Negatively charged

March 25, 2021

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts lately. I have a half-hour drive to and from the barn several times a week, and I try to use this time to catch up on stuff I really want to listen to – but rarely do otherwise.

I was listening to a podcast by an Australian horseman, Warwick Schiller, and in the context of I-forget-what, he talked about negativity. He had attended a workshop or seminar and they had each participant count the number of negative or judgemental thoughts they were having for one week. These negative thoughts can be particular damaging when they are directed toward ourselves. (I have a lot of those).

Warwick is a funny guy and said he put three pebbles in his pocket and thought he would transfer them to his other pocket when needed as a way to track those thoughts. In the podcast he says, “I had 21 before breakfast!”

This resonated with me a lot. I grew up in a family where the dialogue was often judgement of other people. I won’t go into that, but I definitely internalized the idea that “other people” are annoying. Whether it’s traffic congestion or trying to sell you something, my parents rarely commented on how much they enjoyed anyone. It’s a terrible mindset to overcome, and something I still struggle with.

I am also the daughter of a narcissist, and as I’ve gotten older, I realize my way of coping was to avoid making any demands on that parents emotionally or otherwise. My parent was very immature and got upset if I needed attention, help, money, or support. So I learned very, very early in life to take good care of myself.

The challenge is that people aren’t just annoying, they are nice, and funny, and I love other people. I need others.

Despite learning how to take care of myself, I have emotional needs that I’m still afraid to acknowledge. It is a heavy burden to carry alone all the time.

So I thought long and hard about Warwick’s message and realize that I still often have negative thoughts about other people – stupid drivers, annoyingly slow cashiers, pesky customer service people, you name it. I don’t express my thoughts or feelings to those people but I still have them.

I also notice I find it hard to trust others to help me and get irrationally upset if they mess up. I need to unpack and process this. For instance if someone housesits for us and forgets to water the plants, I will be angry.

Much of life is learning to trust others. Even just driving down the road, I’m trusting others will obey traffic rules and not kill me. Never being able to relax and trust is exhausting and I think it’s wearing me out. Sure, there are situations in which the stakes are high and vigilance is called for. But most of the time, I do not need to be in control.

How do I learn to let go a little and believe that even if others mess up it’s usually no big deal? How can I also let MYSELF off the hook if I eat a cookie, sleep late, or don’t finish my to-do list?

I’m very good at putting enormous pressure on myself and it’s just no longer serving me.

So I’m trying to adopt a new attitude of “whatever” even when stuff goes wrong. I need to trust the process of life, that sometimes stuff just doesn’t go as planned and it’s OK.

I also think in my quest to be nicer, I’ve been denying my own feelings. I don’t think it’s realistic to never have an unkind thought, but I need to stop thinking badly about myself when I do have a negative thought. If I am upset at what someone said to me, I need to not judge my own reaction so harshly. Sometimes it’s ok to be royally pissed but then it’s also ok to let it go.

I’m curious how other people do this? I’ve met people who nothing seems to bother. They are so laid back all the time, and I wish I was that way more. Where does that come from? How can I feel more relaxed about stuff not just externally but really, truly, inside too?

Thanks all. Peace, light and love to you!

Back to Basics

March 10, 2021

It’s been a tough year for everyone. Financial challenges, coping with illness and death, loneliness, ambiguous grief over missing celebrations and traditions…it’s all woven into our lives big or small. We’ve been luckier than many, and try to keep that in mind, but also ready for life to return to some semblance of normal.

I’d love to know what you’re doing to cope? Here are the things keeping me balanced lately:

