How Are You Doing?

How are you doing, really?

I asked that question on Instagram on Monday. I was having a hard day, at the end of what had been a pretty challenging nine-day stretch on the personal front. So I think I asked in part because I do genuinely care how my internet friends are doing, but also because I think I needed some comfort that day.

Some reassurance that even though we’ve been quarantining for a while, out of our normal routines for a while, that it’s OK to have still not fully come to terms with what’s going on. To still feel really out of sorts. Scared. Anxious. To have basically gotten no work done over the past month. To truly love this quality time together at home, but to also be so exhausted by like 4 PM each day that it becomes a countdown to bedtime, both for Annie and for myself. To simultaneously miss human connection so much and to want to crawl into a dark closet, alone, and hide there for a week. To be desperate to go to the grocery store because it means getting out, but to also be terrified to go to the grocery store.

It’s a lot to feel. A lot to feel all at once. A lot of emotions to wrestle with!

And I know that it’s OK to feel those things. I’m actually doing a pretty good job giving myself a lot of grace right now. I’m not trying to do anything perfectly. I’m focusing on the present, and I’ve spent less time scrolling and keeping track of the ever-rising numbers, and that helps.

But it does help to be reminded that everyone is feeling things right now.

“Hanging on by a broken thread.”

“Struggling and scared and missing my mom.”

“Okay and ready to handle this, but also not great, TBH. It’s lonely, scary, and weird.”

“Depends when you ask.”

“I’m starting to crack, even though I feel I have the right to be struggling.”

“Nottttttt great.”

“Not great.”

“Not great. Tired of being told I should be thankful for what I have. I am. It still sucks.”

“Honestly, it depends on the hour.”

“Depends on the day.”

“Not great, Bob.”

“Every week is a roller coaster.”

“Terrified, but also numb.”

“I miss shopping. I miss the grocery store. I miss coworkers I don’t even like.”

These are just a few of the many, many responses I received to that Instagram question. The responses were mixed, as you’d expect, but the vast majority were similar to the ones above. Some people are thriving during this time! Which is great! But if you are struggling, you’re not alone.

I’ve been wrestling with all the usual stressors and emotions that I know are so, so common right now. Losing clients. Losing jobs. Being so excited about things that are no longer going to happen. (I had finally started making actual plans for my big, exciting thing this year — my sweatpant party! — and now not only is a big, in-person event not going to happen, but who wants a sweatpant party after spending months in our sweatpants?! Right?! Life is one big sweatpant party right now!) I’m stressed about money, I worry about my family’s health, I worry about my cousin who is a nurse in the ICU at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey (where Annie was born!). I worry about Susan. I worry, a lot, about everything. I know worrying isn’t productive, but it’s hard to avoid.

And I feel guilt. Guilt for worrying about anything or being stressed about anything or putting any unproductive energy out into the world, because my life is, honestly, fine. I am healthy. Annie is healthy. My family is healthy. We are OK. We’ve lost jobs and clients, but for now, we are OK. Yes, we have a child to tend to 24/7, and it can be exhausting and it means getting work done is tricky, but that’s OK. I feel so so so fortunate for what I have right now, I really do. And that Annie is 18 months old — that feels like the best possible age to be going through something like this. She’s not a newborn, and thank goodness, because we all know I was a mess during the newborn days. But she’s also not old enough to need true homeschooling and education during this time. She needs to be loved, fed, and entertained. I am very, very lucky to be going through this at this time. To be the one who gets to do those things for her. For that I am tremendously grateful. (To the parents of newborns, the parents who are educating their kids while also trying to work: I think you’re amazing. I really do.)

My anxiety has gotten significantly better over the past few days. Scrolling less helps. Less news, fewer updates, that helps, too. Changing out of pajamas in the morning helps. Showering daily helps. Being present, as much as possible, helps. Getting out for a run, if I can, helps. And trying to accept that I just can’t control this time right now helps. It’s not easy! I love control! But that little shift helps.

I’m striving to get to a place of acceptance with all this. Accepting that this is the reality for us all, for an undetermined period of time. Instead of constantly wondering when this will be over, when we’ll go back to normal, just trying to focus on where we are now, and being OK with it.

