When it’s Difficult, Week 28 in the Time of Coronavirus

I won’t lie, this past week was tough.  I don’t know whether the change in temperature reminded me of a mostly lost summer, or whether the continued stress of clients related to the NYC educational failings had me struggling after each day.  I came home unready to relate to my small family except by means that pushed them away.  Not good for any of us.  And, then Friday night, as we were hopeful in celebrating the Jewish New Year, we heard the sad news of RBG’s death.  Like with so many, it feels like a personal loss. 

As I have learned in the process of past bereavement, there are physical manifestations of loss.  Saturday I felt achy, with shallow breaths.  It is not Covid-19. But it is similar to symptoms that prevail among my close, female friends & family who also found a hero in Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  A very human hero.  While she championed gender equality, she did so within a binary model, and may not have given voice to certain minority groups within our population.  

From free images online

So much has been written about her.  And, it’s hard to choose my favorite among her many admirable qualities.  But given these times, given what we’re going through individually and together, the trait that stands out to me presently is her respect for differences.  She appreciated the ways we connected, and understood that we are not all the same. 

However, it’s not a stance I see often these days.  I am saddened at the hate and judgement I hear and read about related to opposing points of view.  Honestly, it’s hard to take in.  Why can’t I believe in womens’ rights, human rights, and Black Lives Matter without being seen as soft or a bleeding-heart liberal?   Conversely, what is wrong with doing my part as I see fit rather than it being not enough if not done in a louder or more forceful fashion?

Normally I stay away from political subjects, unless you consider wearing a mask to protect each other from the Coronavirus political.  I suppose I open myself up for criticism in stating my beliefs.  Fair enough.  It’s time to live influenced by those who inspire us, rather than by those who insight our divisive natures.  I choose to respect those who differ in their views. Nonetheless I will not be bullied by those who don’t respect my views.  I am grateful to the notorious RBG for paving the way for shared appreciation of personal and political divergences.   We can respect others’ differences while living our own truths.  

On a personal note, I will continue to pay attention to my own distress working and living through this pandemic, learning new ways to care for myself. Forgiving of my sharp edges, while having the courage to be vulnerable, letting in imperfect support.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Remind yourself of something for which you know yourself to be good.  You can write it down, or simply remind yourself of this and other things that you know to be good.  
  • Give yourself one moment to make a choice of what you will do in the next moment.  
  • Use RBG as an inspiration and take an action inspired by her life’s work.  
  • See if you can take one item off your “should” list.  Not by doing it, but by crossing it off as something that no longer “should” get done.  
  • Do an anonymous kind act.  It might be cleaning up after a family member, or it could be opening up a door for a stranger, or making a donation.  See if you can do it without acknowledgement and see how that feels.  

Outdoor Musings; Week 27 in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s such an odd experience to go for a walk and find myself, again and again, a focus of various restaurant patrons on the streets of New York.  I realize they’ve been starved of social interactions.  And, people watching has taken on a new importance.  Pedestrians have become the dinner entertainment for the open tables’ clientele.  So if I walk uptown or downtown on the avenues, I become a subject for diners’ eyes.  Conversely, I look to see how to walk around so I’m not too close while they’re eating their meals mask free.  

It may be that I provide much needed amusement with my firecracker ponytail, my loose tee-shirts and touristy fanny pack.  I don’t care.  I’m at an age where I believe other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.  It gives me more head space to enjoy my daily walks.  

The character of the city has taken on its own pandemic configuration.  For instance, I was so looking forward to this past Labor Day Weekend.  In previous years, the city empties out and we can roam freely, the streets void of residents.  Not so last weekend.  If anything, it felt more like neighbors had prematurely returned from second homes or vacation dwellings. 

 I love the East River Promenade.  Yet, I’m not so fond of it during the pandemic.  This summer the river-facing benches are like chaise lounges at resorts, people have to get there early and stake out their territory.  Should I identify a rare empty bench, I would have to race walk to claim it as mine.  And, forget it when said bench is shaded.  

