I love to be in the world but completely on my terms. One of the perverse silver linings of the sheltering-in-place era is that I can walk almost anywhere in peace at any time. In fact, to keep my distance from others, I often find myself walking down the middle of the street. I mean, I need to keep my eyes open, but you get the idea.
Taking these walks, it’s easy to forget we’re living in a calamitous time. Walks are a remarkable luxury these days, a pleasure far more guilty than watching a cheerfully mediocre TV show.
My last day in the office was March 11. Since then, I’ve gone outside almost every day, interrupted occasionally by the rain, though sometimes through the rain.
Sometimes it’s with my wife and/or our dog Clyde. (Brief side note: When my wife smiles, I fall in love with her again, every single time.)
Sometimes it’s with a podcast or music. (I may talk specifically about the music in a separate post, although it ties into my novel in a way that I’m not sure I want to share yet.)
Sometimes it’s alone, or alone with my thoughts, and that’s just fine. Some days, that’s heaven. Some days it’s hell.
My problem is that I don’t feel walking is enough. I feel like I need to run. For my health. To live longer. Assuming COVID-19 doesn’t kill me first.
But I can’t think while I run. And running tires me out. I might feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m done (depending how successful the run is), but that’s transient. It vanishes. It’s an investment in my future, but in the present, it’s just a timesuck.
Now, here’s the thing. What I just wrote is stupid. Really stupid. I don’t even run for that long. Over a given week, the slice of my pie chart devoted to the time I spend running would barely form a wedge.
Collectively, though, it feels like my walking and my running have taken away from my writing. Before the coronavirus entered my consciousness, in almost any battle with exercise, my writing came first, and I worried about that because ultimately, I do want to live a long time.
Sometimes, exercise for me has been as much as anything a weapon against sadness or angst — people telling me that I’ll feel better about myself after I’ve done it, and those people not always being wrong.
But over the past 23 days, I’ve begun to question exercising vs. writing. Usually, I feel really good after I’ve written something, even something small. That rush might not be permanent, but the writing itself is forever — as long as this website holds out, I can revisit it in a way I can’t revisit most walks or runs.
The obvious solution is to do it all — walk, run, write, live. But most days, that isn’t my reality, and I make choices, and then I risk being unsatisfied by those choices.
It’s weird how in the last three weeks, going outside became the lazy option for me. I’d fallen out of the groove of writing, and you know how that goes. The farther you get away, the harder it is to restart.
I’ve been running. That’s good, probably. But I need to be writing.