Everyone should have California’s problems, right? Being barred from our beaches in Spring feels like a near-death experience. For those lucky-enough to live near the coast. But our state is huge, and most of us live somewhere in the interior. That would be me. In this exact moment in time, daily frustrations can’t be ameliorated or tempered by the possibility of escape: to our beaches or glorious mountains. I wondered today, as I took my daily walk, if this is why so many people seem to be venting more, in very ‘public’ ways. Now, more than ever, it feels like our urge to share feelings, and to know that we’ve been heard, is almost uncontrollable. Has it also become vital to our well-being ?
I pushed myself today and walked almost five brisk miles. The air was cool and the smell of flowers distracted me from the pulled hamstring I still feel, from my cobblestone-bounce in Marrakech late October. (Will I ever be able to travel again? I obsess almost daily over my collection of photos from there, and from my trip prior, to Sicily.)
When I walk early in the morning, I always encounter more people. Especially now. Everyone frantic to get out of their homes in my neighborhood, and beyond. Sometimes when I exercise I carry ear buds and listen to music or podcasts. But this morning I chose to just absorb whatever was going on outside. Which turned out to be quite a lot.
The twenty-something couple, standing outside their home. He: keys in one hand, car door handle in the other, clearly ready to leave. She: dressed in running togs and glowing with perspiration, moving in close to his face, voice low, words unintelligible. He: responding, “I don’t know why you always think I’m lying to you…”
I was walking fast already, but I tried to amp up my pace a little more.
Two seventy-something women, cropped pants, sturdy shoes, identical silver bobs. One listening silently, while the other commented, “I know he’s only three, but shouldn’t he be doing that on his own already?”
A forty-something couple, passing one of the most spectacular homes on today’s route: a sprawling Mediterranean villa with high walls and a gate I feel certain was imported from Tuscany. Bougainvillea draping both.. He: walking ahead, only turning to look back after She: does a u-turn, trying to peek between the ancient gates of the home / compound. She: “I don’t know why we can’t have a place like this.”
People aren’t just out-and-about, trying to find quiet relief in Nature. They seem to be using the outdoors as an extension of their living spaces. Which I ‘get’: life doesn’t stop, just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. To make matters worse, other venues where more personal topics might be discussed, maybe with an icy-cold mojito nearby, are off-limits. So, my daily walk seems to have become a telenovela. I either enjoy the episodes, or I wear my earbuds.
From a wellbeing perspective, I’m always relieved when I hear and see people talking to one another. Even if there’s confusion, discord, fear or hurt — an exchange of any kind is almost always a good thing. In my own orbit, I find that I’m more often reminding myself to be a better listener. Not jumping ahead, finishing sentences in my head; not distracting myself by imagining where I’ll go, once quarantine has been lifted; definitely not tuning-out, even if I’ve heard the same complaint one hundred times.
Communication, even in the best of times, can be difficult. Today I feel compassion for those struggling to express deep emotions, and to know that those emotions are valid. I feel patience, and tolerance, even when others – literally – take private conversations to the street. We’re all being remarkably brave in these times. We’re all doing the best that we can.