  1. Exercise. For years we have had a trainer friend come to our house and put us through a challenging workout with weights, bands, a kettle bell and more. The workout is not complicated, involving very elemental moves like push-ups, sit-ups, the plank, lunges and squats. Could I do it myself without our trainer? Of course. Would I? Probably not. At the height of COVID we did Zoom calls with him. The deceptive simple-ness of our workouts belies their effectiveness. Doing this twice each week come hell or high water has helped me keep fit – and sane – this past year.
  2. Our diet. I am lucky that I like most fruits and vegetables. Sure, I love chocolate too, but most days I would choose an apple over candy. I started tracking my food and soon realized that structure is really important not to necessarily limit what I’m eating but to help me know sometimes it’s ok to splurge. If I’ve got 500 calories left in my daily budget, it’s ok to have a piece of chocolate and some cashews, my weakness. Tracking my food has helped me relax and not worry so much about whether or not I’m overeating and in the process, I lost 10 pounds. Who knew?
  3. Social media. I know there is a lot wrong with social media, but I love posting pictures and scrolling to see what others are doing. It has helped me stay connected to my friends despite COVID.
  4. A sleep schedule. I go through periods when I can’t sleep and it’s devastating when it’s happening. I finally met with a sleep disorders specialist and she urged me to stop reading my iPad at bedtime (in bed) and to keep a schedule. I’m not so great at turning off the iPad but I am practicing being disciplined about lights out no later than 11. I surprised myself by starting to wake up at the same time every day, feeling truly rested.
  5. Not pushing so hard. When COVID started, I had the crazy idea I could learn Italian and read all the classics in all my spare time. It didn’t take me long to realize I was trying to do too much. I have a number of great books downloaded on Audible, and I listen to podcasts when I’m driving, but I gave myself a break and sometimes don’t listen to anything.
  6. Getting creative. One thing I picked up about a year ago is watercolor painting. I have always wanted to paint and finally took a class – live, before COVID started. Once I had a foundation, I was off and running. It has been remarkable rewarding to spend time with my brushes. I have no idea where this hobby will take me but so far it’s just relaxing and fun.
  7. Gardening. We had a busy gardening year last summer with our first large vegetable garden and all our flowers. We had a LOT of zucchini. To get through the winter, I bought some grow lights and I’m growing fresh lettuce in the basement. My husband wants to try indoor tomatoes next because fresh garden ones won’t be here until fall.

What have you been doing to mainting equilibrium? Are you brewing beer, keeping bees, or doing needlepoint?

Until we’re all vaccinated, please stay safe!

Well That Was Interesting

January 13, 2021

The past 12 months have been so weird in so many ways my brain can’t even think where to start. Do we begin with news of a possible infectious virus coming from the Far East or do we go back even farther to the election of our outgoing president?

I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted by all the chaos. I care deeply about democracy, eradicating racism, those little kids in cages in the American Southwest, the economic plight of millions of Americans, and even all those dog rescue stories that keep popping up on my Facebook feed. I am stressed out by everything lately and I can’t blame you if you’re done with social media for a while.

And we’re the lucky ones, to be able to complain about our fears and problems while not being hooked up to a ventilator or grieving the death of our family member.

But I’m not here to rehash the shitshow that was 2020. I actually believe all this was good in some ways. Bear with me. I believe there is a silver lining.

First of all, there’s a vaccine. I intend to get it as soon as I am allowed. Thanks to all those brilliant scientists who figured this one out. My friends who work in healthcare are sharing news of their vaccinations with tears in their eyes. It’s been a very long year for those people.

I feel our values have crystallized and we know where we stand about right and wrong in a way that was wishy washy before. The very foundation of democracy is being challenged by our incumbent yet many of our legislators had the nerve to stand up for what’s right. I never gave much thought to the importance – no sanctity – of the voting process in our country. Sure, I vote. But I’ve taken for granted that it wasn’t a rigged game. Say what you will about politics and politicians, but damn, right on team for recording the call asking Georgia to “find” 11,000 votes. The photo of the congressional aides fleeing the Capitol building with that locked box with electoral votes gives me goosebumps even now. These are my heroes.

I also am delighted that my friends, regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on, are demanding a return to decency. My very conservative friend said to me yesterday she just wants a president who is kind. Yeah, she’s worried about the bills Biden may introduce but she’s more worried about us all being led by someone good than policy right now. Bravo. Me too.

Peace is in right now. I’d love a whole week to go by without news of crazymaking. I’m relieved our incumbent isn’t making headlines with Twitter posts anymore. The quiet feels nice.

