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.  

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 

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.  

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.