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Finding Normalcy in Abnormal Times

Finding Normalcy in Abnormal Times

Rebecca Mehra / Mar 17, 2020

The last few days have been anything but normal. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the world has turned topsy-turvy. Our social gatherings, school, competitions, and work have been cancelled in favor of embracing “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” -- foreign phrases to us just a short week ago. Our hands are dry from incessant “20 second protocol” hand washing. Our grocery stores are overrun with people hoarding Lysol products, soap, and toilet paper (which I will never fully understand).

On a personal note, my upcoming races have been cancelled left and right, and like many of you, I am left wondering what the next few months of my life will look like. Will there be a track season? Will the Olympic Trials be cancelled? It is hard to wrap my head around the idea that what I have worked all year for may disappear in another haggard news report. I am feeling the effects beyond running too- my best friend’s wedding, scheduled for next weekend, was suddenly cancelled. Several of family members in Switzerland have developed fevers and coughs after close exposure to confirmed cases. It’s unnerving.

All of my other work has come to a complete stop. My projects with Stanford Athletics put on hold, as all of the students have headed home for the remainder of the academic year. My Courage to Run 5k that I have poured hours into planning has been postponed for an indefinite period of time. My city of Bend email is filled with messages from concerned citizens on how to function during this health crisis. I have become the shepherd for bad news, announcing updates to the Bend public through Mayor Sally’s social media accounts. It seems that most other city business has come to a screechy halt in order to triage for coronavirus.

Oh- and I tweeted about a tender moment outside a grocery store with an elderly couple, that ended up getting seen by nearly 40 million people. To this day I have been on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS, PBS, Fox News, plenty of local news stations, and in articles ranging from the local Bend Bulletin to Access Hollywood and the Washington Post. I have had opportunities to talk with politicians and celebrities that I never could have dreamed of exchanging two words with. Just to talk about this small act of kindness. Wild.

Yet, somehow, I have managed to cling to the moments that feel the most normal. Between news reports of more cases, emergency declarations, and stricter health protocols, I have found the most sense of calm while running. The air still smells the same, ripe with blooming Juniper and high desert spring. The feeling of hitting the ground each step with an oddly gratifying thump on the dirt trail. The chill on my face. The happy-go-lucky presence of my teammates beside me. The sound of my Garmin beeping, signaling the completion of another mile run.

And afterwards the satisfying first bite of a breakfast sandwich. A calming phone call to my family or my boyfriend, Jordan.

Oddly enough, I have had the best couple of weeks of training of my life. I have never been great at going with the flow- I am relatively type A, and I like having control over the details of my day to day schedule. I had meticulously put together a spring racing schedule a few weeks ago, that has now gone completely out the window. Gyms are closed, so we are now having to improvise on training plans. I had a detail-oriented to-do list last week, and instead of checking items off the list one by one, I deleted 90% of it.

But maybe there is something about being in the “eye of the storm.” Maybe it allows us to appreciate how wonderful and comforting normal can be. The small and human moments we have with each other. Mundane tasks like making coffee in the morning, or loading the dishwasher. Heading out the door in the morning for a run on a chilly day. I know I am guilty of sometimes going through the motions, but this has truly allowed me to appreciate the little things even more, which has brought a real sense of presence to my last few days. It has made running and going to practice the time in which I see in technicolor.

I know experts are saying that this is bound to get worse before it gets better. All we can do in the meantime is have hope, be kind to each other, enjoy some extra online shopping time (hey Oiselle), wash our hands, and try to appreciate the little things.

I hope that you all can find a sense of normalcy in these abnormal times, too.

4 comments

  • Kristen : March 20, 2020

    Agreed with Michael, I’ve seen more people being active in Portland! I made a comment yesterday that everyone’s gonna be buff coming out of this with all the running, walks, and streaming home workouts!
    Our neighborhood is doing an outdoor group workout tomorrow! All at safe distances of course :)

  • Michael Bergmann: March 18, 2020

    Thanks for sharing and bringing positivity into such a challenging time. Keep being kind as you do and others will follow. On the positive side in Portland I have seen more people out walking, cars slowing down, roads more clear and people outside of stores being less rushed and stressed out. I have shared your story with others and most had already seen it. Keep it up and we hope we can put something together at Portland Track when the dust settles and the future is more clear.

  • Chanelle Price: March 17, 2020

    Love this! Thank you for sharing 💜.

  • Jim Scott: March 17, 2020

    Unfortunately kidness has not been the “norm”. Fallout from the virus is definately not the norm. Just as the virus has become the “disruptor” and cause of change, your single act of kindness will also serve as a disruptor. When kindness and serving others becomes contagious, the results are amazing. We never know when or how we will be called on to serve. You were ready and no doubt others will be in the days/weeks to come because of your story. Kindness, compassion and empathy will help us outlast this life changing event and those in the future. Thank you for reminding us of that and giving the world a win on a day when it was needed.

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