Insult to Injury, 2020 Taxes, Week 51 in the Time of Coronavirus

Vintage mechanical numeric calculator isolated on white background. Accounting concept, stock online photo

I like scrambled eggs.  They are soft and comforting.  However, when my mind is scrambled I find no comfort in that.  These past two weekends I’ve endeavored to do my taxes.  Doing taxes in the time of Coronavirus is less than optimal.  That said, I am going to take a nap.  An afternoon siesta is not a usual practice, especially when slogging through last year’s numbers.  In the past I’ve faced the forms down and I get through it, complaining while I add up sums and input data.  Today is different.  I don’t have the wherewithal.  I’m having difficulty focusing.  Taxes in a pandemic is another ridiculously compulsorily task we’re forced to endure.  

Nap completed and I’ve taken a brief refuge in writing this now.  I see the calculator staring me down, so I’ll have to resume my taxes in a little while.  When I do, I imagine I’ll go slowly.  I’d love to rush through it.  But having made mistakes in the past, I prefer slow and steady to the headache of a future audit.  

Because it’s a rainy day I am less inclined to venture out, making this a theoretically perfect day for paperwork.  But as far as I’m concerned, paperwork is a necessary evil, not a respectful task worth my time and energy.  Taxes aren’t fun.  At least that’s been my experience.  

I didn’t always feel that way.  There was a time a few decades ago when I was proud of my record keeping and my ability to have organized files.  It wasn’t until I worked for others as a side hustle, helping with their bookkeeping, that I found out that I deluded myself with my organizational skills.  My acumen with an adding machine was deeply flawed.  I missed receipts and tabulated sums incorrectly.  My false confidence was exposed.  

I have no such confidence now.  Nor do I wish to acquire it.  I respect others who excel in bookkeeping and accounting.  This is their season to shine.  Kudos to them.  I hope to complete my taxes in the next two weeks when I will send it off to our wonderful accountants.  For now, though, I will go back to the numbers.  And, I think I’ll have scrambled eggs for dinner to comfort me when I’m done for the day.  

Self-care tips:

  • Change up your routine.  Try to do things differently for a fresh perspective. 
  • When going into an unwanted situation, place a few dabs of a scent you like on your wrists or other points, so you can take in the aroma when things get tough.
  • When multi-tasking, see if there’s a way to focus in on one task and get some or all of it done before moving on to the next task.  This gives you a better chance of having a sense of satisfaction with your work. 
  • Shred.  It can feel great to get rid of old papers. 
  • Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.  That’s what it’s all about.  

Let’s Be Real, Week 50 in the Time of Coronavirus

As we approach a year in semi-lockdown we’ve been filled with powerful emotions. Social niceties often allude us as we exchange suspicious looks with masked strangers. We don’t have to dig deep to touch upon anxiety or aggravation.  They are neatly placed on the surface of our emotional reservoirs.   Our tolerance level has been masterfully challenged.  And at times our sustained tolerance is losing ground.  Well-wishers tout positivity.  I am all for optimism.  Heck, I write my blog with self-care tips. But when we’re on the edge, as we often find ourselves in this pandemic, the last thing we want to hear is how lucky we are. 

When I feel blue, I’m resistant to hearing that I should be grateful for what I have.  And, if we’re being real, most of us have had blue periods in this time of Coronavirus.  I’m not saying that gratitude isn’t important.  I have an active daily practice of gratitude, and it’s been invaluable.  But I do believe that we have to be where we are.  When we force gratitude or self-care on ourselves or others, we negate the real experience in that moment.  I know things are tough when I’m easily annoyed with little slights.  Telling me to let it go, just adds to my exasperation.  If we’re going to find hope or gratitude at all, we have to start with where we are.  We can’t always make the leap to positivity because someone else is uncomfortable with our irascibility.

