Thanksgiving, Gratitude & Disappointment, Week 37 in the Time of Coronavirus

There’s no doubt that this is a Thanksgiving like no other.  Many will spend Thanksgiving, if it is being spent at all, without loved ones.  In a large number of cases, it will be the first holiday without someone because they died, either of Covid-19 or from other causes.  It’s hard to feel thankful for these facts.  We can embody gratitude for what we’ve had in the past.  Or we may feel grateful for not having to be social when we’re not up to seeing anyone.  However, that’s a far cry from the delight of festivities of past years.  

Gratitude and its cousin, appreciation, can feel like a burden in times of fear, sadness and loss.  I am all for gratitude journals, and gratitude as a tenet of living a deeply satisfying life.  But we must come to this on our own terms.  When Thanksgiving comes around, I find there’s a collective social desire to manufacture gratitude on top of hardship.  A kind of “fake it ‘til you make it” premise.  I propose that we are tender with the losses and disappointments of 2020.  In telling the truth of what we have and what we don’t have any more, or what we never had, we can find compassion for ourselves in these times.  And if we can be grateful for anything it is for our capacity to heal.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Enjoy laughs. David Sedaris’s new book The Best of Me is just what we need in these times.  Hearing him read it in the Audible version adds to the pleasure. 
  • Consider the Buddhist tenet “we are not our thoughts.”  When you are having thoughts that you don’t like, or are uncomfortable, do a mental separation.  Touch your hand and say, “The is me.  That was a thought.”  You may have to repeat it a few times.  
  • Listen to jazz standards or other soothing music.  I can recommend Natalie Douglas, Diana Krall, or Nancy Lamott.
  • Hydrate.  We tend to forget to drink water in the colder weather.  
  • Purposefully take a day off.  If you can’t do that, take short breaks, even if it means going to the bathroom alone and taking a couple of breaths before resuming your responsibilities.  

Time, Boredom & Patience, Week 36 in the Time of Coronavirus

I woke up early this morning.  My plan was to sleep in.  But we all know what happens to plans in this time of the coronavirus.  I took advantage of the early hour to run to Central Park to slowly jog in the park.  There are parts of my body that demand the slow pace.  While runners and walkers passed me by, I chose patience for my leisurely stride.  I admit there were moments I compared myself to other grey-haired runners who were twice as fast.  Then I went back to kind self-talk as I slowly but surely went around the Park Drive and other paths.  

The park looks beautiful.  Though drawn out, my run was anything but boring.  Yet, for many of us boredom has set in during the pandemic.  It’s not the ennui of a lazy summer weekend, it’s more of a dull lethargy.  It’s a feeling of “I don’t wanna.” It’s a sensation many have day in and day out as we ride the Coronavirus wave.  

 Most of us thought that we would see a slight bump and then get back to our understanding of “normal.”  We all know that didn’t happen.  We’re three quarters of a year in, and we are still showing signs of impatience.  The funny thing about time is that it can draw out our boredom.  Time can also give us the space to incorporate patience.  

            As a child, I can’t say that I really enjoyed the years I spent going to Shabbat services.  I would squirm in my seat waiting for the final benediction.  Those hours spent in Synagogue, as well as the hours spent in school assemblies, and at the beauty parlor waiting for my mom to finish getting her bouffant, taught me how to sit still.  They helped me to endure boring moments and they allowed me the necessary time to learn patience. 

