At the end of this week, I’ll hit 500 miles of walking since school ended and quarantine began, which is approximately the distance from my home near Portland to some spot just south of the Oregon-Nevada border. The first thing I did when I got home on Friday, March 13th–a bizarre day with snow and all kinds of unanswered questions from my students (“When will we come back? Will there be a graduation?” Answers: “We still don’t know,” and “Not the kind you’re hoping for”)–was make an over the top to-do list that went something like this: Read a million books! Write a million books! Train for a marathon! Clean the entire house, room by room! It was overly ambitious and I knew then that some of it wouldn’t happen (who ever cleans their house that thoroughly just for fun?), but it was the only way to slow the crazy train that was barreling through my brain that day.
Here’s the reality of the past four and a half months, though: almost immediately, I threw out my back so badly that I hobbled around and had to see the chiropractor for weeks on end. So instead of whipping this 45-year-old body into running shape, I hit the pavement and started walking. A lot. Almost everyday. My longest days of walking were the days I hit 8 or 9 miles. I have rarely missed a single day, and it’s kept me sane. (Although some might say that 500 miles of walking the same neighborhood streets and paths borders on insane.)
And I had THE HARDEST TIME focusing. I know I’m not alone here, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I love to read. Love, love, love it. But finishing a book? Getting through more than two or five pages before I felt compelled to skim the news sites or to get up and do something else? Impossible and maddening. It took a few months before I could actually lose myself in a book the way I’m accustomed to doing. And then finally–just yesterday–I read a whole book in a day (true crime, in case you’re wondering; couldn’t put it down). Unfortunately, this inability to read did not slow down my book purchasing, so I have many, many books still to read. Many books. It will take months. I have a whole shelf of unread books in my book case.
And now–sigh–the writing. Well, as you can imagine, it’s gone the way of reading. It’s become painstakingly slow. And this tears at my heart, because writing is usually as much of a predictable escape for me as reading is, and I’ve been virtually unable to do it. I’m working on book 8 in my Christmas Key series and it’s…plodding along. I do still love to write that series best of all, so it will be finished, but it’s slow. I’ve been gradually pulling back the layers of a trilogy with one of my writing partners and we’ve relied on getting into our Google doc together at a distance to pull us forward, but after this much time to only be 20,000 words into a story is disappointing. But we both feel it–it’s hard to find motivation and inspiration and dedication when everything about the world just feels so…blah. And as for my other writing partner–my 16-year-old darling girl–it’s much the same. I’ve pitched something new to her and even found us inspiration for book covers, but she flops over listlessly on her bed as I talk about it, eyes on her phone as she says, “I don’t know, Mom…maybe,” and then giggles and insists on showing me yet another horrible video on TikTok.
The fact that we’re all in the same boat soothes me just a little. This way I know that the days slipping away without me feeling ultra-productive with my writing aren’t through some horrible fault of my own; they aren’t a sign that I’ve lost my desire to write permanently. I know I’ll look back on this time in the future and wonder how I couldn’t have written more. I’ll say, “What did you do all day? What did you possibly do with those months? That year?” And the answer will simply be, “I survived. I got through it. And I walked.”
Hey, if I walk another 500 miles, I’ll be in Vegas!