16 Pairs of Shoes (The Pandemic Diaries)

Lisbeth Life, Mindset

I wrote a fair amount in Pandemic Year 1 … but it felt like absolutely nothing.

None of my words were good enough or big enough to save us. But nobody’s words could do that. (Are we even save-able? Stay tuned. The show is still running.)

Everything I wrote felt useless.

I was just barely getting by myself so how could I even pretend to help anyone else?

So I didn’t hit “publish.” Nobody wants to see a lifeguard drowning. That freaks out the whole beach.

But I’m in a new city with a new job and a new life. Time to get back in the groove! Here’s a selection of what didn’t get published over the past year. You judge as to whether any of it’s worthwhile.

April 28, 2020: “Are You Scared?”

“Are you scared?”

I got asked that one day in the Time Before All This Began.

“Are you scared?”

It was a half-joke from a friendly co-worker when I introduced the concept of social distancing by standing away from the meeting table and near an open door. It was early March.

We had heard about the coronavirus but nobody in America really thought it was coming that hard and fast. It was just another thing … and we had more important things to do, like shop and complain about nothing. Sure, we’ll use the hand sanitizer (thanks) but don’t be getting wigged out by it. Just another flu. Just another panic.

“No, I’m not scared,” I answered my co-worker. “I’m just smart. Very, very smart.”

They all sat elbow to elbow. One of my other co-workers followed my lead and took a chair in the corner away from the group. The safety guy came late to the meeting (as usual) and shut the door behind him, bellying up to the table.

“Open it up,” somebody yelled.

“Why?” asked Safety Guy.

“Because she wants it open,” somebody else said, pointing to me.

I think about that time and it feels like a million years ago.

I feel like America was just like my co-workers, ready to be helpful (“she wants the door open”) but not really understanding why. We needed national leadership that told us why. Instead, we got Stupid Donald and a huge mess. A ruined economy and more death coming.

When do we wake up from this nightmare?

May 3, 2020: Things I Never Thought I’d Say:

  • “Ohhh, we’re using the good toilet paper!”
  • “I’m going into the backyard for a haircut.”
  • “Why would I wear pants that didn’t have a stretchy waistband?”

May 12, 2020: What Will Be The New Normal?

Are you waiting to “go back to normal”?

Me too. Or maybe not.

I don’t want the old normal, not anymore. And yet I crave it. I crave some normalcy. Just folks being folks again.

But I don’t really want the old normal. Because – honestly – the old normal kind of sucked.

Our nation had some messed up things going on and then we just slammed everything on pause.

Maybe there will be no normal again. Not in the way we knew it before. Maybe that’s all gone and those protests in the news are about more than opening the economy. Maybe those protests are really more of the last gasps of a society that’s changing.

These days are simultaneously depressing and exhilarating.

We have this big, beautiful opportunity to change things, to build a new and better life for ourselves, our kids, this society, this world.

Will we take it? Or let it slip through our fingers?

I don’t know. I’ve spent 59 days in my house now. I’m the designated driver, not the designated shopper so I only see the inside of my car, anybody who walks by my garage when I’m working out, and whoever I cross (wide) paths with on my evening walk. Oh, besides Zoom calls. But do those even count?

I guess what I’m really scared of is that the new normal will be more of the old normal.

And I’m also scared that the new normal will be different. So, really, I’m just scared.

How about you?

May 12, 2020: Immediate Life

The immediacy of life right now is a bit overwhelming.

  • If an article wasn’t written during this time of COVID, why read it?
  • If the photo shows people close together without masks, it’s old and irrelevant. Or they’re Republicans. (Same thing?)
  • If the news is more than 3 days old, pass. It might as well be three years old.

Our lives have changed so much so quickly. And yet …

I go to the beach and the ocean still comes in waves. People swim. People surf. People fish. Like people have always done here in this surf town jammed up against the cliffs.

I still eat ice cream and go for walks. Grab my mask and go where people aren’t. It’s nice to breathe the cool evening air so the roads away from the beach are best for me and my little dog.

I walk the streets and count the shops with lights on. Four shops only:

  • the liquor store
  • the pizza joint
  • the Chinese restaurant
  • the convenience mart

This is what remains on this block. And I wonder if even those will survive.

May 17, 2020: Why the Old Ways Died

Maybe the old ways died for a reason. Maybe we don’t want to go back to what we had.

But this new world is so odd that many people want their old lives back.