            I wasn’t patient then.  I’m still learning to be patient now.  Without a lot of external distractions, I find that I’m more in tune with how I’m feeling, how I’m reacting, and how to care for myself in those moment.  The pandemic has been so difficult in so many ways.  Yet, one take away is that it has given me a chance to be a little more patient.  And when I am patient with myself and my varying moods, then I have more patience for others.  When things don’t go my way, and there seems to be a lot of that in the pandemic, I rely on patience to get me through.  It’s a somewhat flawed system, because when I lack the patience to be patient with myself, then I have to find the patience for my impatient self.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Go old school.  Watch a movie from the 30s like Swing Time, 42nd Street, The Thin Man or My Man Godfrey.
  • Double down on old school by checking out stand-up comedians like Jack Benny, Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, Robin Williams, Moms Mabley, or Wendy Leibman
  • Find a noise, a hoot, an out loud, “yay,” or something that’s all your own to cheer you on for small wins during the day.  i.e.: Yay, I took a shower today.  
  • Take out the good china, silver, crystal.  Sometimes we have to make any day a special day. 
  • Get rescue remedy.  It’s the perfect Bach remedy for these times.  

Light Coming Through the Darkness; Week 35 in the Time of Coronavirus.

I hadn’t realized how stressed I’d been these last 4 years until the presidential election results came in.  My shoulders almost immediately released the tension I’d been holding.  I felt lighter.  Hopeful.  The heavy months since the coronavirus were revealed changed our world even further adding to my stress.  Mostly, I felt as if I was on the defensive, cautious when outside, exhausted at home.  In talking to so many other like-minded friends and family I heard they, too, felt a collective sigh of relief Saturday.  

I have no doubt that those who supported the president’s re-election do not share our jubilation.  They wanted something else.  But I cannot endure more divisiveness.  I don’t want to live defensively anymore.  I’m hopeful we can come together to create a change that is good for all of us.  

It would be easy to wait for January to see what happens.  However, I believe in my heart that the first steps are not to count on leadership to make changes, but for each of us to start repairing the relationships that can bare the hard work in the name of peace.  I know that I can do better at being gentle with myself when I get defensive.  And, in turn, be kind to others understanding they have their own pain. 

We are not strong when we compare ourselves to others to feel better about ourselves.  We are strong when we bring love, compassion and consciousness to our relationships and our shared lives.  I know I could stand to be less judgmental, less reactive.  I may not be able to stop altogether, but I can take steps, like pausing to ask myself what I’m feeling in that moment.   Then attending to those feelings.  We can start now to let the healing begin.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Give yourself a moment of silence.  See what it’s like for you when you have that small space in time.  What do you feel?  Is it uncomfortable? What are your thoughts?
  • Write down an apology.  You don’t have to send it.  But write down something for which you are sorry.  Then write what, if anything, will change now that you’ve apologized.  
  • Forgive.  Think about someone or a situation for which you’ve held a grudge.  See if you’ve already secretly forgiven that hurt.  If so, acknowledge that for yourself.  
  • Take your vitamins either as part of the food you eat or as a supplement.  
  • Be part of the solution.  Think of something that bothers you and take an action that brings you closer to an outcome you desire.  

Voting Anxiety; Week 34 in the Time of Coronavirus

Although Election Day has passed, it still can be applied to this uncertain time.

The stress of this election during the pandemic seems to have expanded as we move closer to Election Day.  The conflicting commercials incite doubt and fear.  The news is alarmist.  And we’re taking it all in.  It felt empowering to vote, but it didn’t last long.  

            We ‘re living in a divisive environment.  Many friendships have ended solely based on political preference.  Families are divided over presidential partiality.  Now that we’re in the time of coronavirus we get even more agitated when someone claims that they’re voting for the opposition.  

It’s challenging to feel at peace now.  With any luck I feel it first thing in the morning and last thing at night between the time I get ready to meditate up until the moments of serenity following my meditation.  Nature also elicits a feeling of calm.  While here in the city I walk through Central Park, Carl Shurz Park, and Randall’s Island to enjoy the gifts of nature.  

The rest of the day is a crap shoot.  I may think I’m fine only to react to a seemingly insignificant interaction.  It happened yesterday as I was walking Lucy, our dog.  A woman got annoyed about our position on the sidewalk.  And I responded in kind.  I can’t say why it was important for me to interact with her at all.  But there I was reacting unconstructively to a stranger.  Conversely, there are many people I know who give me hope.  

