One late August day I was pedaling up a steep incline, trying to make it over the drawbridge without needing to walk my bike. I had been intimidated by this hill for weeks. It’s not much to the average biker but with my lowered energy and strength from ongoing chemo, it felt insurmountable.
But, I was headed for one of my favorite scenic neighborhoods past manicured lawns and waterfront estates. And I was determined to make it a seamless ride.
As I pedaled and panted a long ago piece of advice surfaced from my running days. Back then when I complained to a friend about how I detested running hills she offered this sage advice:
“Don’t look at the top of the hill. Look about three feet ahead. When you keep your eyes focused on where you are, instead of where you’re going, the hill won’t feel so daunting.”
So that’s how I learned to run hills without so much misery.
Energized by my renewed memory, I headed over the drawbridge keeping my gaze three feet ahead. And I made it over the crest of the bridge for the very first time!
Proudly coasting down the other side it occurred to me that this feeling is familiar.
Just as a hill can feel endless, so can the Covid-19 pandemic. When will there be a vaccine? When will we hug our friends and family? When will school and restaurants feel safe again? When can we take a vacation? When. When. When.
My bike ride reminded me that maintaining a “three feet ahead” attitude can help us endure the pandemic until its end—whenever that might be.
So I’ve stopped myself from what I had been saying to friends: “This is going to be so much worse in the winter when the chilly weather keeps us stuck inside with no outdoor dining and socially distant visits.”
My hill approach was the reminder I needed to keep myself focused on a “three feet ahead” pandemic view. That means I’m thinking about today and perhaps a few weeks ahead. And not bemoaning the fast approaching winter months. Or getting caught up in thoughts about when life will return to a new form of normal.
No one knows what COVID-19’s tomorrow will bring—let alone the winter— as our reality continually shifts. Uncertainty abounds. All that is certain is what we know right now. In this moment.
Catastrophic thinking, when we jump to future worries, isn’t productive and can cause a lot of unhelpful stress.
Of course there are some things in life that require future planning; job changes, relationship upheavals, and relocating to name just a few. I’m not suggesting we ignore those important decisions.
I am suggesting that we catch ourselves when we’re caught up in worrying about our pandemic future. Spotting that stress enables us to have a choice to shift our thinking to the “three feet ahead” view. When we remember to exercise that choice our today will be calmer.
What about you? What future pandemic worries keep you awake at night or fearful during the day? What would it take to consciously choose to put some of them aside so you can have less dread and more joy today?
So, I’d say let’s keep pedaling through the pandemic while keeping a “three feet ahead” view.
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