How Are You? Week 55 in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s a rainy Sunday, overcast and wet outside.  I ventured out early to capture the sunrise on the East River, instead I was welcomed with grey clouds and mist.  Beautiful in its subtly, but not as majestic as even a partially cloudy day.  A day like today can be difficult for those going through hardships, the bereaved, the infirmed, caregivers, those suffering from mental illness, parents with young children, parents with older children, the lonely, and anyone else who is dealing with their own life struggles.  One of the worst questions, yet most often asked is, “How are you?”  How do we answer that in a pandemic?  

When we ask, “How are you?” we see the slight hesitation before the respondent says, “Fine.” The habitual question and answer are from pre-pandemic times.  It’s automatic, but not current.  I make mistakes from time to time and ask how someone is doing.  I then double back, and qualify it by inquiring, “How are you given the pandemic?”  At least then I’m acknowledging some hardship in our present reality.  Nonetheless, the question remains flawed.  Perhaps we can find other ways to connect.  

We can ask “What’s new?”  I’m joking.  What’s really new when we’re still socially distanced?  I’m more inclined to ask, “What are you reading?” “What are you watching?”  “What are you enjoying these days?”  “Do you cook or order in?”  “Anything you can recommend?” I ask all of these to assess how my friends, colleagues, and family are doing.  

I remember a neighbor who used to ask how I was.  I’d always say, “fine.”  However, her ask was more of an invitation to ask her how she was.  When she answered she was long-winded.  It surpassed the parameters of polite neighbor banter, and leapt into intrusive and annoying.  Needless to say, I smile politely when I see her now, but I pass by quickly with no curiosity of her state of being.  I merely feel relief that I dodged her socially-inappropriate bullet.  Maybe we all feel a sigh of relief for the absence of similar encounters. 

How are we?  We’re tired, we’re grateful, we’re sad, we’re joyful, we’re frustrated, we’re patient, we’re absentminded, we’re mindful, we’re angry and we’re peaceful.  It’s a veritable bouillabaisse of emotions.  Perhaps no different than pre-2020, but probably more noticeable than in our recent pasts.  Even so, we may not be able to tease out one feeling from another at any given moment.  So please refrain from asking, “How are you?”   

Self-Care Tips:

  • When speaking to someone, rather than asking them how they are, try another question or phrase.  You could say, “Good to speak with you, or see you.”  Or “Tell me what bores you these days?” 
  • Write lists and cross off items as needed.  We’ve been forgetting things, so writing lists help us to see what to do, and what we can forget about doing.  
  • Watch “In and Of Itself.”  It’s a magical theatrical performance now available on Hulu.  
  • Be silly. 
  • Find an app like www.myfridgefood.com to make quick, easy recipes for ingredients already in your pantry and refrigerator.  

Love and Hardship, Week 54 in the Time of Coronavirus

Throughout this past week I heard how difficult the week was.  We had all gone through a year milestone, but there would be no celebrating.  How do we celebrate one year of a pandemic?  We don’t. We hunker down, as we had for over 52 weeks, and trudge on.  It has been recommended that when we feel particularly vulnerable that is the best time to incorporate a self-care and self-love practice.  And, though I share self-care tips, all of which I either try or do on a regular basis, self-love and self-care can feel like ephemeral notions.  

Self-love and Self-care are phrases bandied about as if being able to understand the phrases gives us magical powers in living a life full of love and care towards ourselves.  I, however, think these ideas often stay conceptual because we are told to just do this or that and it will all be okay.  It is my belief that we have to rethink self-love and self-care.  

I used to imagine love meant 100% acceptance of the loved.  More often than not I pushed down feeling of sadness, anger, frustration, and bewilderment.  My thinking was, ‘How can I truly love them if I feel this or that?  I better learn to be more accepting.’  So I moved forward with shame and self-rage so that I could be a “loving” person.  I attended to their requirements, or at least I thought I was, while I eschewed my own needs.  Not only was this the opposite of self-love, but it was a misattunement of all love.  

When we deny ourselves the space to feel all our feelings then we block kindness and care towards ourselves and others.  Love more often than not is imperfect.  We’ve all seen this as we distance in place.  Cohabitating for long stretches without diversions means we witness the best and worst in each other day in and day out.  If we live alone, then we are grateful for any contact, sometimes even when it leaves us wanting.  

When I say how important it is to give ourselves the space to feel our feelings, I do not mean that we are free to rage or dump those feelings on others.  Sometimes I share my love by not sharing my thoughts.  I silently acknowledge this act of generosity.  In this way I have the room to experience my feelings but I am not compelled to hurt some else, even at those times I want them to hurt like I hurt.  

