Reassurance on the Trails

As so many of us, I am hunkering down for the duration. I live with my 81-year-old mum, who has asthma. I may not be at such high risk, but I sure don’t want to bring anything home to her! But it is in times of crisis when we, as humans, are most in need of our communities. It’s why the candlelight vigil is our go-to when things get rough. We need the reassurance of seeing our common humanity in-person. I suppose it is evolutionarily adaptive. Mass cooperation has been the secret sauce of our success as a species, after all.

So what do you do when you need that in-person reminder of common humanity, when you need the reassurance of your fellow humans, but the last thing you should be doing is getting near them? The internet only provides a certain amount of reassurance. You do get the feeling that we are all in this together, but there is something about seeing human faces in RL that you just can’t get online.

I found some of the reassurance yesterday by the simple expedient of taking the dog for a walk. We haven’t walked in a while, and she had forgotten everything she knew about leash manners. I must have apologized to 10 people for her straining against the leash in her desire to jump on them and lick their faces.

But that was a good thing.

There is something about being on a walk, especially on trails, that calls for a good amount of social distancing naturally. Etiquette has always dictated giving others a wide berth. And having a dog eager to get her muddy paws all over everyone increases that distancing. But in apologizing for my dog’s boisterous nature, I smiled at people and was smiled at in return. We laughed about her lack of manners. People giggled a little as I chided her for being rude. I heard voices and saw faces unmitigated by technology. And it felt good.

I’m anxious, but I’m not struggling with that anxiety unduly right now. However, I think I was beginning to feel isolated. And a sense of isolation can lead to all kinds of other problems. It is probably one of the worst things for your mental health.

So if you are looking for a low-risk way to reassure yourself and feel connected with your community and your species, walking the dog out in the open air, giving others a wide berth, but still interacting, seems like a good compromise between physical safety and mental health.

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