In Times Like These…

My brain hurts.

I am exhausted.

I told myself that as soon as Annie went to bed last night, I’d sit down at my computer and hammer out as much work as possible.

Instead, I sat down and stared at a blank screen. I got four minutes and 48 seconds into editing a podcast episode and realized I hadn’t paid attention to a single word within that four minutes and 48 seconds. And so I started over. But I couldn’t get myself to focus.

I opened the Peloton app on my phone and browsed the meditation section. Maybe that would help. But I scrolled mindlessly, never committing to anything, eventually closing it to half-heartedly play another round of Two Dots, making tiny, color-coded squares with my thumb until all the dots cleared the screen.

But I’m on level 1783 and I’m not very good (despite having played, it appears, thousands and thousands of rounds), so I quickly blew through my five allotted lives.

I moved from the couch to the bed, laptop in tow. Maybe a slight change of scenery would help. Four new walls to stare at in a daze.

I would reply to the flood of emails I’ve been ignoring for the past week, I told myself. I’d prep for the two episodes I’m supposed to be recording today. I’d figure out how, in fact, to record those episodes without fully functioning WiFi.

But I couldn’t bring myself to do any of that.

Instead, I curled up in bed, snuggled up close to my laptop, and watched the latest episode of This Is Us. And at the end, I sobbed. Full, heaving sobs.

And I don’t know if it was because Randall is forcing his reluctant, scared mom to leave her family to enroll in some clinical trial in St. Louis because he wants to be a hero and that’s super messed up, or because I just needed to let out some tears.

My situation is hardly unique.

Together, but apart. That’s what we all keep saying, right?

I know we all feel it. The world is so heavy right now, so scary, so uncertain.

“Two weeks,” I told myself a few days ago. “It’ll be a rough go for two weeks, and then back to normal.”

But it’s quickly become clear that this isn’t a two-week situation. This might just be our new normal for a while.

I’m very lucky. I am aware of my privilege, now more than ever. I work for myself, and so does my husband, and with our respective arrangements come many benefits and many challenges. We both have flexibility and neither of us have to rely on an employer to dictate our next move. But, like many of us, we have little safety nets. I’ve already lost several clients and jobs. As races get pushed or canceled, as companies can’t withstand the times, I lose my income. Brian, too. And many of you, I’m sure, feel this as well.

No one feels safe or secure. We all have our reasons for being terrified and anxious and restless right now.

I have moments of calm. Of, “OK, this isn’t a huge deal. The only major difference in my day to day is not having childcare and figuring out how to work and parent simultaneously.” The same thing millions of people are trying to navigate right now. The major disruption of a routine. I do my part, and that’s, it seems, the most I can do. I control what I can control.

But then I see photos of crowded beaches in Florida.

I see TikTok influencers gathering to make dance videos together.

I see New York City’s parks packed with people.

Lines to get into bars.

People. Out. Everywhere.

And I feel like I need to scream. How can we preach “together, but apart” if so many people are still getting together? Why are so many of us taking this so seriously, while others seem to be celebrating this time, drinking it away in public, in groups, at parties?

I want to scream, “DO YOUR PART! Do you not understand how this works?! Do you think you’re immune? Do you just not care? Are you just selfish?”

All this time, I’ve never been particularly worried about the actual sickness. Not for myself, even though I am technically immunocompromised (can never spell that right on the first try, but maybe by the end of this ordeal I’ll start nailing it), and not even for Annie, because so far it seems children are largely spared, at least of the scariest symptoms.

It’s everything else.

It’s the safety. The security. The fact that we are living through such uncertain times. I don’t even watch the news, and yet I can’t avoid the constant updates.

I try to focus on the good. And there truly is so much good right now. There are people playing instruments and singing out on their balconies for their entire communities to hear. People hanging Christmas lights on their homes to bring some sparkle to their neighborhoods. Fitness studios and trainers alike live streaming workouts to keep people active while they’re stuck inside their homes — most of which are doing so free of charge. (I have to think the only company benefiting from all this right now is Peloton!) Debbie Allen is teaching dance classes over Instagram Live. Mark Kanemura is hosting delightful dance parties at 5 PM EST daily. Even Annie’s local music class is hosting free sing-alongs over Zoom, with hundreds of little baby faces filling the squares on the screen, singing and shaking makeshift maracas.

