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. 

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.   

Simple Pleasures, Week 40 in the Time of Coronavirus

I was listening to early Joni Mitchell this early morning as the sun rose.  Lucy and I were out for the first walk of the day.  The weather is warm for December, and lovely in the tranquil dark.  It was quiet with the occasional runner or dog passing us as they started their day.  

It’s easy for me to recognize how special these moments are.  As we make our way through this pandemic I find that these ten months have worn on me.  At this point I really don’t want to do anything.  Which is all the more reason I am appreciative of every small pleasure I encounter.  This morning it was being next to Lucy as she sniffed and I watched the day begin.  Now it’s sitting down to write this as I enjoy a rare moment alone.  Yesterday it was sitting with Alex.  We didn’t speak, we just enjoyed the company of one another.  Earlier yesterday I was with Larry as sunset approached.  

Although I am inclined to do less rather than more these days, I can go from thoroughly exhausted to deeply moved.  My work day is filled with inspiring courage from those in my practice.  Coming home from work I find an unexpected gift from a dear friend.  Or I open up a holiday card happy to think of the care that it took in sending it.  There are so many moments of grace.  As I reflect on these last months I easily access the passionate emotions I’ve been navigating.  My anger is fierce.  My sadness pronounced.  My foggy brain a constant.  And, my appreciation of all the small pleasures, day in and day out, is pervasive.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.  You have given me the perfect gift in this time of the coronavirus.  

Self-care Tips

  • Soup.  It can be so soothing.  I recommend Ina Garten’s lentil soup recipe.  Or, if you don’t like to cook, try a chicken broth with a touch of lemon juice.  
  • Try a new chap stick.  I found one in from Cococare that’s lovely.  It helps our lips in the winter and it will feel soft under your mask.
  • Thank someone today.  It can be for something small like moving out of the way on the sidewalk.  Or it can be a bigger thank you.  
  • Listen to the music that started you loving the singer, musician, piece, or group.  It’s so nice to revisit the awakening you had when you first heard it. 
  • If you spend time with others, find a quiet moment to savor.  If you live alone, see if you can connect with someone who makes you smile.  

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.  

Dropping, Spilling & Breaking; Week 33 in the Time of Coronavirus

Today while making chili, beans spread out in the sink while I was draining them. Usually I’m not so lucky to have a contained spatter. Just two weeks ago glass shattered in all directions. I put on my shoes and cleaned up the shards that extended into two rooms. I’ve certainly seen an uptick in drops, breakage and absent-mindedness. It seems to have increased in these last few weeks. Yes, I can be clumsy, but I usually don’t have to clean up a spill every day. Well, I can’t say that anymore.

The amount of energy it takes to get through our days when we’ve been limited to external outlets is trying. There’s bound to be some fallout. For me one fallout is the inevitable dropping of at least one ball up in the air. Have any of us had to juggle so much while those around us are simultaneously juggling their own load? I doubt it. It’s my first time on such a long haul.

The good enough news is that I am better prepared to clean it up. Though I’m more careful on the outset, it has not prevented me from spilling my coffee, or dropping a jar of herbs. In the past I’ve cursed and resented having to interrupt my flow to wipe up the mess. Now I see it as part of the process. Albeit, a slow, dirty, frustrating process, but very much a part of this bumpy road we’re on. We now can expect the unexpected. It might come in the form of a broken vase or a wet counter. Or, sadly, it might be in the form of a broken heart, an interrupted life. Sometimes a rag can do the trick. Other times a box of tissues is not enough to catch the tears we’re shedding.

Let’s have patience with ourselves and each other. There may not be a solution for what we’re going through, but a kind word, a caring gesture can make all the difference in this messy era.

