Every night I hear it. Doesn’t matter if I wake up at 2 am, 4 am, or 5 am, it’s always there. I know this because I’ve woken up at all those times at some point in the last week. And that’s when I hear him. “Cock a doodle do”, that familiar rooster sound.
I honestly don’t know if the rooster has always been here, living somewhere vaguely nearby. I’m usually asleep at night, something that feels like a wild concept as I stare at the dark ceiling and listen to the stupid bird. Sleep has become a strange idea. It’s not like I really have anything to do tomorrow, so what does it matter if I stay up all night? The restaurant I work at is closed, so I don’t have work. The theater we have weekly rehearsals and monthly shows at is closed so I can’t do that. Production is at a complete standstill so I have no auditions to speak of. I can’t even go anywhere or do anything that is nonessential. So, what is the point? Normally a good night’s sleep is needed for a productive day-but there is nothing on the agenda for the next day…or the day after that…or the day after that.
When I wake up in the middle of the night it’s innocent enough. I hear a sound or I have to pee. And then…my mind wakes up. And then I can’t shut it up. My financial worries, the state of the world, someone I love getting sick, what this means for my business and my mental health. How am I supposed to make money? What random thoughts can I Google right now?
I do try to go back to sleep. But there he is, crowing away. I have to give it to him, distracting me from my overactive brain. “Cock a doodle do”, all of the sudden all I can think about is the stupid rooster. How dumb does this rooster have to be that it doesn’t even know IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT? Why do you need a rooster in downtown LA? The rooster doesn’t seem to care about my sleep anymore than I do. He’s saying through his balking “time is just a construct” and “you are not a functioning part of society if you aren’t contributing anything”. And now I realize I really do need some sleep if I am interpreting these rooster caws as judgments. Maybe he’s here to serve a purpose though. To remind me that life is out of my control. My life has been upended. But not for nothing. In the vast, sprawling earth, I am insignificant. But right here, right now, I am needed for a specific task. I have to stay home and stay away from people so that we can slow the spread of disease, and not overwhelm hospitals. My work is nonessential, and it can wait. My life must be put on pause for the greater good of the world. And as I sit here in the dark, staring at the ceiling, there is a friend, somewhere nearby, vocally expressing his discomfort and uncertainty too.
I hate working out. I truly, truly hate it. I hate pain, I hate gyms, and I especially hate treadmills.
I like physical activity that feels like fun, not work. I enjoy yoga, dance, and zumba (yes, I am an old woman). I want to be tricked into working out, or at least learn a new skill while I’m at it.
My resolution for this year was to establish some sort of fitness routine. However, I dragged my feet on purchasing a gym membership. I meant to do it January…then February… then finally, at the top of March, I bought a membership, grabbed my yoga mat, and headed to my first group class at my local LA fitness.
Two weeks later, all the gyms closed.
After hearing about the lockdown in San Francisco, I got spooked and took a flight out of California to be with family in Texas.
With nothing to do but sit around and eat and watch Netflix, I knew it would be vitally important for me to find a way to exercise. Texas is warm, and everything is so spread out (easy to stay 6 feet away from others), so I figured I would be able to do some laps around the neighborhood, and that would be that.
Of course, Mother Nature had other plans.
In the week I’ve been here, the weather has fluctuated between pouring ran, and blisteringly hot, and neither makes for good “walk around the block” conditions. That’s San Antonio for you.
Now desperate for exercise, I knew I had no other choice. I had to make peace with an old enemy. I cautiously opened the door to my older brother’s bedroom-turned-gym, and came face-to-face with my nemesis: the treadmill.
Gaining 300 pounds while quarantining is not my only worry though. I have lots during this time. I find myself worrying about friends who are self-isolating in their apartments alone; I worry about losing connection with people; and I worry about family members who live far away.
I am a huge fan of killing two birds with one stone, and decided that my dreaded treadmill time would be the perfect opportunity to do just that. In order to get myself to stay on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes, I’ve started calling people (yes, actually CALLING!) that I haven’t been in touch with, but whom I care very much about. The pairing of activities assuages both fears.
There’s a science to selecting the perfect person to talk to during one of my treadmill talks. I have to strike a balance between reaching out to someone that I don’t normally check in with, but who also wouldn’t be weirded out by the fact that I was calling.
Talking on the telephone is a very personal thing. I know many people my age who confess to having phone-phobia. I myself hardly ever do it because, to be honest, it kind of scares me as well. I’m always afraid I won’t know what to say, or that it’ll be awkward, or that I’ll be annoying the person who I called.
In fact, people are so unused to me calling, that now that I’ve started, each of them has answered with a confused, “Hello?”
But once I explain to them what I’m doing, they’re always so happy to talk. And it feels wonderful. The conversation takes right off, and the minutes fly by as we swap quarantine stories, our own personal news, and just generally catch up.
I’ve called childhood friends and cousins who live a couple states over. I’ve checked in with my friends in LA, and even called my grandparents.
With some of the people I’ve talked to, I hadn’t even realized how long it had been since we had actually spoken. At the end of yesterday morning’s conversation with my good friend John – who had been my date to my senior year prom – we realized we hadn’t heard each other’s voices in over four years. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was him when he answered the phone.
I hadn’t even noticed that it had been so long since I’d last reached out to some of these people, and I blame social media for that. Sites like Facebook and Instagram are helpful in that they allow me to keep tabs on my friends, and see snapshots (literally) of their lives. But it’s not the same. Social media gives the illusion of connection. But commenting on a picture is not a conversation.
Of course, a majority of our conversations revolve around the pandemic. How could they not? But once we get that out of the way, I learn a lot about their lives. My cousin shared with me the struggles of potty-training her new puppy. My aforementioned friend John officially became a Registered Nurse in December, and is still working at the hospital during this time. My grandmother is finally starting to dip into one of the 75 boxes of books she has in her basement.
Getting this chance to connect with so many people has been my silver lining in all of this. Now, I cherish my time on my treadmill. It’s one of the things that helps me get up in the morning – the promise of connection and conversation.
As motivation to get on the treadmill, I pick who I am going to call the night before, and then get so excited by the future call, that I find myself excited to start exercising.
To be honest, I’m going to be a little sad when this is all over, because I know that will be the end of my treadmill talks. People just don’t have the time to talk on the phone. And I’ll admit, I’m public enemy #1 when it comes to being too busy. My own parents have to remind me to call once a week, because I’m usually running around so much that it just slips my mind. Most of our conversations happen when I can squeeze them – like while I’m unloading the dishes or walking home from the grocery store.
And I know most of my friends are just as busy as I am. Like me, most of them are currently stuck at home, so a random phone call is a welcomed distraction. I know that won’t be the case when life returns to normal.
I hope we are not in this state much longer, but at least I am able to take this time to strength the relationships in my life, and for that, I am grateful.