The great thing about love and care is that it is an evolving practice.  When we are hard on ourselves, perhaps for not being as caring as we think we should be, like when we want someone to hurt like we’re hurting, then we can double down on patience and kindness for attempting the difficult.  Perfection and the determination to reach perfection get in the way of living and loving fully.  Now that we have passed the one-year mark of living in the Covid-19 pandemic, let’s applaud our grit.  Let’s celebrate our imperfect love.  Let’s appreciate whatever self-care we’ve been able to incorporate. Let’s acknowledge how hard this has been. Let’s commend all we’ve learned about love, care, kindness, and patience.  Yay, us!

Self-care Tips:  

  • Daydream.  Let your mind go.  These breaks are essential, not only for creativity, but for survival at difficult times.
  • Savor breakfast.  Sometimes we want our day to start so we have whatever we can in the morning.  Truly enjoying our first meal is a lovely foundation for the day.
  • Chew slowly.  We can really relish our food by slowing down, chewing slowly.  It lowers our stress and supports us being in the moment.  
  • Find a new source of humor.  Laughter remains invaluable.  Ask those who share a similar sense of humor if they can recommend a show, a comedian, a video, or anything else that will make you laugh.  
  • Take a picture.  Whether you want to document a moment, beauty, or something meaningful, a photograph allows you to revisit it again and again.  

What a Year, Week 53 in the Time of Coronavirus

I am befuddled.  The last thing I need is an hour of lost sleep.  And, yet, one less hour of living in a pandemic sounds pretty good.  The common rationale for the perpetuation of daylight savings time is extended daylight.  Sunlight has been invaluable to us these past twelve months.  Sunrises, sunsets, and the shades of illumination while outdoors have provided medicinal assets in this time of Coronavirus.  So, we will sacrifice an hour’s sleep for lighter days.   

Daylight savings time comes as we noted an anniversary that we could never have imagined.  We didn’t want to mark the passing of this previous pandemic year.  I’ve been hearing about the discomfort that can’t be explained as our bodies feel the weight of this past year deep in our cells.  Many of us have felt ‘off.’  I forgot to answer important emails.  I was a bit achy, walking slower than usual.  But the walks helped, as they always do.

Aside from the events and socialization we missed this past year, we are equally missing acquaintances and arbitrary human contact.  Even on my walks, while I pass people, mask wearing has obscured some fundamental assessment of others.  Not only do I not recognize most people, even the regular park dwellers, but, for me, the masks obscure my mind’s ability to gauge the whole picture.  Although I cherish some parts of this new found anonymity, I don’t like the absence of fully assessing the moods and character of those around me.  

The simple day to day acknowledgment from one human to another has been significantly curtailed.  There have been limited or no interactions that are merely casual.  We miss those who we saw at the stores we frequented.  We miss the service people who we might have seen infrequently, but who we came to expect when the circumstance arose.  We miss speaking to strangers.  Well, perhaps we miss the option to speak with certain strangers.  And most of us miss the everyday familiarity we came to expect on our commutes, our routines, and our outings.  

Perhaps now that the days are longer and the sun brighter, I will attempt to look above the masks into strangers’ eyes, enjoying the sun sparkling off them.  Pre-pandemic looking into the eyes of strangers was deemed rude.  Now it is how we smile to one another.  I may not take in the big picture, so I will rely on a small snapshot of the light, the eyes, a passing connection, with Spring in the air. 

Self-care Tips:

  • Play.  We forget to play thinking that’s child’s business.  Yet, celebrating our child within can be pure joy.  
  • Quit.  If there is something you think you should be doing, but you really don’t want to, and it’s a specific requirement you put on yourself, just leave it.  I’ve been quitting books I don’t like.  
  • Move.  Sitting at our desk or having a static position can cause stiffening.  Move a bit, whether you go for a run, simply sway your arms or do the twist, it all helps to loosen us up.
  • Hug.  If you live alone, stretch your arms around your torso and give yourself a hug.  If you live with others, and both you and they are amenable, exchange a nice hug. 

Talk.  Go to therapy.  Talk to a friend.  Contact a family member.  Tell your truth to o

Oh, The Memories, Week 52 in the Time of Coronavirus

This is the last week of a full year of social distancing and all that comes with it.  Most of us are ready to finish this disruptive chapter and return to the activities we love.  Yet, I imagine there will come of a time in the future when we will wax nostalgic for this time.  

Perhaps we’ll appreciate the safety of wearing masks, not just to protect ourselves from Covid-19, but because we had less colds or cases of influenza.  We will yearn for a ready-made excuse for plans we prefer not to attend.  We will crave long walks in the middle of the day.  We will appreciate the rare times when family members in the house laughed together at silly moments.  We will hunger for communion with nature on a regular basis.  We will long for a simpler time, like we’ve been experiencing now. 