The uncertainty of all this is hard, but knowing it’s hard for the entire world helps, too. I hate that we are all in this together, but I also find comfort in that. None of us have been through this before. None of us have a guidebook for how best to cope during a pandemic. I’m doing my best, and I know many of us are. This time brings out both the best and the worst in people. I’m trying to put forth my best, every day. Or at least my most optimistic and positive. (Trying doesn’t always equal succeeding. I’m trying.)

This time has been hard on my job. The career I’ve worked so hard to build over the past few years, and in a blink, I’ve seen so much feel like it’s slipping away. The clients and sponsors who don’t want to renew their contracts. The events I was supposed to work, announce, do live shows at — canceled, and unpaid. It’s both an emotional and monetary blow. And the downloads are down, significantly. It’s hard to see. That slope that was going up, up, up, isn’t quite as up. People are still listening, and for that I’m grateful (THANK YOU!), but podcast numbers are down universally. People aren’t commuting, people who normally listen at home no longer have the luxury of doing so. It makes sense. But it’s tough to see.

One thing I keep coming back to is how much I actually feel somewhat prepared for this period of uncertainty. As much as it is totally unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, the not knowing reminds me a lot of Crohn’s disease flares.

I’ve always said that if at the beginning of a Crohn’s flare someone could tell me, “OK, Ali, you’re going to be really, really sick for six months. But then, on the first day of the seventh month, you’ll be better,” then I could handle it. I’d have a time frame. I’d be able to plan. I’d be really, really tough for six months, and then I’d have some relief.

I think about that a lot right now. That if someone could tell us all how long we’d be living like this, we’d probably be more OK. We’d know. We’d understand. We’d suck it up, we’d crush the quarantine, and then we’d go back to our lives.

Of course, in neither scenario is that in any way possible, realistic, or ever going to happen. Uncertainty is hard. Some people thrive on it. I am not one of those people.

I remember when I went to Unleash the Power Within with Tony Robbins — during the worst Crohn’s flare of my life, actually — he talked about what he has laid out as the six basic human needs. We did an exercise where we identified which ones we most relate to, need, or crave. Uncertainty, for me, was dead last. (The six human needs, Robbins says, are certainty/comfort, variety/uncertainty, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution. I am all about five of them. Just get that variety out of here!)

This is a lot of emotional unloading here. And a lot I’m still holding close to me, not really wanting to share. This feels like a very vulnerable time. And right now, more than any other time in my adult life, I’m wanting to keep things a little more close to the chest.

I’ve received some hate in the past few weeks. Some very personal hate from very anonymous people. (Always anonymous.) And that hurts. It always does. But I’ve also witnessed compassion. Kindness. Selflessness. And that’s what I’ll cling to.

I’m doing my best. That’s all I can do, and all I can keep doing, for myself, my family, my community, our world. I’m trying, every day, to do my best. I promise to keep doing just that.

Whatever you’re feeling during this time — happy, sad, frustrated, anxious, depressed, alone, exhausted, overworked, stressed, energized, connected, scared — know that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling.

So to answer my own question, in this moment: How am I doing, really?

I’m OK. And I’m optimistic.



11 Responses

  1. I was just listening to you on the “rambling runner podcast” and loved what you said there about connections and that we are all in this together. Reading those lines here I just wanted to let you know: WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. I have so been feeling the same those days, with anxiety tightening up my chest so bad on some of them. Others I was just sad.

    But me and my friends came up with this thing: Making each other laugh (OUT LOUD) once per day.

    It helps.

  2. I believe in you Ali! I check in daily for inspiration. Your work is so important and the people you are serving are so thankful for you. Don’t sweat the haters – your work is not for them. You know what you are doing. Keep it up and take time for yourself. Now may not be the time to leap ahead – just stay the course and you’ll come out of this better, smarter, and stronger.

  3. Hey Ali,

    I wanted to first encourage you and tell you that the work you are doing is very important and that it matters a lot to many of us. I only started listening to your podcast 3 months ago but I am listening to it a lot now as I find it uplifting and it reminds me that normalcy and laughter and hope are critical during this time. Laughter and joy are critical to the human spirit. Without it, we are crushed. I hope you are finding time to just laugh and seek joy in these days.

    I just completed my first draft of a book called The Making of a Hero that I will be pitching to a publisher this week (Lord willing!). I know it’s odd timing, but I am convinced that this season we are in is precious and I am asking how to use it for good. I see you in my book. The hero as the everyday person who is inspiring people to live better and be better. If you need a bit of encouragement, I am happy to give it to you! You are doing so much good!

