Back in the days when I was running, one of the ways I would push myself through hill training was by pumping my arms to keep my legs moving. When you’re distance running, a lot of it comes down to mental stamina. And if you can crack that part of it, the physical aspects of running are much easier to train for (in my opinion). So the arm pumping was one of the tricks I used to keep myself physically moving when I didn’t have the mental ability to get myself up the hill. You can Google the running experts and they can take you through how to use all your limbs and muscles to make you a better runner. But the next time you feel like running up a hill – even if your lungs feel like they’re bursting, your breathing is as loud as the music pumping out of the speakers of a car going down Yonge Street on Caribana Friday, and your legs feel like they’re going backwards even if they’re not – pump your arms and your legs will follow. I’d pull this out of my hat when I needed a boost, and without fail I’d start to swing my arms back and forth forcefully, and I’d keep running. To help myself stay strong mentally during my long runs, I made sure I ran with a group. Even if I was way at the back, there was always some very fit runner coming back to make sure I was still alive and to help talk me through a few kilometers. And for the times when I had to run on my own and had no one from a group to rescue me, I’d turn to Disney and take up Dory’s mantra and keep repeating “Just keep swimming.”
At the time of this writing, I’m only 10 days into 2021 and I already feel like calling it a year. I won’t, but it’s tempting to want to stay in bed all day with the duvet over my head trying to sleep this all away. And by “this” I mean…hell, what don’t I mean? 2020 was already mostly a big pile of crap and 2021 seems to have hit the ground running and trying to add to it. So I’ve started to pump my arms. And I hear Dory’s voice in my head a little more often. It seems a little soon to be pulling out my bag of tricks, but I fear without it, it’s going to be a lot harder to make it through. I know most of us are trying our best to keep it together. And I can sense the effort in all of my friends and family as we try to keep each other motivated and connected. There is a tangible and somewhat defeated sigh of “it’s all we can do” when any of us encourages each other to just “do our best and keep moving forward”. For a lot of us, the lockdown started back in March of 2020 and hasn’t really ended. I’m not going to get into all the other truly awful things happening in the world (and there is a lot happening that can have me floating between rage, despair, and hope), but winter is my least favourite of the seasons and it can be a hard time for those who don’t love it, even in the best of non-pandemic situations. The grey days are here, even if we’ve been spared some of the frigid temperatures for now. But those too are on their way. I have managed to get out for some fresh air almost every day (in an effort to keep up with one my 2021 resolutions) but I’ve only had the sun out with me during a couple of my walks.
So what to do to keep moving forward? I wish I had a better answer, and I know that I’m luckier than most. Even if I can’t physically meet with people, I have a lot of people who check in with me. I’ve been trying to focus my energy on thinking only one day at a time. I have a plan for the week, but really don’t think about some things more than a day or two out. It’s been a lot easier to break this time down day by day (or hour to hour) instead of looking at the weeks and months ahead – even if I can’t wait until months from now when this time will be history and part of what has made me even more resilient. And I think that’s ok, for now. I’m going to try it out and see how it goes over the next week or so. I don’t want to imagine what else 2021 might have in store for all of us over the next 21 days, but I’m praying we all make it through. Riding out this pandemic continues to be one long-ass marathon, not a sprint. So I’m physically trying to keep pumping my arms, and telling myself to just keep swimming until I finally get to cross the finish line.
I’d like to say I fall into the “sandwich generation” – and while I have no children of my own to care for – I find myself falling somewhere in between caring for my mother and caring for my sanity. When I am not working, I have the honour of helping look after my amazing mother, who has suffered 2 strokes in the past 11 years. Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart, and if I am being honest, it can be a crappy club to be a member of. I have fallen down more times than I care to count through this journey, but while channeling my incredible stubbornness, strength (both of which I come by honestly,) and several F-words (Faith, Family, Friends and Food), I keep getting back up. IG: @Coolman_Eh