Photo by Erik Mclean from Pexels

After a few weeks stuck inside my 800 square foot apartment, I’m free to roam. I’m wearing clothes that weren’t meant for sleeping— uh, ew— lacing up my shoes, leashing up my dog, and walking out my front door. Oh, the glorious freedom is sweet and delicious. The possibilities are endless. I’m positively skipping, prancing, and… twirling? Hm, if my gimpy legs would let me do it, then you might see me frolicking.

Actually, no, I don’t think I’ve ever frolicked. I’m just not the kind of person who does that kind of thing. It’s too— what the word— perky, and I’m not full of perk. There’s nothing wrong with it, and I won’t poo-poo your perky. If that’s who you are, my friend, then frolic, prance, and twirl to your hearts’ delight. Life is short, and you should enjoy all of the simple pleasures it has to offer.

I’m more introspective and laid back. On days when the urge to twirl arises, I smile and laugh. It kind of tickles that spot behind my right ear. It’s pleasant, and I sigh contentedly as that small part of my brain does a little dance.

Outwardly, you see something that resembles a smile, but you might mistake it for a smirk. We talked about this; my face is naturally sarcastic. Some people have a resting bitch face. I have a resting sarcastic face. Please, don’t mistake it for apathy or mockery. It most certainly isn’t judgement—most of the time. Fine, sometimes it’s a bit of the latter. Most of the time I’m lost in thought, enjoying a tickle, or revelling in a moment of freedom. 

Oh, what a glorious feeling. I would sing, but I’ll spare you the torture. I dance like a drunk penguin, and sing like a barn owl giving birth to a pigeon. No one needs to endure either of those things.

While I was sick, I created a list of things that I wanted to do when I felt better. Mostly, I wanted to be outside in the fresh air, under wide-open skies, and near a body of water. Few things in this life make me happier than being on or near the ocean, rivers, or an overfilled waterbed. Yep, that’s my happy place.

Oh, the thought just made me exhale a very long, slow breath. For my mental health, I really need to get out more and see new things. At this point, I’d settle for old things and reruns. If it’s unrestrained by four walls and a ceiling? I’m in, let’s do this.

You’d think that my nagging little gremlin would scream out in horror and remind me that the outside world is a scary place. Do you know what’s out there? Do you? Instead, it’s mostly quiet. I’ve been inside so long that my natural agoraphobic tendencies and depression induced hibernation just to want to get outside. What’s happening?

Fear not, it’s not completely negligent. It’s got an alphabetized list of every hazard known to humanity and a few that sound fictitious. It wants me to be careful and carry a survival kit that wouldn’t fit in the bed of a pick-up truck. But it’s not fighting my desire to stand in the sun, walk through a field of dandelions or watch perky people prance.

Oo, don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray. We don’t want to catch malaria, now do we? There’s no malaria in Canada! It’s too damn cold. I just…arg.

Unfortunately, there’s one hiccup, and it’s beyond my control. There are travel restrictions in place so, we’re on a short leash. We’re supposed to stay within our health regions and stick to our communities. The first is clear, and those regions are nicely labelled on a map. The second one is a challenge or, at least, I’m finding it a bit confusing.

In this context, what is a community? How do you define it? I’ve asked a few people, and they all have different answers. One person said it was their township, and another said it was their neighbourhood. Someone said it was equivalent to a stay-at-home order, but the government said it wasn’t. I define community as a close connection to the people I love, but they’re scattered all over the world.

I don’t think my definition would pass muster, do you?

I’m confused, and I’m not the only one. At first, I thought I was asking a stupid question. I didn’t want to ask because I thought you’d look at me funny. Wait, you don’t understand what it means? It’s so obvious. Ha, she doesn’t get it. Weirdo.

My inner monologue is kinda rude.

But everyone I asked expressed the same level of confusion. It amazes me how much we have in common when we take the risk and ask a silly question. We have similar fears, insecurities, and thought patterns that trip us up. We assume that no one else wonders about the absurd things that stroll through our minds.

It’s not true, though. Take this moment as a prime example. So many of us bit our lips and silently wondered if we were too stupid to understand a clear directive. I did! I read through the restrictions a dozen times, and this order just wouldn’t compute. Am I dense, stupid, or an imbecile? 

Possibly, but since loads of people had the same level of confusion, stupid must be contagious. Fine, yes, I watch the news. It seem that stupid might, in fact, be contagious, but not in this case. I think it’s safe to say that we’re not all that obtuse. At least, I hope not, and I’m choosing to believe that the problem is a failure to communicate.

