Being Social vs. Wanting to Do Nothing, Week Ten in the New Abnormal

This past week has been jubilant in some ways.  First, thanks to Larry and his friend Alan, we enjoyed our first indoor concert in over two years.  Elton John, his band, and crew did an amazing job of giving music and lifetime memories to their audience.  I was so happy to be there, even as I was overloaded to be among a mass of people. 

We are now visiting a few dear friends in California.  It’s wonderful to reunite with a few special individuals.  Seeing them in person is a true gift.  Going to the airport and traveling was a surreal experience.  A series of glitches culminated in an upset, which was unpleasant, but let me know that I took too long for a much-needed vacation.  And here we are, in chilly southern California, yet warmer than NYC.  Happy to be away.  I feel replenished from social isolation.  And yet….

I also am overwhelmed.  I know I need alone time.  Time to clear my head.  Time to rejuvenate.  I am doing what I can to nap, walk and meditate, I was looking forward to swimming, but when it’s cold, and the pools are not heated as they are in Iceland, swimming is not as calming as I like.  

I have made one positive choice to see dear friends while recognizing the need for quiet time.   Life these days doesn’t provide the time for both socializing and rest in equal measures.  I accept that for now with a bit of umbrage.  

Making choices often means there can be a sense of loss for the unchosen.    Honestly, I hate that.  There are still traces of deprivation that show up when facing the choices I make.  I will miss the friends I didn’t get to see.  And I already feel negligent for the rest I will not get.  Such is life.  Having choices is a privilege.  For that I am grateful.  And, yet, having privilege doesn’t mean that I am perfectly content.  For the moment I will choose the option to enjoy whatever contentment comes from the choices I made.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Practice micro-meditation.  Take 30 seconds, one minute, or three minutes to breath and do a quick body scan.  It can help when there is little time available for longer stretches of self-care.
  • Make time for a visit, whether it be via phone, Zoom, or in-person.  Reconnection brings depth to our existence.  
  • Choose whatever mask habits work for you.  It’s so easy to be influenced by our surroundings and those in it.  Only we can make a choice that is right for us, situation by situation.  

City Gallery, Week Nine in the New Abnormal

We went for a lovely birthday celebration of a new friend.  To get there we took the subway.  It’s been quite a while since I last went on the underground train.  The most recently expanded line, The Q Train, has an artist featured on each of the newest stops.  We got a good look at a few by Chuck Close done with tiles as portrait mosaics.  

There is an instantaneous sense of delight when I see and enjoy art in the city.  I especially enjoy unexpected art.  Not only do I appreciate the mosaics in the subway stations, but walking through midtown brings waves of art appreciation. 

 

Though not the same as in-person viewing, here are a few samples of simple and large scale art on my walks throughout the city.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Create your own art as if you were five-years-old.  Remember when we crafted art that was so much fun, and we felt good about the result just because we made it ourself?  Try that now.  
  • Go for a walk and see the art around you, whether person-made or naturally occurring. 
  • As war takes a toll in the Ukraine and other countries not in our news, let’s make peace in our lives, in our homes, with those we love, and with those with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  Intentionally peaceful actions make a difference for all of us.  

Tech Unsaavy and Other Limitations, Week Eight in the New Abnormal

I don’t really understand Instagram.  I’ve heard it’s for boomers.  As a Baby Boomer, I am virtually clueless on how to navigate this social media platform.  I can send hearts to a photo, but opening attachments, or anything more than loving a post eludes me.  I keep meaning to find a tutorial I can follow, but my time is spoken for, so learning how to use Instagram stays low on my to-do list.    I post to Instagram weekly.  I’m not sure if it goes through, or if people just see pictures but can’t open the attachments.  

There have been many times in my life when I’ve had common usage issues.  Learning the Dewey Decimal system in the public library meant that I couldn’t always find what I was looking for in my formative years.  It felt like a win when I could go to the files to find whatever reading material I needed.  Wearing a silk scarf still alludes me.  Many people can carry off scarves wearing them seamless accessories.  Not me.  My knots are sloppy, and they never fall gracefully.  What would naturally enhance a Zoom frame comes so unnaturally to me.  

Circling back to Instagram, I’m not so proficient with other social media platforms, but I know the rudimentary skills and muddle along with that.  Recently I noticed the amount of energy that I spend baffled. Acting with uncertainty.   It’s tax season now and I have to pull together all my documents.  I feel unsure if I collected them all.  I’m insecure to send the needed information properly.  The unease of using Instagram or attempting to be my own bookkeeper put me off balance. 

I like to know things.  Not knowing, or living with uncertainty, has me uncertain of myself.  And that can lead me to be defensive.  Sharing a few of the many things I don’t know may allow me the freedom to either learn the ins and outs of Instagram or not.  But I don’t need to act as if I know more than I know.  My uncertainty provides a level of compassion for others.  Uncertainty provides an opportunity to learn to stay upright in a boat on choppy water.  A skill useful on the high seas or on uneven ground.  

