Over the last two years, I feel as if I have become increasingly lost inside my head.
When the pandemic first hit, I remember being determined not to lose the habits that made me feel successful. Yes, sure, I’d have to work from home and socialize via zoom and phone for a while. But I had worked from home before, for two years, and knew how to balance working from home with forcing myself to socialize and exercise outside the home.
And then, the Sunday that was the eve before my office officially closed, my husband and I went for a walk. The streets were cold and empty and deserted – it was a grey March day – and my husband veered off the sidewalk into the street any time we approached another human. We weren’t masking yet – no one was masking except maybe a few prescient people who had taken part in a 2009 futures thinking experiment that or a few people who had lived through the SARS epidemic and learned from last experience.
We walked about 3 miles and, as we approached our apartment building, a pile of trash on the sidewalk directly across from a staircase leading down to a restaurant constricted the sidewalk just as another pedestrian approached. My husband had moved ahead of me and passed safely but I met the pedestrian at the narrowest part of the sidewalk just as the man turned his head toward me and gave a particularly wet and infectious-sounding sneeze, right in my face.
Suddenly my whole perspective shifted. Suddenly it felt like it would be dangerous outside my home.
Almost immediately, I settled into my home-office routine and stopped going out for long walks. I tried at first to exercise in the living room but I hate exercising alone and it becomes even more challenging because my husband gets up and turns on the TV to sports or news, the sound of people bickering which is contrary to yoga or deep stretching.
Eventually I forced myself to start going out for short walks – just 20 minutes, less than a mile, as opposed to the average of 7 miles a day that I had been walking at my peak, with 10-mile jaunts on weekends, in addition to daily yoga or tai chi. But it was a start.
At this point, my regular phone or zoom calls with friends have diminished down to short, business-like check-ins with my Toastmasters leadership group. My sister and I had been chatting weekly, now we exchange terse text messages. We zoom football with a friend and say we long to get together again in person but he has gone on a keto diet and half the fun of football was that it was my cheat day and it won’t be his. And when every day is a cheat day, why bother?
So I get up and meditate and write and get dressed and sit down at my desk at home or – on good days – walk to the office where I am completely alone most days; with literally one person on the other floor or the cleaning person across the floor somewhere. And I spend time doing passive, internal things.
I work online all day, often rushing from meeting to meeting, or cerebrating over strategy. During lunch, I check email or doom-scroll, or sit and gaze out the window, wishing I lived somewhere else, somewhere without Covid, somewhere green and safe.
At the end of the day I emerge from my office or walk home, argue with my husband about dinner, order a pizza, and sit in front of the TV, lost in the noise.
I’m not enjoying this life. I’m not enjoying zoom football or never leaving the house, or all this inactivity.
I’m not enjoying living inside my mind.
I’m stuck in a rut, literally, my new habits of inactivity having worn a groove and formed really strong neural synapses around this new routine. Habits are easier to form when spurred on by fear. Fear of getting sneezed on. Fear of walking around New York because I read too many stories about people getting attacked in the streets, although I have never felt in danger myself.
It’s all imagination. It’s all inside my mind.
There’s a song – Kansas, maybe – I’ve heard the King was dying, I’ve heard the King was dead…. on the day he journeyed deep inside his mind….
What is this song about? I don’t know, but today this is how I feel.
It’s a cycle. At some point, it will swing back up again and I’ll feel better, take steps, move forward.