Friends, new and old, provide faith in the power of goodness. My family provides that too.   They remind me of what’s important.  Common decency, a shared laugh at no one’s expense, being heard, being understood, and a helping hand are all qualities I appreciate in my friends. Most of us will be preoccupied early this week.  I know I’ll be working Tuesday and when I’m done, I will most likely reach out to a couple of friends.  It always feels good to affirm the power of kindness, especially now. 

Self-Care Tips:

  • Vote!
  • Use a soft liquid soap or a foam soap.  It’s a lovely soothing experience in the shower, and for your hands.
  • Be curious. Listen up or view things from an innocent place to take in something new.
  • Make a plan for election day.  It’s suggested you contact those who you find supportive.  
  • Check out this site for voting safely:  https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-to-vote-safely-in-person-this-november#2
  • Saccharine

Dropping, Spilling & Breaking; Week 33 in the Time of Coronavirus

Today while making chili, beans spread out in the sink while I was draining them. Usually I’m not so lucky to have a contained spatter. Just two weeks ago glass shattered in all directions. I put on my shoes and cleaned up the shards that extended into two rooms. I’ve certainly seen an uptick in drops, breakage and absent-mindedness. It seems to have increased in these last few weeks. Yes, I can be clumsy, but I usually don’t have to clean up a spill every day. Well, I can’t say that anymore.

The amount of energy it takes to get through our days when we’ve been limited to external outlets is trying. There’s bound to be some fallout. For me one fallout is the inevitable dropping of at least one ball up in the air. Have any of us had to juggle so much while those around us are simultaneously juggling their own load? I doubt it. It’s my first time on such a long haul.

The good enough news is that I am better prepared to clean it up. Though I’m more careful on the outset, it has not prevented me from spilling my coffee, or dropping a jar of herbs. In the past I’ve cursed and resented having to interrupt my flow to wipe up the mess. Now I see it as part of the process. Albeit, a slow, dirty, frustrating process, but very much a part of this bumpy road we’re on. We now can expect the unexpected. It might come in the form of a broken vase or a wet counter. Or, sadly, it might be in the form of a broken heart, an interrupted life. Sometimes a rag can do the trick. Other times a box of tissues is not enough to catch the tears we’re shedding.

Let’s have patience with ourselves and each other. There may not be a solution for what we’re going through, but a kind word, a caring gesture can make all the difference in this messy era.

Self-Care Tips

  • When you drop something, take a breath.  Give yourself a moment, then clean it up.  Let the clean-up be its own activity.  
  • It’s soup weather.  Enjoy a new recipe.  Rely on an old favorite.  Or go out and purchase soup to warm up.  
  • Repeat this mantra for these times: “It’s not what I wanted, but it’s what I got.”  
  • Go old school and create a collage.  It can be a vision board, a creative venture, or make up your own theme.  
  • Find blue light glasses for your screen time 

I Was Wrong; Week 32 in the Time of Coronavirus

Last week I made acorn squash with essence of orange and maple syrup.  I asked Larry to bring a spoon, as I thought that might be easier than a fork.  He proudly came back with a grapefruit spoon.  Silently I was annoyed.  Didn’t I just ask him for a spoon?  A regular spoon?  I begrudgingly took it from him.  I was tired and rather than open up with vulnerability, I found myself closing down with negativity.  When I tried the spoon, which has unobtrusive serrating, it turned out to be an excellent choice for the squash.  Larry likes to find the perfect tool for the job, and I was wrong to not trust him.  In the past I wouldn’t have even tried the utensil. I would have marched into the kitchen to get a regular spoon.  Yes, I have been known to be that petty.  Yet in this instance, being open allowed for a better culinary experience.  

For years as a defense mechanism I have needed to be right.  I would even sacrifice a better experience than admit I was wrong. Or, I’d say I was wrong, but secretly think I was right.   It’s hard to become a better person when I can’t be open to all that is unknown.  There’s nothing like a pandemic to test the limitations of being right.  So many of us thought this would be a short stint of sacrifice followed by triumph.  It is anything but that.  