I find it’s difficult to trust myself when I’m deep in uncertainty.  I come face to face with my vulnerability when I confront my limitations.  And living in my vulnerability brings compassion for myself and others.  Though it’s an imperfect process, I do know that when I don’t immediately hide my vulnerability by armoring with defensive behaviors.  Knowing that I don’t know opens the door to growth.  

Self-Care Tools: 

  • Ask for help when needed.  Though it may be uncomfortable, asking from a place of vulnerability allows us to receive with graciousness.  
  • What song makes you happy?  Put it on your playlist or in a bookmark so you can go to it quickly and easily.  
  • Think about some of the things that you don’t know in your life.  Rate them to see which ones are worth learning and make a plan to learn them, or accept not knowing them.  

The Winter of Our Discontent, Week Seven in the New Abnormal

Featured

 The weather these past few days lightened our moods.  With colder temperatures and snow today we may slip back to a shared discontentment.  A week ago the general agitation was palpable.  Wide-ranging reactivity was pronounced.  Small misunderstandings caused friction.  And this was among strangers.  Relationships have been strained.  Most are not able to keep up with inflation. Families are under-resourced, overly tired, and living with ongoing exasperation.  Those who live on their own have bouts of loneliness, especially because the difficulty in getting together with others while Omicron was at its height kept socializing at bay.

Distress seems to be the mood of the moment.  It’s been tiresome to put plans on hold again and again.  Reactivity is at an all-time high.  Patience is worn thin.  Frustration and annoyance are way too common.  So many are at their wit’s end trying to figure out a way ahead.  

For a good number there is a relief that the mask mandates have loosened.  For others it adds a new layer of fear. There’s the fantasy that we’ll get back to normal.  But we are not going back in many ways.  Whatever is ahead of us remains to be seen. And that can be scary.  

Though it may take a good amount of time to recover physically and emotionally from all we lost these last couple of years, we can find pockets of hope and joy in the present.  Yesterday I was helped by a thoughtful salesperson at a hardware store.  In a time when customer tolerance is more prevalent than customer service, his assistance brightened my day.  Smiles from strangers have taken on a new worth.  And the unexpected generosity of friends has been priceless.  I will be taking in any and all acts of kindness Now more than ever those moments provide the light that moves us forward.  

Self-Care Tips: 

  • Rub your hands together until you create heat, then gently place them on your eyes.  This can provide a soothing moment. 
  • Sing yourself a lullaby at night to lovingly put yourself to sleep.  
  • Try a new toothpaste.  It will help awaken you in the morning since it’s an unfamiliar flavor.  

The Wrong Way I Meditate, Week Six in the New Abnormal

I felt so fortunate that I had a meditation practice prior to the pandemic.  I chose to double up my meditations to give myself devoted time each morning before I started my day.  And, when needed again at night, or anytime I had to find my way back to myself. 

There are so many meditation apps.  I like Andy from Headspace and the Chopra App.  Sometimes I do a Tara Brach meditation, or I’ll listen to Sharon Salzberg. When needed I’ll do my own thing.  I map my breath, I do a body scan, or Iisten to my ongoing thoughts noticing if there are any changes in my mood or physical sensations from one floating thought to another.  I’ve heard others who really like to meditate to Loch Kelly and the Calm app.   Though there are a lot of options out there, once I found two that met my needs, I’ve stuck with them.  

It’s taken years to bring the sensation of meditation into other parts of my waking life.  At the beginning of my meditation practice (that sounds so self-aggrandizing to me) I attempted sitting up straight, adjusting my posture again and again to make sure my spine was aligned.  It was extremely uncomfortable.  If I was in yoga class meditating at the beginning of a session, my leg muscles would cramp.  I focused more on the discomfort than on my breathing.  

For the past twelve years, since I turned 50, I started to meditate laying down.  To some meditation devotees, that’s blasphemous.  For me it was a game changer.  Often when following a guided meditation the directive is usually to sit straight.  No thank you.  At 50 I started making changes that worked for me.  One of the first was to lay flat while meditating.  I can meditate longer.  I can relax in a way that feels illusive while sitting, especially if I’m crossed legged.  

Now I meditate the way that works best for me.  It’s true for other areas of my life.  I enjoy food that I find pleasurable, rather than forcing myself to drink wheatgrass as I had in the late 80s.  I enjoy a walk daily, usually alone, as a moving meditation.  Or I listen to audiobooks, making it easier to get though books these days.  For the first half of my life I tried to follow the rules of life.  I believed if I could just get it right I’d be happy.  In this second half I am making the ever changing rules that support me.  I don’t know if I’m happier, but I am certainly more satisfied.  

