert season slips from summer into fall, and things don’t really “slow down” until winter. I struggle tremendously with balance – my time is almost always overly committed. I don’t like to let people down, I don’t like to say no to people, and I have a SERIOUS “fear of missing out” aka FOMO.
Then the pandemic came, and a huge shift has happened in my life. In March it seemed like everything came to a halt. My husband became indefinitely unemployed. No more group runs. No more races. No traveling. Appointments at work shifted from in person to virtual. It stayed like that for months… only in the last few weeks have things started to change, shifting towards “a new normal”.
Races are still canceled. I have hung out with a few friends and I recently took a quick out of town trip with my husband. I ran with a friend for the first time since March 17th last weekend, but I haven’t run with anyone since. My husband is still unemployed, and it looks as though it will remain that way until next year. My work is returning to a hybrid of in person and virtual appointments, we started doing surgeries again, and we are actually growing our program.
So what are the “life lessons and silver linings” that I have learned (and continue to learn) through this?
- It is okay to be not okay. I say this all the time to other people but I rarely feel like I’m “allowed” to feel this way myself. That’s why I make myself so busy in the summer because I struggle with how being lonely makes me feel. I don’t want to be anxious or depressed, so I stay distracted. It’s okay to have negative feelings. They’re just as important as the positive ones.
- I don’t have to be there for every single person every single day. This has really revealed the lack of confidence I have in my friendships. This is a deep rooted issue that goes back to my childhood. In the same way that I distract myself with stuff to do, I also fill up my time and my headspace with people. I get overwhelmed because I can’t give them all of what I want to give them and then I feel like a horrible friend. Little comments made about me here and there certainly don’t help. Although I have learned lessons through this, I really have not changed. I am the same friend that I always have been, I just am not present in the same way I was because of the pandemic. Unfortunately to some people that appears like change, I guess.
- I really like running by myself. Do not get me wrong – I would not change my relationship with the running community for anything, because it has introduced me to some incredible people and my best friends. I’ve just realized that I enjoy the hell out of following my own plan, setting goals that are just for me and not influenced by anything or anyone else, and I really like running with just me, myself, and I. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy running with others or that I will never run with others again, but I certainly see myself shifting to more running by myself.
- I need a plan, but I don’t need a race to have one. I am currently following a marathon training plan even though I sincerely doubt that any of the marathons I would run this year are going to happen. Having a plan, even without a race as a goal, has helped. It gives structure to my days outside of just working, eating and sleeping. When (if?) the marathons I am aiming for are officially canceled, I will decide if I am going to continue to train and possibly run a marathon on my own or if I am going to shift my training to something else.
Don’t get me wrong – I still hate this pandemic. There are plenty of things that I can’t stand about it and that have made me angry, sad and frustrated. Just because I have some silver linings doesn’t mean I am glad that this happened. I still wish for a more normal life, but I know that life won’t go back to what it was. I am still me, but my world is so different, and I choose to live in this world differently too.