I’m not going anywhere

I’m pedaling in place, and finding peace in that.

In the past month, I sold my car and bought a stationary bike. While I appreciate a good metaphor, this one seems a little too on the nose.

Becoming a one-car household made sense. Since we both work at home, Billy and I drive somewhere just once or twice a week. By selling my car, we’ve been able to save on auto insurance and set aside the cash for upcoming expenses.

Still, it was a little bittersweet. I bought my Prius in October, less than a year ago. It was a used car, but I purchased it on my own and paid it off fully. I was proud of that! Selling it—for thousands less, as tends to happen with cars—felt a bit like defeat.

Buying the stationary bike made sense, too. Florida summers are unbearably hot and humid, even more so when you’re six months pregnant. Having the ability to do some light exercise in the comfort of air conditioning is absolutely worth it. (The bike was super affordable, too. If you’re looking for a no-frills option that doesn’t take up too much space, I recommend it.)

The irony of selling a mode of transportation that allowed me to travel freely only to buy a piece of equipment designed to pedal in place is not lost on me. It’s an annoyingly perfect encapsulation of life at the moment: I’m not going anywhere.

The farthest I’ve traveled since mid-March was to St. Pete Beach, a 20-minute drive away. I thought a solo beach excursion would feel like glorious freedom, but I wound up being on edge the entire time. The beach was packed with people, not a mask in sight, and I was on high alert, making sure no one got too close to me. I walked the shore for a half-hour or so, then got back into my car and returned home. It was not the relaxing experience I was seeking.

For the past four months, Billy and I have largely stayed in our bubble, leaving the house only for the occasional grocery trip, doctor’s visit, or important errand. We haven’t gone on a vacation, even a close-by staycation, not only out of extreme precaution, but also because we’re trying not to spend too much money. It’s been a humbling experience.

After Jamie died, I traveled often. Our house—the same house that Billy and I live in today—was painfully quiet and full of reminders of Jamie’s absence. Whenever it became too unbearable to be at home, I left. In 2017, I traveled to Atlanta five times, visited both Chicago and the Blue Ridge Mountains twice, and spent a few days in a handful of other cities. When I wasn’t traveling, friends and family traveled to visit me. And during the in-between times, I was likely with my friends John and Josie, who were my steadfast grief companions. (Seriously, thank you both.)

Being alone, especially in the house I shared with Jamie, proved to be too difficult for more than a few days in a row. My mind easily slipped into dark and hopeless places. I soon realized that getting out of the house was integral to my self-care.

It’s wild to compare that year to this one. Now, I never leave home. I spend all of my days with the partner I never thought I’d find, watching the growth of my belly that holds the baby I never thought I’d have. I’m living without the dog I thought I couldn’t live without, and I’m finding ways to survive—and some days, even thrive in—a global reality I never even began to imagine. And this house I used to avoid? I’m appreciating it more than ever before.

That’s not to say that I don’t suffer from cabin fever. It’s been hard for me lately to log onto social media and see evidence of other people’s travels; not so much because I worry about their safety, but because I’m a bit envious. There’s plenty to appreciate at home, sure, but spending a few days hiking in the mountains or lounging in a pool would be glorious.

It’s something I daydream about often. I never even cared about the concept of a babymoon—until I couldn’t go on one.

But for health and financial reasons, we’re staying put. Remarkably, it’s not that bad. Once a place I needed to escape, home has now become my sanctuary. Billy and I have poured a significant amount of our energy over the past few months into house projects, doing everything from pressure washing the patio to building nursery furniture. We’re cooking more than ever before, and have both enjoyed a boost in culinary confidence. And while we’ve made very few quarantine purchases, the select items we’ve bought have been things that make home life better, like mini-baking sheets and that trusty stationary bike.

Once the baby arrives, we’ll be even more tethered to our surroundings. That gives me even greater reason to focus on creating a life that I don’t need to escape from. Instead of counting down the days until my next vacation, I’m looking for ways to feel more centered within my current environment. It’s like an extreme version of nesting: I’m not only preparing the baby’s room, but giving extra love and attention to every corner of our home. For now, I’m just cycling in place, learning how to stay still and appreciate it.



Your best pandemic purchase

Within days of setting up our bike, Billy declared it our “best pandemic purchase by far.” He’s right. Even though we’re going nowhere, that piece of exercise equipment has helped us both to be less sedentary. 

Chances are, the past few months have impacted your shopping habits. Personally, I find that I’m buying a lot less stuff, and being more mindful about the few purchases I do make. What about you? I’d love to hear about the best item you’ve bought over the past few months. What did you buy, and how has it made quarantine life more enjoyable?

Share your best pandemic purchases by replying to this email, leaving a comment, or sending me a message. I’ll compile a roundup of responses in Thursday’s subscriber-only newsletter.

And speaking of smart buys, now is a good time to consider subscribing to My Sweet Dumb Brain! It’s just $5/month or $50/year. Who knows? It might make quarantine just a little bit easier to bear.

My Sweet Dumb Brain is written by Katie Hawkins-Gaar. It’s edited by Rebecca Coates, who has recently been eyeing campers on Craigslist ... 🤔

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