Good Will, Week 59 in the Time of Coronavirus


This past week I posted a birthday wish for my 22-year-old child on FaceBook.  So many share the downside of social media.  And, yes, there are downsides, nonetheless, my most recent experience has been one of kindness and care.  In the past I’ve been reunited with friends near and far with whom I had lost touch.  Some have since passed away.  And, social media, namely FaceBook, gave us a chance to reconnect, reminding us of the moments that have shaped us.  

This past week I came out as a parent of a trans child. He has been out for years throughout the transition process. I stayed silent for the most part.  I had much to learn from Alex and the community, and I didn’t feel ready to speak while I educated myself and grow as a parent, therapist and human.   I have friends on FaceBook who share different religious beliefs.  I have friends who live very different lifestyles than that of our urban world.  Yet, the outpouring of love, support, care, and good will was extraordinary.  I felt meaningful connections rather than disparity.  

There are many times social media can seem like a window into a polished world.  One in which I can find myself feeling a good deal of envy for milestones or experiences I haven’t achieved or may never know.  It’s imperative that we live our own lives without measuring our successes based on others.  Yet, I find that challenging, and often fall short.  The responses to my most recent post remind me of the generous hearts far and wide.  

Sadly, I can get caught up in the behavior of annoying strangers or hateful acts in the news.  It’s easy to feel despairing of humankind.  However, when I take in the love shared, I am filled with the healing power of kindness.  My friends and family have reminded me that thoughtfulness is natural for most of us, and it always behooves me to live in that truth.  I will endeavor to focus on the good will I see.  And when I stray, much as my thoughts can stray in meditation, I will bring myself back to the reality of pervasive good will.  

Self-Care Tips

Foggy, Week 57 in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s foggy this morning.  How apropos for these times.  Our minds are foggy. Well, mine is.  By the end of any given day I have limited access to names and words.   If I want to relax in the evening, I’m challenged to remember one of a number of shows I enjoy watching.  

It also seems foggy when we think of moving forward.  We are slowly making our way back to a life previously known.  I’d love to travel, dine out, enjoy theater. Yet, I am more cautious now, valuing health and safety over social luxuries.  Presently, travel consists of walking to Central Park.  Though today I moved through the fog to Randall’s Island where I soon got lost. It was a bit of a challenge not being able to find my bearings since distance visibility was obliterated by low clouds.  

In general, this morning’s walk is very much how I’m getting through these days in the time of Coronavirus.  I can’t see anything in the distance so I’m reliant on what is right in front of me.  What’s right in front of me is quite simple.  I work. I write. I prepare simple meals. I eat.  Larry and I laugh, when I’m not being defensive or critical.  I walk. If I’m feeling really adventurous, I take out my bike.  Every morning I meditate.  Every night I sleep, lucky if I do it well enough.  Of course, there are other things that fill in my days, but my brain is foggy, and I can’t think of much more now. 

As the haze of the pandemic continues to blanket our days, we will take one step at a time to find our way to safer ground.  Are we there yet?  No.  But we’re steps closer.  Given all we’ve been through, we can trust our ability to persist through the mist.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Nostalgia! Throwback to another time.
  • Listen to music you enjoyed at a younger age
  • Play a game that used to be fun for you.
  • Find scents that elicit positive memories, whether it’s from a bakery, a freshly mowed lawn, or from a family member’s fragrance tray.  

Make Plans and the Universe Laughs, Week 23 in the Time of Coronavirus

I put a lot of stock into getting away.  I was sure I needed a vacation, time away from work and the city to regroup.  We drove for a few hours until we found our rental home in the heart of the Western Catskills.  It is breathtaking here.  Having space to simply be has been a relief.  Yet, I brought some old baggage with me.  I’m not talking luggage here, I’m speaking of my long-term dysfunctional beliefs and habits.   

It took no time at all to enjoy the view from the front porch.  The mountains and the greenery are simply verdant.  The home has a winter-lodge feel to it, and it was nice to be in a place with high ceilings, lofts, and space.  I was off-line and on vacation.  A pandemic vacation.  A vacation in an unknown home rather than at a destination further than our own state.  I’m so grateful that we have a chance to get away.  I know how fortunate I am to have a job that I love, and am employed in this difficult time.  I am aware of the privilege of being able to get away.  Yet, I also know that my privilege does not make me immune to human foibles.  This vacation gave me a chance to become more acquainted with a few of my shortcomings.  

There’s a lot to do when at a rental.  Planning and preparing food, cleaning things to feel more comfortable, getting to know the house, the property, and the surrounding area.  We did well the first couple of days.  We found hikes, and trails, towns and local provisions.  I felt at ease in the mountains and woods.  

I was fooled, though.  My shoulders had softened.  They were no longer touching my ears. They were making their way into their natural position below my neck on either side. That alone had me believe that I was relaxed, and there were no worries.  But by day three, I was starting to weigh my relief at being in the country with my small disappointments with the house, the area, the responsibilities.  I didn’t think how much work it takes to be away like this.  I was no longer used to preparing multiple meals each day.  And, I got resentful that I was doing so much work around the house.  No one made me do it.  But I learned to be a people pleaser, and I took on that role like it was 1990.  

It wasn’t until I became nasty because others were lounging during their vacation (how dare they!), that I saw that I was no longer giving to make others happy, I was sacrificing my rest because of some unknown sense of duty.  It was not out of love, but rather out of a need to be appreciated.  What I got was the opposite of appreciation.  So I got cranky.  A killjoy during a vacation, or at any time, for that matter.  

Thank goodness they’re a forgiving bunch, or so it seems.  I could go back to them and let them know that I appreciate them.  And, so often, when I give what I think I’m owed, it shifts my experience.  I am now able to gaze up at the night sky to commune with the countless stars.  I was able to go on a walk today and enjoy the space and freedom of seeing no one.  It helped to take in the huge trees, the sky. Listening to the birds chirping, and the lapping brook. Larry and I went for a couple of drives and came upon a lovely farmer’s market.  Everyone friendly.  Very refreshing.  

And, when dinner needed to be made today, I was able to ask for help in a kinder way. Everyone pitched in happily making for a lovely evening.  Sometimes it takes a break to make a break from habits that never served us. 

Self-Care Tips

  • Pay attention to difficult feelings.  Let them be and they will reveal hidden truths that hold us back.  Then, without judgement, continue to provide space for the discomfort.  It will release itself.  
  • Write a letter to your future self. Choose how many years that will be, 5, 10, 20, or another number.  In thinking about yourself in the future, also think about one thing you can do today that supports the future you to whom you wrote the letter.  Then, in addition to writing the letter take an action that supports your future you.  
  • Give yourself a second chance.  If there’s something that you’ve done or that you want to do but haven’t done, rather than give up, giving yourself another opportunity to try it, means there is no dead end to the issue.  
  • Be in touch with someone who believes in you.  When we spend time, speak with, or are in the presence (even virtually) of someone who knows your value, you automatically feel empowered, and that promotes self-esteem.  If, you have yet to meet that person, look at someone who you admire and see if you feel inspired. 
  • Light a candle in the dark or turn on a small flashlight.  You will see how one small light illuminates the darkness.  Now, think of yourself and your actions as that light.  

Stressing About Stress, Week 22 in the Time of Coronavirus

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

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

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

 

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Self-Care Tips

 

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

When Will This End? Coronavirus Blog 5

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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