When I’m out with Lucy I get the distinct impression that she is confused that her park is no longer all hers.  We walk to areas she loves to sniff only to come across sun worshippers or picnickers who are located in the exact spot she wants to examine.  So we move on trying to forge a path around these interlopers. 

The city is, in turns, emptier, and more crowded.  The indoor places are a quarter full at most, while outdoor spaces seem to be at capacity.  This weekend brought even more people outdoors with cooler temperatures and Labor Day behind us.  I’m looking forward to the future when travel is a safer option.  My plan is to stay in the city as it empties out.   Lucy and I will sit on a readily available bench.  And, if they want, the runners by the river can enjoy Lucy’s mellow aura and whatever quirky yet casual get-up I’ll be sporting.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Set an alarm on your daily calendar to acknowledge yourself for small accomplishments. 
  • These times are so difficult.  Write down or share with others something for which you are proud.  
  • Set a timer for complaints.   This way you can acknowledge all the things that you find annoying, but it’s framed within limits.  
  • One-minute stretch brakes help come back to yourself, physically and emotionally.  
  • People watch when you’re outdoors.  You never know who you might find amusing.  

Masked Strangers; Week 26 in the Time of Coronavirus

I’m not being rude, I just don’t know who you are.  Though it seems ill-mannered, I rarely recognize anyone I see.  While walking about, I hear my name but have no idea who is summoning me.  Even after you tell me how we know each other, I have difficulty placing you.  Thus is the dilemma of mask wearing.  

Sometimes I recognize the voice.  Yesterday my name was called behind me.  And, though I couldn’t pinpoint who she was, ultimately her voice gave her away.  She’s our upstairs neighbor for about eighteen years.  It’s as if I have face blindness, a malady made well-known by the late, great Oliver Sacks.  

I used to recognize everyone, even those who had no clue who I was.  I’m not great with names, but I remember faces, shared experiences, and my personal impressions.  But now that we’re wearing masks, and, for my part, I prefer you wear one than not, I can rarely identify neighbors, acquaintances, friends, and colleagues.  It adds to the many moments in which I am caught without a clue during this time of the Coronavirus.  My mind is not as sharp now as it was in January.  Are any of us as focused or attentive as last year?  From what I hear, no.  

What I do recognize is modern dance on the bridle path with the reservoir as a backdrop.  A man was doing amazing moves as I slowly ran the path.  And I can identify a small ballet class on the East River promenade.  They were quite advanced.  It was pure joy passing them by as they strongly and gracefully leapt in the wind. 

A Saachi stock photo image from an online search

I also recognize the dogs I know.  They remain maskless for now.  And in that way, I know the identity of the owner.   I also recognize bees, butterflies, turtles and horses.  Most importantly, I can recognize smiling eyes.  They say the soul can be seen in the eyes.  And, the beautiful creases that adorn perfect strangers is a welcomed reprieve from the stress of the pandemic.  It connects us even when I don’t know if I know you.  

Self-Care Tips

-Buy 2 masks, give one away. 

-Shake things up, try a new hot sauce.

-Whatever you forget, whatever mistakes you make, whatever embarrassing moment you. might have now, remind yourself you’re living through a global pandemic. 

-Smile at a masked stranger.

-Dance indoors or out, bringing joy to yourself and perhaps others.  

Managing Expectations; Week 25 in the Time of Coronavirus

I have to admit, I usually get disappointed on my birthday.  I make lofty plans and then things don’t go as planned and it saddens me.  Not this year.  My birthday was this past week.  The days leading up to my birthday were terrific.  I got good news from a friend.  Larry and Alex cooked beautiful meals. I was able to take a scenic bike ride on Randall’s Island.  Since it was humid the weather kept people indoors.  And, because I rode close to the river there were breezes coming and going.  I found work inspiring.  And, I had little planned for my birthday.  I was not anxious that my plans needed to turn out.  I took care of myself, as best I could, miscommunicating at times, or forgetting commitments I made.  But I was not hard on myself.  Heck, we’re living through a pandemic.  