Self-Care Tips

  • When you drop something, take a breath.  Give yourself a moment, then clean it up.  Let the clean-up be its own activity.  
  • It’s soup weather.  Enjoy a new recipe.  Rely on an old favorite.  Or go out and purchase soup to warm up.  
  • Repeat this mantra for these times: “It’s not what I wanted, but it’s what I got.”  
  • Go old school and create a collage.  It can be a vision board, a creative venture, or make up your own theme.  
  • Find blue light glasses for your screen time 

I Was Wrong; Week 32 in the Time of Coronavirus

Last week I made acorn squash with essence of orange and maple syrup.  I asked Larry to bring a spoon, as I thought that might be easier than a fork.  He proudly came back with a grapefruit spoon.  Silently I was annoyed.  Didn’t I just ask him for a spoon?  A regular spoon?  I begrudgingly took it from him.  I was tired and rather than open up with vulnerability, I found myself closing down with negativity.  When I tried the spoon, which has unobtrusive serrating, it turned out to be an excellent choice for the squash.  Larry likes to find the perfect tool for the job, and I was wrong to not trust him.  In the past I wouldn’t have even tried the utensil. I would have marched into the kitchen to get a regular spoon.  Yes, I have been known to be that petty.  Yet in this instance, being open allowed for a better culinary experience.  

For years as a defense mechanism I have needed to be right.  I would even sacrifice a better experience than admit I was wrong. Or, I’d say I was wrong, but secretly think I was right.   It’s hard to become a better person when I can’t be open to all that is unknown.  There’s nothing like a pandemic to test the limitations of being right.  So many of us thought this would be a short stint of sacrifice followed by triumph.  It is anything but that.  

I am faced with my foibles as I go through my days in a pandemic.  For those of us who are parents, we see the cracks in our seemingly strong facades on a regular basis.  As a therapist, I’m faced with the benefits and constraints of talk therapy.  We have no answers now.  We can talk about and work on making changes on how we deal with our current circumstances, but we cannot immediately change the national and global ills.  Personally and professionally I believe speaking about our hardships with the intention of growing is invaluable. If you prefer something more active, vote.  Also, we can deliberately make changes to the seemingly mundane.  We just have to be open to doing something differently.  Perhaps we’ll get it right if we admit we were wrong.  It’s working for me.  Thank you, Larry.  

Self-Care Tools

  • Try using a grapefruit spoon for grapefruits, squash and anything else you deem applicable.  
  • Find a course or article online on art, music, dance or theater history.  It’s great to dig a little deeper into an artform you appreciate.  
  • Change the way you put on your shoes, or other daily habit.  If you’re a sock, shoe, sock shoe person, put both socks on first.  If you always start with your right foot, start with your left.  See how it feels to switch up an ingrained habit.  
  • If you are incorrect about something, see if you can admit to being wrong.  It might feel like a lovely release.  
  • Do what you can.  These can be challenging times, do what you can, appreciating you’re doing your best under the circumstances.  

Who Cares About Rewards? Week 31 in the Time of Coronavirus

I keep receiving emails warning me that my hotel or travel awards are going to expire.  Or, I’m enticed to go out to eat to get points and rewards.  I simply don’t care.  In the past I played the game and accrued points and rewards.  I was happy to join one program or another to earn gift certificates for shopping, extra discounts, free meals or nights at hotels.  None of this is of interest now.  The notices remind me that I have been an avid consumer, through and through.  

Once in a while I was able to enjoy a free meal or a room upgrade.  Or, I planned a trip in which I used miles.  Mostly, though, I found myself happy to have the points or rewards, while having no good use for them except in my mind.  Not being able to travel during the pandemic, and mostly not choosing to eat out in the city, I am left with these impractical accounts. 

