I have a confession to make. Every night at the eight o’clock clapping party, I shed a few tears. Who knows why I become so emotional. Maybe it’s because this town, tucked away on the Atlantic coast more than 600 kilometres away from Madrid and the epicentre of the virus, still bothers to clap after 25 days of lockdown.
Or maybe it’s because my neighbour directly below, the man we call Mr. Perfect Garden, who, in pre-lockdown days, barely cracked a smile despite his extraordinary cabbages, has just started emerging from his shed at the appointed hour to bang a pot.
But what gets me every time is the family in the apartment building on the street below – the little girl and her parents. They never miss a night, sometimes waving balloons, sometimes white streamers. When the girl started yelling, “Gracias! Gracias!” the other night, waving frantically at the passing police cars and ambulance, her mother’s arm around her shoulders, I had to go inside and get a tissue.
Psychologists around the world are now warning of things like this – heightened emotions caused by “lockdown mental health” issues, with some organizations going so far as to call this current state of affairs “the world’s biggest psychological experiment.”
To mitigate the effects of lockdown mind (Exercise! Exercise! they advise), I’ve been experimenting with a 20-year old workout video whose soundtrack has been compared to “a porn shoot at a K-Mart” and its production quality to something created on a Commodore 64.
Nevertheless, Tony of Beachbody Power 90, and his workout companions Lisa and Paul, have officially joined the stray cats as my closest lockdown buddies. Every other day, we stretch and jump and punch together.
Tony cares, saying things like, “How are we doing at home? How are we doing? Hang in there!” He always seems to know how to cheer me up, advising me to “Just keep moving. It’s better to move a little than stop altogether”; or, my favourite, “Now, hey look, this is hard, hopping up and down like a bunny rabbit. Do what you can do.”
What can I do but love Tony and Paul in their baggy black gym shorts, and Lisa in her red and white sports-bra-and-tiny-shorts combo? Every workout I notice something new in the 42-minute Level 1-2 Cardio Abs video – which, by the way, is yet another symptom of lockdown mind: Hypersensitivity to detail.
I note the crosses made from black electrical tape for the step sequences and bunny hops. I note the soft glow of the yellow and blue pools of light on the wall. Tony’s nuggets of wisdom seep into me effortlessly, like a sponge soaking up water. Now I can predict exactly what he’s going to say, and we can recite together: “You thought you could get off easy. You thought you could skip side kicks. But, no. Sorry.”
Not only do I feel refreshed and enlightened after one of Tony’s workouts, and deserving of a glass of wine, they remind me of happier days, days when it was summer and I lived in a big city beside a popular park.
That’s where I first got to know Tony on the hardwood floor of a living room on Christie Street. That’s when I was still with my husband, and happy, and we all bent and jumped and side-kicked together. It was the summer of heat waves and watching baseball games at Christie Pits and eating ice cream cones and going on picnics by the lake.
For months I’ve avoided my Power 90 friends for precisely this reason. Who wants to be reminded of happiness when you’re miserable? But extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and Tony’s words have never felt so right.
“If you get really exhausted, if you’re just starting out, pick up your remote and push pause,” he says during the twist-hand-to-knee section. “And that’s okay, cause guess what?” he asks, looking me straight in the eye as he touches left knee to right elbow. “We’ll be there when you come back. I guarantee you.”