We all discovered, had we not known before, the public value of toilet paper, the comfort of everyday yoga pants, the ease of simply staying in.  We found comfort in our surroundings. The delight of first blooms. The joy of open spaces, a river view.  And we found solace in the small wins.  In losing so much in the span of this pandemic year, we gained a deep appreciation that less is more.  We’ll see how this plays out in the coming months.  And it will be interesting to see when we become sentimental for the lessons learned in the time of Coronavirus.   

Self-Care Tips:

  • Ask yourself, “Is there anything I need?”  Answer as honestly as you can.  You may discover there are needs not addressed.  Or you may find that you are taking care of yourself better œthan expected.  Whatever the answer, checking in with yourself is a reminder of your importance.  
  • Think of a situation in which being right became the be all and end all.  If possible, see if you can shift to compassion and apologize for not appreciating the other’s perspective.  
  • Note an insecurity of yours.  Now see if there is an upside for something that feels bad to you.  I.e., I used to cry a lot and thought I was too sensitive, now I use my sensitivity to appreciate music, joy, and empathy.  
  • Choose an item at home that elicits a specific memory.  See if you can remember the experience, then assess if you might feel freer should you be able to discard or give away that item.  
  • Enjoy a soundtrack from a beloved film of the past.  It will envelop you in euphony and nostalgia.  

Insult to Injury, 2020 Taxes, Week 51 in the Time of Coronavirus

Vintage mechanical numeric calculator isolated on white background. Accounting concept, stock online photo

I like scrambled eggs.  They are soft and comforting.  However, when my mind is scrambled I find no comfort in that.  These past two weekends I’ve endeavored to do my taxes.  Doing taxes in the time of Coronavirus is less than optimal.  That said, I am going to take a nap.  An afternoon siesta is not a usual practice, especially when slogging through last year’s numbers.  In the past I’ve faced the forms down and I get through it, complaining while I add up sums and input data.  Today is different.  I don’t have the wherewithal.  I’m having difficulty focusing.  Taxes in a pandemic is another ridiculously compulsorily task we’re forced to endure.  

Nap completed and I’ve taken a brief refuge in writing this now.  I see the calculator staring me down, so I’ll have to resume my taxes in a little while.  When I do, I imagine I’ll go slowly.  I’d love to rush through it.  But having made mistakes in the past, I prefer slow and steady to the headache of a future audit.  

Because it’s a rainy day I am less inclined to venture out, making this a theoretically perfect day for paperwork.  But as far as I’m concerned, paperwork is a necessary evil, not a respectful task worth my time and energy.  Taxes aren’t fun.  At least that’s been my experience.  

I didn’t always feel that way.  There was a time a few decades ago when I was proud of my record keeping and my ability to have organized files.  It wasn’t until I worked for others as a side hustle, helping with their bookkeeping, that I found out that I deluded myself with my organizational skills.  My acumen with an adding machine was deeply flawed.  I missed receipts and tabulated sums incorrectly.  My false confidence was exposed.  

I have no such confidence now.  Nor do I wish to acquire it.  I respect others who excel in bookkeeping and accounting.  This is their season to shine.  Kudos to them.  I hope to complete my taxes in the next two weeks when I will send it off to our wonderful accountants.  For now, though, I will go back to the numbers.  And, I think I’ll have scrambled eggs for dinner to comfort me when I’m done for the day.  

Self-care tips:

  • Change up your routine.  Try to do things differently for a fresh perspective. 
  • When going into an unwanted situation, place a few dabs of a scent you like on your wrists or other points, so you can take in the aroma when things get tough.
  • When multi-tasking, see if there’s a way to focus in on one task and get some or all of it done before moving on to the next task.  This gives you a better chance of having a sense of satisfaction with your work. 
  • Shred.  It can feel great to get rid of old papers. 
  • Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.  That’s what it’s all about.  

Let’s Be Real, Week 50 in the Time of Coronavirus

As we approach a year in semi-lockdown we’ve been filled with powerful emotions. Social niceties often allude us as we exchange suspicious looks with masked strangers. We don’t have to dig deep to touch upon anxiety or aggravation.  They are neatly placed on the surface of our emotional reservoirs.   Our tolerance level has been masterfully challenged.  And at times our sustained tolerance is losing ground.  Well-wishers tout positivity.  I am all for optimism.  Heck, I write my blog with self-care tips. But when we’re on the edge, as we often find ourselves in this pandemic, the last thing we want to hear is how lucky we are. 

