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