I am faced with my foibles as I go through my days in a pandemic.  For those of us who are parents, we see the cracks in our seemingly strong facades on a regular basis.  As a therapist, I’m faced with the benefits and constraints of talk therapy.  We have no answers now.  We can talk about and work on making changes on how we deal with our current circumstances, but we cannot immediately change the national and global ills.  Personally and professionally I believe speaking about our hardships with the intention of growing is invaluable. If you prefer something more active, vote.  Also, we can deliberately make changes to the seemingly mundane.  We just have to be open to doing something differently.  Perhaps we’ll get it right if we admit we were wrong.  It’s working for me.  Thank you, Larry.  

Self-Care Tools

  • Try using a grapefruit spoon for grapefruits, squash and anything else you deem applicable.  
  • Find a course or article online on art, music, dance or theater history.  It’s great to dig a little deeper into an artform you appreciate.  
  • Change the way you put on your shoes, or other daily habit.  If you’re a sock, shoe, sock shoe person, put both socks on first.  If you always start with your right foot, start with your left.  See how it feels to switch up an ingrained habit.  
  • If you are incorrect about something, see if you can admit to being wrong.  It might feel like a lovely release.  
  • Do what you can.  These can be challenging times, do what you can, appreciating you’re doing your best under the circumstances.  

Who Cares About Rewards? Week 31 in the Time of Coronavirus

I keep receiving emails warning me that my hotel or travel awards are going to expire.  Or, I’m enticed to go out to eat to get points and rewards.  I simply don’t care.  In the past I played the game and accrued points and rewards.  I was happy to join one program or another to earn gift certificates for shopping, extra discounts, free meals or nights at hotels.  None of this is of interest now.  The notices remind me that I have been an avid consumer, through and through.  

Once in a while I was able to enjoy a free meal or a room upgrade.  Or, I planned a trip in which I used miles.  Mostly, though, I found myself happy to have the points or rewards, while having no good use for them except in my mind.  Not being able to travel during the pandemic, and mostly not choosing to eat out in the city, I am left with these impractical accounts. 

These days I’m unloading rather than amassing.  Going through old spices, clothes that are uncomfortable, papers that are out of date, and any number other of items that no longer serve me.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with my travel rewards.  But one thing seems certain, continuing with most of these programs appears to be pointless.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Follow Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter.  It’s fun, literary, and caring.  
  • Do a duet in the shower with your favorite solo singer. Choose your bedroom or any place you like.  Use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, a recording or track, then sing at the top of your lungs.  
  • Squash is in season.  Branch out with a new variety like Delicata, Banana Squash, or Kabosha.
  • Identify and focus your energy and attention on your strengths.  This alone can support moving forward.   
  • Take a peek through a window into your unconscious.  Keep a notebook and pencil next to your bed.  Write down any images or dream you had as soon as you wake up.  

Autumn is Here: Week 30 in the Time of Coronavirus

This Autumn is like no other.  And, given that fact, we will go through it differently than in the past.  For most of us, it feels quite disorienting.  We like to be able to count on what we’ve known to be true.  

For so many of us the Fall is when we start anew.  We count on the school year, even years after we’ve attended school, to pace ourselves.  I feel like I have to create a new pace for living through a pandemic.  No one I know counted on it lasting this long.  We made mental deals with ourselves to get through the first three months.  And, as we enter our eighth month, we are bedraggled.  At least I am.  

Last week my walks were slower, my runs shorter.  I just didn’t have it in me to move around the city with alacrity.  Now that we’re in the last quarter of the year, I am thinking how to enjoy this period, while securing more down time so that I can enjoy the weather, the fall colors, and moments of grace when they come.  Luckily, it’s beautiful in New York City.  There are hints of changing hues in the parks, and a clear, crisp air that propels my movements outside.  But when home, I’m depleted, though I have work and life responsibilities that call.  

