Turns Out It’s Pretty Good: Going Outside

We live beside a large condo development that’s currently in the early stages of construction. Sure, I love a window. Thankfully, my partner is there to take our kid for a walk while I blast a happy light at my face and play New York Times mini-crosswords until I feel both sadly accomplished and eerily perky. I just like to nest. I struggle with depression and anxiety and bad days can pummel me past my most introverted state to a place of sluggardly darkness. There are three cranes visible from the west-facing windows of our apartment. I get a hit of dopamine from the most banal of polite stranger interactions. For those of us not going into a physical workplace, especially those who’ve been laid off or put careers largely on hold to raise kids or care for loved ones, there is nowhere we need to go but exactly where we are, and this soporific sameness is akin to riding a carousel, forever. Why would I sleep on the floor of Lindsay Murphy’s creepy unfinished basement when my cozy bed was waiting for me? Errands count as outings, in fact, they’ve become events. As soon as we got out to the sidewalk, her eyes filled with tears and she asked to go inside. Once I’m able to get outside again, I never regret it. The other day, my daughter found a puddle on the sidewalk, gazed into it and said “Hi, baby” to her reflection. I don’t think when I’m outside, apart from in the moment decisions like which way should I go or where the hell did my kid drop her mitten. By Carla Ciccone

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Why are we so skeptical of the things right in front of us? She talks about them all the time, has named some of her toys after them, and wants to see them up close. I scooped her up and carried her back to the comfort of our home, because we’d already done it. One of my worries, and there are many, is that the strangeness of seeing this construction, in place of different people’s faces and in-person interaction with peers her own age, will have long-term effects on my toddler’s development. A hermit type by nature, I can spend ghastly amounts of time at home when left to my own devices, and long before the pandemic was a word we heard every day, I did. Even if you picked the prettiest painted pony, after a while, your butt starts to hurt and you’d like to get off and go eat a corndog. It wasn’t season or weather dependent. Snow boots might be shunned for slippers. In years past, I’ve enjoyed peeking out and watching what’s going on, even if it’s just squirrels running across fence tops like furry little acrobats. I don’t look at my phone, either. This dreadful year has made me rethink my reclusive tendencies. While I enjoyed our family camping trips and nature walks, and these experiences no doubt added to my childhood, I wouldn’t have volunteered to do them. The other day, I got my daughter all bundled up and she happily counted the steps as we descended. Home has been my shelter, my office, my escape from the world, and my good, good friend. We’d gone outside. Of the many hard lessons the pandemic and its lockdowns hath wrought, my main takeaway is that a love of seclusion wholly depends on the contrast of having other things to do and places to be. Still, there are days when I’m too lethargic to leave my house. Growing up, I was the kid at the sleepover who’d get freaked out and call my mom to come get me late at night. As the winter weather settles in, the process of going outside becomes a great dressing negotiation. I wave at my friendly neighbor who mysteriously burns trash in his backyard at night. Fittingly, I was raised by outdoorsy people. I smile at strangers, while my daughter points and says “Mask!” to the good people wearing them. She, of course, loves them (the cranes, the moon). I will put on mascara to go to the drug store, where I’ll find myself staring at makeup for extended periods the way I used to stare at the ocean, basking in the wild freedom that has become a well executed L’Oreal display. The cranes are cold, steel ladders that stretch up to the moon, which we can still see out in the early morning hours. I don’t leave my house “for exercise,” because sometimes my walks are under five minutes long, or to “get some fresh air,” because I often walk along a polluted Toronto street choking on the exhaust of speeding cars that whiz by. Not leaving your house because you love it is one thing; not leaving because you’re stuck emotionally is another. She knows it’s her in there, but she doesn’t get to see many other babies these days. And this is one of the reasons I go outside, every day, for no set amount of time, to tour the perimeter of a construction site. Mittens are often refused. When I could choose, I chose being alone, inside. And that’s all we have to do. Most days, even cold, snowy ones, forcing myself to walk down the steps and outside, even just to circle the block while my kid gleefully greets the neighborhood construction cranes and dogs, gives us a refreshing break from the tedium of indoor life. My fellow homebodies are not in their element right now, because no one is. “Turns Out It’s Pretty Good” is a series that examines the path from resisting the well-known to wholeheartedly endorsing it.

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