Finally, I feel like this past year has made us all appreciate what we CAN do with our time like hiking in our beautiful parks or going for a bike ride. Or painting, knitting, and cooking. Where I live, snow pants are sold out for months. Sleds, skis, skates and even hiking boots are all on backorder. Sure, some of it is due to manufacturing being slower not to mention USPS being painfully inefficient. But I like to imagine everyone returning to simpler pleasures like getting outside and taking a walk.

I’m not insensitive to the real pain many are experiencing. My brother lost his job and last I checked, he’d gone about four months with no income as unemployment wasn’t coming. He’s starting a new business on his own, so maybe that’s a silver lining too.

Please take care. Stay safe. There’s an end in sight. And remember, spring is coming.

Everyone is Everything

August 27, 2020

It’s the end of August in Wisconsin, which means hot, humid weather, ears of fresh sweet corn sold by the dozen, and families squeezing in last-minute vacations before school starts. I am a nostalgic person and the smells and feels of late August always remind me of back-to-school shopping, the young excitement of reuniting with friends, plus the melancholy of returning to the hard work of school (plus cold weather). I’m no different this year. The smell of the school supply aisle, of pencils and crayons, rockets me back to third grade and having a supply list from our homeroom teacher. Did yours include a box of Kleenex? Ours did. Teachers would ask their homeroom kids to each bring in one box, thereby stocking the shelf for the cold and flu season.

This year, I feel a bit like I’ve been watching summer through a pane of glass. I have missed the summer festivals and fairs that usually dot our summer calendar, giving us the events by which we measure each year. The huge summer music event held annually in Milwaukee for the past 50 years, Summerfest, was officially canceled this year – the first time in its history. There were no parades, no Fourth of July ice cream socials, no festivals on the lake. We didn’t even picnic.

I did get to watch fireworks with an old friend, whose mother bought a condo with a rooftop terrace. It was lovely to watch the fireworks over the lake from there, and we felt lucky to even have a show to watch. Many communities canceled their shows entirely.

The Olympics were canceled, which still makes me so sad.

Many of the horse shows our barn would normally attend came limping back but with such severe safety restrictions, we decided it wouldn’t be any fun to go. A big part of the fun is cheering each other on from the rail. Our horses don’t seem to mind the break, but it’s one more thing we are missing.

There are riots in my state over Black Lives Matter and yet another senseless murder. My heart is broken for the lives lost and businesses damaged in the wake of the anger.

Oh, and there’s a contentious election upcoming.

School is supposed to start for the kiddos in about a week and some of our area public schools don’t have clear marching orders. Some communities will be open as always, others not. Sports in our high schools is a mess and seems to depend on what county you live in. Some football programs are starting yet others are canceled.

Parents are deeply worried about how to juggle having the kids at home with jobs. Many of the older adults who did substitute teaching and daycare are taking a pass this year.

For the kids doing distance learning, they’re missing their friends. I’m missing easy social interactions. Young couples with weddings are grieving the delay of their nuptials. As for my friend who lost her 93-year-old dad, there was no funeral. I had to remind myself he had died. He was well known and much loved in our town, and his funeral would surely have brought hundreds to comfort the family and honor him. I feel cheated that I didn’t get a chance to do any of those things.

Then there is the financial burden many are experiencing. My brother was laid off work but hasn’t seen a penny of unemployment. Ditto my friend with a hair salon. It’s been weeks and weeks of no income for her. My stomach is in knots thinking about the budget juggling they are doing.

Everywhere I go, people I care about are upset. I’m feeling all the grief, anger, fear, rage, frustration and sadness of those around me.

Our lives are relatively OK, which makes the whole grieving and worry even weirder. Our businesses are limping along, but we’re open. I’m still riding, exercising, working and keeping busy.  I was used to working from home already, so I was uniquely prepared for this in some ways. We have toilet paper. It could be worse.

But it could be better. And I don’t know what to do.

I hope you are safe, not sick, and sleeping.

 

 

A Little Love

July 22, 2020

When I was little, I don’t ever remember my parents making a big deal about how we as children took care of ourselves. To be clear, we were expected to do five things after rolling out of bed: put on clothes, make our beds, wash our faces, brush our teeth, and comb our hair. We would arrive at the breakfast table ready for our day.  We bathed once a week. We had occasional haircuts at the kitchen table.

This approach is adequate when kids are small but as I grew into a teenager, my grooming routine naturally grew. I’d usually shower in the morning, “do” my hair, and put on a little age-appropriate makeup. Breakfast was often on the run because my hair was more important than nutrition. The only time my mom helped me with this morning routine was when she tried french braiding my hair when I was in 9th grade. I ironed my own clothes and even made my own meals for most of my growing up years.

Even as I grew, my mother’s advice about grooming never happened. She doesn’t wear makeup or visit a salon. She clips and files her own nails. She doesn’t use many products aside from hand lotion. She dresses in what is comfortable, not stylish. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but as I grew up I realized that how we groom ourselves – and our children – varies drastically from family to family. I witnessed other mothers taking time to fuss over their children’s skin, hair, and clothes. It felt foreign to me.

Even more significantly, it has taken me a lifetime to learn to practice good self care around grooming. Brushing and flossing, scrubbing, filing, combing, and conditioning and are all practices I’ve learned on my own.

And I love it. It has taken me a very long while to relish the process at bedtime and in the morning of giving my hair, skin and nails the attention they deserve.

Deserve. There is a loaded word. Yes, we all deserve to spend a little time and money on keeping ourselves looking and feeling good.

What have you done for yourself today just because it’s a wonderful practice of self-care and love? For my husband, it may be a good shave with nice shaving cream. He also gets his work shirts cleaned at the laundry where they starch and press them much better than I ever could. He comes down looking great, too.

To be clear, I don’t think self-care has to come with a high price tag. I love many inexpensive products from rubbing alcohol to coconut oil. It doesn’t have to be a luxury brand you feel guilty about.

If this is an area you struggle with, I’d challenge you to consider how you might feel if you lingered just a little bit over some aspect of yourself you’ve been neglecting?  Are your feet rough and hands dry? Would you feel guilty about getting a nice pedicure or buying fancy hand cream? Silly? Wasteful? Or … loved?

I’d say go for it. Have a beautiful day friends.

 

Summer and Things

July 13, 2020

I live in the northern Midwest and these are the days we long for all winter. The sun is up early, and the sky is streaked with gold and orange when I am headed to bed. Trees and plants are brimming with life. The beans are ready for picking. My flowers are going gangbusters thanks to a hot season and diligent use of soaker hoses. All the critters are thriving, too, whether I like it or not. We’re battling a gopher in the front flowerbed and just discovered some chipmunks are burrowing into our greenhouse through the gravel. I kind of respect them for their tenacity. The Japanese beetles are also doing their best to destroy my roses, although I’m having better luck this year with Neem oil spray and a small trap. But the white deer is back, we have many songbird nests, the cranes had a baby, and we are rejoicing in pollinators everywhere we look.

Life and death share the stage here. For all the babies being born around us, we see some that don’t make it, from the frog we accidentally squashed with our car tire to the eggshells we see as evidence of predatory nest-raiding birds. I try not to mourn the dead baby birds too deeply, taking comfort in the nestmates that did survive to start their own flocks. I was surprised and sad to fish a dead baby chipmunk out of our pool. He couldn’t have been in there long, because his small tan body was perfect. I took a moment to marvel at his tiny feet, sweet face, and miniature ears. I gave him a proper release out back where his remains could live on in the flowers and grasses. Call me an old softie but I cried thinking about a chipmunk mom somewhere who was missing her baby when he got lost. There’s no doubt in my mind animal mommas mourn, although I think animals keep death top of mind better than we do. As they say, animals “live in the real world.”

In the end, life wins in the grand scheme. It bubbles up and fights for air no matter what, doesn’t it? I still mourn the individual losses but it’s a joy to see our efforts to have a natural, chemical-free home yielding such daily miracles. Like the huge butterfly caterpillar on the milkweed.

I’m off to the barn this morning to see my horse. It’s been very hot so I’m riding early to keep us both safe.

Peace to you and your families this July. Be graceful with strangers and stay safe!

 

 

Feeling all the Feels

June 8, 2020
How are you feeling?
 
I mean…..really. How are you really feeling right now?
 
I’m asking because I think most of us feel like #$. I am saddened by events impacting my friends of color, and also sad to hear about some of the non-peaceful demonstrations happening in my state. I’m scared about getting sick and worry about loved ones who are vulnerable. I feel bad for my friends and worried about them, but I also feel guilty I’m not suffering as much as they are. I’m worried about our business. I’m also disappointed that everything fun I wanted to do this summer is canceled, from my trip to Ireland with my brother to State Fair. Every single outdoor fun activity is either not happening or drastically altered to the point where, frankly, it’s probably no fun anymore. Like….I finally got a haircut but my stylist is stressed and sad.
 
Need I go on?
 
I feel like I’m walking this teeny tiny plank of keeping my $#@ together and it’s exhausting. Sometimes, I just need to acknowledge that all this at once is stressful and depressing.
 
I don’t know how others are coping but here are some things I’m doing that are sort of helping keep my emotions in check:
  1. I’m resting. I generally don’t sleep great, so lately, if I need a short nap in the afternoon, I’m taking it. Judge if you must, but somehow the world economy keeps going without me.
  2. I am wearing cute, going out clothes at home. I love clothes, especially summer brights, and I haven’t been wearing them much (hello workout sweats 24/7). The other day I decided to just put on a cute dress and wedges for no reason and guess what? It cheered me up. Temporarily, but hey, that’s all a cupcake does. 
  3. I am working out at least twice/week at home. I do weights and push-ups, that kind of thing. I always feel better after I do a good workout. And, it helps me fit into my shorts. I’m also doing a lot of gardening now that summer is here, and still riding my horse.
  4. I am enjoying nature. We have a flower garden and vegetable garden I’m spending time in.
  5. I’m also spending a lot of time with our pets. My 3 dogs keep me grounded. My horse keeps me active. And my canary makes me smile when he sings – he’s very yellow and cute.
  6. I’m reading fiction and getting outside my head. I’m in a book club I love and it gives me a reading goal too. My newest read is Where the Crawdads Sing. Audible books are good too, for when I am driving to and from the barn.
  7. I’m not consuming much news. It seems to seep through no matter what I do, but I’m stemming the tide.
  8. I’m not binge-watching scary or stressful shows. No murders, please. There is a lot of good programming online but much of it is intense and dark. No to the nope.
  9. I’m not pushing myself to learn a language or “better” myself. When the pandemic started, I thought I’d restart those Italian lessons I never finished. Or…not. It became work to squeeze in yet more.
  10. I’m painting. I took a watercolor class and I love spending time on a new piece. Being creative is deeply relaxing and I’m enjoying taking my time.
  11. I am connecting when and how I can. I’ve been texting a lot of people and had two friends on our patio this weekend. We drank a glass of wine and didn’t touch. It felt great. I think they left feeling good too!
  12. I am hoping this will end and life will get back to normal. Feeling hopeful is so important. 
I am generally a pretty upbeat person. I hope in ten years when we look back on 2020, I will be able to say I got through it and just maybe, I helped some others stay grounded and upbeat as well.
 
What’s working for you, friends?
 

Whatever

May 28, 2020

“Whatever” is an expression I learned in middle school, a perfectly awful word for a hormonal, moody 8th grader to express contempt – which I had a lot of. My parents weren’t the type to use physical punishment (ever), but I am quite sure my mom had moments of great restraint when her girl child tapped her foot, rolled her eyes and used this word. Whatevah.

Thankfully, I made it to adulthood and learned that nobody really cares what I think. I mean that in the nicest possible way. When going about my life, it’s not helpful nor necessary to share my opinions about everything with everyone. Most people are generally thinking about their own opinions and feelings. Or problems. Not mine.

So I generally don’t share my opinions unless asked. It’s not that I don’t have opinions; on the contrary, I have many. It’s simply that expressing them all the time is annoying to others and can start disagreements more than I would like. What I think and what you think may be the same or they may differ. That’s just life. I’d rather talk about ponies.

Unfortunately, everyone isn’t on the same page about when and how to share opinions, and I’m frankly weary of all the social posting on social media. So I limit my time there.

At my barn, where I spend a good portion of my time, we have had boarders who brought drama and disagreement with them. We recently had two (who are no longer there) who liked to complain about everyone and everything (the owners, the facilities, the trainer) on our shared messaging app. I’m glad they are gone. But while they were still there, I started using “whatever” again. To be clear: I don’t say it, I just think and feel it.

Holding an attitude of “whatever” has helped me get me through situations where someone has strong emotions which I don’t share. I usually don’t say anything. Or say something neutral like “I’m sorry that happened, that must be hard.” These days, remaining neutral helps me maintain inner calm.

And inner calm is really, really important. I don’t want to fight about stuff I can’t control.

You think the owners should fix the muddy outdoor paddock? Maybe so. Did you ask them? Perhaps there’s more to the story than I know. And, my horse is fine. So…whatever.

You are upset that the trainer has a side gig to supplement her income? Well, OK. It doesn’t affect me. She’s still a great trainer. I’m doing well with her. So…whatever.

You think it’s stupid the Governor closed hair salons? Well, OK. They are starting to open. Yay. Whatever.

I realize some people may think I am weak by not taking a stand on all manner of topics, but I do speak up when it’s something I feel is important. If I see you harming an animal or another person, I will speak up. I will defend someone who is being gossipped about. If you do something really dangerous that could hurt me or someone I care about, I will say something. If something is neglected that needs to be addressed in a place of business, I’ll let them know.

Feel free to borrow this word. Or not. Whatever.

 

 

 

 

Tell me about your horse, you say.

May 11, 2020

IMG_5631Tell me about your horse, you say. Your head tilts and you lean your beer against the bar, your eyes openly curious. Tell me.

I demur at first, gauging your genuine interest. Do you really want to know, and could you possibly understand? I cave easily. She is my favorite topic.

My horse.

Her nose is pink and she’s half Arabian, I say. As if that means a thing, but it’s a good start. She’s grey and small, really a large pony at 14.2 (and a half). She was a lesson horse for far too long until I adopted her at 14 from the barn where I first learned to ride 2 years ago.

You listen, waiting. What else may I say that is true and explainable?

She was the horse that started me on horses. Unexpectedly, she stirred in me a desire I was nearly afraid of, a demanding, sudden wish I couldn’t deny to ride well, at her level. This wasn’t about any horse but her, to be her rider. I had plenty of reasons not to do this horse thing as friends were starting to call it, but I kept going. That was how I ended up a beginner at 50 with my first horse and no idea what I was doing.

Do you have something like that in your life? Something you’d do anything just to keep and have? A feeling you can’t even explain? A need so strong and a satisfaction so full it defines you?

She is strikingly athletic. Her strides match any of the hunters in our barn. She takes pride in what we do, knowing she is skilled, and bounds with joy after we jump. Warming up, she trots with her head and chest held high. Her brain is agile. She knows my skills and my shortcomings, and pushes me to ask her correctly, but she often overlooks my mistakes. My husband calls her a superhero princess.

She is both the most earthly being and the most ethereal.

Are your eyes glazing? Let me tell you how it feels to ride her.

When we jump, her ears go forward as she locks on the target and we fly for that moment. Landing, she corners like she’s on rails, a little motorbike of a horse. The world falls away and its just us together, one thing moving, melded at the seat. I try hard to stay out of her way, trusting her, letting her body do its thing. It all happens in a flash. She thanks me by giving me all she has. They call that heart, you know. She has it in spades.

Can you understand any of this? Are you still listening? She loves me. Her smell makes me happy and grounds me, reminds me who I am.

When nobody is around, but only then, she is quietly affectionate. She doesn’t slobber or do tricks. She will look me deep in the eye and ask for a peppermint, and lean gently into my touch. She allows me to kiss her soft neck and rub her ears. She loves to have the inside of her ears cleaned. We share our carrots.

Once when the horses came at me in the paddock, when I stupidly brought hay outside, she put her body between me and them. I limped back to the barn, and tears sprang to my eyes – not from my sprained ankle, but from the look of concern on her face. What were you doing? she asked, staring at me intently and clearly alarmed. She guarded me with her body, ready to do battle with any bully just then, while I let the tears fall on the gate. I have heard that since then, she has made moves to double-barrel kick the offending mare who started it. Together, we hold a solidarity grudge like two grade-school girls.

I know her petite body like my own. Her small striped hooves, her spots, her scars. I linger while brushing her fur, lovingly touching and inspecting.  I trim the fur on her legs, oil her hooves, pull her mane. I fuss; she gleams.

Others have said I rescued her from life as a lesson horse. Maybe I did. But who rescues who when you both end up better off?

Tell me about your horse, you ask.

She is my deepest wish, my grandest plan, the loveliest adventure and the happiest thing I do.

Handling This With Grace

April 9, 2020

couple relaxing at home

Let’s be honest: shelter in place sucks. Everyone I have talked to is struggling right now. Whether they are anxious about money, worried about getting sick (or someone they love getting sick), or just missing the normal flow of seeing people, we’re all impacted by this in some way. In a best-case scenario, you’re bored. In the worst, you’re in the ICU as my friend’s husband was recently. In between are most of us, worried and frightened and maybe working frontline jobs where you can’t stay home.
 
I’m lucky and I fall somewhere in the middle but my heart hurts every day for my friends and loved ones. One friend runs a nonprofit that is losing $5,000 of revenue each week because they can’t conduct work as usual. I can’t make enough donations to help, not really. All I can do is pray and spread the word, but it’s a helpless, awful feeling.
 
During times of duress, I like to imagine how I’ll look back on my own behavior. Will the future me be proud of what I did and how I helped others? Or will I let my immediate emotions direct what I do & say? For me, thinking about it that way helps me put the current situation in context. This, too, shall pass.
 
Here’s what I’m focused on and aiming to do during the crisis. Maybe it will help you a little.
 
1. Take care of yourself. It’s really hard to be “selfish” especially when others are hurting, but try to take time for yourself. Whether it’s making and eating nourishing meals or taking a nap, I think it’s important to practice self-care. It will give you the strength to help others.
2. Donate financially to others if you can. If you still have income, consider supporting local businesses. We ordered dinner in last night from a new place that just opened. It was great, and we’ll do it again. I also send a donation to my friend’s nonprofit that is struggling. I also purchased a gift card yesterday for my hair salon where I had to sadly postpone my April cut and color. I hope to use it as soon as their door is unlocked – but more importantly, I’m hopeful my small infusion of cash now while they are closed will help them survive.
3. Follow the rules but don’t attack others. I was driving to the grocery store yesterday, something I do only once each week lately. I saw a group of kids playing in very close contact. I was surprised they were out but I drove by, hoping they were siblings who live together. While I don’t agree with every choice I see others making, it’s not my job to reprimand or attack others. Show compassion and make sure your own behavior is respectful and above reproach.
4. Check in on each other. I’ve been sending text messages to each of my friends just to say hi. I had a nice call last night with one friend who is immunocompromised and need to be particularly careful about limiting contact. We laughed about cleaning our houses and our dogs, and it was almost as good as seeing her in person!
5. Stay positive. Please don’t give in to fear. I see people re-posting anxiety-inducing stuff on Facebook and I just scroll past. I don’t see much point in spreading negative emotions. My job right now is to lift others up, not pile on the anxiety and pain. Me, I’m posting lots of puppy pictures and silly memes. If we can laugh a little, it will help lift the stress.
6. If it helps, make constructive use of your time and celebrate the accomplishments. I think it could be easy to feel like we “should” all be working out daily, cooking Insta-worthy meals from scratch every day and organizing every closet. I’m doing puzzles, exercising a little more than usual, and I started gardening. I’m also using Duolingo for some language lessons. I’m trying to do a few things that make me feel good but not overdoing it. I also organized our pantry and it looks great! I love looking at it each time I go in there. And I vacuumed the basement rug, which has been dirty for about, oh, a year. It’s nice to have time to do some of those projects but don’t kill yourself!
 
What are you doing to keep busy and stay mentally healthy? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime please stay safe and stay home.