About janetgzinn

Living, loving, and learning as a psychotherapist, writer, mom, wife and other human endeavors.

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.  

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.