When I feel blue, I’m resistant to hearing that I should be grateful for what I have.  And, if we’re being real, most of us have had blue periods in this time of Coronavirus.  I’m not saying that gratitude isn’t important.  I have an active daily practice of gratitude, and it’s been invaluable.  But I do believe that we have to be where we are.  When we force gratitude or self-care on ourselves or others, we negate the real experience in that moment.  I know things are tough when I’m easily annoyed with little slights.  Telling me to let it go, just adds to my exasperation.  If we’re going to find hope or gratitude at all, we have to start with where we are.  We can’t always make the leap to positivity because someone else is uncomfortable with our irascibility.

When we are able to acknowledge the hardships and upset that we’re experiencing, then we can move on from there. Each of us deals with this differently.  Sometimes I can yell into a pillow, cry, and take a walk.  And in doing those things I find myself in a lighter place.  Other times it takes a good night’s sleep.  Or I need to talk in therapy or to a friend.  When I do, I have the wherewithal to be delighted by small kindnesses.  Just this week strangers made room for narrow paths in the snow, and neighbors waited at the open door while I carried in my groceries.  It was lovely.  Their kindness allowed for an ease of gratitude.  When I have the bandwidth, I, too, will do what I can to ease someone else’s load.  And, when I don’t, I’ll do my best to have patience with myself, remembering that we’re living through a pandemic.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Create a list of complaints.  Sometimes we need to unload.  Be a complainer, write down what bothers you.  Give voice to your agitation.  If it helps, tear it up, or cut it up, then throw it out with force.  
  • Growl, sigh, exhale loudly.  Sounds give voice to our unheard feelings.  (If you live with others, warn them first.)
  • I delight in ______ (fill in the blank)
  • See if there is a way to make room for whatever you filled in above. If not, see if there are any first steps you can take to have or do whatever you delight in.  
  • Stop what you’re doing.  Pause.  Ask yourself, “how am I doing?”  It’s always good to check in with yourself.  It’s good information to have even when you can’t take an action to address it.  

Love in the Time of Coronavirus, Week 49

I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.  In doing so, I am very aware that Valentine’s Day is loaded.  Maybe even more so in the pandemic.  Here in New York restaurants are now open for indoor dining.  Some will make it a romantic evening.  Some will fight because they have very different safety parameters.  Some will feel lonely as they have in years past.  Some will be uniquely solo in this Covid-19 year.  Many will measure others’ love by what attention they receive or don’t receive today.  And others will see it as just another Sunday.  Whatever the case, Valentine’s Day is signified by hearts, the social sign of love.  

Love is a peculiar thing.  We read about it, we say, “I love you,” we’re told to love ourselves.  And, yet love is not a measurable commodity.  We have seen love take so many forms in the pandemic.  My expression of love has been everything from open & joyous to thorny and messy.  My acceptance of other’s love has been a balm at times.  While other times I have been judgmental and closed-minded.  

We often learn that love looks a particular way.  And when those who love us express it in another form it can feel invalidating.  They may not love us any less, but it’s hard to take it in when it looks different than our expectations.  And, loving ourselves is a whole other ballgame. Often it feels like loving ourselves is a consolation for not receiving the love we want.  

Nevertheless, I believe that loving ourselves is exactly the love we need.  When we are gentle while vulnerable, kind when stressed, and caring when upset, then we are both providing ourselves with the love we need and taking in the love we’re giving.  How wonderful is that?  It may feel painful that we experience that alone.  If so, then the kindness we impart will go a long way.  

I am going to do the best I can to be kind to myself. I am committed to be kind to those I love, those I like, and to strangers.  My kindness will be imperfect.  I tend to be moody, and I don’t always have the emotional fortitude to express a generosity of heart.  But I will do my best.  And, as I accept the love given to me, and accept my limitations, as well as those of others, I will see that acceptance as an act of love.  This is not necessarily what I was taught about love, it is what I’ve learned since then.  

Self-care Tips:

  • Give yourself a break from self-care.  Sometimes it can become an obligation rather than a caring act.  When that’s the case, take a pause. 
  • Chapstick or lip balm, in your favorite flavor if you like, can be restorative on dry winter days.  
  • Shelf-care.  Go through your books.  See if there’s any you’ve meant to read and take them off the shelf.  Or see what you can give away.  
  • Watch a James Corden video on YouTube.  May I suggest a Carpool Karaoke?  He aims to bring laughter.  

