Stressing About Stress, Week 22 in the Time of Coronavirus

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Oh Boy, another opportunity to stress.  We are going away to unload stress from city living, and yet here I am stressing about going away.  I’ve gotten used to the steady hum of anxiety just below the surface.  I have yet to speak to anyone during the pandemic that hasn’t acknowledged added stress. These feelings manifest themselves in many forms.  For me, I have a hard time focusing, going from one task to another without completing any of them until I’ve come back around twice.

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For the first time in years we will be at a place where there is no WiFi or cell service.  To that end I set a deadline for myself to complete this post before we left.  Last night was my made-up target.  When I failed to do that, I had to search for another word rather than fail to come back to myself with some patience and understanding.  Now I’m telling myself I simply did not finish this last night, and am doing that now.

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This also meant that my walk, run or bike ride was going to be short today.  I didn’t wake up early.  Instead I slept until I woke naturally and abbreviated my previous goals.  Perhaps we’ll settle in early enough for me to take a walk around the large property this evening.   Or, not.  Either way, we’re on an adventure.  I am in turns, excited and nervous.  And I’m interested how my stress will wane in the wooded Catskills.

 

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Self-Care Tips

 

  • Do something sensual. This isn’t necessarily sexual.  This has to do with your five senses.  Find a scent you like, make touch a sensate experience.  Mold clay, taste something divine.  Listen to the birds or music, or secondary sounds.
  • Make-up with yourself. Think of something for which you got mad at yourself.  Now let yourself know that you are your own reclaimed friend.  As a friend to yourself you may feel more inclined to treat yourself with respect and compassion.
  • Learn something new. Whether you listen to someone who knows something you didn’t know, or whether you look up information online on a site like lifehacker.com or zidbits.com, it’s fun to learn facts, hacks or material new to you.
  • Do it differently. Like I had to shorten my run today, as well as my blog post, it can be relieving to accomplish something outside your routine.
  • Get away. If you’re not going anywhere try a virtual tour on Fodor’s or another travel website.  Or, take a new route on a walk.  Or leave your home for a safe place in a new venue.   All can expand your outlook.

Boredom, Week 21 in the Time of Coronavirus

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It felt so nice to find expanded trails on Randall’s Island yesterday.  The monotony of life during the Coronavirus can be stifling.  Though I walk daily, finding fresh paths and unseen sights has been challenging.  And, to find them in places that are free from others is nearly impossible in the city.  But I persevere as if it’s a made-up game to challenge the norm.

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I’m coming up with a lot of private games.  Can I meditate and let my thoughts pass by or will I go on a tangent and then find myself caught between my imagination and the present moment?  Will I be able to find an isolated spot in the city and take a deep breath without my mask on because no one is around?  Will I be able to employ grace in giving another the benefit of the doubt, or will I be judgmental?  I am always the winner of these games.  I am either humbled, understanding that I am still growing.  Or, I was able to accomplish it in that moment, understanding that I will be playing that game again with no guarantee of same outcome next time around.

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I hear so often how bored we are.  When we don’t have our go-to activities it can feel boring to face the void.  There are a lot of theories about boredom.  Some experts think that acting out of boredom is a way to incite problems that give us something to focus on.  Others think underneath boredom is anger.  Still other experts postulate that boredom connotes a lack of purpose.  All are understandable while our world confronts Covid-19.

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We miss getting together with friends and family.  Many miss public gatherings.  Others miss going out.  Naturally there’s a lot we miss.   The pandemic has been a time of losses.  Too many have lost their lives, others their health, a great many their livelihoods.  And most everyone misses a sense of safety.

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The upside of boredom is the opportunity it provides for innovation.  We are in a position to discover ourselves anew.  We may find out things about ourselves we never recognized.  For instance, I always thought of myself as an active individual.  I liked being busy.  Though I, along with so many psychotherapists are busier than ever, I am resting more, making down time a priority.  Or, we may find hidden corners of the city’s parks that allow us to move freely.  Or, we find out that our value is not about what we have or what we do, but by how we live our lives.  And, we can only discover these personal truths by living through the boredom.

