2020 – April and May Reflections

Athena Perez
by 

January 17, 2021

April

Ten days into April and what I thought would be a two week stay at home order continued. I will admit I started getting restless by the day. If I wasn’t racing around trying to make sure I could keep cleaning supplies and toilet paper in my house, I was trying to find ways to appease my disdain for “at-home workouts.” I cooked a lot more, and it gave me time to experiment with more Zone recipes, and of course, I was preparing for the upcoming book launch. There was still plenty of editing and revisions happening. This is about the time I started experiencing the highs and lows of putting out a book. It’s an arduous process, but furthermore, I was always fighting my insecurities about what people might think. One day I would feel confident and excited; the next, I was wondering if I might chicken out and not publish. I was feeling a little couped up; my routine had been completely lifted off its jams, and wearing a mask made me feel claustrophobic. At the same time, I respected the problem and did my part.

On April 20th, I celebrated one-year post-surgery on my right leg. It was a grand celebration. Though balance and stability were still not there, I was grateful for how far I’d come. I can’t say I would ever want to walk through that again, but I was glad the most challenging part was over (at least I thought). I always thought the most challenging part was surgeries themselves, but that turned out not the case. The hardest part was getting the strength back, and that’s a process that continues even today.

By the end of April, my box offered a Zoom class at 7 am, but it didn’t work with my schedule. This would turn out to be an endless source of frustration for me, one virtual class with no other option. I was able to continue with my coach, but group classes weren’t an option.

zoom crossfitTraining with my coach was the only thing keeping me sane through most of April and well into May. Progress was slow, but I would get excited about little things. One morning after weeks and weeks of rowing and trying to get the legs to bend far enough where the repetitive motion wouldn’t hurt, I finally hit a 1:43 pace on the last day of April. I’m not saying I could have sustained it for long {{laughing}}, but it was great to see numbers I could remember.

May

Lockdowns extended.

I trained with my coach three times a week, worked, prepped for the book launch, and spent most of my free time with my folks. As I am sure it was for most of us, our in-person circles became relatively small. I did online Bible studies and spent a lot of time reading and working on home projects.

A last-minute idea change for the book sent me back to collaboration and writing. It was a great idea, but it put a lot of extra pressure on me

minnesota lilac

 to do more writing, which was the LAST thing I wanted to do. I loved writing, but I think I was mentally tapped out. Like I seriously couldn’t write another paragraph. Total lie, but I was exhausted.

I tried to make the most of a beautiful spring as it always is here. We never get a very long spring, but the month that we do get still makes me smile, and the house is always full of lilac blooms.

And then the last week of May happened. Before the sun had set on Memorial Day, Minneapolis Police officers responded to a South Minneapolis call. Soon after, a man identified as George Floyd was dead. We all know what followed.

As a Minnesota resident, living only 12 crow miles from where everything was taking place, it was alarming. Minnesota was no stranger to problems with the police. I understood the outrage. How could anyone not? I had a tough time with the violence, the burning, the looting, business owners trying to protect their businesses, and people getting shot.

By the end of the week, I could walk outside and look at the sky; it wasn’t clouded; it was smoke from all the burning buildings. You could smell it in the air.

I wanted to help; I wanted to get involved somehow. How could I best make a difference in the middle of all this chaos?

————————–

I grew up wanting to be a police officer. Part of that desire came from revenge. I wanted to lock up my stepmother and father for abuse. So 

maybe its beginnings weren’t for the right reason, but I wanted to wear a badge and protect those who had been abused and neglected. As I got older and discovered the problem on my leg wasn’t going to let me serve even if I had lost the weight, I still decided to study law enforcement. My undergrad is in criminal justice administration, and my Masters’s was in Justice Policy. In my book, I wrote about dealing with some dirty cops and was always interested in programs like “Coffee with a Cop” and ways to reform the policing system. Stripping departments from being able to claim immunity and other measures. One of the things I have always tried to champion was to bring to light the stigma law enforcement got when they chose to seek therapy. It’s almost like it puts a stain on their record. Imagine that? Cops have demanding jobs, and if they seek counseling or treatment, it might make them look bad? So what happens? Cops don’t talk about what they deal with and what they see. A part of me believes that it creates ticking time bombs. Not in all cases, but I see it more and more. There’s tons of research and studies on it.

One of the police organizations that I follow did a study years ago that spoke to the simplicity of a cup of coffee and how it can help defuse a situation.

————————-

I can’t save the world. But every one of us can contribute in some meaningful way.

In the week following Memorial Day, cops in Minnesota became the enemy, hell all around the country. What I did know was the vast majority of police are fair and honest people. I have two of them in my family, so it hit close to home.

When I loaded up my car the following Saturday morning at 5 am with containers of Starbucks coffee, my intent was simple. If I showed up with a cup of coffee in a random act of kindness, maybe it could add one positive thing to their day, and it could help them keep their cool. Would it work? I didn’t know, but I felt it was worth a try.

I delivered six containers around the city to whoever was out on the corners: some police, some National Guard, some protesters. “Here’s a cup of coffee…….. lets all of us keep our cool”.  

I did the same thing the following weekend.

When I got back from my running around, I got a note in my Instagram inbox.

“Athena, you just chose a side. I have to unfollow you now”.

I never saw it as choosing sides. That’s not me. I wanted to find a way to contribute to a smile and not the chaos.

I lost a good friend that day. Why? trying to do something positive these days seems like you’re drawing battle lines when that simply isn’t the case. 

Would I do it the same way? Looking back, yes, I probably would. I always knew that the bigger picture was out of my hands. I can’t control everything that happens globally, but I know that God knows my heart.

Love,

Athena

Comments

  1. David Jakes. says:

    “No good deed goes unpunished.” It’s really tempting to retreat to one’s cocoon and watch the world burn. Really tempting. And the restrictions in place may even may even make it illegal to go out and do some good. If you’ve been observing and taking notes, you might conclude that violence has become the ONLY way to effect change. I won’t argue with that conclusion, as we have been shown that voting isn’t real now, if it ever was. All in all, I vastly overestimated my ability to influence anyone or anything outside of my small circle. And so it goes.

  2. Ellen Pearson says:

    I like that you went to work to do something proactive rather than just bemoan the situation. That tells me something about your heart and it helps me to think that I can reach out in simple ways to others—all others—as well. Thank you for that example.
    I am sorry for that friend who misunderstood you. You have empathy for both sides of the conflict and no doubt you will continue to do so.
    There are stabilizing muscles that you are having to call upon other than your physical ones. We all will be needing to engage the character traits of charity and forgiveness (and repentance) and train them so that we can still love each other despite the hurtful words and actions in these trying times. Now, that IS a workout!
    Thanks for these posts.

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