Finding sunshine and a purple flower in the shadow of coronavirus

Running uphill: The power of 'good morning' and a day off

The smell of a bakery... (photo credit: YAHAV GAMLIEL/FLASH90)
The smell of a bakery...
(photo credit: YAHAV GAMLIEL/FLASH90)
About halfway through my run on Monday morning I realized that I was smiling – breathing hard, running even faster than usual, with a spring in my step, and smiling.
It was the second morning of my two days off from work. Taking a couple of days off is something obvious for most people. But I happen to love my job – OK, I am obsessed with it.
I am a workaholic, and the news is my drug.
The constant beeping of the phone with its thousands of daily WhatsApp and push notifications and text messages. The hundreds of emails and phone calls. The way the buzzes, beeps, bings sometimes make my heart pound.
I am driving and I cannot read the latest notification and I worry that something broke and my team and I are not on top of it.
A headline flashes across the screen and I stop whatever I am doing to circle it with my digital pen and send it to the Internet desk to find out more.
I read most of the Hebrew news websites, many of the English ones and Facebook and Twitter, looking for interesting stories.
And when I do not stare at my phone and computer screen or spend the day talking to sources and reporters, I go through a little bit of withdrawal.
But sometimes we all need a break.
To be honest, I was not vacationing. I spent Sunday doing nothing but practical stuff: paying bills and updating invoices and receipts from freelance work that my husband and I used to do more of before the coronavirus era hit and killed his speaking tours, and before I started covering a pandemic that robs me of any free time I used to have and exhausts me if the time does exist.
I filed and tossed and crossed things that had been on my to-do list for so long I could not even remember when I put them there.
MY HUSBAND took off for the occasion, too, and when we went to bed on Saturday night we made a promise to each other: No matter how stressful it would be to handle the mess that has become our lives in the last eight or nine months, we would not fight, we would not yell and we would not take it out on each other.
I woke up earlier than him – that is usual – and took care of all the housekeeping I do for work on a daily basis, just to make sure my team was set up for success that day.
Then, I went into our bedroom and the first thing I said to my husband was, “Good morning. Thanks for making my day great.”
He was a little puzzled, but it worked. I am just starting our day off right, I told him. Last week, we had no hot water and I cursed during cold showers before work. When he closed the blinds and I overslept by 35 minutes I told him that my day was now ruined.
This would be a good day.
Gil and I worked until 1:30 a.m., and we finished everything. And we did not fight. I let his comment about our daughter not washing the dishes willingly roll off. He ignored my snide remark that he was eating too loudly when I was trying to concentrate on some spreadsheet or another.
I made pancakes and eggs and fresh fruit smoothies for the children – for dinner. I ran 12 kilometers in the morning and still took the kids to the exercise park in the late afternoon to blow off some steam during a family-fun HIT workout, in which I nailed 500 sit-ups and almost as many jumping jacks and squats.
I did not drink Coke Zero – not even one cup.
And I still managed to write one short article just before the deadline to feed my soul.
By the end of the day, with a big glass of red wine in hand and a warm shower, we were as happy as newlyweds, totally accomplished and convinced it had been the best day ever.
SO ON Monday, when I woke up for my second day off, I laced up my running shoes and headed for another run. I decided to put on my new running shoes – not new like I just bought them, but new like I had not worn them yet.
When I buy running shoes, I usually purchase two pairs of the same ones, and only when I have completely destroyed the first ones will I allow myself to enjoy the cushion of the next pair. But I decided to treat myself to some self-pampering, so I laced up the gray pair and headed out the door.
I approached the track with a power and a spring in my step, my music blasting, my face alight with the sun beaming down. The vision of the soldier who had just returned home and his girlfriend or fiancée who ran to him and embraced him with such vigor – a scene I witnessed as I headed toward the track.
There was the bright purple flower I saw on the edge of a bush.
The white dog and the great big brown dog and the tan and brown cat, which I saw nestle in the mud to do its thing and become startled when I passed.
The smell of the bakery.
As I turned onto the running path, I saw a first familiar face and then another – my hevra was out there running, walking, lifting weights, too.
I do not know their names, to be honest, but they are my friends.
I have been running in the same area of Jerusalem for the past five years. A couple of years into it, I started an experiment: I would say boker tov to everyone I passed. The Arab women with their keffiyehs and long robes, the older man with the polo shirt and skinny legs and the one with the white beard and striped shorts. There is the Sephardi man with his bulging muscles who is always on the workout equipment and the woman with the purple hair who walks her dog.
“Boker tov.” “Boker tov.” I would say it to everyone I passed. At first, people would jump – they were not used to it. Some would look away. Others would wave back, and most people would smile.
Eventually, it became a thing. Now, they often say it to me before I can get the words out.
Two days off put a new enthusiasm in my “good morning.”
The writer is news editor and head of online content and strategy for The Jerusalem Post.