When we are able to acknowledge the hardships and upset that we’re experiencing, then we can move on from there. Each of us deals with this differently.  Sometimes I can yell into a pillow, cry, and take a walk.  And in doing those things I find myself in a lighter place.  Other times it takes a good night’s sleep.  Or I need to talk in therapy or to a friend.  When I do, I have the wherewithal to be delighted by small kindnesses.  Just this week strangers made room for narrow paths in the snow, and neighbors waited at the open door while I carried in my groceries.  It was lovely.  Their kindness allowed for an ease of gratitude.  When I have the bandwidth, I, too, will do what I can to ease someone else’s load.  And, when I don’t, I’ll do my best to have patience with myself, remembering that we’re living through a pandemic.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Create a list of complaints.  Sometimes we need to unload.  Be a complainer, write down what bothers you.  Give voice to your agitation.  If it helps, tear it up, or cut it up, then throw it out with force.  
  • Growl, sigh, exhale loudly.  Sounds give voice to our unheard feelings.  (If you live with others, warn them first.)
  • I delight in ______ (fill in the blank)
  • See if there is a way to make room for whatever you filled in above. If not, see if there are any first steps you can take to have or do whatever you delight in.  
  • Stop what you’re doing.  Pause.  Ask yourself, “how am I doing?”  It’s always good to check in with yourself.  It’s good information to have even when you can’t take an action to address it.  

Love in the Time of Coronavirus, Week 49

I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.  In doing so, I am very aware that Valentine’s Day is loaded.  Maybe even more so in the pandemic.  Here in New York restaurants are now open for indoor dining.  Some will make it a romantic evening.  Some will fight because they have very different safety parameters.  Some will feel lonely as they have in years past.  Some will be uniquely solo in this Covid-19 year.  Many will measure others’ love by what attention they receive or don’t receive today.  And others will see it as just another Sunday.  Whatever the case, Valentine’s Day is signified by hearts, the social sign of love.  

Love is a peculiar thing.  We read about it, we say, “I love you,” we’re told to love ourselves.  And, yet love is not a measurable commodity.  We have seen love take so many forms in the pandemic.  My expression of love has been everything from open & joyous to thorny and messy.  My acceptance of other’s love has been a balm at times.  While other times I have been judgmental and closed-minded.  

We often learn that love looks a particular way.  And when those who love us express it in another form it can feel invalidating.  They may not love us any less, but it’s hard to take it in when it looks different than our expectations.  And, loving ourselves is a whole other ballgame. Often it feels like loving ourselves is a consolation for not receiving the love we want.  

Nevertheless, I believe that loving ourselves is exactly the love we need.  When we are gentle while vulnerable, kind when stressed, and caring when upset, then we are both providing ourselves with the love we need and taking in the love we’re giving.  How wonderful is that?  It may feel painful that we experience that alone.  If so, then the kindness we impart will go a long way.  

I am going to do the best I can to be kind to myself. I am committed to be kind to those I love, those I like, and to strangers.  My kindness will be imperfect.  I tend to be moody, and I don’t always have the emotional fortitude to express a generosity of heart.  But I will do my best.  And, as I accept the love given to me, and accept my limitations, as well as those of others, I will see that acceptance as an act of love.  This is not necessarily what I was taught about love, it is what I’ve learned since then.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Give yourself a break from self-care.  Sometimes it can become an obligation rather than a caring act.  When that’s the case, take a pause. 
  • Chapstick or lip balm, in your favorite flavor if you like, can be restorative on dry winter days.  
  • Shelf-care.  Go through your books.  See if there’s any you’ve meant to read and take them off the shelf.  Or see what you can give away.  
  • Watch a James Corden video on YouTube.  May I suggest a Carpool Karaoke?  He aims to bring laughter.  

Celebrate a party of One.  You are number one. And celebrating yourself in any manner that brings delight is the perfect party 

Ennui, Week 48 in the Time of Coronavirus

Again and again I hear from others, “I’m so over this.” Of course, this refers to the pandemic and its related restrictions. Yes, we need to lessen the spread of Covid-19, yet that doesn’t mean we’re happy about what’s required.  Now, even with the spotty vaccine rollout, we are expected to buckle down more so with the presence of new strains, which, in turn, places new stressors on us.  With added stressors any energy we have burns quicker.  We are exhausted and might feel resentment, anger or woe.  This is what has happened in the daily grind without proper reprieves.  