    Second, we can all sense your uncertainty and fear (actually, you say it aloud 🙂 ). I want to offer you help in any way that you need it. (Well, I can’t pay you… ) 🙂 I’ve done edited and podcast editing work so if you need help so as to keep you from being overwhelmed, please reach out to me! I’d love to help you during this time to make the load lighter. Feel free to email me anytime!

    And I am praying for you, that you would know the good you are doing and keep your head held high. This too shall pass–the question is: how can we redeem this time right now? Keep pressing on, Ali! Maybe it’s time to do a show on hope and running… 🙂

    Much love, Laurie

  4. So much of what you said resonated with me, Ali! Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling, you have a gift for that. The emotions definitely come in waves. I’m a CPA and on the one hand it feels so weird to not be working crazy hours right now in the crush for April 15th. Instead we’re almost totally focused on helping our clients navigate through all this uncertainty with their businesses and it can get really overwhelming to see how much financial hardship this is creating (which is hard in itself, but especially hard when it’s on top of worrying about loved ones who are vulnerable, on the front lines, etc). It’s just a lot. I’m trying to make sure I keep my social media and news input to only positive things right now, and that includes yours and Annie’s beautiful faces. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with negative comments lately, I’m sure it’s a reflection of those few people’s stress, but it can’t make it any easier for you. Just remember you are a ray of sunshine (and if you need a reminder just look at your mirror – Annie).

  5. I can relate so much to what you have said. One moment I feel so strong and ready to handle this. And the next I’m on the brink of tears. And like you, I know I have so much to be grateful for. And I am. And I don’t have it as hard as some people do. But it’s still hard. It’s still upending.

    As for the people sending you hate???? I can’t even imagine why. You are so positive, and you always are so …. struggling to think of the right adjective here. You are so respectful, kind, and thoughtful of your guests on your podcast (although none of those words quite pinpoint what I am trying to convey). Just do your best to ignore those who are negative. “Positive splits for positive people!”

  6. I’ve been running more just to get out of the house (safe, socially distanced, etc) and because with no race to train for I’m less worried about speed. So I’ve been going longer and slower and your podcast has been getting me through some tough miles! Can’t thank you enough, Ali!!

  7. I’m so very sorry – you don’t deserve the hate so f* those losers for even trying to send you negative energy. People are hurting so they are trying to hurt other people. Screw them – delete the comments and block them from access to your life.

    I know that podcast numbers are down is it possible to pivot content to how runners or athletes are nurturing themselves during this uncertain time? I’ve found myself drawn to hearing about how people are coping right now and how they are nourishing their passion and their hobbies when everything around them is uncertain. Maybe if you had some interviews like that and did a small series on Coping with Covid? Weird times….weird times…

    We need to talk about when we can get through this. The open ended quarantine and no positive outlook in sight isn’t good for our country that is filled with go-getters and hard workers. We need positivity and we need to know when we can get back to normal.

    Sending you and Brian and Annie lots of hugs during this crazy time!

  8. Ali, I am really sorry and seriously pissed that people have been sending you nasty messages. I just do not understand it and clearly, people have no idea of what they are talking about and no sense of goodwill towards others. There is no excuse for it. UGH. I hope you are enjoying this time with your parents and Annie is at the perfect age to bond more with them! Hang in there. I am still reading and listening to you – although I usually click play on the podcasts on my MacBook while working so not sure if technically that’s a download or not?!

  9. I recently found your podcast and started listening form episode 1 (I just finished episode 18). I just wanted to say I love it and its a good distraction from my life.

    Luckily, I can still work. However, my husband was laid off and my son (13) had his spring sports and school canceled. At first I was like, “we can get through this'” but the longer this goes on the harder it is for me mentally. I try so hard to keep my husband motivated without being able to work (He is a Swimming Coach) and my son happy with the new normal of online school and only seeing his friends via zoom, but the longer this goes on the longer I feel myself crumbling.

    Like you, this has taken a monetary hit to my family but I hope that soon things can slowly get back to normal.

    I am also kind of at a loss with running. I started running in 2014 and have slowly become faster. I qualified for Boston in 2019 but didn’t make the cutoff for the 2020 Boston Marathon. I have been training so hard and had plan to run the NJ Marathon this April to better my qualifying time to get into the 2021 Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, like all races, it has been canceled. So now, I don’t really know what to do.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your journey because it is nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this way.

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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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