NAVIGATING THIS LONG ROAD by Ellen Donker
Lately, I have felt like that kid in the back seat of the car asking, “Are we there yet?” One day melts into another and if I didn’t have a job I’d have no idea where in the week I was. Social distancing has hemmed me in, keeping me closer to home than I’ve ever been.
Recently, my friend, Terryl, expressed a thought that had been rattling around in my brain. She sardonically observed, “The more I’m not with people the less I want to be with people.” I sometimes feel that way too. Many of us are getting very used to being in our own bubbles or pods and are alternately feeling fine and not so fine about being isolated.
On the one hand, it’s good to be content and able to power through this crazy season. But we do need each other and having a vaccinated world in sight gives me hope that we are getting closer to our destination.
What else to do than continue to rely on the hobbies that keep me sane – whether it’s reading or riding my bike, tending to my plants or trying a craft or home improvement project. These diversions keep my brain active and allow me to feel like I’ve accomplished something. I can watch TV or scroll through social media for only so long!
When I reflected on my interests in a ‘what shall I do now’ moment it struck me that so many of them are the hobbies I adopted when I was a child or young adult. Naturally, with age, I’ve delved deeper into these pursuits, but I can’t say I’ve developed many new ones. It’s easy to blame it on the responsibilities of adulthood. Once you get a full-time job, add a home and children into the equation, your ability to dream and access free time diminishes. But for me, it’s also a matter of being stuck in my comfort zone.
I tried explaining this to my son, Christian. At 20 years old, he is the perfect age for trying out new interests. Although he’s a busy college student, he still has breaks where he can devote large swaths of time to inquiry and, in keeping with his personality, he does it with passion, or perhaps obsession. At least that’s what I kid him about.
During his recent school break at home, Christian took a deep dive into cooking, leaning on a discarded Jacques Pepin cookbook of mine and a raft of the chef's instructional videos he hunted down. When he wasn’t watching videos, he was practicing his newfound skills in the kitchen. The proof was everywhere: the sink, the counters and the floors. There is an advantage here: his knife skills are such that I could turn over the slicing and dicing tasks of dinner – and I didn’t mind sampling his crepes.
Christian also continued teaching himself Swedish, an interest born out of a trip we took a few years ago and is almost conversational in the language. In fact, his phone is set to Swedish. I found that out recently in the car when I asked him to quickly bring up directions so we could navigate our way out of a traffic jam. Unlike him, I didn’t know that sväng vänster means to turn left. It’s a good thing Google maps reroutes, but I wasn’t happy about the missed turn.
I’m hoping that we’re just months away from no longer having to be socially distant. It’s been a long road. And while we won’t be able to pinpoint the day when we can announce “We’re here!” our gradual return to normal will have us side by side telling each other stories of how we managed the hills and valleys of a trip we hope never to take again.