I am certainly dragging my feet.  Whether it’s writing this blog or cooking a meal, I lack whatever eagerness I had in past years.  I have no get-up-and-go these days.  And I know I’m not alone.  I whine silently in my head, “I don’t wanna.”  Fill in the blank because I don’t wanna can signify pretty much anything.  This doesn’t mean I don’t experience joy.  There are small moments that turn “I don’t wanna” upside-down.  

I am pleased and surprised when I delight in an unexpected moment.  It could be anything from watching a healthcare worker, still in scrubs, coming home from a long day caring for others, to the subtle evening sky light in-between high rises.  Those are moments that give me pause, then move me forward.  Conversely, seeing the messy surfaces at home on shelves, table tops or cabinets, stop me in my tracks as I sigh with resignation.  

Moving forward is a slow process in this time of Coronavirus.  It’s not always easy to discern when we must succumb to the “I don’t wannas,” and when we can kindly take a step toward the next matter of business.  I probably won’t be able to organize my home while working and carving out self-care through the pandemic.  And I may not be able to fool around in the kitchen to cook as often, either.  Nevertheless, I will enjoy those pleasurable moments when they show up, your kind likes and comments, included.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Ask yourself, “How am I doing?”  It’s always good to check in.  
  • Then ask, “What do I need that’s attainable now?”  It’s helpful to know what you need and what you can have. 
  • Enjoy the gentle sensation of a soft toothbrush
  • Find or get a smooth stone to rub during stressful moments, or while on Zoom calls.  If you can get one in your favorite color, do that.  
  •  Take quick dance breaks.  Turn on a song and move.  It breaks up the ennui.  

Pandemic Envy, Week 47 in the Time of Coronavirus

Pandemic Envy, Week 47 in the Time of Coronavirus

We have become accustomed to the average pandemic envy like seeing those who prepare feasts as a way to get through this time of Coronavirus.  Many of us have felt jealousy for acquaintances in larger homes.  The more exhausted have longed for the energy cited in posts of new hobbies or accomplishments.  Some parents envy those with no children, or those with safe help for their families.  A number of people who feel alone have been envious of those who post happy couple or family portraits.  Individuals who feel trapped with their families begrudge others who they imagine live blissfully alone.  Now add to that the newer vaccine envy.  

Without distractions I’m able to feel my emotions strongly.  Sometimes this can be therapeutic.  I can soothe myself if I’m agitated, or enjoy the moment when calm is present.  However, there are other times when I look for diversions.  It’s not easy to feel everything all the time, and even more so in this time of the Coronavirus.  When I do look away at distracting social media posts, I find myself envious of how some others are getting through the pandemic.  

How do they find time to workout so much? Their meals look amazing.  Why aren’t they sharing how hard this is?  How is it they are thriving in ways I can only imagine?  These are some of thoughts I’ve had.  I understand that what I see and read on social media and in print is merely one sliver of what another is experiencing.  I wish I could appreciate all that I have and simply be happy for them.  Alas, I am still working on that.  

More recently, there have been many instances when individuals have shared that they got their vaccines, only to be met with others who are desperate to receive theirs.  The rollout has been anything but equitable.  Many are working at essential jobs and are not able to log in repeatedly to obtain a prized time slot.  Others found their dates were cancelled.  The ongoing uncertainty fuels vaccine envy.  If you feel vaccine envy, you’re not alone.  Hopefully all of us who want the vaccine can get them soon so we can move on from fear to well-being.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Snuggle.  If you have a pet and they are amenable, snuggle with them.  If not, snuggle with a willing partner, or find a stuffed animal to snuggle.  You’re never too old.  Or, if you prefer, a cozy blanket, comforter or pillow can stand in as a snuggle item.  
  • When feeling envious, slow down and name some things for which you are grateful.  
  • If you feel vaccine envy, if you have the time, investigate what sites are opening up spots, then share it with others.  In NYC there is: vaccinepod.nyc.gov and www.somosvaccinations.com.  
  • Dress in layers for the cold weather.  If you’re able, wear glove liners and thermal or silk underwear.  
  • Use hand and body cream.  It’s great for the cold weather and rubbing yourself with the cream is a soothing act. 

