One benefit of the continued lockdown is that I’ve evolved from being that weird neighbor who does laps around my community’s large shared driveway to being #fitspo (that’s fitness inspiration, for short). Outside of my daily online exercise class it’s the only other form of outdoor physical activity I have. In the past I’ve been an avid runner, but my favorite trails are either closed or populated by people who seemingly go out of their way to ignore social distancing guidelines. One friend encouraged me to run in the streets early in the morning, but it’s dangerous in my neighborhood. Plus, my sleep patterns are so erratic that getting up before dawn is rarely in the cards and a mid-day jog in Houston is ill advised.
Under any other circumstances, the idea of walking in a 200-yard circle for upwards of an hour would bore me to tears. However, my current inability to concentrate for any length of time is a benefit. I can’t pay attention long enough to get bored. For a while, I tried listening to podcasts while I walked, but gave it up because it required focus I couldn’t muster. Listening to music was also abandoned, but for different reasons. It reminded me too much of running, which I miss. A lot.
I remember, many years ago, seeing the pandas at the zoo in Washington, DC. They had worn down the grass by tracing and retracing the same path through their enclosure. At the time, I felt terrible for them, thinking that repeating those same steps must have been depressing. As I’m not a panda psychologist, I honestly don’t know how they experienced it. Thinking about it now, I wonder if, perhaps, walking a familiar trail was somehow comforting.
As I continue my amoeba-shaped loops of my little neighborhood, my mind is able to wander. I don’t have to think about where I’m going, the sidewalk never disappears (a frequent occurrence in Houston), and I don’t have to worry about cars or running into other pedestrians. This setup reduces my anxiety and I can simply appreciate being outside. Patterns and repetition can be soothing. I’m finding peace in this new rhythm. For now, at least, it gives me space to think and just be. And there is value in that.