My adventure doing remote therapy during Coronatime provides a window on to the collective mood of the public .... at least our local public, at least the public I know .... in response to this weird and terrible and fascinating event. The first week was characterized by a wide-eyed jolt into attention. The next couple were marked by a sense of disorientation, vague confusion and nervousness (and for the "essential workers", straight up fear) that wouldn't remit. Bleeding through, though, was a powerful sense of relief, which seems tone deaf given the reason for this event ... but there it was. People were breathing out: cooking for their families, wasting less, amazed by their children's capacity for cooperation and creativity. They were talking about enjoying the quiet, noticing the natural world in a different way for the first time since they were children, reading and drawing. The 5th or 6th week seemed to be marked by a little bit more "settling". The weather was gray, drizzly, sometimes flat-out windy, practically every day in April; which gave us lots of encouragement to stay inside. But bleeding through THAT is a gnawing restlessness .... "is this still happening?" .... and, yes indeed, it is still happening. From what we're being told, it's going to be happening to some degree for quite some time.
Now it's May, and our governor has taken his foot off the brake, cautiously, regarding social gatherings in the parks and at the beaches. But everybody who lives at the Jersey Shore knows that we suffer a sort of collective seasonal affective syndrome that leaves us practically stark raving mad by the end of April, and "cautiously enjoying the parks and beaches" is, to say the least, a foreign concept. So, this past weekend brought lovely weather and people were out to enjoy it. But the question is heavy in the air, along with the invisible Coronavirus: how much can we, should we, dare we, enjoy it? How much enjoyment is too much enjoyment? How close is too close, how far is too far? How can we enjoy anything with a mask on our face, worrying about 6 feet, 10 feet, droplets, joggers? How does that allow us to be human?
And how are we going to handle the next few months without going into a full on sprint, headlong into danger? The epidemiologists are worried, and we are being asked to moderate. As a whole, Americans don't seem to be so good at that. We seem to be an all or nothing society and that's unlikely to give gracefully just because we're in a pandemic. We (in New Jersey anyway) been able to slow it down for a couple months now, but our motors are on, readying, waiting. So hopefully, we can stay conscious of the need to operate somewhere in the vast middle between collapse and and reckless abandon.
Someone told me this week that he was "rolling with the punches", and that really stuck with me. Apparently, a good boxer rolls with the punches. He knows how to move so as to lessen the impact of his opponent's blows. He doesn't just stand there, and he also doesn't expend all his energy in a full on assault. He remains taut, attentive and flexible. This same young man told me that he was solving the problem of the need to stay calm while expending intense energy and "staying in the moment" with one move: holding planks (he's up to 5 minutes!) with no music, concentrating on breathing. He describes it as exhilarating, affirming, mentally absorbing and satisfactorily exhausting.
Somehow, this spring maybe we should all adopt our own version of "the plank challenge": some method, ANY method, to help release our energy AND control ourselves, in order to cope with an invisible and wily opponent.