I’ve never been great at skiing. It was a trip to Michigan that I first remember learning how to cascade down icy foothills, thin slippery wood strips strapped to my feet.
Less prolific than my actual skiing is my fumbling clumsiness to sit on a ski lift. There are multiple family stories – most often told at autumnal gatherings of cousins, aunts, and grandparents – of me experiencing “challenges” with ski lifts.
Ski lifts come in varying weights of feisty and futuristic. Unfortunately, the Midwest is not the mecca of ski resort innovation. It is the old, creaky, built in the ’80’s honks of metal that deserve consternation.
Upon learning how to ski, my friendly ski instructor taught me of “the line”. On this theoretical “line”, you wait for the screech machine to pick you up and whisk you up the hill. When this cage of death rips around the corner, it demands a Herculean effort for 8-year old. With your webbed feet, you must master the art of waddling frantically toward “the line” while also keeping watch on the untimely end barreling toward you.
Twice, I had been unceremoniously bucked off the ski lift, despite my family members’ best efforts to grab onto me “Indiana Jones”-style.
Falling to the ground, yard sale of skiis, mittens, tears, I never sported injuries from my interactions with gravity. Part of my impenetrability was due to the Michelin-man ski suit (see above), puffy enough to accompany each fall with a soft “whoosh” sound.
Still, I knew the roller coaster was coming, and I also knew there was not an alternative for us to reach the Midwestern summits. Though despite thrusting myself into action, despite keeping an eye on what was coming, I still ended up on my back.
Quarantine thrust me into a crashing desperation to grapple with the enforced restrictions. Staying at home is a sub-optimal outcome if all options are safely available. I watched news intensify, I attempted to keep myself safe. I still felt unprepared for the containment.
I rationalized the thirst for adventure as the origin of my disgruntlement. In actuality, the frustration grew when I was removed from agency, no longer was I empowered to elect where I could be and how I could interact with others.
Trivializing the restrictions has muddled people’s reactions. Shame ensues when scrolling through memes of “Your Grandparents went to war, and all you have to do is sit on a couch.” There are reasonable fears for our livelihoods and loved ones. These jabs do not account for the requisite emotional weight.
In the fear of losing our lives and autonomy, we also gain grounding.
It took days to “get used to” spending most of the day in one room. Once I established a routine, I still relapsed certain evenings, starved for outside air and in-person interaction.
Framing the conversation internally challenges how we expend ourselves in the new-found open space. Streaming TV equates to potato chips, great for a snack, not for a meal. It does not leave me fulfilled in a way that makes me feel good about myself.
Thus, I turn to other passions – writing, photography, reading, and connecting with others. So far, those activities return dividends that others have not. Inevitably when my main stays are still leaving me feeling “less”, I prescribe movement.
Spending all this time in one space leaves me with questions. The hollowness within us grows from the absence of our typical connections, the mourning of our past lives, and the concerns over our family.
But I also suspect we finally are able to focus on ourselves. How often are we left to our devices, asked to evaluate the very things that bring us glee or make us tick. We are left to ponder, do we like the person we are sharing most of our time with? Learning about ourselves during this time is unsettling and electrifying.
I am immeasurably blessed to be healthy and non-essential. What at first appears as constraints placed on our movements and interactions is a new-found liberty. Living with this freedom is exactly that – the choice to spend time, rather than money. Our classroom of containment allows us to gain a fuller understanding of ourselves.
With a pause comes re-calibration, and re-calibration begets progress.
We are in tough times, and if we are smart about it, we come out of this period enlightened in more ways than one.