If nothing else- we all must realize how fortunate we are to have our health.
COVID-19 swept over us like a cold chill. It crept into our borders, infiltrated our cities and slunk into our quiet suburban neighborhoods- almost undetected. In a flash, the sweet, hugging town I live in- where baseball, wine in adult sippy cups and slaps to the back (of the mostly good-natured sort) are a common occurrence- we distanced, gloved, masked, sanitized and separated. Our children, who often taustle like country farm boys from the time of Tom Sawyer are not pig-piled 6 men deep in the front yard, wrestling away for a football. We learned early of our first case and many wanted to know- who, where, did I connect with them? The same number wanted to respect their privacy and tend to their own little households, their own fears and their own protective measures. We all watched as China, Italy, Spain and other countries lost humans in the single digits at first. Then, tripled, quadrupled and magnified the loss by hundreds in a twenty four hour period. It's coming for us, is the general sense. People prepare to quarantine and often express the dire sensation that if they are infected and have underlying health concerns- they will not make it. Husbands and wives hole up in the camper outside after returning from their job on the front lines- the hospitals where they serve, clean, protect and heal. Diabetics, the elderly, asthmatics, people with suppressed immune systems are especially cautious.
In my house, I have a son with asthma. Across the border, just six hours and lifetimes away, my father is elderly, a diabetic and a recent cancer survivor. It is now that I am most thankful to know that when people refer to "New York" as the "Hotbed" for the outbreak, they really mean the city, not the quaint town my parents live in, nestled against the river and protected by a ridge of hills. Four hours from major outbreak and continued loss. Yet, I know, that predictions say 80% of Americans will get the virus. So, what magic will keep that 20% safe? How many will survive it? How will we know what to expect the future to look like? When will kids go to school again? When will they form their baseball teams and when will the barbecues sizzle with friends ready to enjoy the feast? The questions go on and on.
Some say Mother Nature has sent us to our bedrooms to "Think about what we've done." This seems particularly accurate. As we stop traveling from point A to point B guzzling gas, releasing noxious fumes into the atmosphere, over producing, over using and throwing everything out in the trash- to be hauled off to fill what once was a beautiful meadow with the skeletons of our gluteny- I can't help but concur that the breather is warranted. Of course, no one wants to lose their business or see their family hurting; that goes without saying.
So, how do we respond to it? For each of us, the response is going to be different. For many of us, it seems our response fluctuates from moment to moment. One moment, we are terrified, the next elated at the sudden space that has been forced upon us. It feels like breathing space.
At the end of this time, what will we want to look back and think?
This is a time for intentionality. This is a time for prioritizing. If we find ourselves replicating the busy-ness we had prior to this forced distancing, we need to find just two minutes to sit down and ask ourselves why? Is it necessary? Is it a self imposed mayhem? Are we continuing to fly through our days jumping from one task to the next and feeling exhausted, stressed and irritable? Can we impose some sort of structure that prioritizes a different choice? I've asked myself this very question as piles of projects and tasks have sent me running in circles.
It seems painfully clear that at the very least, we need to focus on health, family, presence of mind, and passions. Health- over and over again, state and federal, world and faith based leaders have said, "Without our health we have nothing." There is no economy if we have no one to serve and no one to serve if the creators, producers, merchants and delivery services are sick. There is no family, no memory making with friends, no place to go, no one to see. Truly, no reason if we aren't well enough to enjoy it.
So, what do we need to focus on with our health?
Pick three priority areas you'd like to improve or increase... be it feelings, energy, strength- you name it.
What do we need to decrease? Choose three.
Make a plan to approach those three priority areas... one step at a time. Ask for help if you don't know where to start, I am happy to help you make a plan.
For me, I need to decrease my comfort eating and wine. I need to keep my movement in my schedule and find my space to meditate. Without the hydration
Even before the economy, much of the world worries about the safety of those we love. Remember those parents six hours and lifetimes away? What if they get sick and I can't see them or don't get to spend quality time with them again- ever? This illness has taken root so quickly and latched on with invisible claws. What if, what if? The questions and desire to protect is fierce. Again, this is a time to take a step back and make those daily connections with people we love- even if it is from afar. Best intentions and the wild ride we are on can get in the way- even last night, we planned to video conference with my parents and something came up- something distracted us. These moments have to be planned in and prioritized. When all is said and done with this virus, will we have built trust and love or will we have been distant and left fear in it's place?