You Never Know, Week 46 in the Time of Coronavirus

Sometimes I find myself quick to judge.  I hear a whiny individual at a Zoom meeting, and I silently groan.  I also know that there have been times, and I chance to say there are still times, in which I am the one who warrants another’s groan.  In my more open-minded moments, I remember that everyone is trying the best they can.  We are all going through this pandemic, and there’s nothing easy about that.   But there are other times when my exhaustion and impatience take over and I am unforgiving of anyone who annoys me from the selfishly maskless to virtual-meeting squeaky wheels. 

Something I’ve noticed recently in my professional and personal life is how instantaneously we are to jump from one emotional state to another.  As quick as I am to criticize and sigh, I am equally swift to be moved by others’ suffering now.  When I open up to the sheer humanity of getting through each day in this time of Coronavirus, it is awe inspiring.  

Not only are we plodding as best we can day in and day out, but so many have faced hardships that would bring tears to our eyes if we only knew.  But we do not know.  It’s easy for me to judge someone based on my own needs and preferences.  In those moments I forget that they are struggling in their own way, as I grapple with life in my way.  

I have heard people imagine how much easier it is for others.  I have listened to their envy.  What I do know is that while others may enjoy specific circumstances, they are not immune to suffering.  No one is completely protected from the world’s ills.  Let’s try to tease out our opinions from our innate compassion.  They do not have to be mutually exclusive.  I will probably continue to remain judgmental in certain ways.  Nonetheless, I hope to remember not to take myself too seriously.  I hope to remember others live with a story that would take my breath away.  We all live with our stories.   

Self-Care Tips:

  • Write positive affirmations on post-it notes and place them on shelves, in drawers and in cabinets.  This way you get positive messages throughout your home.  Examples of positive affirmations are, “You matter,” “Focus on your gifts,” or “You’re awesome.”
  • Create an avatar for your anxiety.  When you have racing thoughts, or anxious thinking, draw or digitally create an avatar.  Like in a comic book, have the avatar say the things you’re thinking.  In this way, it places the anxious thoughts outside of you, making them potentially easier to address.  
  • If you listen to the news, try reading it for a day.  See if it feels differently to read about current events rather than being told. 
  • Set an alarm on your calendar to laugh.  Find something funny on YouTube, read a joke, or enjoy a cartoon.  We all need a daily laughter break.
  • When you judge another, also leave space in your mind to appreciate that the person has his/her/their own struggles.  

What We Don’t Know, Week 45 in the Time of Coronavirus

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure that the judge I watched numerous times on Law and Order was Fran Lebowitz.  It looked like her, but was she a doppelganger, or was she, in fact, the writer?  After watching “Pretend it’s a City,” Martin Scorsese’s excellent (in my opinion) docu-series of Fran Lebowitz, I was happy to learn that, yes, it was her as Judge Janice Goldberg in the original Law & Order. 

The short series on Netflix was a delightful, laughter-filled escape from current events this past week.  I learned a lot, evaluated my own thinking, and admired FL’s ability to speak her personal truths, thoughts I often have, but don’t share aloud.  Somehow the cable show also had me pondering on the wonder of all I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how I arrived at that thought trend, but once there, my mind wandered endlessly to all that is yet to be explored.  I’m not speaking of subjects that vaguely interest me, but not enough to occupy my time, like physics or economics.  I’ll leave that to the experts. Then I’ll simply read their selective theories.  I’m more thinking about what curiosities I can discover in a day, or in a new place, or with those who think differently than myself.  Am I willing to let go enough to be in awe of the newness of an experience, much like a young child?  I’m willing to try.  I’ll see how it goes.  If nothing else, I’ll learn more about my curiosity or lack thereof.  

