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.  

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.  

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.  

Being Okay Not Being Okay, Week 18 Blog Post in the Time of Coronavirus

I am in awe at the speed and dominance my emotions morph during the time of Coronavirus.  I am moved to tears by the humanity I witness or hear about.  Moments later I am immersed in fury for a perceived injustice.   I am in love with my child and husband for their simple kindnesses, and then I am agitated when I turn the corner to see that some arbitrary chore or other wasn’t accomplished.  My pettiness is astounding. My gratitude short-lived.  

As an observer I find this fascinating.  As the subject I find it disconcerting.  More and more I’m hearing similar stories of unwielded emotional lability.  By the week’s end I am exhausted.  Too tired to be social or active.  So I am resting more and more.  I have found resting to be restorative.  Prior to Covid-19, I thought resting was an obligatory lessening of activities when I hit a wall or got sick.  No longer.

I am not a closet napper these days.  Now I proudly nap, understanding the need for the down time.  I hadn’t realized the array of my rigid beliefs until I had to set up new rules during the time of Coronavirus.  All of a sudden I am making room for my widening range of emotional connection.  I have eschewed the notion that getting the most things done is a winning strategy.  And, I am throwing out plans right and left in favor of what works for me in the moment.  

This has been a tragic time in our world’s history.  And, though I recognize the losses we all have had to endure, I am also grateful for the gifts of this time.  The difficulties that have come our way make it impossible to go on as before.  I am unable to hide my less attractive features like my pettiness or judgments.  I can see them upfront and personal.  All I have to do is go for a walk to hear my thoughts; appreciating someone who raises their mask when passing, while silently cursing those who are not choosing to protect me and everyone else from the spread of Covid-19.  

These are kneejerk responses.  Later I may be able to find compassion, understanding everyone is doing the best they can.  But I don’t always dwell there.  So, I am using my ire to teach me.  I’m not defending against the notion that I get angry or disparaging of myself and others.  Instead I am learning about how and when those feelings present themselves and seeing if I can have patience for myself and others as we travel this unchartered territory on our own and all together.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Change the lighting to shift a mood.  We get set in the way we light things.  Yet, sometimes turning off a light or changing the bulb color helps to relax us.  Conversely, bringing in more or altered light can provide an emotional lift
  • Expand your vocabulary.  There is something singularly satisfying in learning new words.  Word Genius brings new words to your email.  There are also other platforms that are terrific.  
  • Star Gaze.  If you can, go out on a clear night a gaze up at the stars.  You will see infinite possibilities which will be a lovely contrast from the limited options we presently have.  If you can’t go out, then check NASA’s website for images or go to NOVA for images. 
  • Light a candle. It’s so simple and can remind us that a small source of light brightens large spaces.  
  • Add fresh herbs to the inside of your mask.  One mint leaf or rosemary sprig on the inner side of the mask can make all the difference.  If you don’t have fresh herbs, perhaps trying an essential oil or a light fragrance 

On my Bike, Week 17 in the Time of Coronavirus

Each one of us have been impacted by the Coronavirus in a personal way.  Some have been ill. Many have been in quarantine. Too many have lost their jobs and income, some of our loved ones have died.  And, the weight of the pandemic continues.  Friends have been divided based on the level of protection we have chosen.  Plans have been cancelled.  Supply chains are interrupted.  And we have all made appropriate adjustments centered on what is right for us under these circumstances.  

I am riding my bicycle more than I have in past years.  I like it because once I pass the trafficked streets it’s easy to ride the slow lane in the park.  And, as with every activity, I wear my mask, wishing everyone would wear there’s when in public.  This is a reflection of the rumble of fear right below the surface.  I am as afraid to infect others as I am of contracting a life-threatening illness.  As an extra precaution, I ride at times when the park is apt to be less populated.  So far, so good.  

My bicycle is a low-standing, folding bike.  I like the truncated height because my feet can easily reach the ground.  A throwback to shaky bike riding during the long summers peddling to The Haddontowne Swim Club.  I keep my bicycle in my office, located on the ground floor, to avoid schlepping it up and down the stairs of our apartment building.  It’s nice when I can create a simple solution.  Stashing my bike in the office also gets me out more.  Given these times, if it’s easy, it’s more apt to get done.  

Humidity was high this weekend. I don’t mind that so much.   It’s pleasant to feel a light breeze cruising down the hills.  Tracing the topography of Central Park, as well as the streets on the Upper Eastside, is a unique experience I encounter during my rides.  It’s physical and mental.  And a bit more challenging while wearing my mask.  I even tried a cycling mask, which was hot and constricting, making it harder to ride.  So, I returned to my office for the light cotton style that allows for an easier, though somewhat restrictive, air flow.  

I am both challenged and contented on these rides.  For one, though a cliché, the short journey on my bike is a metaphor for my ability to face difficulties and experience joy. I have to harness the energy to get up a hill.  Whether I go slowly or forge ahead, I can feel my muscles in motion.  My body is supporting me in moving through space.  My mind is telling me I can do it.  My conviction assures me I will do it.  I am grateful that I am at an age that I can trust this thinking.  I didn’t have that ability twenty years ago.  And, I understand that taking on the big and small hills builds mental and physical strength so that I can face them and others like them again.

