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  • Writer's pictureAnnette Kassis

Writing and Running: Two Pursuits Just Made for Social Distancing

I’m not making light of the current situation. Indeed, I’m dealing with concern and uncertainty, just as we all are. I find, though, that I’m also much more mindful, and that’s a good thing. That word mindful has been used a lot in conjunction with meditation; if it doesn’t resonate with you, feel free to substitute aware, observant, attuned or any other word you like that fits the bill.

For me, here’s where all this mindfulness is coming down. It’s more than just being aware of what surfaces I touch, how frequently I wash my hands and how long 20 seconds actually is…mindfulness is paying attention to all of the things I take for granted.

It’s making me see where I should focus my gratitude.

Here are some examples from my life. Perhaps they’ll resonate with you, too.

--Like many writers, I have a day job. In my case, I’m a marketing director for a California agricultural commodity. I work in a small office…just three of us staffers and our executive director. I haven’t seen my two colleagues in more than a week, and I miss them terribly. We’ve emailed, we’ve spoken on the phone, but we haven’t shared the same space. I never would have guessed this would impact me as much as it has, but it does. I love those two ladies and I realize just how important they are to me.

--My first grandchild will be born in a matter of days. Even better…my son and daughter-in-law live just about 15 minutes away from me. I have been looking forward to everything associated with becoming a grandma. Except now, in the current situation, I will not be able to go to the hospital to see my grandson when he’s born. Deep breath. Here’s the reality. I’m grateful for the precautions being taken to protect mother and child, and I remind myself that there are A LOT of grandparents out there who don’t live close to their children and grandchildren. I’m one of the lucky ones. I will have a lifetime of being a part of his every day as he is growing up, and many people—maybe most people—don’t get that gift.

--And to my topic at hand—that by now all-too-familiar phrase, social distancing. I am an extroverted introvert. While introvert is my default, I have the ability to engage, speak in public, talk to strangers, appear outgoing, and if my mother were still alive she’d probably add that I never met a microphone I didn’t like. But I’m also very comfortable alone and quiet. Writers know how to be alone. So do runners. As a distance runner for almost 40 years, I’ve logged most of my miles in solitude. I know some runners who are great about getting training groups together and going on group runs. That was never me. I only run with other people when I’m in a race. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy the interaction with other runners and I’m grateful that we have the opportunity to get together and compete on some really beautiful courses. Except now we can’t. Our little community races are called off just like the major sporting events. And when you can’t do something, you miss it more than you thought you would. So where’s the gratitude? Well, I’m still healthy. Getting out for a run alone is still OK in this hopefully brief era of social distancing. And when I’m out there on my neighborhood roads I see others out doing the same thing. Running. And walking the dog. And riding a bike. And we smile at each other as we pass. We say “hello” or “good morning” or “hey.” We’re keeping our distance while also acknowledging one another. And what I see there is the beauty of humanity…our capacity to love in many ways.

Thank you to my colleagues…thank you to my friends…thank you to my neighbors. You all make this a little more bearable. When I see you out on the road, I’ll smile and wave and keep my distance…and be grateful.

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