Enduring these past two years has tested our every nerve.  We can all be gentle with ourselves by designing our routines to match our needs.  I will continue to meditate on my back, even if others see that as wrong.  Perhaps having grace for ourselves is more important in the long run than “good” form.    

Self-care Tips:

  • Try meditating in a comfortable position.  If you’re new to it, start with 30 seconds to 3 minutes.  If you like it, try it again.  If it’s not for you, either try another modality or let it go.  
  • When you’re feeling over stressed, imagine you’re softening your edges.  What does that look like? How does it feel?  It may assist in easing the emotional strain.  
  • Who makes you laugh?  Watch a video, stream a special, or call that funny friend.  A laughing brake is a terrific relief.  

Omicron in the Time of Coronavirus, Week Five in the New Abnormal

Whenever I find myself feeling righteous for some reason life humbles me, reminding me that in so many ways we’re all in this together.  I had staved off Coronavirus since February 2020.  I felt proud of my record.  When Omicron came on the scene I started wearing masks indoors and out.  I felt mostly protected from the virus and the cold.  All was well.  That ended a couple of weeks ago when I contracted the virus and was put out for days.  

I don’t know why they call them mild cases.  True, I was fortunate enough to stay at home, but it sure kicked my butt.  I haven’t remembered being that sick for years.  It felt like the worst flu I ever had and then some. Luckily, I’m on the mend.  I knew I was getting better when I had the wherewithal to start complaining.     

Funny how feeling ill softens my edges.  And at the first sign of feeling physically better I leaned towards pessimism. As much as I loathed being under the weather, I think the simplicity of life while healing will serve me well now that I am well.  

Self-Care Tips:  

  • Rest Up.  We easily neglect down time.  The rest is what keeps us going.
  • Leave small notes of affirmations in drawers, on the mirror, or anywhere else in your home. You can write post-its saying things like, “You’re Awesome” or “Be Curious” or anything that has meaning for you.  
  • Try making a new soup.  Simple if you have no time or challenging if you want to expand your repertoire.  

Thank You For Your Kindness, Week Four in The New Abnormal

Morning View from My Bedroom Window

Small kindnesses have huge impacts.  This week I hadn’t felt well, and the comments, texts, calls, messages, and extra care have been particularly meaningful. Larry, my husband, asked me if he could help take care of me, if I would let him.  The truth is I usually don’t let him help me.  I can be stubbornly independent, even at my own expense.  So, I “let” him.  Every query to see if there was anything he could do was welcomed.  He made trips to the pharmacy to find the right over-the-counter remedies.  He cooked or ordered dinner. We chatted casually.  Something we don’t often have a chance to do. 

In the past I’d get defensive as if he were accusing me of not being able to do something myself.  And sometimes his accusations were spot on.  Nonetheless I’d get defensive as if that truth wasn’t already fully clear.  

Friends and family have been kind.  Interdependence can soften us, as it has me this past week, leaving me more grateful and treasuring those I love even more.  Gifts can come in odd shapes.  Being vulnerable has allowed me to take in those gifts.  

I am feeling better day by day.  And I plan to remember this week so I can accept help when offered in the future.  The kindness of others deepens us and makes us stronger in a positively vulnerable way.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Clean out apps.  We always have apps that we thought were a good idea, but that we either never use, or they no longer serve us.  It’s okay to delete those.  
  • Give yourself a news free day.  See if it lightens your stress load.  
  • Ask for help.  Even if you could go it alone, it may save time and forge a connection when done with or by another. 

Balancing Act, Week Three in the New Abnormal

I keep deluding myself into thinking I know the best formula for getting through these difficult times.  I meditate twice daily.  I make sure I don’t make plans more than once a week, except in special circumstances.  I go for daily walks.  I work.  I try to make easy dinner a few times a week.  I like doing all these things.  While I’m doing them, I feel perfectly fine.  But in other moments I am short-tempered.  I am impatient.  I long for more assistance.  I understand how fortunate I am to have supportive people in my life.  But we all need extra scaffolding, and since most of us are depleted, we have less inner resources from which to give.

When I get heated, lash out, or feel deflated, I know I am far from being balanced.  I was never athletic, and I could barely do a cartwheel in gym class, but throughout school I felt comfortable on the balance beam.  Not skilled, but able to stay upright.  Now at a more advanced age, I feel at ease with balance stances on my yoga mat.  But feeling steadied after a full day of work and a few minutes facing my to-do lists is not an available option these days.  I am off-balance.  

For months on end during the pandemic I was keen on regaining whatever balance I had before.  That wasn’t working so I tried to find a new balance.  Perhaps for some that’s a possibility, but I can only speak for myself, and I was nowhere near anything I could call balanced, beam or no beam.  Now I’m not quite embracing the collective destabilizing forces, but I am doing what I can to live in it.  