Conversely, I can enjoy the flat roads, the ease of cycling at a pace that suits me.  I can enjoy the light breezes of summer as I turn the pedals.  Also, I get to know the streets that are open to me.  When I’m short on time, or just want a different ride, I make two rights to get to East End Avenue.  It’s partially closed to traffic, making it a great option. Cycling on East End is convenient and stress-free. Before the pandemic, I had no idea that I live on the top of a gentle slope. I never really saw the hilly street as anything but quiet. It’s a lovely way to get to know the city’s surfaces.  Enjoying old pleasures now is reminiscent of childhood, when every adventure was new again.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Purposelessly take a break.  Rather than push through, stop, meditate, or take a breath, and slow things down a beat.  It’s personally affirmational.  
  • Send a card or a letter snail-mail to someone who has been on your mind.  
  • Bring fresh herb plants into your home.  They smell great, and you can always clip them to flavor your meals and drinks.  If you already have an indoor or outdoor herb garden, perhaps adding another fragrant herb will round out the robust fragrances.  
  • Change up something in your routine(s).  For instance, walk a different direction to get a different view.  Or, if you always brush your teeth after your shower, brush them before.  It will feel odd to do something slightly differently, but it changes how we see things, and will allow for a new perspective.  
  • Smile under your mask.  It’s a mood changer.  

Week 16 in the Time of Coronavirus; Attending to the Mundane

While social distancing, and quarantining when necessary, I have experienced, as we all have, moments in which we are faced with small but necessary tasks.  Cleaning for me is one of those responsibilities that feels great when it’s done, yet I procrastinate getting it done.  This weekend I had to defrost my small office freezer.  It’s not so difficult as it is annoying.  And, even on the annoying scale it’s pretty low, especially when we have to deal with so many annoyances while going through this Covid-19 period.  Nonetheless, when the ice trays can’t be removed, and my Tito’s bottle is stuck, both from neglect, as well as frost accumulation, it’s time to take on the mini fridge.  

The nice part about it is that I can do it in stages.  First stage is to empty out everything from the refrigerator.  Mostly it’s water bottles, beverages, and condiments.  I place anything that needs to be kept cold in a bag.  Then I turn off the unit, open the door, and place a large, absorbent towel in front to prevent flooding.  Next I haul the bag one and half blocks where I place it in my apartment fridge.  From there I went on a walk.  

I loved the walk.  It was a hot and humid day yesterday.  So I walked a bit slower into Central Park, then north on the bridal path, and uptown once again to the shady north woods along a brook.  It was quiet and peaceful.  I try to take paths I don’t know.  It’s fun to get lost and see things I might not have seen before.  Or, find that I can see them from another vantage point.  After I was satisfied and tired, I trekked back home. When I made it to the Eastside it started to rain gently.  Perfect.  The streets empty out, yet the precipitation is light enough to barely get wet.  I could smell the musky, sweet aroma of a storm to come. 

 

I was instantaneously brought back to summers of yore when I would be playing outside and had to run in, sometimes getting my red Keds wet in the process.  It is a routine perfumed scent, yet very specific, bringing joy to me as I made my way back home.  Once home, I saw that the rugs needed vacuuming, and I had just enough energy to get that done.  Again, a mundane task, yet I recalled all the weekends as a child I had to stay in until I finished my chores.  One was to dust and vacuum the living room, a golden carpet under staid furniture that barely hosted activity.  

There is much in these small moments, these mundane undertakings that recall memories.  Today I went back to my office to wipe down the refrigerator and restock it, remembering broken freezers in my 20s, and impromptu parties so the goods wouldn’t spoil.    These mundane projects remind us that getting through this time of the Coronavirus connects our troublesome present with our past, as well as hope for a safe future.  A future when we can blend banal moments with pleasurable diversions like walking in Central Park with a friend.  

Self-Care Tips

*Read poetry. There’s everything from accessible poetry like Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and  Maya Angelou.  Or, other forms such as Rumi, Nikki Giovanni, Mark Doty, and Shakespeare.  There are also really funny and fun poems, if you’d like to lighten your day.  Elinor Lipman on FB has very funny poems (they have a left slant).  Or, go basic like Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, or Dorothy Parker.  

*Decorate a mask.  Make your mask your own.  Draw lips, or if you’re okay getting messy, put on bling and sparkles.  Enjoy presenting your creativity when out.  

*Hydrate.  Being outdoors in the summer can be fun, but staying hydrated allows for even more fun.  If you are opposed to drinking water, find flavored, unsweetened water or make your own.   I find fresh mint leaves in my water or iced tea is really refreshing

*Clear up one small area in your space.  Whether you tackle a drawer, or simply straighten up your work area by going through some papers and making it a bit tidier, it will help to bring the smallest bit of mental space.

*Be silly.  Find the playful child in you.