 

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Self-care Tips

  • Find a quarantine concert. There are so many from Eryka Badu to Nora Jones and Norm Lewis.  com has a list.  And, this link was in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/arts/music/best-quarantine-concerts-livestream.html.  There are so many more.  Check out pages from your favorite artists or genres.
  • The wonderful charity MIND has a 24-hour free helpline: 800-123-3393, this is a mental health hotline for those who are experiencing depression & anxiety.
  • Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Rather than expecting them to behave a certain way, see if you can open yourself up for another possibility.
  • I just heard this adage: If it’s hysterical it’s historical. When you’re feeling something deeply it can be a personal kindness to think of it as a way of working through something from your past that still plays a role in your emotional well-being.
  • Give yourself permission to change your mind.  Giving our word matters.  Yet there are times when we are not up to doing what we committed to doing.  You can then change your mind.  More often than not the other person will feel relieved with the cancelled plans, to

The Frustration Budget, Week 20 in the Time of Coronavirus


The light breeze in the high heat and humidity of this New York summer is a simple pleasure these days.  When I amble along on the sweltering sidewalks I can feel the gentle air waves stroke my head and shoulders lifting me up from the heaviness of the muggy day.  It’s a simple joy to feel the wind when it comes.  It eases the countless frustrations that have set upon us during this time of the Coronavirus. 
 
Given how easily I can be set off these days, I have come up with a made-up system.  I have begun to enact a frustration budget.  Living through a pandemic can wreak havoc with our nervous systems.  So, I am going to assess what is a livable measure of frustration, and anything above that quotient will not be spent.  I am not my best when I’m overstressed.  And, then I circle back on annoyance with my mood and behavior, thus adding to my agitation level.  
 
At this point I think I need to set up my budget with a low level of frustration.  I am subtracting rather than adding to my to-do list.  I am laughing at myself for my lack of memory, including my lack of access to common words, and forgetting seemingly simple tasks.   I open my pajama drawer when I mean to retrieve socks from a parallel drawer.  I am at work, and I am unable to make a point since the word “overcome” will not make itself known to my brain in that moment.  Pre-pandemic, I would get annoyed with myself, and maybe even defensive.  Now, deep in the storm of Covid-19, I am amused by my foibles.  At least that’s how it is this hour.  
 
The frustration budget will be a work in progress.  I just thought of it this week, as I felt exhausted by the end of my day, and quickly followed it up by being less than pleasant when I came home.  It was then I thought, “why not limit what I take in that doesn’t bring me joy?”  And, why not?  I don’t need to finish those articles now when I don’t have the bandwidth.  I can look at the New Yorker cartoons, and save anything else that really interests me.  I can leave the room if the TV is on a program that I neither like nor care about.  I can shorten my walk if I get exasperated by those who are not following the CDC recommendations.  I can lengthen my meditation so that I purposely have more calm moments in my day.  
 
I am amazed by the changes that have occurred since our world changed.  Much of it is difficult.  But some of it, like noticing that I can’t continue on building a wall of aggravations on top of displeasures brings a sliver of mindfulness. It’s a kindness that I can give myself.  I imagine the daily distractions and activities in the past allowed me to ignore certain annoyances, but now they are front and center.  It is time to tear down the wall one frustration at a time until I am thriving within my frustration budget.  
  

Self-Care Tips:
·      Notice what frustrates you and see if you can let go of anything on your list
·      Start a Bullet Journal.  It’s a creative way to track what’s important to you.  
·      Keep a Mood Tracker so you can care for yourself no matter what you’re feeling
·      Write personal affirmations and put them on post-its, then place them where you’ll see them like on the bathroom mirror, in your sock drawer, or on the calendar.  
·      See if you can laugh at yourself when you find you’re being hard on yourself.  It really shifts your mindset.  If you can’t laugh at yourself.  Maybe you can smile at the fact that it’s not easy to go from frustration to humor.  

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Gifts from Strangers, Week 19 in the Time of Coronavirus

I hadn’t anticipated it, but yesterday was an enriching day.  It started out hot and humid, and I knew that if I was going to get out, I wasn’t going to be able to move at a clipped pace.  I was wary of taking my bike out, believing that the park would be crowded, and I just needed something less populated.  So, I ventured out on foot listening to a new book Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala, a Nigerian-American author.  It’s beautifully written and the readers are terrific.  

My destination was a Cambodian restaurant, the only one in the city. I had read about it but had never visited.  I saw that it was closing at the end of the month, and so used it as a destination.  I would order take-out and carry our dinner home.  Though I couldn’t go inside, when I stepped up to pay, I viewed a stunning interior.  There were Buddhist art pieces and Cambodian décor.  The owner was there, and she was more than gracious.  So kind and generous, offering extra side dishes and beverages.  She was losing her restaurant to the pandemic, and yet wanted to treat me to something extra.  Her kindness softened my spirit.  