People are getting really creative and they’re making great strides in finding ways to keep us all connected right now.

People are doing so much good, in fact, that it makes me feel badly for not doing more. I have all these great ideas — daily podcasts! Uplifting Instagram Lives! FaceTiming friends ’round the clock! Productivity!!! Reading for pleasure! Yoga! Meditating! Journaling! Going from inbox 513 to inbox zero!

But the reality is that I’m exhausted. I’m spending every waking hour taking care of Annie, and naptime comes and it’s the only time I have to try and cram what was once a full-time job into 90 minutes or two hours a day. I’d love to be meditating, stretching, going for 10-mile runs, putting more good out into the world, but when?

I don’t want to add negativity to the world, and I hope this doesn’t come across as whiny or complaining or ungrateful. It’s just a confusing, overwhelming time and I’m trying to make sense of it all and prepare for the reality that this is far from over.

I have food and shelter and my family in good health. I am so lucky for those things. We have toilet paper and hand sanitizer and soap — in reasonable amounts, not excess — and there’s nothing I “need.” My heart aches for people in far dire situations.

I feel guilty for feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I have no right to complain. But here we are.

It’s just a lot.

It’s heavy.

It’s scary.

It’s uncertain.

It’s just weird. It’s a weird time to be alive. A weird time to be an adult, responsible for making the best decisions possible.

I hope that when this all comes to a close, whenever that is, what I’m left with is memories of the good that came from this. The time I got to spend with Annie, even more than normal, watching her learn something new every single day. The snuggles from Ellie, who can definitely sense that something is up. The kindness from strangers. The unspoken camaraderie.

I remain optimistic. Even during the stress. Even with the middle-of-the-night panic attacks. I commit to staying positive and optimistic.

And to the people sacrificing so much right now — the nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, grocery store workers, teachers — thank you for what you’re doing. I cannot imagine the emotional exhaustion you’re all feeling. It’s the most selfless act, to be on those front lines. We all thank you.

Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.

I love you.



19 Responses

  1. This helped me to better understand the situation we are currently facing and how my actions may impact the people around me and in my community. I decided not to host my usual Sunday long run this morning which was a tough decision but I can see now that it was the right decision.

  2. Hang in there! I’m trying to do the same, focusing on the positives like my house getting organized, getting projects done that I’ve put off forever, spending more time at home. And for the general population I have hope that there will be some good out of all of this! The slowing down to appreciate the little things, the acknowledgment that we are all human and together in this, the generosity that has come about. Taking one day at a time and lots of deep breaths, but I know in the end it will all be ok. Concentrate on the people doing good, not the people who aren’t taking this seriously. *air hugs*

  3. It’s like you read my mind – the not knowing is SO HARD. Know that you are not alone. Today on a run, I listened to an old episode of you talking to Rozalynn Frazier and it made me feel less alone ❤️ Hang in there! We love you!

  4. What bothers me most about this situation we’re all in is the “no end date”. I can do anything for a week or two or a month….but when work keeps extending the “please work from home” edict and then I see people gathering in droves at the park, it compounds the frustration and hopelessness.

    I send you a big virtual hug and hope that hopefulness for us all returns soon.

  5. FaceTime soon? I want to meet Annie and Ellie!

    When I get stressed (which is often), I think of High School Musical — “We’re All In This Together”

  6. All I can say is that all of your feelings are valid. It’s ok to be stressed and nervous. But it’s ok to be happy too. Enjoy the little moments of happiness and hold on tight to them when it’s harder. Things will get better. It may get worse first (sorry truth) and it may take a while but it will get better. Stay strong and know that some is light up when we see your posts. ❤️

