As the city where I live goes back into lockdown, I'm more aware than ever how our lives are on hold these days. We're stuck in a bad remake of "Groundhog Day" and this version isn't a comedy. It's no wonder people all over the world are asking themselves, how much longer?
My spirits almost reached the tipping point recently, as new restrictions prevent indoor visits with the family bubble we'd established over the summer and fall - one of our daughters, her husband and our sweet two-year-old granddaughter. Even brief outdoor visits are tightened now, with mask wearing and apart and yes, it's winter here and cold.
|Our small urban backyard|
The waiting game is on in full force and there's little anyone can do to break the stalemate. Waiting for a vaccine that's both tantalizingly close and frustratingly far off; waiting for numbers to go down so restrictions can be eased; waiting for test results so the precious toddler can go back to daycare and her parents to work. And for me personally, waiting for a word - any word! - on proposal submissions.
But an essay in one of Canada's leading newspapers gave me some comfort over the weekend. Titled "Going the Distance" (by Alex Hutchison in The Globe and Mail, November 21) the essay focuses on studies of marathon runners, their mindset and potential for success when participants don't know the end of a race. In other words, running without a finish line.
A German physiologist coined the term "teleoanticipation" in a study in 1996 to "describe how our knowledge of an eventual endpoint (or telos) influences the entirety of an experience." In other words and loosely quoting Hutchison, if we know where we are in the race, will we perform better or worse? The theory is that if we know how much further we have to go, we can adjust our pace accordingly. Apparently migrating birds instinctively know how much to eat and rest to reach their annual destination. But studies have shown that humans don't work that way if there's no end in sight, and success isn't guaranteed.
Mr. Hutchison connects this research on marathon running to waiting out Covid-19, citing his personal experiences as a writer and parent. This paragraph in his essay resonated especially with me: "If you ask yourself 'Can I keep going?' rather than 'Can I make it to the finish?', you're far more likely to answer in the affirmative." That first question depends on a personal, positive attitude and involves a lot of faith - either faith that's placed in a higher being or faith in the dedication and commitment of scientists and medical people working for all of us, or both. Hutchison himself refers to the principles of Buddhism as he reminds us to "stay in the moment" because "knowing that the end will come is clarifying; counting the hours until it comes...is paralyzing."
So I'm determined not to fret in this waiting game we're all playing and re-focus on my now well-established pandemic routine - taking my current life one day at a time. Meanwhile there are many escape hatches available and reading good books that lift us - like Heartwarming romances - works for me.
Have a Happy and safe Thanksgiving!