Then, in the evening, I was tired but not sleepy, so I perused Amazon, Apple TV, and finally Netflix.  It was there that I found an intriguing documentary, Mucho Mucho Amor.  It’s the story of Walter Mercado, a famous Puerto Rican star who brought joy to so many with his astrology readings.  He was an amazing man, and I was moved by his humanity, and fanciful lust for life.

  

I had to put the film on pause as I was finding out about his rise to fame.  Lucy had to be walked, and I was the only one home who was awake.  I was frustrated but these things can’t wait.  We went out to our stoop.  I wasn’t sure if she just wanted to be out in the hot night air, or if she really had to go.  Either way, she was on pause at the bottom of the steps.  It was then that I heard a group chanting.  I saw a few cyclists on their bikes leave what looked to be a rally.  Then I heard peaceful chanting, “Black Lives Matter!”  I realized that the weekly bicycle rally for the Black Lives Matter movement ended their ride in front of Gracie Mansion, the temporary residence of the Mayor.  It’s just down the block from our building.  

There was such camaraderie.  It was all peaceful.  Cops were acting as escorts.  I witnessed fellowship.  And, there was so much hope.  I felt so fortunate to be a bystander to the positive power.  Shortly thereafter Lucy and I were up and on the move.  They had all cycled away by the time Lucy completed her walk.  And, then I was able to finish watching the film.  I went to bed later than usual and fully inspired.  

So often during the time of Coronavirus, I have felt as if the days are long and so little gets done.  But yesterday, though I did little, I was given so many gifts.  They were all provided by individuals from other races and ethnic backgrounds.  How rich life is when we learn and grow because we are in touch those who are different than us.  

Self-care Tips:  

*Enjoy something outside your familiar patterns.  It could be a new cuisine, a virtual look at an international museum, reading a writer you don’t know, or simply noticing things around you that may have slipped your gaze previously

*Pause.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, or you’re about to act impulsively in a way that may not support you, take a moment.  Be conscious of your breath.  Take in a few things that surround you.  And, then reassess what you want your next action to be.

*Notice at least one thing that brought you pleasure at the end of your day.  Of course, it could be more.  Maybe it was a beam of light from your window that played on a surface.  Or, perhaps it was a chat with a friend.    In this way you double your pleasure as you think about those moments again.  

*Keep it simple.  These times are trying for most, so it helps to keep things simple when we can to alleviate extra stress.

*Do something from your childhood.  Whether you choose to play a game of hopscotch on your sidewalk, skip down the block, or sing a childhood song, finding childhood pleasures is an easy way to bring joy on.  

Being Okay Not Being Okay, Week 18 Blog Post in the Time of Coronavirus

I am in awe at the speed and dominance my emotions morph during the time of Coronavirus.  I am moved to tears by the humanity I witness or hear about.  Moments later I am immersed in fury for a perceived injustice.   I am in love with my child and husband for their simple kindnesses, and then I am agitated when I turn the corner to see that some arbitrary chore or other wasn’t accomplished.  My pettiness is astounding. My gratitude short-lived.  

As an observer I find this fascinating.  As the subject I find it disconcerting.  More and more I’m hearing similar stories of unwielded emotional lability.  By the week’s end I am exhausted.  Too tired to be social or active.  So I am resting more and more.  I have found resting to be restorative.  Prior to Covid-19, I thought resting was an obligatory lessening of activities when I hit a wall or got sick.  No longer.

I am not a closet napper these days.  Now I proudly nap, understanding the need for the down time.  I hadn’t realized the array of my rigid beliefs until I had to set up new rules during the time of Coronavirus.  All of a sudden I am making room for my widening range of emotional connection.  I have eschewed the notion that getting the most things done is a winning strategy.  And, I am throwing out plans right and left in favor of what works for me in the moment.  

This has been a tragic time in our world’s history.  And, though I recognize the losses we all have had to endure, I am also grateful for the gifts of this time.  The difficulties that have come our way make it impossible to go on as before.  I am unable to hide my less attractive features like my pettiness or judgments.  I can see them upfront and personal.  All I have to do is go for a walk to hear my thoughts; appreciating someone who raises their mask when passing, while silently cursing those who are not choosing to protect me and everyone else from the spread of Covid-19.  