And, when my birthday came, I was able to go to Central Park for an early morning run before starting work.  I was in a good mood, so I didn’t tally the runners without masks.  Surprisingly, I didn’t feel unsafe.  Then I made myself breakfast and went to work.  I enjoyed my frozen latte thanks to my blender.  And, when work was finished, I wrote briefly, met Larry and we kept our dinner plans even though rain was predicted.  Just in case I was armed with a rain poncho and umbrella.  

Ever since March, when Covid-19 limited New York businesses, we have eaten at home or in the garden on occasion. So this was our first time in the pandemic we were dining out in the city.  Hesitant at first, we went anyway.  It was lovely.  Dinner was delicious, it was a short walk home, and the rain came well after we were enjoying cake in our apartment.  Thank you Caroline’s Cakes and Gold Belly.  And, I remain so grateful for the birthday wishes I received on social media.  I’m not on the platforms often given my schedule.  Yet, the love and power of these days gives me a great appreciation for connecting with family and friends.  It’s a remarkable reminder of all the good out in our world.  

I know I’ve been told that letting go is the way to go.  It’s a central premise of all mindfulness practices.  But we cannot “do” letting go.  I certainly can’t.  It’s a state of being that comes following clinging onto beliefs too hard and for too long. Behavior that is all too familiar.   I don’t know why it took the Coronavirus to stop trying so hard to have things go right.  But the pandemic and all that goes with it has allowed me to enjoy simple pleasures that have been deeply meaningful.  Lowering my expectations this past week brought about unexpected gifts.  The challenge now is to manage my expectations on keeping this up.  Because holding on to letting go is a sure way to perpetuate that old, unworkable cycle.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

 

Self-Care Tips:  

  • Ask yourself what it would take to let go of something that isn’t working for you.  Just ask the question.  No need to do anything yet.  
  • When looking in the mirror, smile at yourself.  And, you’ll see that you’re smiling back.
  • Remember an act of kindness and remember how it felt to be the recipient or the giver of that act.  Find an opportunity to give of yourself in an unexpected way.
  • Take a walk in nature, if you can.  And, if you can’t, see if you can find nature in your environment.  
  • Use pen and paper to write a note, a journal entry, a letter, etc.  See if it changes how you think and how you write.  

Inner Resources; Week 24 in the Time of Coronavirus

Monday I arrived home from a week in the country.  It’s great to be home in my familiar surroundings, working from my office. And, now that I’m home, I happily go to my closet for my clothes rather than reaching into a suitcase. The pastoral setting on vacation was restorative. Yet the familiarity of our apartment and the city is comforting in its own way.  

Ever since we began to feel the impact of the Coronavirus by social distancing, public spaces closing, or our everyday lives being turned upside down, we’ve had to confront so many losses, and cull our resilience to get through our days.   While we used to have so much to look forward to on our time off, we’ve hunkered down, finding small pleasures during these stressful times.  Our vacations are altered, while our time at home is unique to this unprecedented year. 

We found a reprieve by going away for a week.  But the true challenge is finding pleasure in the here and now.  One thing I do is make my own frappuccino at home.  My coffee goes in the blender with ice, stevia and almond milk.  It’s easy, and it cools down the summer mornings.  Though it’s a simple pleasure, I know I can start my day having given myself this small treat.  Then throughout the day I stretch, breath, go for walks when on a break. Today I went to the park for a short run.  I do what I can.  We all do. 

But what happens we’re feeling vulnerable?  We may not have an effortless way to comfort ourselves.  Sometimes we are left bereft of stamina, of internal reserves.  Maybe we’re having difficulty sleeping.  Or, we’re too foggy-brained to attend to daily activities.  Whatever makes us vulnerable can temporarily rob us of access to our inner resources.  In those moments even having patience is a stretch.  

The idea that “this too shall pass” can be comforting.  But we also feel the frustration of not knowing when this will end.  So, we lurch forward on this crooked road.  We endure the troubling times and embrace the small wins.  We drink homemade frozen lattes, and double down on meditation.  We soothe ourselves when we can.  And, we comfort our friends and family, because we all need support now.  Because, after all, we’re living through a pandemic. 