Are you connecting in quality ways? What do you plan into your day that is joyful and deeply present with your family?
I see my boys doing their academics as planned in the morning. They are getting more and more independent, but what about quality moments with me one on one? I need to focus on each child in a meaningful way. Even stop myself during the day to play and sketch and cook with them.
Presence of Mind:
In the blender of time we have, do we stop and become aware of our spinning? Moments when we expand and look around, take in the sights, sounds, the softness- those are the richest- even when we are sitting still, doing nothing at all. We are living more fully in that moment. If we allow all of our fears and the things we can't control to spin around us- if we grasp and search and wonder and float and worry, we lose so much time. We are all going to do this... there is no question. Even the most trained gurus will find their mind out of control in a moment like this. The important part is beginning to develop a rope and an anchor. Like a kite, pulled away by the wind, if we have an anchor to return to and a strategy for returning (some kind of tether) we can reel ourselves back in. There is no need to be angry or waste precious time chastising our floating- our drifting, just gently return to the values, to the breathe, to the moment. When we are aware and reflective, we can course correct. We can re-align with the priorities we set forth. This act of noticing we strayed in our thoughts, actions or values and this choice of returning is the work we need to praise ourselves for.
This is a time to begin a breathing practice, plug into a short meditation app, take a walk in nature, or sit in silence for short periods through out the day. We must train our brains to focus on those things we value most. Otherwise, the information overload alone will pull us into a black hole and we will lose so much of this time to it. Hide out in the bathroom if you must, but take a few quiet moments so you don't lose all of your day in the cyclone.
What if in the void of contact, a little creative spirit started poking at us? What if Mother Nature isn't just angry, but actually, a loving mother? What if she actually wants us to go back to our rooms, to return to the source of ourselves... the unique voice we have to offer, the unique gifts we have to give? What if she's noticed we've been running, too long- doing the chores and building the dreams of others- but we haven't nurtured our own? What if Mother Nature really just wants us to realize our wholeness again by re-imagining our worlds, reclaiming our talents, playing, joyfully? We are all unrepeatable miracles. We are all here for some reason. We have unique voices and ways and fingerprints. Are we etching our own marks or are we etching someone elses? Our imprint on this planet and the communities we live in should be our own.
This space can be time to pick up that instrument we left collecting dust- the one we were sure as a child we'd use to rock the big stage with. This space can be a nudge to take out cups of water and paint brushes- if not for the genius of it- but for the joy of it! Business on the rocks? This is where we get creative, this is where our passions help us re-invent. It is not a waste of time to nurture our curiosity, to research, to create, to discover, to develop. Binge read personal development books, write, sing, dance!
Since when have we been freer to do things OUR way? Never. Never before.
Last, but definitely not least, I once wrote my own epitaph. Not because I am morbidly depressed. It was more of a calling card to the universe. I wanted to clarify the person I want to be- the impact I want to leave. So, in a few sentences, I began... "Here lies..... a loving mother, a passionate writer, a loyal friend... " I need to revisit that statement, because it became my anchor, my compass, my value steering wheel. Cathy Heller likes to say, "The opposite of depression isn't joy, it's purpose." I think this is true. Write out your purpose. Make your mission statement. No matter how the chips fall, if we walk in purpose, we can't be far from the path that will lead us to something beautiful- something divine.
My beautiful friends, I want to finish by saying that YOU give me purpose. I want to take a minute to say that my family, my writing, and my community of readers helps me stay clear, intentional, healthy and sane. I love all of you and appreciate you more than you know. Each time I have someone to reach out to- to steer toward better health, or to empathize with, you are helping me walk this path of authenticity, nurturing and growth. Thank you, for listening, reading and being YOU. Dear reader, know that YOU are vitally important in this world- not just to me, but to other people and you might not know it. In the darkest moments, in this wild hurricane, let's be an anchor for one another- and know that you are for someone else. You matter, you are powerful, and your voice needs to be heard.