These are kneejerk responses.  Later I may be able to find compassion, understanding everyone is doing the best they can.  But I don’t always dwell there.  So, I am using my ire to teach me.  I’m not defending against the notion that I get angry or disparaging of myself and others.  Instead I am learning about how and when those feelings present themselves and seeing if I can have patience for myself and others as we travel this unchartered territory on our own and all together.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Change the lighting to shift a mood.  We get set in the way we light things.  Yet, sometimes turning off a light or changing the bulb color helps to relax us.  Conversely, bringing in more or altered light can provide an emotional lift
  • Expand your vocabulary.  There is something singularly satisfying in learning new words.  Word Genius brings new words to your email.  There are also other platforms that are terrific.  
  • Star Gaze.  If you can, go out on a clear night a gaze up at the stars.  You will see infinite possibilities which will be a lovely contrast from the limited options we presently have.  If you can’t go out, then check NASA’s website for images or go to NOVA for images. 
  • Light a candle. It’s so simple and can remind us that a small source of light brightens large spaces.  
  • Add fresh herbs to the inside of your mask.  One mint leaf or rosemary sprig on the inner side of the mask can make all the difference.  If you don’t have fresh herbs, perhaps trying an essential oil or a light fragrance 

On my Bike, Week 17 in the Time of Coronavirus

Each one of us have been impacted by the Coronavirus in a personal way.  Some have been ill. Many have been in quarantine. Too many have lost their jobs and income, some of our loved ones have died.  And, the weight of the pandemic continues.  Friends have been divided based on the level of protection we have chosen.  Plans have been cancelled.  Supply chains are interrupted.  And we have all made appropriate adjustments centered on what is right for us under these circumstances.  

I am riding my bicycle more than I have in past years.  I like it because once I pass the trafficked streets it’s easy to ride the slow lane in the park.  And, as with every activity, I wear my mask, wishing everyone would wear there’s when in public.  This is a reflection of the rumble of fear right below the surface.  I am as afraid to infect others as I am of contracting a life-threatening illness.  As an extra precaution, I ride at times when the park is apt to be less populated.  So far, so good.  

My bicycle is a low-standing, folding bike.  I like the truncated height because my feet can easily reach the ground.  A throwback to shaky bike riding during the long summers peddling to The Haddontowne Swim Club.  I keep my bicycle in my office, located on the ground floor, to avoid schlepping it up and down the stairs of our apartment building.  It’s nice when I can create a simple solution.  Stashing my bike in the office also gets me out more.  Given these times, if it’s easy, it’s more apt to get done.  

Humidity was high this weekend. I don’t mind that so much.   It’s pleasant to feel a light breeze cruising down the hills.  Tracing the topography of Central Park, as well as the streets on the Upper Eastside, is a unique experience I encounter during my rides.  It’s physical and mental.  And a bit more challenging while wearing my mask.  I even tried a cycling mask, which was hot and constricting, making it harder to ride.  So, I returned to my office for the light cotton style that allows for an easier, though somewhat restrictive, air flow.  

I am both challenged and contented on these rides.  For one, though a cliché, the short journey on my bike is a metaphor for my ability to face difficulties and experience joy. I have to harness the energy to get up a hill.  Whether I go slowly or forge ahead, I can feel my muscles in motion.  My body is supporting me in moving through space.  My mind is telling me I can do it.  My conviction assures me I will do it.  I am grateful that I am at an age that I can trust this thinking.  I didn’t have that ability twenty years ago.  And, I understand that taking on the big and small hills builds mental and physical strength so that I can face them and others like them again.

Conversely, I can enjoy the flat roads, the ease of cycling at a pace that suits me.  I can enjoy the light breezes of summer as I turn the pedals.  Also, I get to know the streets that are open to me.  When I’m short on time, or just want a different ride, I make two rights to get to East End Avenue.  It’s partially closed to traffic, making it a great option. Cycling on East End is convenient and stress-free. Before the pandemic, I had no idea that I live on the top of a gentle slope. I never really saw the hilly street as anything but quiet. It’s a lovely way to get to know the city’s surfaces.  Enjoying old pleasures now is reminiscent of childhood, when every adventure was new again.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Purposelessly take a break.  Rather than push through, stop, meditate, or take a breath, and slow things down a beat.  It’s personally affirmational.  
  • Send a card or a letter snail-mail to someone who has been on your mind.  
  • Bring fresh herb plants into your home.  They smell great, and you can always clip them to flavor your meals and drinks.  If you already have an indoor or outdoor herb garden, perhaps adding another fragrant herb will round out the robust fragrances.  
  • Change up something in your routine(s).  For instance, walk a different direction to get a different view.  Or, if you always brush your teeth after your shower, brush them before.  It will feel odd to do something slightly differently, but it changes how we see things, and will allow for a new perspective.  
  • Smile under your mask.  It’s a mood changer.  

