The following excerpt is from my upcoming first novel, Selfried and the Secrets, and provides a unique take on physical distancing. I wrote this scene six months ago, but it seems very relevant in our current reality. Remember, stay healthy, stay home.
"Her concern for her younger brother’s safety kept Charlotte up at night. Chris was different, he lacked finesse and social skills when it came to interacting with others. Despite the fact that his mind was a steel trap, never forgetting anything he saw, read or heard, he struggled with unwritten social norms.
As a young boy, their mother had taken him two towns over to learn about proper distancing when you were in public, because they had a shop with automatic doors. Chris couldn’t grasp that people expected you to remain outside their “invisible bubble,” as their mother had described it, and so he always stood too close to strangers. This kind of behaviour would get him into trouble, she explained to Charlotte, and was a key factor in her pulling Charlotte out of school to homeschool both children. Charlotte could help around the house during her brother’s lessons, her mother no longer needed to drive her to school—since the elementary school was even further away than the high school and the bus didn’t stop in their town—and could then focus more of her time and energy on preparing Chris for life outside their home.
And that’s how they found themselves outside the automatic doors on a summer day, waiting for a break in shoppers, and coaxing Chris forward until he was close enough to trigger the sensor and witness for himself the opening doors. Their mother explained that if the doors were a person, standing close enough for them to open meant Chris was inside the person’s privacy bubble, and that was too close. He needed to back up ever so slightly—too far away could also be off-putting as you would need to raise your voice to speak—so that the doors remained closed and the strangers weren’t on guard.
The lesson lasted over two hours, as Chris paced back and forth, counting off the number of small steps, and then the number of large steps, required to keep the doors from opening. Finally, their mother felt he was ready to test out his new social skills at another store, where he couldn’t use the cues of the surrounding environment to determine if he was remaining just outside the bubble. She piled them back into the car and drove for half an hour, before stopping in a town that was completely new to both Chris and Charlotte. Their juvenile minds were fascinated to discover new sights and sounds, despite the fact that this stop lasted less than 30 seconds. After parking the car in a new-to-them store parking lot, their mother turned to Chris and instructed him to approach the doors as if it was a person who wanted their privacy bubble preserved. Ever the obedient son, Chris hopped out and walked confidently towards the automatic doors, his older sister marvelling at the determination in his step. He stopped just shy of the door, turned to see his mother’s nod of approval, then leaned forward until he heard the telltale swish of the doors opening.
One lesson down, so many to go to keep Chris safe in a world that didn’t understand that his brain was wired differently, that he couldn’t decipher social cues or interpret nonverbal communication. Charlotte became very protective of her brother in public, working to help her mother train his brain to function outside the home without drawing attention, or worse, ire to his actions."
Image source: CDC/ Richard Duncan, MRP, Sr. Proj. Mngr, North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design (free of copyright restricitions)
Text: Copyright Amanda Sterczyk, 2020, All rights reserved.
When the first cruise ship was quarantined due to an outbreak of COVID-19, news outlets shared footage of passengers wearing face masks while exercising on their private balconies. My first thought was, “Oh, that’s smart of them to keep moving.”
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases around the world, more and more people are going to be spending time in isolation. Whether you live in an area that is under quarantine or have chosen to self-isolate for whatever reasons, you can still—and should—be physically active every day. Not sure what to do? Read on and I’ll give you some tips on staying active. But first…
Doctor’s orders. If you are sick and have been advised to not exercise, your doctor’s orders trump mine and any other fitness professional’s advice. It is, after all, a respiratory illness that causes shortness of breath. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit a trusted source. In Canada, that means listening to Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, and her team at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“Don’t panic.” Those are the words on the front of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and they are relevant even today. The same principles of healthy living apply even if you can’t leave your current location: eat a healthy diet, stay active, get a good night’s sleep, stay positive (i.e., don’t panic), and maintain contact with friends and family (phone calls, emails, texts, video chats are all great ways to stay connected). All of these factors will help you maintain a strong immune system.
Move. Just because you can’t get to the gym or fitness class, you can still get up and move. Here are some tips:
I hope this list helps you to stay active and maintain a positive outlook during these challenging times. Remember: move more, feel better.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.