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

Snow, Week 41 in the Time of Coronavirus

Initially there were grave warnings about the snowstorm that was going to plague the Northeast.  When it started to fall, the winds were strong, and walking home from work was a bit of an effort.  The following day there were hills with footsteps at the curbsides.  Crossing the street took balance and navigation.  Patience was needed, as only one person at a time could reach the next corner.  Each person had their own pace, based on age, winter fitness, and footwear.  Good snow boots were the best.  So happy that past winters required me to find the right boots. 

            By Friday I was ready for a walk in the park.  The park closest to me, Carl Shurz, had sledding children with their parents.  It was hard to tell who was having more fun.  The walkways were icy, so my time in the park was limited to dog walks.  Central Park was more of a mix.  The Park Drive was clear for walking and running.  The side paths were too slippery to walk safely.  So, I stuck to the Park Drive.  From the Upper Eastside I could see snowmen and women being constructed.  There was a couple cross-country skiing displaying easy smiles.  A snow ball exchange spontaneously occurred.  A great way to play while socially distanced.  

            Rather than the storm being a threat to the city, it provided a needed change to the atmosphere.  Families had a reason to come out and play in the cold.  Individuals were able to enjoy the scenery, as well as the dogs and people romping about.  It lifted our moods.  If anyone fell, strangers came to their rescue.  Passing connections were found in these acts of kindness.  

            The sun’s reflection on the snow adds a brightness to our days.  The light has melted some of the pain on these past months.  The snow has been a gift in this time of Coronavirus.

Self-care Tips:

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.  

The Frustration Budget, Week 20 in the Time of Coronavirus


The light breeze in the high heat and humidity of this New York summer is a simple pleasure these days.  When I amble along on the sweltering sidewalks I can feel the gentle air waves stroke my head and shoulders lifting me up from the heaviness of the muggy day.  It’s a simple joy to feel the wind when it comes.  It eases the countless frustrations that have set upon us during this time of the Coronavirus. 
 
Given how easily I can be set off these days, I have come up with a made-up system.  I have begun to enact a frustration budget.  Living through a pandemic can wreak havoc with our nervous systems.  So, I am going to assess what is a livable measure of frustration, and anything above that quotient will not be spent.  I am not my best when I’m overstressed.  And, then I circle back on annoyance with my mood and behavior, thus adding to my agitation level.  
 
At this point I think I need to set up my budget with a low level of frustration.  I am subtracting rather than adding to my to-do list.  I am laughing at myself for my lack of memory, including my lack of access to common words, and forgetting seemingly simple tasks.   I open my pajama drawer when I mean to retrieve socks from a parallel drawer.  I am at work, and I am unable to make a point since the word “overcome” will not make itself known to my brain in that moment.  Pre-pandemic, I would get annoyed with myself, and maybe even defensive.  Now, deep in the storm of Covid-19, I am amused by my foibles.  At least that’s how it is this hour.  
 
The frustration budget will be a work in progress.  I just thought of it this week, as I felt exhausted by the end of my day, and quickly followed it up by being less than pleasant when I came home.  It was then I thought, “why not limit what I take in that doesn’t bring me joy?”  And, why not?  I don’t need to finish those articles now when I don’t have the bandwidth.  I can look at the New Yorker cartoons, and save anything else that really interests me.  I can leave the room if the TV is on a program that I neither like nor care about.  I can shorten my walk if I get exasperated by those who are not following the CDC recommendations.  I can lengthen my meditation so that I purposely have more calm moments in my day.  
 
I am amazed by the changes that have occurred since our world changed.  Much of it is difficult.  But some of it, like noticing that I can’t continue on building a wall of aggravations on top of displeasures brings a sliver of mindfulness. It’s a kindness that I can give myself.  I imagine the daily distractions and activities in the past allowed me to ignore certain annoyances, but now they are front and center.  It is time to tear down the wall one frustration at a time until I am thriving within my frustration budget.  
  

Self-Care Tips:
·      Notice what frustrates you and see if you can let go of anything on your list
·      Start a Bullet Journal.  It’s a creative way to track what’s important to you.  
·      Keep a Mood Tracker so you can care for yourself no matter what you’re feeling
·      Write personal affirmations and put them on post-its, then place them where you’ll see them like on the bathroom mirror, in your sock drawer, or on the calendar.  
·      See if you can laugh at yourself when you find you’re being hard on yourself.  It really shifts your mindset.  If you can’t laugh at yourself.  Maybe you can smile at the fact that it’s not easy to go from frustration to humor.  

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