Yes, walking helps.  True, carving out alone time makes a difference.  Saying no when I don’t have the wherewithal.  And saying yes when opening myself up to something out of my routine gives me renewed joy. All simple, but not always easy.  I am grateful for laughter and art as balms in this uncertain storm.  It allows me to come back to myself.  A place in which I can be kind to myself and others, understanding most of us are a bit wobbly as we try to regain our footing.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Have a private Karaoke. Turn up a song and sing along loudly, releasing your inner artistic spirit. 
  • Get a small plant while practicing loving discipline.  Choose a commitment level by picking out a plant you can easily care for.  
  • Read a short story.  It gives you a sense of accomplishment without a long-term reading commitment.    

Thwarted Plans, Week Two in the New Abnormal

I made plans months ago to get away this past week.  I was heading to a conference that was cancelled last January.  Looking forward to warm weather and outdoor dining, Omicron thwarted our quasi-vacation.  Instead, I am in my apartment lamenting my unrealized trip.  

Most of us have had to reroute our former intentions.  The only traveling I did this week was mostly by foot.  Though I did take one jaunt by ferry to Astoria Park to enjoy the opposite view of the East River.  Not quite the coastline I had pictured, but the one closest to home.  

I’m hearing about Covid fatigue left, right, and center.  Without recovering from the initial stall of all that we knew to be our lives, we are plodding through the ever expanding unknown.  Here and there we enjoy bright spots.  But just as quickly we are easily agitated by small disturbances.  At least that describes my experience. 

I’m still making tentative travel plans, ever hopeful for shifts in the health of our world.  I may have missed the boat, or rather, plane, this time, but I’m not giving up on future travel.  For now, I have books to take me to new places.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Clean out old emails.  If you’re anything like me, unless it’s junk, I keep some emails just in case. This weekend, I’m purging old emails.  I invite you to join me. 
  • Take the time to unsubscribe from unwanted solicitations. If that’s too much, start with one a day.  
  • Have a plan B.  If and when plans shift, you have something else you can enjoy in the meantime.  

A New Abnormal, Week One in the New Abnormal

Welcome to 2022.  There are a lot of surprises in store.  I’ll be surprised along-side you.  I’m calling it the “New Abnormal” due to the fact that it’s been abnormal for awhile.  A new normal doesn’t resonate with me since there have been too many tectonic shifts these last couple of years.  Although this new abnormal is, well, new, I am no stranger to abnormal.  

When I was 9 years old I secretly played with Barbies.  Under our ping pong table in the basement, I created a world that entertained me for hours.  I quickly came to understand that my third-grade classmates were not still playing with their Barbie dolls.  At least no one admitted to it.  They had moved on to more sophisticated toys like the Zig Zag sewing machine or the totally cool walkie-talkies. But I relished my alone time away from my three siblings to do as I pleased, inventing new roles that my small dolls could inhabit.  Even later when I was to learn that Barbie was no friend to feminists, I silently appreciated those precious years when they provided me with a gateway to my creative mind.  

As much as I loved those solo hours under the table, on Sundays my Grandpop, Sam, would play ping pong with me, my Barbies far from underneath the table in the appropriate cases tucked into the basement closet.  My Grandpop was quite athletic.  When he played ping pong, he played to win.  I only learned the game by trying to keep up.  He usually won.  But he never gloated.  He was a humble man, who taught me the importance of doing a good job for oneself. 

At school I was relentlessly teased for my frizzy hair, my hand-me-down wardrobe, or my socially awkward demeanor.  To certain kids at Stafford School, I was abnormal.  It felt like an unwanted burden as a tween.  As an adult, especially in this time of Coronavirus, I have come to understand that having had a tough beginning was the introduction I needed to get through difficult times.  

As we enter 2022, we all have a sense of what it takes when the unexpected comes.  We’ve had plenty of practice these last 22 months.  Abnormal times require abnormal qualities.  I may have been unpopular playing with my Barbies, but being able to entertain myself for long periods of time in my own company has served me well.  Plus enjoying the company and sportsmanship of my Grandpop has given me an ease with quiet focus.  Let’s rejoice in what’s distinct from others.  Celebrating our inner abnormalities may just get us through this new year.  

Self-Care Tips:  

  • Laugh a little.  Watch a Betty White clip on YouTube or elsewhere.  
  • Clean out something simple as a signal for a fresh beginning.  It can be a drawer, a pencil holder, a room, your refrigerator or freezer, your oven or a closet.  Throw out what doesn’t serve you anymore.  If you can recycle it or repurpose it, great.  
  • In what ways have you known yourself to veer from the crowd? If it’s something that gives you pleasure and it doesn’t harm you or anyone else, allow yourself the grace to appreciate and enjoy your “inner abnormal.”