At the beginning of 2020, I was working on my goals like a boss. I can’t call them resolutions, as I was working on them prior to the start of the New Year, but they were certainly set intentions for how I wanted to feel and who I wanted to become moving forward in my first years after divorce.
One of the monster changes I was making in my life was towards physical fitness. I had, at last, developed a weekly routine of going to the YMCA almost daily, and adding to that practice, a variety of classes that were pushing me not only physically but socially. Because after all, being an introvert, my first notion is to bounce from machine to machine with my favorite tunes pumping from my Sony headphones, with vibrating ears as I workout in blissful self-imposed isolation. But as my dog would tell me, it’s important to socialize with others, and she is a wise one, my greyhound. It’s true. Nothing builds friendship like being next to someone in a yoga class laughing together over the instructor’s instance that as beginners, we can fold ourselves like a pretzel and look as graceful doing it as she does, with her decades of logged experience.
When the pandemic closed things down in Washington state, I felt the panic of not being able to go to the gym on a regular basis. Exercise had become a way to work through the emotions and stress of daily living–the work demands and the demands I was putting on myself to be something more than I was. It was also helping me to build confidence. I was losing weight–some twenty-five pounds had been shed–and I was gaining hope by actually believing I might hit my grand goal just before Thanksgiving later that year. With the addition of a Nordstrom stylist’s help, I had begun to realize that I could fit into clothes two sizes smaller than I was wearing at the time. I don’t need to explain to another woman how great this feels, but to put it into words, your heart makes this trip over the moon and back before returning to your chest.
Now, with the gyms closed, and my best method for dealing with stress beyond my reach, what had I left to deal with the stress of a major historical event?
I, like many others, believed at first that things would be shut down, oh, at most, for a single month. All I had to do was wait it out and avoid eating too many comfort foods. But when the thirty-day marker passed and the closure extended onward, I began to turn to online shopping in desperation for a lot of things. I was late to the party in deciding that my solution to my gym problem might be solved by creating some kind of home gym. Everyone else had beaten me to my clever idea. Every affordable piece of gym equipment online was sold out and with the hours being cut back at work, I simply didn’t feel comfortable making the investment in something grand (but wow, there’s some great stuff out there if you can afford it).
I ended up finding a little row machine that looked ideal for my small living space. It was the row machine that I had enjoyed using the most at the gym, and so I wanted to begin there. I ended up ordering it and surprisingly, it arrived in Washington quicker than one would’ve expected in those early days of the pandemic, from a distribution center in New York. As I drove to the mail center to pick it up, by then, even Starbucks had closed–but for reasons related to the fires blazing in Washington and down the West Coast into California. I was making what was once a simple trip to the mail center, in what felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. It might’ve been the end of the world–for all I knew at that time–but I was determined to finish out my days in better health!
I struggled with the box to get it from the car, into my home. I spent an afternoon figuring out how to assemble it without any remaining “spare parts” and was pleased as punch when I finally had something resembling gym equipment in my living space.
But there was a problem.
It took the strength of a bodybuilder to operate this new row machine; the smooth movements I was used to experiencing from a row machine, the calming white noise of the resistance bits were nowhere to be found.
I was now even more depressed.
I returned to my mailbox and found it crammed with all my usual mail and a few surprises. The surprises being three magazines: Conde Nast Traveler, Shape, and Entrepreneur. I’d almost forgotten I’d ordered them. When I had added the row machine to my online shopping cart, I was made an offer of a year’s subscriptions to any magazine I wanted for a discounted rate. I hadn’t had a magazine subscription of any kind since I was a teenager, which was many moons ago, but I figured if the shutdown continued, (and my weekly pilgrimage to the local libraries still denied me), it might do me good to have some reading materials with pictures.
Shape was to remind me of my health and fitness goals, Entrepreneur was to help remind me of my career goals, and Travel was to remind me of what brought me joy.
As I held the May/June 2020 issue of Traveler in my hands, I broke down and wept. I had planned a trip in April 2020 to see a historic landmark that had been a dream of mine since I was seventeen. I had wanted to build a blog based on stories as a traveling introvert. Now, those dreams seemed a million miles away.
I recently received notification that my subscriptions were about to expire. I was invited to either cancel them, renew, or pick others to try. I started off thinking that I would cancel them all. Life is slowly returning to its normal, furious pace and it didn’t feel like the subscriptions were as essential to me as they once were. But I changed my mind on one.
I decided to keep the Traveler.
Perhaps I should’ve kept Shape, but having consumed too many comfort foods throughout 2020, it was making me feel worse looking at skinny people on every page rather than it serving me as inspiration or motivation.
Maybe I should’ve kept Entrepreneur to be more business savvy which is always useful.
But instead, I held on to the subscription that met me where my imagination wanted to go.
I fear, as I get older and the world gets seemingly more complex to navigate, of losing my sense of imagination and my desire of discovery. Some days, as we grow outward from the lessons learned in 2020, it still seems hard to push through those longer ones. Of all the subscriptions, it had to be the traveling magazine that remained. And it will help to keep me dreaming of better days and amazing new experiences that will happen someday in the future.
Looking over that first issue again, I am struck with the final paragraph from The Editor’s Letter:
With a love song in my heart, I wish for everyone to remember all those happy memories of travel and to keep believing in all those lovely dreams of discoveries to come.