Self-Care Tips

  • Send a love letter via email to yourself.  For example:  “Dear Janet, You are loved.”  Or, “I matter.”  It’s as simple as that.  Of course, it can be more like a diary or journal entry.  It’s your email, you decide.  
  • Take a mindfulness walk. It can be 5 to 10 minutes.  Simply walk feeling your body move indoors or out. 
  • Make a very small domestic change.  It can be throwing out a kitchen tool that no longer serves you. Or it could be dusting the top of the picture frames.  It’s just something easy that is outside your usual routine.    
  • Do one thing fully focused, no distractions.  We are so used to multi-tasking without thinking.  Instead: Try eating a snack, sitting down, conscious of the flavors and the sensation of chewing and swallowing.  No TV on, or phone in your hand.  Or, just focus on a phone call, listening without doing anything else.  
  • Save.  If you feel that you’re stuck, see if there is a way to crack a window on saving.  Find one thing that is doable, then do it.  For instance, if there is something you want, but the money just isn’t there, start by saving some change, or a dollar at a time. It may take some time, but you get to create a way to obtain something you want.  

Make Plans and the Universe Laughs, Week 23 in the Time of Coronavirus

I put a lot of stock into getting away.  I was sure I needed a vacation, time away from work and the city to regroup.  We drove for a few hours until we found our rental home in the heart of the Western Catskills.  It is breathtaking here.  Having space to simply be has been a relief.  Yet, I brought some old baggage with me.  I’m not talking luggage here, I’m speaking of my long-term dysfunctional beliefs and habits.   

It took no time at all to enjoy the view from the front porch.  The mountains and the greenery are simply verdant.  The home has a winter-lodge feel to it, and it was nice to be in a place with high ceilings, lofts, and space.  I was off-line and on vacation.  A pandemic vacation.  A vacation in an unknown home rather than at a destination further than our own state.  I’m so grateful that we have a chance to get away.  I know how fortunate I am to have a job that I love, and am employed in this difficult time.  I am aware of the privilege of being able to get away.  Yet, I also know that my privilege does not make me immune to human foibles.  This vacation gave me a chance to become more acquainted with a few of my shortcomings.  

There’s a lot to do when at a rental.  Planning and preparing food, cleaning things to feel more comfortable, getting to know the house, the property, and the surrounding area.  We did well the first couple of days.  We found hikes, and trails, towns and local provisions.  I felt at ease in the mountains and woods.  

I was fooled, though.  My shoulders had softened.  They were no longer touching my ears. They were making their way into their natural position below my neck on either side. That alone had me believe that I was relaxed, and there were no worries.  But by day three, I was starting to weigh my relief at being in the country with my small disappointments with the house, the area, the responsibilities.  I didn’t think how much work it takes to be away like this.  I was no longer used to preparing multiple meals each day.  And, I got resentful that I was doing so much work around the house.  No one made me do it.  But I learned to be a people pleaser, and I took on that role like it was 1990.  

It wasn’t until I became nasty because others were lounging during their vacation (how dare they!), that I saw that I was no longer giving to make others happy, I was sacrificing my rest because of some unknown sense of duty.  It was not out of love, but rather out of a need to be appreciated.  What I got was the opposite of appreciation.  So I got cranky.  A killjoy during a vacation, or at any time, for that matter.  

Thank goodness they’re a forgiving bunch, or so it seems.  I could go back to them and let them know that I appreciate them.  And, so often, when I give what I think I’m owed, it shifts my experience.  I am now able to gaze up at the night sky to commune with the countless stars.  I was able to go on a walk today and enjoy the space and freedom of seeing no one.  It helped to take in the huge trees, the sky. Listening to the birds chirping, and the lapping brook. Larry and I went for a couple of drives and came upon a lovely farmer’s market.  Everyone friendly.  Very refreshing.  

And, when dinner needed to be made today, I was able to ask for help in a kinder way. Everyone pitched in happily making for a lovely evening.  Sometimes it takes a break to make a break from habits that never served us. 