Celebrate a party of One.  You are number one. And celebrating yourself in any manner that brings delight is the perfect party 

Ennui, Week 48 in the Time of Coronavirus

Again and again I hear from others, “I’m so over this.” Of course, this refers to the pandemic and its related restrictions. Yes, we need to lessen the spread of Covid-19, yet that doesn’t mean we’re happy about what’s required.  Now, even with the spotty vaccine rollout, we are expected to buckle down more so with the presence of new strains, which, in turn, places new stressors on us.  With added stressors any energy we have burns quicker.  We are exhausted and might feel resentment, anger or woe.  This is what has happened in the daily grind without proper reprieves.  

I am certainly dragging my feet.  Whether it’s writing this blog or cooking a meal, I lack whatever eagerness I had in past years.  I have no get-up-and-go these days.  And I know I’m not alone.  I whine silently in my head, “I don’t wanna.”  Fill in the blank because I don’t wanna can signify pretty much anything.  This doesn’t mean I don’t experience joy.  There are small moments that turn “I don’t wanna” upside-down.  

I am pleased and surprised when I delight in an unexpected moment.  It could be anything from watching a healthcare worker, still in scrubs, coming home from a long day caring for others, to the subtle evening sky light in-between high rises.  Those are moments that give me pause, then move me forward.  Conversely, seeing the messy surfaces at home on shelves, table tops or cabinets, stop me in my tracks as I sigh with resignation.  

Moving forward is a slow process in this time of Coronavirus.  It’s not always easy to discern when we must succumb to the “I don’t wannas,” and when we can kindly take a step toward the next matter of business.  I probably won’t be able to organize my home while working and carving out self-care through the pandemic.  And I may not be able to fool around in the kitchen to cook as often, either.  Nevertheless, I will enjoy those pleasurable moments when they show up, your kind likes and comments, included.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Ask yourself, “How am I doing?”  It’s always good to check in.  
  • Then ask, “What do I need that’s attainable now?”  It’s helpful to know what you need and what you can have. 
  • Enjoy the gentle sensation of a soft toothbrush
  • Find or get a smooth stone to rub during stressful moments, or while on Zoom calls.  If you can get one in your favorite color, do that.  
  •  Take quick dance breaks.  Turn on a song and move.  It breaks up the ennui.  

Pandemic Envy, Week 47 in the Time of Coronavirus

Pandemic Envy, Week 47 in the Time of Coronavirus

We have become accustomed to the average pandemic envy like seeing those who prepare feasts as a way to get through this time of Coronavirus.  Many of us have felt jealousy for acquaintances in larger homes.  The more exhausted have longed for the energy cited in posts of new hobbies or accomplishments.  Some parents envy those with no children, or those with safe help for their families.  A number of people who feel alone have been envious of those who post happy couple or family portraits.  Individuals who feel trapped with their families begrudge others who they imagine live blissfully alone.  Now add to that the newer vaccine envy.  

Without distractions I’m able to feel my emotions strongly.  Sometimes this can be therapeutic.  I can soothe myself if I’m agitated, or enjoy the moment when calm is present.  However, there are other times when I look for diversions.  It’s not easy to feel everything all the time, and even more so in this time of the Coronavirus.  When I do look away at distracting social media posts, I find myself envious of how some others are getting through the pandemic.  

How do they find time to workout so much? Their meals look amazing.  Why aren’t they sharing how hard this is?  How is it they are thriving in ways I can only imagine?  These are some of thoughts I’ve had.  I understand that what I see and read on social media and in print is merely one sliver of what another is experiencing.  I wish I could appreciate all that I have and simply be happy for them.  Alas, I am still working on that.  

More recently, there have been many instances when individuals have shared that they got their vaccines, only to be met with others who are desperate to receive theirs.  The rollout has been anything but equitable.  Many are working at essential jobs and are not able to log in repeatedly to obtain a prized time slot.  Others found their dates were cancelled.  The ongoing uncertainty fuels vaccine envy.  If you feel vaccine envy, you’re not alone.  Hopefully all of us who want the vaccine can get them soon so we can move on from fear to well-being.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Snuggle.  If you have a pet and they are amenable, snuggle with them.  If not, snuggle with a willing partner, or find a stuffed animal to snuggle.  You’re never too old.  Or, if you prefer, a cozy blanket, comforter or pillow can stand in as a snuggle item.  
  • When feeling envious, slow down and name some things for which you are grateful.  
  • If you feel vaccine envy, if you have the time, investigate what sites are opening up spots, then share it with others.  In NYC there is: vaccinepod.nyc.gov and www.somosvaccinations.com.  
  • Dress in layers for the cold weather.  If you’re able, wear glove liners and thermal or silk underwear.  
  • Use hand and body cream.  It’s great for the cold weather and rubbing yourself with the cream is a soothing act. 

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.