What do I know?  I’m a (now remote) knowledge worker in a liberal surf town on the cliffs of the Pacific. Nothing is real here but the tide. Goes in and out every day. People in wetsuits get in the freezing water and try to look cool before they get tossed in the air and pulled under.

Sounds like what’s been happening to all of us lately. Except nobody’s really trying hard to look cool. We’re all enjoying our pants with elastic waistbands.

Will this last? This time? This reset? These new ways?

No. You can already see it cracking. People are sniping and fighting and refusing to wear masks because it “infringes on their freedom.”

Jeez. If that’s not the rallying cry of punks, I don’t know what is.

May 18, 2020: King Arthur’s Bounty

I got all excited buying a bag of flour yesterday.


This is my life now.

I’m both sad and happy in these moments, just like in every moment lately. The emotions roll together because nothing is the same anymore.

Since this started, I’ve been fond of saying “Anything can happen now” … because it can.

If dinosaurs parachute into my backyard tomorrow, I won’t be surprised. I’ll just ask them to spray their paws please and keep 6 feet away. It is a pandemic.

Actually, it’s Pandemic #1 but let’s not get into the long view right now. That’s too depressing.

I found a notebook from January – which might as well be 1922 since our days are months and our months are decades now. Time warped on all of us. In that notebook, I had two goals:

  • Use my phone less
  • Spend less time on Facebook

Ha! Those goals don’t even matter now. My phone has become my inseparable wubbie and Facebook suddenly became a thing again. Also, if I spend less time on Facebook, how will I ever continue my defriending streak? I can’t be driving to people’s houses and unchecking an imaginary box on their front stoop. Jeez.

June 17, 2020: Lower Those Expectations

You might create nothing beautiful during this pandemic.

That’s the hard truth and the sooner you’re okay with it, the faster you might make something worthwhile. Seriously.

There exists a very real probability that in this time of stress and pause, you may not write your most compelling work or lead the most phenomenal team. You might not be the best mom or dad, daughter or son, partner, friend, neighbor, or employee.

You might just cope and survive. You might just get through these days. Nothing more.

Can you find your way to being okay with that?

  • Did you really think you could be a rockstar mom 24/7 in your own house, with your family on top of each other all day?
  • Did you think you could be the best employee in your sweatpants with your brain all fuzzy from trying to figure out how to protect your family from the latest threat?
  • Did you really think you could be a better athlete working out by yourself in your garage?

Of course not. But you weren’t really thinking all that through, were you?

None of us were. None of us are.

We’re all reacting and coping and handing in less than stellar performances in many areas of our lives … and we need to find our way to being okay with that.

We need to expect less of ourselves in some moments.

May 28, 2020: Pockets

I don’t know what to do with all the sadness in the world. I don’t have enough pockets to hold it all.

Lately, my heart starts so full each day with sadness and then somewhere I pick up another piece of sadness — pandemic deaths, jobs lost — and then this time his name was George Floyd and the last time it was Ahmaud Arbery  … and the fact that I even write “this time”, well, my heart expands to hold even more sadness.

I don’t care for these expansions but I care for the very real human beings that this news and these videos represent. So much pain. So much sadness. So few answers.

Racism gets its own pockets in my pockets. I don’t know how to fix this or how to make society better. And I can’t bring George Floyd back. I don’t know how to make so many white people not so scared around anyone who isn’t white. I don’t understand that fear and I’m trying to.

But what to do? I married a Latino man. I have half-Latino kids. I hire with diversity in mind.

But it’s not enough. What more can I do? What more can we do?

Because we’ve got to do something. I don’t have enough pockets for the sadness. No one does. And the answer isn’t to sew more pockets. The answer is not to need these pockets.

June 10, 2020: What Happens Next?

Once I heard a guy say this: “I believe the universe will mete out its punishment on those who fuck their friends.”

And then I watched him fuck his friends.

Sometimes the folks who talk good don’t always do good.

But that’s how life is, right? We are all deeply flawed humans and those braying loudest about shortcomings – intellectual, physical, emotional – are often those in search of it, bereft of it or at least a little shy of it sometimes.

And that applies to me, too. I write about mindset because I need a strong mindset to effectively deal with the flood of life rushing over my dam every damn day. My reminders to others serve as reminders to myself. That we all have so much in common is a daily surprise to me.

July 12, 2020: Moving On

They say that when you know better, you do better. I’d like to think that’s true for all of us.