Week 15 in the Time of Coronavirus; Diminished Choices

Summer is here.  But it’s not like summers of our past.  Vacation options are restricted. Outdoor dining is limited. And sometimes the choices at hand are not terrific.  So, what to do?  If I can’t make long-term plans, I can think of what may or may not take place on any given day.  

Take this morning, for instance.  My plan was to walk to Central Park, take a slow run in the shadiest, least crowded spots, then come home to write this blog post.  I tried writing yesterday, but I hit a wall in all things productive, and rested more than anything else.  

So, earlier today I left later than planned, walked to the park noticing the bustle of Stage 2 of our city opening.  I was in turns impressed and apprehensive.  I listened to a book, did my run, and had the pleasure of speaking with a friend, and purchasing fruits for the week.  Okay, okay, I may have found a good number of ways to procrastinate, but in the end, I’m sitting here thinking about the choices I made to start my day.  

What I’ve noticed, more in retrospect than at the exact moment, is that I’m making small choices throughout each day.  Most of these are seemingly insignificant decisions based on what’s right in front of me.  Even with the to-do lists I write, if I don’t review them, it’s probable that less than half the items on that list will get done.  Instead I assess my wants and needs, or I impulsively make a determination because I can.  I checked out my office grocery needs by stopping into Whole Foods.  I had no intention of going there this morning, but I was passing by and it seemed like a good idea.  As it turned out, it was a good idea.  They had exactly what I wanted, and the store was pretty empty.  I was in and out in less than 15 minutes.  

However, good choices are hard to come by these days.  I’m noticing that choices during the pandemic have been informed by my perception of what will keep me and others safe.  Sometimes the choices were fraught with anxiety.  Where can I walk keeping proper social distancing?  What can I say that is respectful to others while holding my personal truths?  How can I maintain patience in the face of grief and stress?  And, how do I let go of plans that have changed while finding joy in the every day?  I have no definitive answers.  At times I’m successful in finding ways to answer them truthfully.  And, sometimes I get it wrong and have to learn from these failures to find grace under fire.  

I think we’re all exhausted from calibrating these small choices.  But when plans can’t proceed, and I’m faced with a lack of control, then I’m left with the small choices of everyday living.  They aren’t fancy, but, when I make them consciously, they keep me grounded.  And, when I’m a bit out of it and I make a choice, I get to assess the benefits, or lack thereof, when I’m fully present again.  

There will come a time when we will navigate our world post-Covid-19.  When and how remain to be seen.  For now, I can choose a proper mask each day, and live moment by moment, choice by incremental choice.  

Well-Being Suggestions

  • Choose one brave act a day.  Make it small.  Choose to say “yes” to something that is unfamiliar.  Or choose to say “no” to something that doesn’t sound right.  
  • Write a letter from your future self.  Write from a place of having accomplished something you’ve wanted, or having a view point of something you’ve learned.
  • Laugh.  If you can’t find something funny, use an old acting exercise and force yourself to laugh aloud until it turns into a genuine laugh.  Sometimes it helps to do it with others, because laughter is contagious.  
  • If you are thinking negative thoughts, when you’re alone say them to yourself out loud.  But do it in an accent, not in your own voice.  It allows you to hear harsh thoughts in a different way and can lessen their impact. 
  • Find a smooth patch of skin on yourself and rub it.  It will bring tenderness to your self-care.  I like the inside of my forearm. If you can’t do that, find fabric that is soft and rub that to soothe yourself.  

Week 16 in the Time of Coronavirus; Attending to the Mundane

While social distancing, and quarantining when necessary, I have experienced, as we all have, moments in which we are faced with small but necessary tasks.  Cleaning for me is one of those responsibilities that feels great when it’s done, yet I procrastinate getting it done.  This weekend I had to defrost my small office freezer.  It’s not so difficult as it is annoying.  And, even on the annoying scale it’s pretty low, especially when we have to deal with so many annoyances while going through this Covid-19 period.  Nonetheless, when the ice trays can’t be removed, and my Tito’s bottle is stuck, both from neglect, as well as frost accumulation, it’s time to take on the mini fridge.  

