Running blind through the COVID-19 pandemic.
It took me 47 years and a medical degree to embrace regular exercise for physical health.
It took a worldwide pandemic to convince me exercise is even more important to maintaining mental health. The constant barrage of horrific news strains our ability to get through each day. All of us need a mental break. A moment of peace and tranquility. My respite is an evening jog. The problem is, I can no longer see where I am going.
I am out of contact lenses. My eye doctor shut down due to coronavirus. I have been stuck wearing glasses since the pandemic started. Jogging with fogged-up, falling-off, sweat-covered glasses does not work for me. So, I tried running without glasses.
Some critics may say I typically see the world through rose-colored glasses. Without glasses, I can barely see the world at all.
Jogging without glasses is similar to how we are all handing the COVID19 pandemic. Our lives are moving forward towards a blurry, ill-defined, and obscure future.
We are all running towards our nebulous, out-of-focus post-COVID-19 life.
Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash
Running is my release. It frees me. For one hour, I escape the latest bad news, case statistics, and death toll. My goal is to turn off my mind, breathe, and relax. I sweat out the stress of trying to keep our medical practice open, our patients healthy, and our staff employed during the pandemic. Losing myself in an audiobook, I briefly tune out the world.
Jogging without glasses may sound like a terrible idea. In reality, it is liberating. We live in an age of distraction. Removing clear vision forces me to focus on the present moment. It eases my ability to tune out the world.
I am not in danger. I can see shapes and objects. My eyes can make out the hazy approaching cars. People are fuzzy, shadowy figures. Their out-of-focus faces lack definition. As people approach, I move more than six feet away to show my respect for social distancing. I offer the nebulous blur a smile and a wave without knowing if the gesture is reciprocated
I can clearly see the ground beneath my feet. My strategy is to place one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward. I can see where I am going, but I can not make out what lies ahead. I can see the upcoming turns, but I am not sure what lies around the corner. While I am pretty sure I am safe, I am not exactly certain.
The jogging trail has twists and turns. The path is bumpy and unlevel, making it easy to trip and fall. Jogging without glasses makes it hard to navigate. The right course is uncertain, and missteps are possible. I recognize I may stumble, but I embrace the uncertainty.
Life during this pandemic is the same. Trapped in our homes, we worry about our future. We intellectually know the virus will pass one day. We will make it to the other side. We try and visualize these days on the horizon, but our minds struggle to picture it. Our future is fuzzy, hazy, and slightly out of focus.
Running without glasses forced me to stop focussing on the unknown future. Instead, I embrace the unknown. I allow myself to live in the moment. Enjoy the “now.” I try and imagine the best possible future outcome. One day, my kids will return to school. We will go back to movies, basketball games, and restaurants. My pregnant patients will stop living in fear and enjoy the beauty of bringing life into the world.
Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash
Day by day, I put one foot in front of the other. Step by step, I move forward toward an uncertain but optimistic future.
One truth in life is it always changes. Although we make plans, we must be prepared to adapt and adjust. Mike Tyson famously said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” COVID-19 punched us in the mouth and knocked us out cold. Life has changed for all of us.
We can plan for the future, but we can not control it. We have a choice to wallow in misery or embrace the uncertainty. We can live in the moment. Our future may be blurry and ambiguous, but we can choose to be mindful celebrating each moment with our families right now.
Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston