The Charm of a Three-Day Weekend

Memorial Day reminded me of the joy of a three-day weekend.  I can always use three days.  I don’t so much see it as an extra 24 hours, as I do experience it as needed time.  If we split up the weekend, one day is devoted to accomplishing chores, while completing unfinished tasks from the previous week.  The next day is for socializing.  Whether we catch up virtually or in person, it can be nice to check in with friends and loved ones.  And the third day is for much needed rest.  That is what I consider a full and gratifying weekend. 

During this current Saturday, Sunday coupling, I am already stressed attempting to get everything done while staying well-rested.  If I want to relieve my stress, then I have to let go of getting everything done and find a way to deal with half a deck.  It reminds me of times in my childhood when I’d find pieces missing from games, usually thanks to Susan, my younger sister, who seemed to get great pleasure playing with my toys and ruining them in the process. The red might be missing from Candy Land, or Mrs Peacock and the lead pipe were nowhere to be found when I took out Clue.   I’d find work-arounds so that I could finish games, not familiar yet with adult-onset stress. 

The simplicity of life during lock-down is waning.  Now I’m adjusting to longer to-do lists, adding to daily stress.  While I have maintained some anxiety relieving practices, I find that my mind wanders to expanding responsibilities, leaving me with a full mind, lessening my mindfulness.    It seems essential to return to the care free playfulness I had as a child.  Should I be able to access a younger me, then I’d easily let go of the missing pieces and continue on with my weekend, such as it is. 

I will spend the rest of my Sunday working around a limited time frame.  As care free as my seven-year-old self, I will enjoy the game of life, at least for the next 12 hours, even if it turns out I’m missing a random Jack and the Six of Spades.  Apparently just writing about this is an exercise in letting go.  Thanks for playing along with me, you made my weekend. 

Self-Care Tips:

  • Play.  Remind yourself of a younger you who enjoys a carefree period of time
  • Take dance breaks.  Even dancing to one song shifts our energy and allows us to move from stress to ease. 
  • Throw out old spices.  Go through your spice rack and let go of old spices while discovering forgotten spices that will add new flavors to your meals.   

No End to Mental Health Awareness Month

We’re at the end of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.  That doesn’t mean we can ditch the care we require for our mental well-being.  Perhaps now more than ever we must hone in on our emotional welfare.  As we face many more options than what had been available just a month ago, I find that I am oversaturated with hopes, desires and hesitation.  Listening to my intuition is key, but the noise of opening up, facing all we can do, what we “should do,” along with what we’d like to keep from our time in the pandemic, can feel dizzying.  I face many choices, while I proceed at a low speed. 

The challenge is to stay to my intuition, rather than fall face forward into the noise of the world around me.  I have been easily seduced by good food, good drinks, good talent, good times.  The pandemic helped to curb some impulses.  It helped me to learn to rest more even as work picked up due to the unexpected global stressors and losses.   So, here we are at the crossroads of some semblance of our old lives with what became essential during lockdown. 

I’m selfishly relieved that it’s a wet holiday weekend.  I felt compelled to imagine what I could do during the long weekend.  What I really needed was to rest and get some work done.  The weather gave me the opportunity to choose what was best for me, rather than delaying the work for fun in the sun.  While the time in the pandemic gave me more time to meditate and walk, both of which have been essential self-care, I have to purposely keep those activities in place as the world expands around me. 

I love seeing the choices others are making.  One of the best mental health benefits of maturing is understanding that I am not obligated to live a life based on others’ opinions.  I’m not necessarily comfortable when I am in disagreement with plans or interests, but I’d rather endure the discomfort of difference than the discomfort of denying what is right for me.  The pandemic allowed my intuition to raise its voice.  My mental health is inextricably tied to me listening to my intuition and trusting what it tells me.  Now it may be more of an ordeal to listen carefully, but the reward will be a gentle smile from within.  My inner-self will thank me.  What better way to attend to our mental health?

Self-Care Tips

  • Go for a mental health check-up.  See your past psychotherapist to check in. Or, find a way to do a self-reflection of what’s needed to bring deep satisfaction into your life.
  • Access the courage it takes to speak up for yourself while listening to your intuition, rather than ignoring what your gut tells you so that you don’t make waves. 
  • If you’re able, take a look at Apple TV’s “The Me You Can’t See,”  A show that raises awareness on Mental Illness and Mental Health. 

A Wild Time, Week Four in the Time of Coronavirus

I was the only adult not accompanying children.  The bug carousel was my last stop before exiting the Bronx Zoo.  After walking the zoo and enjoying the animals and the respective information on wildlife conservation, I thought, ‘why not?’  Giving my inner child a treat seemed imperative.  Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. 

I’ve been thinking of new places to go on fun walks.  After traversing the same streets, the same worn paths in the parks, I wanted to shake things up now that it feels Covid-19 safer to me to travel by subway. I’m grateful to the vaccine for that.  I chose a weekday while school was still in session to enjoy the zoo with less people.  It was a morning with no clients.  When I entered at 10 AM, the opening hour, I walked alone for thirty minutes, seeing zebra, giraffes, and gazelles.  Then, for another hour, I saw a few young families while viewing tigers, lemurs, and tropical birds.  After that it got busier, so I did my best to go to less traveled areas.  As I love elephants, I was able to view Rosie, the Asian elephant out for the day, while I took the monorail, the only way to see her. 

It felt delightful to enjoy this space while appreciating these powerful beasts.  By the time I made it to the bug carousel, I was ready to sit, even if it meant straddling a sturdy grasshopper going up and down.  I went around and around passing parents and their kids looking at me quizzically.  The joy of getting older is that it’s easier to choose what’s good for me even if I feel some discomfort in possibly being the object of disapproval.  While I risked judgement, I felt the pleasure of caring for myself.  All in all, my walk in the zoo was a big gift in this time of transition. 

Self-Care Tips:

  • Test your courage by doing something for yourself that may risk being judged by others.  Make your need greater than what others may think.
  • Enjoy animals, whether you play with your pet, go to the park and enjoy looking at a dog run, go to a zoo, or watch silly animal videos on YouTube, animals can often lift our moods. 
  • Go for a walk in an unfamiliar place.  We see things differently, sparking other vicinities of our brain. 

Neither Here Nor There, Week One in the Time of Transition

We are the lucky ones.  We have available vaccines that put us in a unique position.  We have entered a transitional time from living a life in a pandemic to moving to a new, not fully known, post-pandemic period.  So, here we are.  

Much of my days look similar to those in the past year.  I go to my office, I work, I go for long walks, and I come home to have dinner and rest.   The weekends are spent walking and writing, and hopefully allowing for some time for fun and still more rest.  Though, now, I’m seeing a very small number of clients who are fully vaccinated in the garden of my office, or safely distanced inside.  Surprisingly I had found working remotely a nice change from my years of in-person sessions.  I hadn’t expected that, imagining that it would dilute the therapeutic relationship.  Instead, it brought new textures to my and my client’s time together.  Now I’m finding having in-person sessions a lovely change from Zoom and phone sessions.  I enjoy the hybrid of work days that include both in office along with screen and phone meetings.  

All this is to say these middle days, these days of transition, are an odd mix of pre-pandemic routines, pandemic protocols, and new moods and behaviors we’ve adapted.  There is so much we don’t know.  As a species, we don’t do well with the unknown.  For me, I stick to what I do know for now.  A poorly woven safety net giving me a perceived comfort I so desperately need.  It’s a bit like wearing a mask that’s not completely snug.  Or, carrying an umbrella in the hope that it doesn’t rain.   

Let’s do our best in moving forward.  As we do, let us not forget those we’ve lost, that which we let go, and the precious lessons we’ve learned.  We will step gingerly while transitioning.  The bridge may be long.  And, no, we are not there yet.  

Self-Care Tips

  • Name the changes you’ve made during the pandemic that you would like to bring into the future.
  • Notice when you’re impatient.  Rather than get annoyed that you feel impatient, see if you’re able to be patient with yourself in your impatience.  
  • Buy a book from an independent bookstore.  If you can’t think of what to buy, choose a childhood favorite.  It can bring quick comfort when you need it.  Of course, if money is an obstacle, see if there’s a book exchange, or reserve the book at your local library.

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.  

Individualism, Week 58 in the Time of Coronavirus

I’ve been confused.  I thought I knew myself. Instead, who I knew was a woman who was highly influenced by the world around me.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn’t representative of the totality of me.  We’ve all been there.  Whether we’re enticed by a product commercial, or whether we want to join in on experiences with those who surround us, we make choices based on an outside influence.  Sometimes this works to our advantage.  I’ve visited beautiful places based on recommendations.  I’ve also spent a good amount of money on things I didn’t need, and ultimately didn’t want.  

There are some things that have been a constant.  I knew what I liked, theater, work, blueberry crumb muffins.  I knew what I didn’t like, loud noises like relentless car horns in stuck traffic, or people who take up the entire sidewalk making it impossible to pass.  Nothing has changed on those fronts.  I have noticed that I like a lot more now, though, than my previous short list.  

I like my garden much more than in the past.  I’m enjoying it more, too.  I’m a squeamish gardener at best.  For some reason getting my hands dirty is not fun for me.  For instance, as much as I love lobster, I am no fan of pulling it apart to secure the tender meat.  But choosing flowers and enjoying a small and rare patch of green in the city is as good as it gets while I find my way back into the larger world.  

I’m also much more appreciative of the small things.  Kindness, whether from a friend who reaches out, or a stranger who keeps a door open, mean so much to me.  I am grateful for Alex’s late night texts filled with bad jokes, and lots of love.  I am grateful that Larry washed the dishes last night after a long day at work.  He did it without me asking, or even before I could complain that I had one more thing to do. 

There are many things that I would not have known about myself had the world not changed drastically.  Surprisingly, birds have been nice to see.  In the past I appreciated the bright red cardinals I’d pass, but I was nonplussed by other avian varieties.  Now, when walking in the park I look up to see all sizes and colors of birds, enjoying the brief siting as I move through the now leafy spaces.  Most importantly to me, I’m not missing the many activities that defined my evenings.  I assumed I’d be bored if I did less.  Not so. I am better rested.  I feel more grateful.  Letting go feels easier.  

An unexpected benefit of this time of Coronavirus is being untethered from much of the external influences.  Other than Netflix, along with other cable programming, choices are limited.  That’s helped me and others make choices that feel personally authentic.  It allows for a freedom we didn’t know possible.  Our worlds grew smaller, and our hearts expanded.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Find something in your drawers you forgot you have but brings a smile.
  • Take a private moment to enjoy something that is fun for you, it could be dancing alone, singing in the shower, or drawing. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not.  
  • Get out in the sun and take in the vitamin D.  

Hello Again, Spring, Week 56 in the Time of Coronavirus

This past week proved to be particularly challenging for so many of my clients, as well as friends and colleagues.  Walking through the city brings a needed brightness as the early signs of Spring appear.  The warm air feels fresh.  The cooler air keeps the parks emptier.  Either has its benefits.  

Though we’ve become accustom to our pandemic routines, it seems unbelievable that we’re beyond a year in the time of Coronavirus.  As with all things far-fetched, it takes time and repetition to integrate the reality of these circumstances.  We got through the past year (plus a few weeks) by imagining a time beyond the pandemic.  At present, though, we’re left with an uncertainty that belies our peace of mind.  

I am counting on the same anchors to continue getting through this.  The sun rises every day.  When I’m awake in time, I go to the East River to start my day.  The beauty envelops me, and I let it.  Though I don’t get a good view of sunsets, I do appreciate the changing lights at dusk that I witness when facing west.  And I always appreciate the photographs of others’ sunsets when posted.  

Then there’s meditation.  Some days it’s as if I’m being lifted up.  Other mornings meditating feels like a long time to be with a racing mind.  Similar with a gratitude journal.  Some days my heart is open, and then there are the days when I have to push for appreciation of simple things.  I have so much for which to be grateful, but exhaustion and a hazy mood sometimes get the better of me.  

We’ve learned a lot during this time.  Though I adore the city, it has been nature that grounds me, providing peace and joyful moments.  I have learned the importance of rest.  Prior to March 2020, I took advantage of all the city had to offer.  I lived by the Warren Zevon credo, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”  Now I’m sleeping, napping, being still, resting, or simply, taking it easy to enjoy living, as best I can.  

This year has slowed me down.  There is still so much to get done, but my to do list is less important than listening to friends and family, doing the work I love, and looking up at the sky.  Glad that Spring is in the air.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • * Take a break.  Sometimes stepping away is the best choice.
  • * Find a small smooth stone to rub when you need soothing.
  • * Try flavored salts.  They add another dimension to dishes.
  • * When noticing a behavior or habit you don’t like, rather than judge, ask what might be happening that prompted the behavior, and bring compassion.
  • * Look up at the sky and enjoy the sun, the clouds, the stars and the moon.  

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.  

Oh, The Memories, Week 52 in the Time of Coronavirus

This is the last week of a full year of social distancing and all that comes with it.  Most of us are ready to finish this disruptive chapter and return to the activities we love.  Yet, I imagine there will come of a time in the future when we will wax nostalgic for this time.  

Perhaps we’ll appreciate the safety of wearing masks, not just to protect ourselves from Covid-19, but because we had less colds or cases of influenza.  We will yearn for a ready-made excuse for plans we prefer not to attend.  We will crave long walks in the middle of the day.  We will appreciate the rare times when family members in the house laughed together at silly moments.  We will hunger for communion with nature on a regular basis.  We will long for a simpler time, like we’ve been experiencing now. 

We all discovered, had we not known before, the public value of toilet paper, the comfort of everyday yoga pants, the ease of simply staying in.  We found comfort in our surroundings. The delight of first blooms. The joy of open spaces, a river view.  And we found solace in the small wins.  In losing so much in the span of this pandemic year, we gained a deep appreciation that less is more.  We’ll see how this plays out in the coming months.  And it will be interesting to see when we become sentimental for the lessons learned in the time of Coronavirus.   

Self-Care Tips:

  • Ask yourself, “Is there anything I need?”  Answer as honestly as you can.  You may discover there are needs not addressed.  Or you may find that you are taking care of yourself better œthan expected.  Whatever the answer, checking in with yourself is a reminder of your importance.  
  • Think of a situation in which being right became the be all and end all.  If possible, see if you can shift to compassion and apologize for not appreciating the other’s perspective.  
  • Note an insecurity of yours.  Now see if there is an upside for something that feels bad to you.  I.e., I used to cry a lot and thought I was too sensitive, now I use my sensitivity to appreciate music, joy, and empathy.  
  • Choose an item at home that elicits a specific memory.  See if you can remember the experience, then assess if you might feel freer should you be able to discard or give away that item.  
  • Enjoy a soundtrack from a beloved film of the past.  It will envelop you in euphony and nostalgia.  

Insult to Injury, 2020 Taxes, Week 51 in the Time of Coronavirus

Vintage mechanical numeric calculator isolated on white background. Accounting concept, stock online photo

I like scrambled eggs.  They are soft and comforting.  However, when my mind is scrambled I find no comfort in that.  These past two weekends I’ve endeavored to do my taxes.  Doing taxes in the time of Coronavirus is less than optimal.  That said, I am going to take a nap.  An afternoon siesta is not a usual practice, especially when slogging through last year’s numbers.  In the past I’ve faced the forms down and I get through it, complaining while I add up sums and input data.  Today is different.  I don’t have the wherewithal.  I’m having difficulty focusing.  Taxes in a pandemic is another ridiculously compulsorily task we’re forced to endure.  

Nap completed and I’ve taken a brief refuge in writing this now.  I see the calculator staring me down, so I’ll have to resume my taxes in a little while.  When I do, I imagine I’ll go slowly.  I’d love to rush through it.  But having made mistakes in the past, I prefer slow and steady to the headache of a future audit.  

Because it’s a rainy day I am less inclined to venture out, making this a theoretically perfect day for paperwork.  But as far as I’m concerned, paperwork is a necessary evil, not a respectful task worth my time and energy.  Taxes aren’t fun.  At least that’s been my experience.  

I didn’t always feel that way.  There was a time a few decades ago when I was proud of my record keeping and my ability to have organized files.  It wasn’t until I worked for others as a side hustle, helping with their bookkeeping, that I found out that I deluded myself with my organizational skills.  My acumen with an adding machine was deeply flawed.  I missed receipts and tabulated sums incorrectly.  My false confidence was exposed.  

I have no such confidence now.  Nor do I wish to acquire it.  I respect others who excel in bookkeeping and accounting.  This is their season to shine.  Kudos to them.  I hope to complete my taxes in the next two weeks when I will send it off to our wonderful accountants.  For now, though, I will go back to the numbers.  And, I think I’ll have scrambled eggs for dinner to comfort me when I’m done for the day.  

Self-care tips:

  • Change up your routine.  Try to do things differently for a fresh perspective. 
  • When going into an unwanted situation, place a few dabs of a scent you like on your wrists or other points, so you can take in the aroma when things get tough.
  • When multi-tasking, see if there’s a way to focus in on one task and get some or all of it done before moving on to the next task.  This gives you a better chance of having a sense of satisfaction with your work. 
  • Shred.  It can feel great to get rid of old papers. 
  • Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.  That’s what it’s all about.