Self-Care Tips

  • Pay attention to difficult feelings.  Let them be and they will reveal hidden truths that hold us back.  Then, without judgement, continue to provide space for the discomfort.  It will release itself.  
  • Write a letter to your future self. Choose how many years that will be, 5, 10, 20, or another number.  In thinking about yourself in the future, also think about one thing you can do today that supports the future you to whom you wrote the letter.  Then, in addition to writing the letter take an action that supports your future you.  
  • Give yourself a second chance.  If there’s something that you’ve done or that you want to do but haven’t done, rather than give up, giving yourself another opportunity to try it, means there is no dead end to the issue.  
  • Be in touch with someone who believes in you.  When we spend time, speak with, or are in the presence (even virtually) of someone who knows your value, you automatically feel empowered, and that promotes self-esteem.  If, you have yet to meet that person, look at someone who you admire and see if you feel inspired. 
  • Light a candle in the dark or turn on a small flashlight.  You will see how one small light illuminates the darkness.  Now, think of yourself and your actions as that light.  

Stressing About Stress, Week 22 in the Time of Coronavirus

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Oh Boy, another opportunity to stress.  We are going away to unload stress from city living, and yet here I am stressing about going away.  I’ve gotten used to the steady hum of anxiety just below the surface.  I have yet to speak to anyone during the pandemic that hasn’t acknowledged added stress. These feelings manifest themselves in many forms.  For me, I have a hard time focusing, going from one task to another without completing any of them until I’ve come back around twice.

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For the first time in years we will be at a place where there is no WiFi or cell service.  To that end I set a deadline for myself to complete this post before we left.  Last night was my made-up target.  When I failed to do that, I had to search for another word rather than fail to come back to myself with some patience and understanding.  Now I’m telling myself I simply did not finish this last night, and am doing that now.

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This also meant that my walk, run or bike ride was going to be short today.  I didn’t wake up early.  Instead I slept until I woke naturally and abbreviated my previous goals.  Perhaps we’ll settle in early enough for me to take a walk around the large property this evening.   Or, not.  Either way, we’re on an adventure.  I am in turns, excited and nervous.  And I’m interested how my stress will wane in the wooded Catskills.

 

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Self-Care Tips

 

  • Do something sensual. This isn’t necessarily sexual.  This has to do with your five senses.  Find a scent you like, make touch a sensate experience.  Mold clay, taste something divine.  Listen to the birds or music, or secondary sounds.
  • Make-up with yourself. Think of something for which you got mad at yourself.  Now let yourself know that you are your own reclaimed friend.  As a friend to yourself you may feel more inclined to treat yourself with respect and compassion.
  • Learn something new. Whether you listen to someone who knows something you didn’t know, or whether you look up information online on a site like lifehacker.com or zidbits.com, it’s fun to learn facts, hacks or material new to you.
  • Do it differently. Like I had to shorten my run today, as well as my blog post, it can be relieving to accomplish something outside your routine.
  • Get away. If you’re not going anywhere try a virtual tour on Fodor’s or another travel website.  Or, take a new route on a walk.  Or leave your home for a safe place in a new venue.   All can expand your outlook.

Boredom, Week 21 in the Time of Coronavirus

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It felt so nice to find expanded trails on Randall’s Island yesterday.  The monotony of life during the Coronavirus can be stifling.  Though I walk daily, finding fresh paths and unseen sights has been challenging.  And, to find them in places that are free from others is nearly impossible in the city.  But I persevere as if it’s a made-up game to challenge the norm.

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I’m coming up with a lot of private games.  Can I meditate and let my thoughts pass by or will I go on a tangent and then find myself caught between my imagination and the present moment?  Will I be able to find an isolated spot in the city and take a deep breath without my mask on because no one is around?  Will I be able to employ grace in giving another the benefit of the doubt, or will I be judgmental?  I am always the winner of these games.  I am either humbled, understanding that I am still growing.  Or, I was able to accomplish it in that moment, understanding that I will be playing that game again with no guarantee of same outcome next time around.

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I hear so often how bored we are.  When we don’t have our go-to activities it can feel boring to face the void.  There are a lot of theories about boredom.  Some experts think that acting out of boredom is a way to incite problems that give us something to focus on.  Others think underneath boredom is anger.  Still other experts postulate that boredom connotes a lack of purpose.  All are understandable while our world confronts Covid-19.

