Outdoor Musings; Week 27 in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s such an odd experience to go for a walk and find myself, again and again, a focus of various restaurant patrons on the streets of New York.  I realize they’ve been starved of social interactions.  And, people watching has taken on a new importance.  Pedestrians have become the dinner entertainment for the open tables’ clientele.  So if I walk uptown or downtown on the avenues, I become a subject for diners’ eyes.  Conversely, I look to see how to walk around so I’m not too close while they’re eating their meals mask free.  

It may be that I provide much needed amusement with my firecracker ponytail, my loose tee-shirts and touristy fanny pack.  I don’t care.  I’m at an age where I believe other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.  It gives me more head space to enjoy my daily walks.  

The character of the city has taken on its own pandemic configuration.  For instance, I was so looking forward to this past Labor Day Weekend.  In previous years, the city empties out and we can roam freely, the streets void of residents.  Not so last weekend.  If anything, it felt more like neighbors had prematurely returned from second homes or vacation dwellings. 

 I love the East River Promenade.  Yet, I’m not so fond of it during the pandemic.  This summer the river-facing benches are like chaise lounges at resorts, people have to get there early and stake out their territory.  Should I identify a rare empty bench, I would have to race walk to claim it as mine.  And, forget it when said bench is shaded.  

When I’m out with Lucy I get the distinct impression that she is confused that her park is no longer all hers.  We walk to areas she loves to sniff only to come across sun worshippers or picnickers who are located in the exact spot she wants to examine.  So we move on trying to forge a path around these interlopers. 

The city is, in turns, emptier, and more crowded.  The indoor places are a quarter full at most, while outdoor spaces seem to be at capacity.  This weekend brought even more people outdoors with cooler temperatures and Labor Day behind us.  I’m looking forward to the future when travel is a safer option.  My plan is to stay in the city as it empties out.   Lucy and I will sit on a readily available bench.  And, if they want, the runners by the river can enjoy Lucy’s mellow aura and whatever quirky yet casual get-up I’ll be sporting.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Set an alarm on your daily calendar to acknowledge yourself for small accomplishments. 
  • These times are so difficult.  Write down or share with others something for which you are proud.  
  • Set a timer for complaints.   This way you can acknowledge all the things that you find annoying, but it’s framed within limits.  
  • One-minute stretch brakes help come back to yourself, physically and emotionally.  
  • People watch when you’re outdoors.  You never know who you might find amusing.  

Gifts from Strangers, Week 19 in the Time of Coronavirus

I hadn’t anticipated it, but yesterday was an enriching day.  It started out hot and humid, and I knew that if I was going to get out, I wasn’t going to be able to move at a clipped pace.  I was wary of taking my bike out, believing that the park would be crowded, and I just needed something less populated.  So, I ventured out on foot listening to a new book Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala, a Nigerian-American author.  It’s beautifully written and the readers are terrific.  

My destination was a Cambodian restaurant, the only one in the city. I had read about it but had never visited.  I saw that it was closing at the end of the month, and so used it as a destination.  I would order take-out and carry our dinner home.  Though I couldn’t go inside, when I stepped up to pay, I viewed a stunning interior.  There were Buddhist art pieces and Cambodian décor.  The owner was there, and she was more than gracious.  So kind and generous, offering extra side dishes and beverages.  She was losing her restaurant to the pandemic, and yet wanted to treat me to something extra.  Her kindness softened my spirit.  

Then, in the evening, I was tired but not sleepy, so I perused Amazon, Apple TV, and finally Netflix.  It was there that I found an intriguing documentary, Mucho Mucho Amor.  It’s the story of Walter Mercado, a famous Puerto Rican star who brought joy to so many with his astrology readings.  He was an amazing man, and I was moved by his humanity, and fanciful lust for life.

  

I had to put the film on pause as I was finding out about his rise to fame.  Lucy had to be walked, and I was the only one home who was awake.  I was frustrated but these things can’t wait.  We went out to our stoop.  I wasn’t sure if she just wanted to be out in the hot night air, or if she really had to go.  Either way, she was on pause at the bottom of the steps.  It was then that I heard a group chanting.  I saw a few cyclists on their bikes leave what looked to be a rally.  Then I heard peaceful chanting, “Black Lives Matter!”  I realized that the weekly bicycle rally for the Black Lives Matter movement ended their ride in front of Gracie Mansion, the temporary residence of the Mayor.  It’s just down the block from our building.  

There was such camaraderie.  It was all peaceful.  Cops were acting as escorts.  I witnessed fellowship.  And, there was so much hope.  I felt so fortunate to be a bystander to the positive power.  Shortly thereafter Lucy and I were up and on the move.  They had all cycled away by the time Lucy completed her walk.  And, then I was able to finish watching the film.  I went to bed later than usual and fully inspired.  

So often during the time of Coronavirus, I have felt as if the days are long and so little gets done.  But yesterday, though I did little, I was given so many gifts.  They were all provided by individuals from other races and ethnic backgrounds.  How rich life is when we learn and grow because we are in touch those who are different than us.  

Self-care Tips:  

*Enjoy something outside your familiar patterns.  It could be a new cuisine, a virtual look at an international museum, reading a writer you don’t know, or simply noticing things around you that may have slipped your gaze previously

*Pause.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, or you’re about to act impulsively in a way that may not support you, take a moment.  Be conscious of your breath.  Take in a few things that surround you.  And, then reassess what you want your next action to be.

*Notice at least one thing that brought you pleasure at the end of your day.  Of course, it could be more.  Maybe it was a beam of light from your window that played on a surface.  Or, perhaps it was a chat with a friend.    In this way you double your pleasure as you think about those moments again.  

*Keep it simple.  These times are trying for most, so it helps to keep things simple when we can to alleviate extra stress.

*Do something from your childhood.  Whether you choose to play a game of hopscotch on your sidewalk, skip down the block, or sing a childhood song, finding childhood pleasures is an easy way to bring joy on.