The nice part about it is that I can do it in stages.  First stage is to empty out everything from the refrigerator.  Mostly it’s water bottles, beverages, and condiments.  I place anything that needs to be kept cold in a bag.  Then I turn off the unit, open the door, and place a large, absorbent towel in front to prevent flooding.  Next I haul the bag one and half blocks where I place it in my apartment fridge.  From there I went on a walk.  

I loved the walk.  It was a hot and humid day yesterday.  So I walked a bit slower into Central Park, then north on the bridal path, and uptown once again to the shady north woods along a brook.  It was quiet and peaceful.  I try to take paths I don’t know.  It’s fun to get lost and see things I might not have seen before.  Or, find that I can see them from another vantage point.  After I was satisfied and tired, I trekked back home. When I made it to the Eastside it started to rain gently.  Perfect.  The streets empty out, yet the precipitation is light enough to barely get wet.  I could smell the musky, sweet aroma of a storm to come. 

 

I was instantaneously brought back to summers of yore when I would be playing outside and had to run in, sometimes getting my red Keds wet in the process.  It is a routine perfumed scent, yet very specific, bringing joy to me as I made my way back home.  Once home, I saw that the rugs needed vacuuming, and I had just enough energy to get that done.  Again, a mundane task, yet I recalled all the weekends as a child I had to stay in until I finished my chores.  One was to dust and vacuum the living room, a golden carpet under staid furniture that barely hosted activity.  

There is much in these small moments, these mundane undertakings that recall memories.  Today I went back to my office to wipe down the refrigerator and restock it, remembering broken freezers in my 20s, and impromptu parties so the goods wouldn’t spoil.    These mundane projects remind us that getting through this time of the Coronavirus connects our troublesome present with our past, as well as hope for a safe future.  A future when we can blend banal moments with pleasurable diversions like walking in Central Park with a friend.  

Self-Care Tips

*Read poetry. There’s everything from accessible poetry like Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and  Maya Angelou.  Or, other forms such as Rumi, Nikki Giovanni, Mark Doty, and Shakespeare.  There are also really funny and fun poems, if you’d like to lighten your day.  Elinor Lipman on FB has very funny poems (they have a left slant).  Or, go basic like Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, or Dorothy Parker.  

*Decorate a mask.  Make your mask your own.  Draw lips, or if you’re okay getting messy, put on bling and sparkles.  Enjoy presenting your creativity when out.  

*Hydrate.  Being outdoors in the summer can be fun, but staying hydrated allows for even more fun.  If you are opposed to drinking water, find flavored, unsweetened water or make your own.   I find fresh mint leaves in my water or iced tea is really refreshing

*Clear up one small area in your space.  Whether you tackle a drawer, or simply straighten up your work area by going through some papers and making it a bit tidier, it will help to bring the smallest bit of mental space.

*Be silly.  Find the playful child in you.  

When Will This End? Coronavirus Blog 5

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We’ve hunkered down and we’ve stayed the course.  We’re tired, we’re unfocused, we’re cranky, and we’re over it.  Yet, caring for ourselves and making sure we’re all well is not a one-time deal.  I hate that.  In all things I prefer to go after something, get it done, appreciate what I’ve accomplished and then, Bam, I can go on to the next thing.  Take cleaning.  It’s been a great distraction to clean.  My office is sparkling.  My closets are in order.  Yet when I was dressing this morning, I saw that things were not exactly the way they were when I refolded and cleared out my drawers on Friday.  And when I got to my office today, I could see dust accumulating again.  Cleaning can be great, but it’s a never-ending job.  And, that’s pretty much how it feels to move on with life during the Coronavirus.

I didn’t think it would be easy to cancel all my plans, work remotely, and live in a small apartment with my family, each of us with our own style of being.  Nor did I know that who I thought I was prior to the Coronavirus needed an update during social distancing.  I am more defensive, and less productive than I imagined I’d be at the start of this.  I have to dredge up self-compassion from well below the self-criticism that has become the proverbial inner-chatter.  I need more sleep.  I’m reading less.  I’m deleting emails with recommendations on best practices now.  There’s too much to read, watch, and engage in.

My impatience, and, I imagine, the impatience of so many of us, to “get on with our lives,” is a disruptive hum as we go on with life as we’ve come to know it.  This is a process fraught with uncertainty.  Our minds like definitive answers, and there are none now.  It is challenging to stay in the moment, living for the now.  And we’ve come to understand that the only thing we are certain of is the uncertainty.

