Coffee with Mimi: Time for armchair self analysis

Published 10:14 am Friday, April 17, 2020

Time for armchair self analysis. There are definitely stages of behavior at work here.

Reports of some faraway medical problem circulate in the news. With no local evidence of such, what to do? OK, exercise some preventative action. Gather evidence, consult professionals, take their advice. Postpone activities for the short term. Observe the world swirling around. Compare notes with others in similar situations around me.  Perhaps laugh with neighbors and family about crazy shortages of staple items. Why? What are people thinking that I’m not?  

It’s time to adjust to the novelty of a different lifestyle. Develop some creative and clever ways to “hunker down.” Call ahead to see if businesses are open. Seek out suppliers of essentials, ie. food and beverage. Accept a different pace in what is normally a very busy season of events. Enjoy a chance to concentrate on family activities at home, or close by. There will be plenty of time for postponed events in the near future.

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It looks like we will be at this for a while. Time to look around the old homestead and consider those tasks and projects often left untackled. Efficiency and optimism take over. What do we have on hand that could be put to use? It’s early spring. The neighbors are pleased to see that the usually overgrown vegetable garden area is neatened up way ahead of the schedule of previous years. Repairs needed on some porch furniture are whipped out in record time. Patio table and chairs get a serious scrub down for maybe the first time ever. Closets are organized and objects long misplaced are duly and appropriately relocated. Laundry gets folded while still warm from the dryer cycle.

A mere two weeks into the current normal, reality hits. Not one event, meeting, social gathering, church gathering, family party is going to be held. Not this week, and not next week or even for weeks to come. An entire month, at least, with no opportunities to be what we are usually — social beings. Evidence of stress among those around us becomes apparent. Even a family cat is exhibiting odd behaviour. The vet says he needs to be medicated. We laugh, but it’s not his fault he is so miserable.

At this point life is a bit like running a marathon. Not that I ever have, but I’ve read about it. There is a “wall” around about three quarters of the way through the 26.2 mile distance. When a runner  hits the wall, he or she can barely move forward. The runner may actually slow to a walk or may drop out of the race. Sadly, the runner may need medical care. The effect is most likely to be felt among those who are not well-trained, or ill.

I did run a three quarters marathon once. I learned a few things from that experience. 

First, there is a wall three quarters of the way through a three quarters marathon. I figured I would be just fine as I was pretty well prepared for a half marathon. I had a plan. I had a positive, smiling approach. I waved to spectators, responding to their encouragement. Kept up my predetermined pace. Viewed the scenery.  

But, there is a big difference in a half marathon and a three quarters marathon. A quarter. A quarter of a marathon is still more than 6 miles. I hit my personal wall on the course in a muddy field. 

The end of the race existed, but it was nowhere in sight, literally. Between me and the finish line there was, besides the muddy field, a seemingly endless stretch of open highway. There were no distracting scenic views to occupy my mind. There were also no runners anywhere around me. I was virtually isolated on the course. I knew there were others ahead of me and behind me, but I was plodding along all alone.  Periodically, I would come up on a water station and a volunteer whose job it was to count the participants, point us in the right direction and offer cheerful words of encouragement. I weakly responded with a half wave and an eye roll.

I’m a stubborn individual. There was no question in my mind that I would finish the course, short of injury, under my own steam. My mindset shifted to resolve. I would do whatever was necessary to get to that finish line, including forgetting my predetermined goal time. I would walk when I needed to. Usually, when I run in a race, I don’t stop to drink water. This situation called for behaviour change. Water was necessary.  Interaction with the volunteers became important. I needed that social contact.

I did finish the race. My time was not remotely what I had hoped, naively based on my half marathon training plan. I do not plan to ever run such a distance again. However, I learned a plan is needed for the tasks at hand, those we expect and those thrust upon us . There is a big difference between three quarters marathon and a half marathon.  Adjustments to the plan are necessary.