Lately, as headlines have swirled about the world concerning Greg Glassman and CrossFit, Inc., I have had a chance to think back on the six years I worked for CFHQ.

I don’t like to talk about those years much. They’re in the past and I’m far more interested in today and the future. And the people closest to me have urged me not to linger in the shadows of those memories. My best self is not there.

My best self is right here, right now. It took me a long time to build her and I’m certainly not willing to let her go now.

One hot July day in 2014, I walked out of CrossFit headquarters with my stuff in a box. I was a 48-year-old single mother of two teenagers and I was suddenly unemployed. But it was worse than that: CrossFit hadn’t just been my job. It had been my life for six+ years. I was untethered, adrift, not sure where to turn or what to do.

It took me a long time to heal and move forward. Anyone who has been suddenly unemployed knows exactly how that void can rock you to your core. But I found my way and I’m a stronger and better person now than I ever have been, and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the people who helped me get here – and that includes some folks from the CrossFit community.

So why am I telling you this story? Because people are wondering and asking questions about my time at CrossFit HQ. But here’s the thing: When CrossFit and I parted ways, we parted ways. They went their way and I went mine. It was hard but I think it was healthier for me.

I’ve spent 12 years writing this blog and I’ve published six books since that hot July day. Everything anyone wants to know is in the million or so words I’ve already written.

And the one thing I know is this: all we have is who we are today, right here, right now, in this moment.

I know who I am and that’s good enough for me.

July 13, 2020: Your Worth Is Not Your Job

Your worth is not your job.

It’s not your position, your title, your salary, or any other damn thing associated with how you earn money in this world.

How you earn money.

Think about that. Your worth being tied up in how you earn money. How ridiculous.

And yet we have to remind ourselves. Because we live in America. Because the land of the free is not free

At least not here in California, where I type these words in a stunningly beautiful and expensive beach town. A place I’ll soon be moving from. Nine years ago, a company called CrossFit moved me to this town, asking me to uproot my family from my hometown in Connecticut. I ran at the chance.

And now I’m ready to leave. I’ve been ready to leave for a while yet I kept delaying … but when the company I worked for recently went on extended recess, there was my chance.

The universe sends you messages. Be smart enough to listen.

I’ll see you in Seattle.

July 19, 2020: 16 Pairs of Shoes

I have 16 pairs of shoes upstairs in my closet that I have not worn since February.


I’m not rich. Just a COVID hermit like the rest of you.

There are 5 pairs of shoes downstairs by my front door and I wear them throughout the week:

  • 2 pairs of walking shoes
  • 1 pair of workout shoes
  • 1 pair of cycling shoes
  • and 1 pair of Birkies. (I’m a lesbian. The Birkie wearing is required by code.)

But you might now be asking yourself the same question I was, like “What the hell was I doing with 16 pairs of shoes?”

You also might be asking yourself:

  • What is a purse?
  • Why did I drive 30 minutes (or 60 or 90) to work in a building five days a week?
  • Who the fuck was I?

As we all know, things got real pretty damn fast for most of us in this pandemic. Maybe not the billionaires – they’re still off doing pointless shit and growing their portfolios – but for the rest of us, who were sold and easily bought lots of shit we really didn’t need.

Wow, that was an easy way to keep us with our noses to the grindstone. The list for “what should I do with my money” never got shorter. We just worked harder to buy more.

And now we realize it was so much bullshit.

Just like so many work rules. I laugh to think now that just two weeks before COVID closed down Northern CA, I was battling with my workplace to work from home one day per week. One day. Even with a letter from my doctor. “Please file for a disability with the state and we’ll review your request.” 

Two weeks later COVID hit and suddenly that same company really wanted me to work from home. Um, yeah, okay.

Now I work fully remote for a different company in a much sweeter gig.

But I still wonder what to do with those 16 pairs of shoes.

Dec 10, 2020: What the Pandemic Gave Us

I’m not going to write about what the pandemic took from me. It took so much from all of us.

To write about what we have lost is like trying to catch a waterfall. Your hands can only hold so much.

But I’d be a liar if I said the pandemic didn’t give to us. It gave us so much. I almost feel guilty admitting that.

What the pandemic gave to us is what we had not been willing to admit but which was true before Covid and will be true after Covid: We are all connected and all that really matters is today, this hour, this moment.

Amidst all this unbearable sadness and loss, the Pandemic gave us to us. Let us not waste this time and these lessons.



Lisbeth Life, Mindset

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