I can’t say I was in child-like wonderment whilst I tried to learn two new computer programs today.  It was more like initial confusion followed by adult frustration.  My curiosity quickly morphed into baffled exasperation.   Though I wasn’t as open as I would have liked, I was able to marvel at my reaction, and my limited ability to take in perplexing information.  I will try again briefly today, but it appears I need more time and energy to learn these programs.  May I say that the tutorials for both wrongly claim the ease in which one can get them up and running.  What I didn’t fully appreciate before is that I cannot rely on old knowledge to magically create aptitude for new skills.

It helped to admit that I couldn’t figure out how to launch the programs. Though I was hoping not being able to master the first program, I could figure out the second one.  Not having the bandwidth to take in anything new happens more now in the pandemic.  And, if that’s not enough, even old facts leave me with limited mental access.  If I once knew something but can’t recall it at a particular time, I’m more embarrassed than if I never knew it at all.  Or, if I am familiar with a topic, but know no specifics about said topic, I’ve been reluctant to admit that.  I am happy to eschew that behavior by proudly admitting all I don’t know.  I certainly don’t know how this will go, but I’m curious to find out.  In the meantime, I’ll reread Fran Lebowitz’s essays.

  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Admit that you don’t know something. It’s better to learn by not knowing than to be uncertain of what you might know.  
  • Make room for making mistakes, it’s bound to happen, and it helps us grow.  
  • Shape recommendations or suggestions to accommodate your life rather than shaping your world to acclimate to specific advice. 
  • Watch Netflix’s “Pretend it’s a City,” or something else true to your sense of humor.  
  • Place a light fragrance on your wrist, sniff it periodically, to get you through tough times. 

Boy, Oh, Boy, Week 44 in the Time of Coronavirus

Yesterday I hit the wall.  Before I lost all steam, I had lofty plans.  I had research to do.  There is always cleaning and organizing.  I was behind on my writing.  Yet, by the time I was three fourths of the way through a walk in Central Park, I felt as if I was dragging my leaden legs on the southern arc of the Reservoir.  When I finally reached home, I couldn’t get my sweats on fast enough.  Then Lucy had to go out.  I love her, and also dearly wished there was someone else who would have taken her out.  I was able to speak with a friend from the other coast, and that gave me a pleasurable energy shot.  Though life in California is as fraught as it is in New York and throughout the world. 

This past week brought to the forefront the negative results of anger and hate.  Those are human experiences, but when those feelings are unchecked, then further fueled, they become destructive.  I hope we can learn from this, rather than take sides with defensive righteousness.  I certainly see how my own unexamined anger hurts Larry, Alex and probably others.  Once I see that I’ve hurt them, I have to consider what changes I can make so that we share joy rather than pain.  It’s an ongoing process of patience and kindness mixed with tools to calm my agitated soul.  

Was it possible that I had no energy to calm myself after Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol?  That played a part in my exhaustion, nonetheless, having witnessed it from afar, it’s not the only reason.  From what I’ve heard I am not alone in running out of steam in this time of Coronavirus.  We are all frayed.  We have been faced with challenges that have pushed us beyond our known limits, while still having to conduct our lives on a daily basis.  

I imagine yesterday’s pause was essential.  It meant I missed attending my first Zoom party.  It was only this morning that I even remembered that it was last night.  I think of my friends and family daily.  I so appreciate what they are doing to brighten others’ lives.  Though it’s an internal reflection since I rarely reach out these days, I am grateful that they are in the world and in my thoughts.  

Here we go into another week.  What will it bring?  We’ll see.   For me, I plan to get more rest.  I’m hopeful that will make room for added patience and kindness. 

Self-Care

  • Light a candle.  Whether it’s a small birthday candle or a luxurious scented candle, light a candle to brighten these dark winter nights.  
  • Compliment someone.  It’s easy to think nice thoughts, but it’s invaluable for someone to hear that you noticed.  
  • Look up.  Sometimes we see things we would have otherwise missed. 
  • Go for a walk, short or long, it can be an essential calming tool
  • Pause.  Check your breath and survey your body.  Coming back to ourselves, even 30 seconds at a time, is another way of acquiring calm. 