To face this time in life, I am making the distinction, or at least I’m working on making distinctions, between the things I can and cannot control.  I can wear a mask.  And, when I forget to put it on, because Covid-brain, I have an extra one in my bag that I can pull out.  I can go to bed early.  I can take walks.  I cannot control how the day goes.  And, I am not always able to control my reactions.  Afterwards, I am able to take responsibility for those outbursts.  I do apologize. And sometimes I even learn from those difficult interactions.  And, when I’m being hard on myself, I can recognize that something is amiss. I then slow down to look to see what the genuine issue might be.  If there is a silver lining during this pandemic, it’s having the space to slow down.  It might not have been a welcomed gift at first, but with time I am able to appreciate its power.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Allay insomnia by writing down a list of worries that swim around in your mind.  In writing them down they can be transferred from your mind to the paper, allowing you to pick it up in the morning, if you’re so inclined.  
  • Open up your spices and sniff them.  Having your sense of smell ignited expands possibilities.
  • Go online window shopping.  Though we might not be able to visit all the stores we like, we can take our imagination online.  This way you can look without overspending.  Window shop without spending a dime.  Or, if you feel you can’t look without buying, give yourself a budget so you can choose within your financial means.  
  • Put an ice pack on your forehead or back of your neck.  The cooling sensation soothes as it shifts our stressed-out feelings from tightness to some release.  
  • Give yourself a moment to slow down.  See how that feels.  Notice what you like about giving yourself a moment.  And, notice if you think you’re giving something up by creating a moment just for you.   

Weeds in Context; Week 29 in the Time of Coronavirus

As a young girl, how I loved to blow the puff of a dandelion while I made a wish.  And the bright yellow flowers were so nice sprinkled about the lawn when I was growing up.  I remember being told I shouldn’t like dandelions because they were weeds.  And, though I secretly enjoyed the seed carrying wisps and the bright yellow blooms, I did not share this with lawn lovers in my neighborhood.  

But in a pandemic, in a concrete jungle, flowers of any kind can brighten my walks.  So, as I was spending a work break by walking on the East River esplanade, I smiled when I came across some dandelions.  I have a deep appreciation for dandelions in this pandemic.  Seeing them is a bright spot during these difficult days.  Not only do they bring me back to my childhood, but they also connect me to the present.   

Dandelions remind me that the value of an experience is based on context.  In the context of the Coronavirus, a flash of color is a small gift.  In the context of suburban lawns of the 60s, that same weed was a scourge on manicured properties.  Context really matters these days.  When we think of caring for ourselves, and perhaps those we love, getting through a pandemic may present new pathways to our well-being.  We may have hit our saturation point of plowing through.  Now we have to embrace the weeds of the past, both literal and metaphorical, as we wind our way on the twisted Covid-19 road.  Where once I might have called myself lazy for taking a day to rest with so much to get done, these days, indulging in a respite is a loving act I can give to myself.  

Let’s bring out the weeds. Make a bouquet of them.  We owe it to ourselves to enjoy the wild flowering plants in these turbulent times. 

Self Care Tips:

  • Make a wish.  If you’re not able to wish on a dandelion puff, write your wish down and put it in a secret place where you might forget about it for a while.  
  • Actively listen.  See if you can listen from a place of curiosity.  Instead of adding what you know to the conversation, see if you can learn something new from the person speaking.
  • Be willing to be wrong.  We open up and grow if we are not attached to being right.  
  • Make one small change that leads to a larger change.  That could mean taking out your yoga mat so that you might stretch someday soon, or it could mean you open up a new document so that you can write something you’ve been meaning to write.  Or, you buy an ingredient for a recipe you’ve been wanting to try.  
  • Whether you need inspiration or a short break, go to YouTube and search for someone who makes you smile and watch a brief video of their words, song, dance, or other offerings.  

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.