Unconsciously, to combat the uncertainty I’ve been hard on myself. It’s an old habit that comes out when things get tough.  We all have old behaviors that sneak up on us when we’re stressed.  Some of those behaviors have taken hold as we march on in quarantine.  My challenge is to name it, and to then bring compassion, patience, and loving understanding to myself, even as my thoughts veer to benign cruelty.  I don’t like that I’m mean.  So, I’m working to do better.  It is an on again off again process.

Though I’m not 100% grateful for this, one of the gifts of this prolonged social distancing is that we can work on self-care in a way we might have missed out on before.  My moods and negativity are now front and center.  Making incremental changes that will help me to live life with more consideration, more care is a priority at this time.  And, as the announcements come in prolonging social distancing, I am given more time to employ compassion moment by moment, day by day.

 

A few simple exercises in which I’ve engaged to prompt benevolence to an impatient mind.

 

Stretching – It allows me to feel my body but it’s gentle.  Sometimes I add sound, like a Sigh, a groan, or an Ahhh to it, for a more substantial release

Taking a Moment – I walk away from whatever I’m doing.  This helps to see something from another vantage point.  It allows me to look at something different, and in this new view, my mind shifts.

Breath – I know, I know, it’s so pedestrian.  And, yet, focusing on our breath, whether we choose focused breathing or some other form or discipline, gives us a pause, and creates a bridge to a calmer moment.

Drink a glass of water – Getting the water and drinking it gives us a chance to recalibrate.  Not only do we hydrate, but we take ourselves out of the negative moment into something more neutral.

Turn on a Song and Dance – Moving changes everything.  I might cry or smile so big.  It’s a mood changer like no other.

 

 

View at Medium.com

I Went All the Way

 

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Sometimes something so simple can be hard.  I had the idea of riding my bike on the last Summer Streets on Park Avenue down to the Brooklyn Bridge.  I keep my bike in my office.  It’s a short folding bike, allowing for both my feet to touch the ground when I stop. It’s in my office so I can get out when the impulse strikes.  It rarely strikes.  I call myself a wimpy rider since I want to easily touch the ground, and I am not skilled enough to weave in and out of traffic.    I will only face the streets to get into Central Park or ride on the East River promenade to Randall’s Island where there are few if any cars.  Sometimes I lack the gumption.  I have to fill the tires with air days before a ride since I’m not even sure what to do should I find myself with a flat.

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I was out of town the first Summer Street week, and last week I thought I might, but my timing was off. The trick is to go early before the crowds.  It’s not so bad riding on Park Avenue, which is wide and has separate sides going in either direction.  But once we head around Grand Central Terminal and pass Union Square, we squeeze together on Lafayette Street, unable to pass slow cyclists, and the inevitable joggers in the wrong lane.  (It is also true that certain cyclists ride on the jogging side.)

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There was one cyclist on a Citibike chatting with her friend.  I was on her left, when she veered to her left almost hitting me, and I yelled “On Your Left!” She was startled.  I couldn’t believe that I reacted with such verve.  Sometimes I think I’m fine only to have an innocuous moment force me to see how stressed I am.  That was such a moment.  It was contrasted by a lovely biker passing me on my way uptown simply stating in a warm, soothing voice, “ On your left.”  I could move incrementally to my right to let her pass.  It was an easy moment that juxtaposed my rash reaction.

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I was excited and scared to take my bike on the ride.  I liked the idea of being able to move easily through the streets of Manhattan.  I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I love this city, and taking part in something like this elicits an inner thrill.  But I am not great in terms of being part of a crowd. I’m a defensive rider, with a bit of anxiety thrown in to make it interesting, well, more like marginally stressful.   I’m better off on an empty path speeding up and slowing down based on my own estimations, not on the precarious bicycling of strangers.

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I didn’t wake up early enough to leave at 7 AM when the streets were wide open.  Instead I ventured to Park Avenue at 10:30 AM, with all those tourists and New Yorkers on a pre-bunch ride. Nonetheless, I was set to go down to the Brooklyn Bridge and back again to Yorkville.  I’m proud I made the ride, but I went for a slow jog today. I had enough of my bike for the weekend. If I can, perhaps I’ll make it to Central Park during a break this week.  After all, my tires are filled with air.

 

All images were stock from the internet