Cautiously Optimistic, Week 43 in the Time of Coronavirus

Is this really a Happy New Year?  Yes, we survived 2020.  And, yet, recalling how happy we were to be in a new decade just a year ago, we are constantly reminded of the unexpected turn of events in March.  

In this first weekend of the new year, we take stock of the meaning of “hindsight is 2020.” Relieved that 2020 is behind us, our memories are raw from all we witnessed, and all we faced personally.  I now know the impact of ongoing stress on my body and mind.  I am just beginning to understand what is required to sooth myself and support others going through the intensity of extreme tension.  Sometimes it means reaching out and caring for someone, taking the attention off myself.  Other times it means paying close attention to what I need, whether it be a nap, meditation, or another episode of Law & Order.  

I am appreciative of the laughter brought to me by New Yorker cartoons, silly memes, posts on social media, and absurd memories with my sister, Sharyn.  I have grown to love the color of the sky as I walk through the city streets and parks.  I am grateful to my grandfather, Sam, who watched nature shows like The Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Though I was bored as a child who preferred to see The Jetsons in those early years, now that I’m his age from that time, I appreciate the pleasure of seeing animals in their natural habitats on the small screen.  

I have chosen not to make any resolutions.  I am not resolving to be better in any way.  Yes, I will work on bettering myself, but that remains a daily practice, one with many pitfalls, and flawed attempts.  And, this year, much like last year, I will pick myself up again, and again, dust myself off, and slowly move ahead.  If I remember I will look up at the sky in child-like wonderment.  A moment of awe whatever year it might be.  

Go gently into 2021, step by small step.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Alternate self-care behavior.  This way you find what works best, and what you need in different situations.
  • If and when you feel aches or pains, touch the area with care.  This is not a substitute for medical care, please attend to that.  This is a small gesture that affirms the healing power of touch.
  • Rather than thinking of all you will do in 2021, think of what you will no longer do.  Find the joy of saying no thank you to one or two “shoulds.”
  • Lower your expectations.  We’ve lived with a lot of disappointments this past year.  Lowering our expectations allows us to take in and act on what comes our way.  
  • Try something new, or try anything you’re not good at, like a new recipe, trying your hand at poetry, or learning a new language.  It helps us to develop humility.  

So Long 2020, Week 42 in the Time of Coronavirus

Before the end of this week we will welcome in a new year.  Never will there have been a greater collective sigh throughout the globe than at the rotating midnight hour of 1/1/2021.  We all faced many challenges throughout the year.  And we all learned essential truths about ourselves.  I learned that doing less was a relief.  I learned that patience is not an end point, but an ongoing process.  I learned to use my crankier tendences as a reflection on what vulnerabilities I am attempting to protect.  I learned that I still have a lot to learn in asking for help.  Plus, I learned that 2020 gave us endless opportunities to learn.  I also learned that even with the possibility of learning, sometimes learning to relax was the best option.   

            Having to slow down gave me a chance to see the best in others.  Family, friends and others shared their kindness and generosity of spirit again and again.  Courage rose exponentially as we faced multiple traumas.  There was the courage to get through a single day.  And there was the courage to recreate ourselves in the face of endless hardships.  

            I’m uncertain what the future brings.  I long to travel, but don’t want to go anywhere until we’re all safe.  I yearn live theater, however, I can’t say what that might look like post-pandemic.  January 1st will look pretty much the same as the other days these past months.  Nevertheless, I feel tremendous hope for our near future. Nature will continue to bring special moments, as long as we show respect to our natural world.  Thanks to acts of goodness and kindness, both apparent and unseen, we will continue to make it through this time of Coronavirus.  Personally, I thank you for reading these blog posts.  By giving your time and attention, you have been invaluable to me.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Rather than looking for happiness, try working on feeling deeply satisfied.
  • Instead of New Year’s resolutions, think of what you’d like to let go of at the end of this year.
  • Sleep, laugh and cry.  Not necessarily altogether, but each provides relief and release.  
  • Review this past year and acknowledge all you accomplished, both large and small wins.
  • Review this past year and celebrate the inner strengths you never knew you had.