Riding with the New Normal

Early on Sunday morning, it’s hard to tell that things aren’t how they should be. There’s frost on the ground, the air is crisp, leaves are falling, and the sun is rising higher in the sky. I checked my bike for any issues, examining the tires for small leaks and affixing lights under the saddle and in the cockpit. Water bottles were in place and the GPS was “on” as we set out for a short 20 something mile ride to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and back before the kid woke up for the day. Sort of normal…

I stashed a mask in the back pocket of my jersey and wore a buff just in case I got too close to other riders or runners on MLK Drive, closed to traffic since the start of the pandemic in order to open up more space for people to get outside. Bikes are in short supply with the high demand, and more people are riding than ever, which is a nice break from being inside. A few cyclists posed for pictures like we did in front of the Rocky Steps, but the crowds of summer are mostly gone now, leaving a few intrepid athletes to run up the steps unhindered.

It’s a new normal now. Mask in hand or on my face, I make sure I get outside, even as the weather turns ice cold. I turned off all notifications on my phone and leave it on silent without vibrating. I deleted the Facebook app and set a time limit for using all of the apps. I scan the paper instead of listening to the news, and for the first time ever, I have a campaign sign in my front garden for all of my neighbors to see. I read a book at night or watch reruns of the “X-Files” with the kid while we await the new season of “Stranger Things” to be released. She has limited her phone use too, which is so important to give her a break from the screen since she’s home all day in virtual school. It’s weird having her upstairs all day attending class. Definitely, not normal.

Making time to get outside, putting down the phone, and going for a ride with Phil makes me feel as if I recovered my brain from the depths of social media, the doom-scrolling, the feelings of inadequacy with the picture-perfect lives portrayed on Instagram. My phone is face down with alerts only from my “favorites” list, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m kind of back to sort of normal, like early 2000s normal, before the phone, politics, and the pandemic took over all with less anxiety. Things may never get back to the way they used to be, but do we really want that? I don’t. Go outside. Ride. Run. Be with the people you love. And when the opportunity is there, run up those steps to get it. You can do it.