Last week, I talked about some changes I’ve made since the coronavirus pandemic began, including no longer going into our office to do my work. And I asked you about changes you’d made.
I got several interesting responses, and today I’d like to share three of them, edited for length and clarity — a kind of portrait of Rhode Islanders in transition.
“My story begins in my late teens, early 20s, when part-time job savings enabled me to purchase a Fuji S10S 10-speed touring bike,” writes George W. Johnson of Coventry. “It was THE hot bike to have at the time, and I loved it.
“For about 10 years, I cycled all around the state and Southeast Mass … weekend rides of varying lengths up to and including several ‘century’ (100-mile) rides.
“Starting in the late ‘80s though, life and duty overtook carefree endeavors; soon the Fuji was delegated to a dusty corner of the basement. When I moved to a new home, I couldn’t part with the beloved, if unused, Fuji and it came along — now perched high (too high for easy access) on the garage wall.
“Well, the pandemic changed things. It not only gave me more free time, it also focused my attention on mortality – the shortness of life, and the importance of doing what matters most, what you truly love, while time remains.
“Sometime in early June, as the days lengthened and warmed, I wandered into the garage and looked up. There was my old reliable friend — beckoning me.
“I took the bike down, cleaned off years of dust and pumped the tires (miraculously, they held air). Both of us tarnished and a bit rusty in places, we took off – an unlikely pair, shaky and unsteady, only venturing as far as the end of the cul de sac that first journey.
“But, at the end of the trip, I found myself smiling; not something I had done much at all during the pandemic.
“Since then, Fuji and I have progressively gained courage and steadily advanced in distances covered and speed, relearning the defensive maneuvers needed to navigate in traffic, adding in some more hilly routes. We’re getting there; but it is still a tentative venture — disaster looms in every unsteady weave, each dulled reflex.
“While frequently physically exhausted, I’m feeling reborn in other ways. The rushing of wind past your face on a steep downhill brings an exhilaration unfelt in years!
“While I don’t hold the delusion that any century rides remain in my future, for now at least, cycling the entirety of Rhode Island’s greenway network seems a tantalizing, maybe feasible goal for next season.
“But is it all a pandemic-induced dream? Can it sustain?
“Only time will tell.”
Lee Waterbury-Chappell, who lives in Wakefield, is thinking more about interior changes.
“After six months or so of being cooped up in the house,” she writes, “having cleaned out closets, made new slipcovers, binged on anything interesting on the streaming channels, I’ve found that I’m left with ME — and that is a problem. I don’t like having my wings clipped; it has left me prickly and ungrateful.
“I’d love to change how quickly I’m apt to judge lately. I’m old enough to know that it’s wrong. I’m smart enough to keep my mouth shut, but thinking others don’t pick up on my intolerance and judgy mindset is delusional.
“I’m trying to develop a simple strategy when judgment bombards its way into my brain. What I’ve come up with is a tattoo (one of the many things I have judgments about). ‘L&LL’ on the palm of my hand would be an acronym for ‘Live and Let Live.’ I’m hoping that during those few seconds when I have a choice as to how I might react, the acronym would stop me before I open my yapper or run too far with my negative thoughts.
“A friend thinks a better idea might be to write the acronym on my palm with a Sharpie every morning as I leisurely sip my coffee in a heated home with a fridge stocked with food while living in the best country in the world. I do not miss her point: the daily drill is to work on staying decent, right-sized and grateful, because things could always be a helluva lot worse.”
Finally, Dr. John F.X. Horan, of East Greenwich, offered a mix of highs and lows — but mostly highs.
“I pulled out my old guitar and began learning to play again,” he wrote.
“I pray more.
“I exercise outside with my wife more.
“I haven’t held my new granddaughter since her birth, on my birthday, in July.
“I have visited my 89-year-old mother in Connecticut three times, in her backyard, six feet apart with masks.
“My work as a physician has been more rewarding.
“I have slowed down, calmed down, and appreciated things — and each other — more.”
— Alan Rosenberg is The Journal’s executive editor.