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We miss getting together with friends and family.  Many miss public gatherings.  Others miss going out.  Naturally there’s a lot we miss.   The pandemic has been a time of losses.  Too many have lost their lives, others their health, a great many their livelihoods.  And most everyone misses a sense of safety.

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The upside of boredom is the opportunity it provides for innovation.  We are in a position to discover ourselves anew.  We may find out things about ourselves we never recognized.  For instance, I always thought of myself as an active individual.  I liked being busy.  Though I, along with so many psychotherapists are busier than ever, I am resting more, making down time a priority.  Or, we may find hidden corners of the city’s parks that allow us to move freely.  Or, we find out that our value is not about what we have or what we do, but by how we live our lives.  And, we can only discover these personal truths by living through the boredom.

 

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Self-care Tips

  • Find a quarantine concert. There are so many from Eryka Badu to Nora Jones and Norm Lewis.  com has a list.  And, this link was in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/arts/music/best-quarantine-concerts-livestream.html.  There are so many more.  Check out pages from your favorite artists or genres.
  • The wonderful charity MIND has a 24-hour free helpline: 800-123-3393, this is a mental health hotline for those who are experiencing depression & anxiety.
  • Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Rather than expecting them to behave a certain way, see if you can open yourself up for another possibility.
  • I just heard this adage: If it’s hysterical it’s historical. When you’re feeling something deeply it can be a personal kindness to think of it as a way of working through something from your past that still plays a role in your emotional well-being.
  • Give yourself permission to change your mind.  Giving our word matters.  Yet there are times when we are not up to doing what we committed to doing.  You can then change your mind.  More often than not the other person will feel relieved with the cancelled plans, to

The Frustration Budget, Week 20 in the Time of Coronavirus


The light breeze in the high heat and humidity of this New York summer is a simple pleasure these days.  When I amble along on the sweltering sidewalks I can feel the gentle air waves stroke my head and shoulders lifting me up from the heaviness of the muggy day.  It’s a simple joy to feel the wind when it comes.  It eases the countless frustrations that have set upon us during this time of the Coronavirus. 
 
Given how easily I can be set off these days, I have come up with a made-up system.  I have begun to enact a frustration budget.  Living through a pandemic can wreak havoc with our nervous systems.  So, I am going to assess what is a livable measure of frustration, and anything above that quotient will not be spent.  I am not my best when I’m overstressed.  And, then I circle back on annoyance with my mood and behavior, thus adding to my agitation level.  
 
At this point I think I need to set up my budget with a low level of frustration.  I am subtracting rather than adding to my to-do list.  I am laughing at myself for my lack of memory, including my lack of access to common words, and forgetting seemingly simple tasks.   I open my pajama drawer when I mean to retrieve socks from a parallel drawer.  I am at work, and I am unable to make a point since the word “overcome” will not make itself known to my brain in that moment.  Pre-pandemic, I would get annoyed with myself, and maybe even defensive.  Now, deep in the storm of Covid-19, I am amused by my foibles.  At least that’s how it is this hour.  
 
The frustration budget will be a work in progress.  I just thought of it this week, as I felt exhausted by the end of my day, and quickly followed it up by being less than pleasant when I came home.  It was then I thought, “why not limit what I take in that doesn’t bring me joy?”  And, why not?  I don’t need to finish those articles now when I don’t have the bandwidth.  I can look at the New Yorker cartoons, and save anything else that really interests me.  I can leave the room if the TV is on a program that I neither like nor care about.  I can shorten my walk if I get exasperated by those who are not following the CDC recommendations.  I can lengthen my meditation so that I purposely have more calm moments in my day.  
 
I am amazed by the changes that have occurred since our world changed.  Much of it is difficult.  But some of it, like noticing that I can’t continue on building a wall of aggravations on top of displeasures brings a sliver of mindfulness. It’s a kindness that I can give myself.  I imagine the daily distractions and activities in the past allowed me to ignore certain annoyances, but now they are front and center.  It is time to tear down the wall one frustration at a time until I am thriving within my frustration budget.  
  

