**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Lisa Whalen’s book, Stable Weight: A Memoir of Hunger, Horses, and Hope, will be available from Hopewell Publications on March 2, 2021. Her writing has also appeared in An Introvert in an Extrovert World; The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield; Introvert, Dear; and Adanna, among other publications. Whalen has a Ph.D. in postsecondary and adult education and an M.A. in creative and critical writing. She teaches composition, creative writing, literature, and journalism at North Hennepin Community College, where she was selected Minnesota College Faculty Association Educator of the Year in 2019. In her spare time, she is an equestrian and volunteer for the Animal Humane Society. Learn more at her website and follow her on social media @LisaIrishWhalen.
I have always disliked yardwork—or any outdoor work, for that matter. I hated that it was dirty, sweaty, and left me with sore muscles despite regular exercise. Worst of all, it turned me into Sisyphus, a character from Greek mythology who was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a boulder uphill, watching it roll down, and then pushing it up again. It seemed I would just finish mowing, weeding, or raking, only to find that the grass had grown, new weeds had sprouted, and more leaves had fallen.
But COVID-19 changed my attitude.
Like many people, I saw my life turned upside-down last March. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk to the neighborhood coffee shop and write. I couldn’t sit in a patch of sunlight at the library and edit my book about eating disorder recovery. I couldn’t participate in group fitness classes on the YMCA’s roof and savor spring’s increasingly blue skies. I couldn’t attend weekend horseback riding lessons, which were the only outdoor activity I enjoyed. Overnight, my work and social life had been reduced to sitting in front of my laptop. I couldn’t escape staring at a screen. I needed an outlet—a way to shake off stiffness in my body and mind.