  7. Thanks for sharing Ali 🙂 stay strong, we wll struggle in our own ways and we are all allowed to grieve and fear even if we are healthy and therefore spared from the scariest side of this. For me for example, I live alone in Switzerland, my family is back in Spain quarantines but healthy and my fiance is in Germany.
    It is scary, i feel lonely, but I take the extra time to practice gratitude: I have my job which I can do remotely, I can still go outside and move, I have a loving family I can constantly talk to on the phone…
    Stay strong, this will take time and will require patience. Anxiety is normal in the face of this uncertainty but like in running we just keep moving forward, one small step at a time 🙂

    1. Just to add to this, at the beginning of this year I wrote 2 quotes in my journal and they are now so relevant, they are both mantras I have used before during races and they are now so applicable to day to day life:

      “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”

      “The only way out is through”

  8. Yes yes yes! To all of this. You are helping and making a difference-simply by posting this. I appreciate it so much.
    Whenever I’m struggling and anxious (which is often during these trying times) I repeat to myself your mantra from your podcast with Candice Huffine. PS-YOU GOT THIS!

  9. I have been playing unprecedented rounds of solitaire on my phone.
    I have a lot to be thankful for and I try to focus on some of the positives (dolphins! in the canals of Venice!) but mostly I am scared of the unknown, of the new reality, of whatever this is. And it’s so heavy.
    Thank you for sharing x

  10. Yes to everything you’ve shared. This is terrifying to all of us – and to those who aren’t terrified (WE SEE YOU) -I don’t even know what to say. My husband and I are also working from home, and the kids are at our tiny daycare this week (they are 2 of the 4), and he’s freaking out about how to WFH with them here next week. I wish he was more connected with friends online, because I think he’d freak out slightly less if he truly saw that EVERYONE IS TRYING TO DO THIS. So, solidarity. Lots of phone calls and facetime, with family and colleagues, has been helpful for me. And staying outside as much as possible. Can you imagine how much harder this would be if it was December or January, and we didn’t have this much daylight??
    Hang in there.

  11. I feel ya. I’m safe and physically fine, but emotionally, I’m only so-so. Two things that have helped: listening to the song, “You will be found” from “Evan Hansen” on repeat (so GOOD) and talking with friends and family (via text and phone). Take care.

  12. Usually at the end of your posts, it lists out related posts — I thought it was pretty poignant that at the end of this one it said “No related posts.” We can’t relate to this. It’s unprecedented. Nobody knows how to react. It just feels surreal. And every moment that doesn’t feel surreal freaks me out b/c I don’t want this to feel normal. My parents lives four minutes away. And we had made plans before this started to have them and my brother and his family over tomorrow night. But now we’re not because nobody wants to put anyone else at risk. We could be a risk to each other and not even know it. How is that possible? Your feelings are valid and real. Everyone’s feelings are valid and real. (except people who are blaming an ethnicity which isn’t even worth a response) I’m grateful for the helpers. I’m grateful for the people doing the right thing. I’m praying for the world right now, that’s all I can do.

  13. Hi Ali. I love your show and your blog. I started binging all the episodes about 2 months ago when I found the podcast and I listen all the time.
    I feel so much validation from what you wrote. It’s all so real and it’s the best thing I read all day, especially amid this crappy news.
    I am a healthcare worker (though not a nurse or doctor) so I feel a bit more removed but still worried. Add that to all the isolation, my races being cancelled, and even the financial uncertainty. I could go on.
    I hope you enjoy your time with the people you see in your family, that you can run through some fresh air a little bit, and that you find love in all your fans and followers.
    Virtual hugs and prayers

  14. You are not alone in this. I thought at first I was depressed, but I think it’s more a grieving response. I miss my family, friends, workout community, socializing in person! With real hugs! If you were sitting next to me right now, I’d give you a big hug! Take care,

  15. Well now I’m crying. You are not alone. Everyone i would imagine is feeling a sense of anxiety, fear, depression. Everyone I know thinks I’m most anxious of GETTING the virus – as a pharmacist working retail my chances are very high. However that is honestly the least of my concerns. I worry most about not knowing how long this will last and also how badly this effects so many people as you highlighted. Just trying every day to try and focus on several good things. The fact that I HAVE a job that will survive this, the amazing BF who calms me down during a panic attack, the health of my family and friends.

    It’s all we can do right now.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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