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Everything I Learned From Pandemic Walks (And Am Continuing To Learn To This Day)

By Anne T. Donahue

As we’ve all come to understand, we live in hell. Covid is everywhere, “the before” seems far away and somehow made up, and every morning I wake up and get jazzed to see if CP24 will play the Diamond & Diamond commercial so I can make the same joke I’ve been making about it since early 2020. (So many lawyers in a single shot! Now imagine if there were more! And more! And the jingle kept repeating until the television was covered! This is the shit that makes me laugh now. This is the way my life has gone!)

But one thing has been a constant source of comfort: pandemic walks. So because I am desperate for a few minutes of positivity, here’s everything I’ve learned so far from walking around like it’s all I have left anymore. (It is.)

Important revelations
Roughly four times a week, my dad and I go for a walk and talk about everything from why we hate the people we do to the mistakes we made as younger people. (Disclaimer: I also live with my mom and dad, so I’ve got the privilege of forcing one or more of them to do friend-centric things with me, as they are now my only friends.) But even when I’m by myself, I find I come home from wherever I’ve gone feeling more like a person. And not in terms of health or energy or anything remotely related: I mean, I can think things through. I can take into account that outside of my own bubble, a larger world exists and the problems I’m having will inevitably sort themselves out because what else is there to do. Walking turns me from someone watching my own life to someone who’s at least participating in it. (I’d say I’m the starring role, but honestly at this point in my life, who can be bothered?)

I hate my phone
I like my phone for garden photos, and I like my phone for music, but other than that, one hard pass from me, thank you. I do not want to ruin a walk by looking at my phone. I do not want to hear from anybody when I’m on my walk, nor do I want to be interrupted from berating my father for not really listening to me because he’s trying to figure out what year a bungalow was built. In fact, even outside of walks, I think I hate my phone. I’m tired of looking at its stupid face, and I wish it would morph into one of those clear landlines all my friends had but I didn’t. And frankly, I only ever really want to talk to my friends. I want to talk to my friends, read some hot goss, then post a photo of a possum screaming into a microphone. Unless I’m roaming around, trying to find purpose in new neighbourhoods (JK they are all the same, I have lived here for decades). Then the possum picture can wait.

Gardens absolutely rule
I didn’t care about plants or gardens for roughly six million years, and it took staring at the most lovely types over the course of months and months and goddamn months for me to accept that I was a fool, and should be ridiculed accordingly. Gardens are beautiful, and plants make me calm. Even if they’re planted in such a chaotic way on somebody’s yard that I believe in my soul that it’s a cry for help. Which, for the record, is none of my business: I am typing this at 11 in the morning while eating a bag of black liquorice. We cope how we cope.

I no longer dislike dogs
Actually, it wasn’t a dislike. It was always a feeling of pure, unadulterated discomfort because as a child and tween and teen I tended to be chased my dogs on a regular basis. (I have no idea why, but it happened constantly and I ran like the idiot-person I’ve always been.) Cats? They do not chase, and instead they choose to bestow upon you their presence if they’ve deemed you worthy. I love cats. Cats are my children. My favourite thing to remind my own cat is that I gave birth to him in a basket under the stairs, and because he cannot confirm this obvious lie, he believes it and adores (tolerates) me. But I digress.

Over the last year-and-then-some I have been exposed to dogs in a way that’s been both beautiful and mystifying. Some wear shoes. Others wear coats. And then every so often I’ll be greeted by a dog so large that all I can say is “WOW WHAT A DOG!” to the person walking them, as if they don’t know what they’re doing. Do I still want a dog? No. But I do want to see more dogs. I want to see them walking, smiling, looking genuinely happy to be a part of society. I do not want to pet them, and I’m not interested in picking their poop up, but I am content to live in the same world as our canine brethren. I would love to one day see a cat sitting on a dog’s back, but that’s a dream for another day.

You can always just quit
Walks are like the best part of adulthood: if you’re done being someplace, turn around and go home. Who cares? The step-counters? The people you may pass again? (You will not pass them again.) The person you’re walking with? (Weird if so!) It doesn’t matter! As soon as you start to get tired, bail and abandon ship. You’re not married to your walk. (If you are, just divorce it.) You don’t have to complete a specific number of kilometres. You’re not on a walk-a-thon (which I think you can also choose to leave and sit down during because they are chill and great.) You’re walking. Roaming. Looking at things. In real life, we can’t quit jobs we hate or the apartment we have a lease on or any number of things that would be lovely to abandon. But walks? You can go, no questions asked. You owe the walk nothing. You’re the captain and the first mate. And in the midst of the most stagnant and scary era of our lives (I hope, I truly hope), never discount the joy of even the smallest semblance of control.

Unless you have to go home because you ate too much black liquorice and what’s happening with your stomach has left you no choice but to go home and reconcile with who you are.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

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