Self-Care Tips:
·      Notice what frustrates you and see if you can let go of anything on your list
·      Start a Bullet Journal.  It’s a creative way to track what’s important to you.  
·      Keep a Mood Tracker so you can care for yourself no matter what you’re feeling
·      Write personal affirmations and put them on post-its, then place them where you’ll see them like on the bathroom mirror, in your sock drawer, or on the calendar.  
·      See if you can laugh at yourself when you find you’re being hard on yourself.  It really shifts your mindset.  If you can’t laugh at yourself.  Maybe you can smile at the fact that it’s not easy to go from frustration to humor.  

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Gifts from Strangers, Week 19 in the Time of Coronavirus

I hadn’t anticipated it, but yesterday was an enriching day.  It started out hot and humid, and I knew that if I was going to get out, I wasn’t going to be able to move at a clipped pace.  I was wary of taking my bike out, believing that the park would be crowded, and I just needed something less populated.  So, I ventured out on foot listening to a new book Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala, a Nigerian-American author.  It’s beautifully written and the readers are terrific.  

My destination was a Cambodian restaurant, the only one in the city. I had read about it but had never visited.  I saw that it was closing at the end of the month, and so used it as a destination.  I would order take-out and carry our dinner home.  Though I couldn’t go inside, when I stepped up to pay, I viewed a stunning interior.  There were Buddhist art pieces and Cambodian décor.  The owner was there, and she was more than gracious.  So kind and generous, offering extra side dishes and beverages.  She was losing her restaurant to the pandemic, and yet wanted to treat me to something extra.  Her kindness softened my spirit.  

Then, in the evening, I was tired but not sleepy, so I perused Amazon, Apple TV, and finally Netflix.  It was there that I found an intriguing documentary, Mucho Mucho Amor.  It’s the story of Walter Mercado, a famous Puerto Rican star who brought joy to so many with his astrology readings.  He was an amazing man, and I was moved by his humanity, and fanciful lust for life.

  

I had to put the film on pause as I was finding out about his rise to fame.  Lucy had to be walked, and I was the only one home who was awake.  I was frustrated but these things can’t wait.  We went out to our stoop.  I wasn’t sure if she just wanted to be out in the hot night air, or if she really had to go.  Either way, she was on pause at the bottom of the steps.  It was then that I heard a group chanting.  I saw a few cyclists on their bikes leave what looked to be a rally.  Then I heard peaceful chanting, “Black Lives Matter!”  I realized that the weekly bicycle rally for the Black Lives Matter movement ended their ride in front of Gracie Mansion, the temporary residence of the Mayor.  It’s just down the block from our building.  

There was such camaraderie.  It was all peaceful.  Cops were acting as escorts.  I witnessed fellowship.  And, there was so much hope.  I felt so fortunate to be a bystander to the positive power.  Shortly thereafter Lucy and I were up and on the move.  They had all cycled away by the time Lucy completed her walk.  And, then I was able to finish watching the film.  I went to bed later than usual and fully inspired.  

So often during the time of Coronavirus, I have felt as if the days are long and so little gets done.  But yesterday, though I did little, I was given so many gifts.  They were all provided by individuals from other races and ethnic backgrounds.  How rich life is when we learn and grow because we are in touch those who are different than us.  

Self-care Tips:  

*Enjoy something outside your familiar patterns.  It could be a new cuisine, a virtual look at an international museum, reading a writer you don’t know, or simply noticing things around you that may have slipped your gaze previously

*Pause.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, or you’re about to act impulsively in a way that may not support you, take a moment.  Be conscious of your breath.  Take in a few things that surround you.  And, then reassess what you want your next action to be.

*Notice at least one thing that brought you pleasure at the end of your day.  Of course, it could be more.  Maybe it was a beam of light from your window that played on a surface.  Or, perhaps it was a chat with a friend.    In this way you double your pleasure as you think about those moments again.  

*Keep it simple.  These times are trying for most, so it helps to keep things simple when we can to alleviate extra stress.

*Do something from your childhood.  Whether you choose to play a game of hopscotch on your sidewalk, skip down the block, or sing a childhood song, finding childhood pleasures is an easy way to bring joy on.