Most of us are trying to do the right thing and play our part. We want to lower the curve and clarity is essential. But few things about the last year and a half have been clear. There’s been a lot of danger so, we’re halfway to a kick-ass movie title.

As it is, I’ll continue to stay close to home. That would be the safest course of action, yeah? I think, or I assume. Or, I could add another question mark. Right, well, I suppose I have to pick a path and hope for the best. So, I’ll go outside and find wide-open spaces with almost no people. That should do the trick? Oh, look, another question.

Given my diminutive immune system, I’ve been very cautious with everything I do. I spend the majority time in my apartment or at my parent’s place. We’re in the same bubble, and I know I can go there safely. For the most part— with some exceptions— I divide my days between these two locations and try not to go anywhere else.

Honestly, it’s kinda frustrating, and I’m disappointed that I’ve had to shove my list through the shredder. It’s time for a new plan or a new list. Just because our movements are restricted doesn’t mean we can’t move at all. So, what do I do now?

I’ve been trying to get out more while following the rules. More often than not, I just drive to my parents and home again. Rinse and repeat. It’s safer, and it’s necessary. But there’s this moment, when I’m driving home, and it triggers a glitch in my matrix. I have to turn right and head back home, but I hesitate. I look to my left, bite my bottom lip, and wonder what would happen if I went the other way instead. It’s a fork in the road, a choice to be made, and I choose to play it safe.

That sounds more metaphorical than I intended, but yeah, it works. When I’m faced with a choice, I pick the safest option. I always do what’s expected. I always turn right even though my heart is pulling me to the left. It wants to explore the unknown and challenge its own preconceived ideas of safety, but I won’t let it. 

It’s too scary, and I want to feel safe. Left. Right. Left. Right. I’ll go right. At least I know the way home from there.

A few days ago, I was sitting at the stop sign at that fork in the road. If I was going home, I had to turn right. If I turned left? It’s a long, winding road through farm country, forests, and it dead-ends at the Canadian/American border. It’s a beautiful drive, but that’s all it would be. There’s no destination or end goal to aim for. Driving for no good reason feels like a waste of time and gas. 

If I was going somewhere to do something, then it would be different. That would be an adventure, but this is just an aimless drive. I can’t jump the ditch and travel to a foreign country which is weird to say. When I picture landing on foreign soil, there’s a plane involved, and this is a literal ditch. That’s the only thing separating our countries. It hardly feels foreign, but the border guards would disagree, and so would my passport. So, I stay on my side, and they stay on theirs. We wave at each other over the shallow trench and smile politely.

Back at that fork in the road, I sat in my car, looked both ways, and my heartfelt heavy. The thought of going home was too much. I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to park my car, put on my mask, and sanitize my hands one more time. I didn’t want to walk up those stairs, unlock my door, and plop down on the sofa.

Yes, I’d have to do it eventually, but at that moment, I just couldn’t, not yet. So despite the nagging feeling that I was wasting time, I put my indicator on and turned left. I followed the winding roads through the various topographies. Farms, forests, quarries, and I finally ended up at the border. I drove along the border ditch and waved at our American neighbours. How’s it going over there? Are you doing alright? 

And then I drove on and on. The clouds rolled in, heavy and thick. The rain started to fall, but I didn’t stop. I let the road guide me, and for the first time in ages, I felt the freedom I’ve been craving.

It’s silly, and it’s just a drive through the country. It’s not an epic adventure, and it’s nothing to write home about. But it wasn’t my home with its four walls and a ceiling. It was something different, and I can’t tell you how much I needed to roam.

It’s hard to find these moments right now. At least, it’s hard to find them where I am or, it seems more difficult. I’m so used to having an abundance of choices and the ability to go and do what I want. It had become so ordinary that I didn’t think twice. Now? The ordinary has become extraordinary. 

My perspective is shifting, and I’m seeing my life differently. It’s simpler than it was two years ago, and I’m choosing to believe that it’s a good thing because what’s the alternative? Moan and groan about how bitterly unfair life is. 

No, thank you, I’ve done that, and it didn’t get me very far.

My drive to nowhere lifted the weight that’s been pressing down on my chest. It took me to beautiful places. It highlighted the need for simple pleasures in a time of confusion and complicated choices. It was a moment of freedom while facing so many restrictions.

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