These days I’m unloading rather than amassing.  Going through old spices, clothes that are uncomfortable, papers that are out of date, and any number other of items that no longer serve me.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with my travel rewards.  But one thing seems certain, continuing with most of these programs appears to be pointless.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Follow Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter.  It’s fun, literary, and caring.  
  • Do a duet in the shower with your favorite solo singer. Choose your bedroom or any place you like.  Use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, a recording or track, then sing at the top of your lungs.  
  • Squash is in season.  Branch out with a new variety like Delicata, Banana Squash, or Kabosha.
  • Identify and focus your energy and attention on your strengths.  This alone can support moving forward.   
  • Take a peek through a window into your unconscious.  Keep a notebook and pencil next to your bed.  Write down any images or dream you had as soon as you wake up.  

Weeds in Context; Week 29 in the Time of Coronavirus

As a young girl, how I loved to blow the puff of a dandelion while I made a wish.  And the bright yellow flowers were so nice sprinkled about the lawn when I was growing up.  I remember being told I shouldn’t like dandelions because they were weeds.  And, though I secretly enjoyed the seed carrying wisps and the bright yellow blooms, I did not share this with lawn lovers in my neighborhood.  

But in a pandemic, in a concrete jungle, flowers of any kind can brighten my walks.  So, as I was spending a work break by walking on the East River esplanade, I smiled when I came across some dandelions.  I have a deep appreciation for dandelions in this pandemic.  Seeing them is a bright spot during these difficult days.  Not only do they bring me back to my childhood, but they also connect me to the present.   

Dandelions remind me that the value of an experience is based on context.  In the context of the Coronavirus, a flash of color is a small gift.  In the context of suburban lawns of the 60s, that same weed was a scourge on manicured properties.  Context really matters these days.  When we think of caring for ourselves, and perhaps those we love, getting through a pandemic may present new pathways to our well-being.  We may have hit our saturation point of plowing through.  Now we have to embrace the weeds of the past, both literal and metaphorical, as we wind our way on the twisted Covid-19 road.  Where once I might have called myself lazy for taking a day to rest with so much to get done, these days, indulging in a respite is a loving act I can give to myself.  

Let’s bring out the weeds. Make a bouquet of them.  We owe it to ourselves to enjoy the wild flowering plants in these turbulent times. 

Self Care Tips:

  • Make a wish.  If you’re not able to wish on a dandelion puff, write your wish down and put it in a secret place where you might forget about it for a while.  
  • Actively listen.  See if you can listen from a place of curiosity.  Instead of adding what you know to the conversation, see if you can learn something new from the person speaking.
  • Be willing to be wrong.  We open up and grow if we are not attached to being right.  
  • Make one small change that leads to a larger change.  That could mean taking out your yoga mat so that you might stretch someday soon, or it could mean you open up a new document so that you can write something you’ve been meaning to write.  Or, you buy an ingredient for a recipe you’ve been wanting to try.  
  • Whether you need inspiration or a short break, go to YouTube and search for someone who makes you smile and watch a brief video of their words, song, dance, or other offerings.  

When it’s Difficult, Week 28 in the Time of Coronavirus

I won’t lie, this past week was tough.  I don’t know whether the change in temperature reminded me of a mostly lost summer, or whether the continued stress of clients related to the NYC educational failings had me struggling after each day.  I came home unready to relate to my small family except by means that pushed them away.  Not good for any of us.  And, then Friday night, as we were hopeful in celebrating the Jewish New Year, we heard the sad news of RBG’s death.  Like with so many, it feels like a personal loss. 

As I have learned in the process of past bereavement, there are physical manifestations of loss.  Saturday I felt achy, with shallow breaths.  It is not Covid-19. But it is similar to symptoms that prevail among my close, female friends & family who also found a hero in Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  A very human hero.  While she championed gender equality, she did so within a binary model, and may not have given voice to certain minority groups within our population.  

From free images online

So much has been written about her.  And, it’s hard to choose my favorite among her many admirable qualities.  But given these times, given what we’re going through individually and together, the trait that stands out to me presently is her respect for differences.  She appreciated the ways we connected, and understood that we are not all the same. 

