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.   

Finding Joy, Week 39 in the Time of Coronavirus

I found joy on a rainy day.  Usually when it rains in this pandemic, I’ve been apt to wane in energy.  But when it was pouring outside this past week, I turned on an old dance playlist that Larry had previously made for me.  It includes disco, Klezmer music, Irish folk music, jazz and so much more.  I was in heaven.  It’s been so long since I’ve moved with utter abandon.  There I was in my office, all alone, dancing for a good hour to song after song, gyrating and laughing.  The power of music and movement is transformative.  

            I was slow to get out of bed as I felt the cool air while listening to the patter of the raindrops.  Coffee helped but it wasn’t the power elixir I needed.  At first I tried to go out for a walk, but the rain and wind were strong, and I didn’t want to start my workday wet.  So, I found my apple music app.  The last time I danced it was still called iTunes.  The first song was Elvis singing “All Shook Up.”  That got me into the mood without hesitation.  Luckily I’m on the first floor so no one was below me, allowing me to jump or spin when I was moved to do so.  

            In general, I’ve enjoyed small pleasures in this time of Covid-19.  I pass unexpected winter flowers.  Or I enjoy the cloud formations and light when the sky opens up between city buildings.  Fun is relative in the pandemic.  Yet, this past week fun was full and joyous.  Since I have hours of music, I’m going to dance again and again throughout the winter.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Send holiday cards.  We all need a little lift these days.  And, everyone enjoys receiving mail that’s something other than bills or junk.  
  • Stamps.  To send the cards go to USPS.com to find stamps that reflect you.  Or create your own at Stamps.com.
  • Call a friend.  We’re so used to using social media to get caught up.  A person-to-person call is a lovely old-fashioned connection.  
  • Rub your feet.  If you can reach them try putting cream on the soles and rub it in.  If bending down is difficult, rub your bare feet on a soft rug.  
  • Dance with abandon, alone or with your pod.  

The Desire for Instant Gratification, Week 38 in the Time of Coronavirus

We made it through a very different Thanksgiving.  Then on black Friday I received so many emails advertising the “best” sales of the year.  I was intrigued.  I opened up small business and non-profit websites.  I purchased a few things that I unquestionably don’t need.  Now after the sale I’m not even certain if they’ll make good gifts.  What I do know is that there was something compelling about the immediate gratification at a time when so little is happening.  For a few brief hours I’d take breaks to peruse websites while making a couple of impulsive purchases.  Call it clearance therapy.  

It felt like a small liberation to acquire a few seemingly needless items.  The bargains were incredible.  And it felt strange to engage in such a frivolous action.  I understand that I’m privileged to buy stuff during this time of widespread unemployment.  Perhaps I chose small businesses as an unconscious compensation.  I like supporting solo endeavors, small businesses and non-profit organizations.  I grew up the daughter of a small business owner.  Sale season was always a boon for his shoe store.  The income from pre-holiday sales supported our family of six for the leaner times in the subsequent months.  When I started working as a cashier at 14, I’d go to the mall and spend my earnings on the best sale offers I could find.  

Perhaps it’s part yearning for times past, and part needing something special we get to choose now.   It’s true that so many of us crave instant gratification during this long stretch.  I got it Friday and will have another quick high when the packages arrive.  During this pandemic most of my immediate gratifications came while walking.  I’d see a beautiful light in the sky.  Or the flowers would catch my eye.  Actually, it was less immediate gratification than moments of grace.  And, having had my clearance therapy on Friday, I was able to get back to walking, and my slow running, enjoying the last colors of the season.  

We’re about to embark on living through the final month of 2020.  We employed a tremendous amount of patience to get this far.  And we’re being asked to wait even longer before we’ll be able to recognize certain aspects of pre-2020.  I guess a few transgressions along the way are a small price to pay for getting through this time of the Coronavirus.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Take in a poem.  It helps us to imagine differently. 
  • Wear cozy socks.  There’s nothing like warm, comfortable socks as the weather gets cold.  Try some with grips on the bottom to wear without shoes while indoors.
  • Warm beverages can be so soothing.  A favorite tea, hot cocoa, heated cider, or a warm adult beverage can all be enjoyed this season.  
  • Think of a personal quality that you judge unfavorably.  Now think of a way in which that specific characteristic can be a strength under certain circumstances.  
  • Try adding a new color to your life.  Whether you choose a different color for your mask, or you choose a vegetable that adds color to a meal, take pleasure in something different.  

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.