The Waiting: Remind me again what exactly are we waiting for?

The restlessness is inexorable. It distracts my days, sucking them away from me, knocking my rhythm out of synch. I wake later, the daylight lingers longer, the sun doesn’t set until after 9:30 and Summer Solstice is still nearly a month away. I rarely get out for a walk until late afternoon, and often fail to find my serious focus until midnight is closing in. Before I know it, it’s 3:00 am. Or 4:00. And so the cycle continues to slide out of time.

We have never been fully locked down in my city, at least not compared to many other parts of Canada or the rest of the world. Still, we have had a higher number of cases and deaths relative to the rest of my province, and so when restrictions started to ease, we were kept on a shorter leash, if you like, asked to wait ten extra days to get a haircut or sit in a occupancy-reduced restaurant or pub. Neither of those activities are either necessary or appealing to me. In fact, my tolerance for spending time in enclosed spaces with other human beings is limited of late. I almost feel like I do my grocery shopping holding my breath. Beneath my mask. However, the one engagement I am looking forward to is a face-to-face session with my physiotherapist tomorrow evening. I have had no trouble getting outside for the aerobic weight bearing aspect of my exercise regime, but the indoor routine has long lost its appeal. And I could not imagine moving it online, so I will be relieved to learn new ways to take the resistance side of the equation up a notch.

There is, of course, a societal ache to return to normal. But we are continually warned about a new normal. This is where we in the—I never know what to call it, every appellation is fraught, but let’s say—Western World are likely to be at a disadvantage. Yes, we have potentially solid medical systems, even if access is not necessarily equal, but we are unaccustomed to living with ongoing communal health concerns. Not since AIDS, perhaps, but even then, that was (and is) not a disease you risk catching on a crowded bus.

This weekend, my social media feeds streamed images of beaches, boardwalks, pools and parks crowded with seething humanity. There wasn’t one scene that I would have wanted to join if my life depended on it (rather a poor analogy, I know, my life being more dependent on my not being there). Not that I am claustrophobic; I have crammed myself onto buses or trains or airplanes but all of those activities are on hold or destined to be reconfigured for the foreseeable future. Yet, I have always marvelled at the way people tend avoid wide open spaces. Emptiness is so often viewed as a greater threat, feared, rejected for the comfort of the crowd.

I have frequently spoken of loneliness, the most constant companion I have ever known. I grew up in a rural neighbourhood where there were no other children my age. I followed horse trails through the fields imagining myself elsewhere, anywhere else; sought refuge among the aspens in the woods where I could disappear. I don’t know how, but somewhere along the way, this isolation formed me. Informed me. I can be alone in a crowd; that doesn’t bother me. I can manage one on one or limited group engagements, but I do not fit into groups naturally or easily. I resist any gathering that might define me, or rather, that might require me to conform to a certain definition. I can be queer, for example, without finding any comfort or connection from that fact. There is nothing like a period of imposed sequestration to bring this truth about myself home. I envy those who can navigate the social niceties of normal life with ease, who build around themselves a social network that they don’t have to travel or go online to reach out to. But that kid who would slip into the woods to be alone is still in me these many decades on.

On my walk this afternoon, as I neared the point at which I intended to cross the railway tracks and circle back on the paved pathway that winds through the floodplain along the river, the sheer number of runners and cyclists put me off. I chose instead to return through the forest, on  a path muddy and in places barely passable after recent rains. I only met two equally cautious runners on the way. Normal for this stretch of the trail. There may be plenty of aspects of my life where normal will have to be redefined, but this is not one—in many other ways a so-called new normal is the normal I already know and love.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

6 thoughts on “The Waiting: Remind me again what exactly are we waiting for?”

  1. Im with you in finding those pictures of crowded beaches and parks off putting. Luckily I have access to a few tiny beaches where your only company is likely to be the seagulls – spotting another person would be a rarity. Why people flock to sit on a beach with thousands of other people when they could sit in sole command of a hilltop is beyond my understanding

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful post, Joe. I tend to be with you – I’ve always liked my own company and felt uncomfortable in large crowds. So I guess I am the type who’s coped fairly well with the changes. In fact, I now feel quite apprehensive about the concept of mixing more freely. Those images of people in huge groups are quite bizarre. Apart from the fact that kind of gathering isn’t appealing, the risks! I hope the new normal is more like my kind of normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “But that kid who would slip into the woods to be alone is still in me these many decades on.”

    Yes, this. And in stressful moments, when I want to return to the woods but cannot in that instant, even now, I think of THOSE woods, not the wild(er) spaces I now visit/frequent.

    Good luck finding new ways to incorporate exercise and wellness routines in new and changing circumstances. I still use the “just one” or “just five minutes” trick to get myself to commit to fledgling habits (whichever is the smallest unit of time I can imagine devoting to the particular desired activity). I still fall for my own tricks (mostly).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I returned to physiotherapy this week which was great (and socially distanced) and the most important thing is having someone hold me accountable because going for a walk is still more fun than a front plank!

      Liked by 1 person

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