However, it’s not a stance I see often these days.  I am saddened at the hate and judgement I hear and read about related to opposing points of view.  Honestly, it’s hard to take in.  Why can’t I believe in womens’ rights, human rights, and Black Lives Matter without being seen as soft or a bleeding-heart liberal?   Conversely, what is wrong with doing my part as I see fit rather than it being not enough if not done in a louder or more forceful fashion?

Normally I stay away from political subjects, unless you consider wearing a mask to protect each other from the Coronavirus political.  I suppose I open myself up for criticism in stating my beliefs.  Fair enough.  It’s time to live influenced by those who inspire us, rather than by those who insight our divisive natures.  I choose to respect those who differ in their views. Nonetheless I will not be bullied by those who don’t respect my views.  I am grateful to the notorious RBG for paving the way for shared appreciation of personal and political divergences.   We can respect others’ differences while living our own truths.  

On a personal note, I will continue to pay attention to my own distress working and living through this pandemic, learning new ways to care for myself. Forgiving of my sharp edges, while having the courage to be vulnerable, letting in imperfect support.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Remind yourself of something for which you know yourself to be good.  You can write it down, or simply remind yourself of this and other things that you know to be good.  
  • Give yourself one moment to make a choice of what you will do in the next moment.  
  • Use RBG as an inspiration and take an action inspired by her life’s work.  
  • See if you can take one item off your “should” list.  Not by doing it, but by crossing it off as something that no longer “should” get done.  
  • Do an anonymous kind act.  It might be cleaning up after a family member, or it could be opening up a door for a stranger, or making a donation.  See if you can do it without acknowledgement and see how that feels.  

Outdoor Musings; Week 27 in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s such an odd experience to go for a walk and find myself, again and again, a focus of various restaurant patrons on the streets of New York.  I realize they’ve been starved of social interactions.  And, people watching has taken on a new importance.  Pedestrians have become the dinner entertainment for the open tables’ clientele.  So if I walk uptown or downtown on the avenues, I become a subject for diners’ eyes.  Conversely, I look to see how to walk around so I’m not too close while they’re eating their meals mask free.  

It may be that I provide much needed amusement with my firecracker ponytail, my loose tee-shirts and touristy fanny pack.  I don’t care.  I’m at an age where I believe other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.  It gives me more head space to enjoy my daily walks.  

The character of the city has taken on its own pandemic configuration.  For instance, I was so looking forward to this past Labor Day Weekend.  In previous years, the city empties out and we can roam freely, the streets void of residents.  Not so last weekend.  If anything, it felt more like neighbors had prematurely returned from second homes or vacation dwellings. 

 I love the East River Promenade.  Yet, I’m not so fond of it during the pandemic.  This summer the river-facing benches are like chaise lounges at resorts, people have to get there early and stake out their territory.  Should I identify a rare empty bench, I would have to race walk to claim it as mine.  And, forget it when said bench is shaded.  

When I’m out with Lucy I get the distinct impression that she is confused that her park is no longer all hers.  We walk to areas she loves to sniff only to come across sun worshippers or picnickers who are located in the exact spot she wants to examine.  So we move on trying to forge a path around these interlopers. 

The city is, in turns, emptier, and more crowded.  The indoor places are a quarter full at most, while outdoor spaces seem to be at capacity.  This weekend brought even more people outdoors with cooler temperatures and Labor Day behind us.  I’m looking forward to the future when travel is a safer option.  My plan is to stay in the city as it empties out.   Lucy and I will sit on a readily available bench.  And, if they want, the runners by the river can enjoy Lucy’s mellow aura and whatever quirky yet casual get-up I’ll be sporting.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Set an alarm on your daily calendar to acknowledge yourself for small accomplishments. 
  • These times are so difficult.  Write down or share with others something for which you are proud.  
  • Set a timer for complaints.   This way you can acknowledge all the things that you find annoying, but it’s framed within limits.  
  • One-minute stretch brakes help come back to yourself, physically and emotionally.  
  • People watch when you’re outdoors.  You never know who you might find amusing.