Tag Archives: Wellness

We Just Really Wanted to Say, “No, We’re Not Insane”: 25 Ways I’ve Changed During the Pandemic, Going into Year Three!

(Note: I acknowledge with gratitude that I can work from home and I have a nice place to “be” during this challenging time. I know that many, many people do not have that ability. I am also a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, which has had certain advantages.)

  1. I’m on a first-name basis with many of the animals, birds, amphibians, and insects around my house. Oh, and let’s not forget the plants. Who knew there was so much activity going on out there all day and night! It’s endlessly fascinating. 
  2. I’m on a first-name basis with even the A. Cavaticus spiders (aka Charlotte’s Web-type spiders) on my porch and in my woodshed. Let’s see … there was Shelob, and Mrs. Orb, and Lulu … Seeing the tiny babies, smaller than a pinhead, emerge from their beautiful apricot-colored egg sacs is now a spring “event.” Most of the wee beasties balloon away on the wind. And whomever stays, well, my arachnophobia is much less now.
  3. I detest bras. Who the hell invented the confounded things?? With the straps that slide off your shoulders over and over and over all day long? And the “support” system that causes undue pressure on the mid-spine of my back and my diaphragm in front? Egads. The best place for a bra is in the wood stove.
  4. I’ve started planning meals for the week, instead of gnoshing in a haphazard manner based on my mood or stress. Dinner is becoming no longer an afterthought. I investigate good recipes and cook good food! Because I eat better, I tend to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Wow, the sun is really beautiful when it is just coming up … 
  5. I’ve reconnected in a meaningful way with a few treasured friends with whom I had lost touch, made some new friends, and lost touch with some “acquaintances” with whom I had no real connection. And I know my neighbors on my rural dirt road better than ever!
  6. My stack(s) of good books to read keeps growing. When I die, my monument will read, “My only regret is that I didn’t finish all the books I hoped to read.”
  7. I could tell you anything you want to know about Game of Thrones, Outlander, and Northern Exposure.
  8. I no longer dress up, unless it’s for myself on a special holiday. But I do occasionally experiment with wild outfits that speak to my soul. For who will see me? And if they do, do I care? Plus, I no longer care that I am aging and that is a relief.
  9. I gas up my car about once every 3–4 weeks, rather than once a week. I spend many fewer hours hunched over the steering wheel going god-knows-where. Why was I going so many places?? The only downside is that I did forget how many gears my standard-shift car has—was it 5 or 6? I had to look down (with a rush of anxiety) when I got on the highway one day! Oh, right, 6 gears.
  10. Okay, I’ll confess, after watching Emma Thompson’s sweet, funny movie, Last Christmas, I’ve decided that George Michael was a genius songwriter and I’m just loving many of his tunes. I would not have been caught dead listening to him when younger—I was waayyy too cool! It’s such a relief not to be “cool” anymore.
  11. I haven’t had to endure a mindless conversation with someone I barely know at a party in, oh, say … two and a half years? And that is just ducky with me. 
  12. My work has gone from my small editing business, and teaching at a college, and working at a bookstore, and substitute teaching, and gardening for hire, to … just my editing business. Whew. How the heck did I do all that before? That was insane!
  13. Speaking of gardens, I’ve been reconsidering the little patch of earth I call home and I’m growing more trees. Just because it’s a good thing to do.
  14. I’m also attempting to shrink the lawn by letting a lot of it grow into meadow (easier said than done, actually, I’m finding). And I’m transitioning a perennial bed that is an “upkeep nightmare” into a pleasant, simple herb garden. Here’s to a more biodiverse, less-labor-intensive relationship with the land. Oh, and hmmm … invasive plant species? Who knew there were so many?! Well, I’ve discovered that they are nearly impossible to eradicate, so I’ve decided to live with them. Let’s just call them “nonnative.”
  15. My cat and I have a lot of different games we play. One favorite is the yoga mat rolled into a tube and a ping pong ball rolled down the tube to where she sits waiting at the other end. Who needs expensive cat toys?
  16. Man, do I look forward to spring more than ever now, because it means I can socialize outdoors! Patios and decks of friends and walks and hikes are a lifeline.
  17. Six feet is just about right. Don’t come any closer, pal. (But I will spontaneously pay for your coffee if you happen to be in line behind me, because random acts of kindness are much-needed.)
  18. At least with the mask, I can have coffee breath when out in public and no one notices. 
  19. I’ve discovered a lot of things in my house that I forgot that I had!
  20. I’ve discovered I want to get rid of a lot of things in my house.
  21. I have a recurring dream of downsizing to a tiny house.
  22. I dream a lot about going places and being in crowds where people are not wearing masks. Or, I’ve forgotten mine. I guess this is the new “naked in public” dream?
  23. I’ve increasingly eschewd the grim morning news most days in favor of kitchen dancing to my latest favorite song. I listen to news just often enough to reaffirm that, “Yup, we’re going to hell in a handbasket.”
  24. “Risk aversion” is now a “thing” that I think about. And wow, is everyone all over the map on their risk comfort levels! I suppose that has always been true, but it’s been illustrated in bold colors the past year or so. Now it’s not just do our interests and personalities line up, but do our “Covid comfort levels” align?
  25. Homemade toll house cookies are proof there is a higher power. Enough said.

It Is Time for New Visions

The refrain to open up and get back to business as usual, back to “normal” is amplifying. Understandable—being asked to stay mostly in our houses, many not working, and with a tanking economy is not healthy. However, I have a thought: I would like to see a conversation emerge—a loud and pervasive conversation, an unrelenting conversation—that seriously explores the question: “Is ‘normal’ even what we want to or should go back to?”

Initially, of course, we will just need to get up and running, to the extent that we are able, so as to not create a second, more deadly wave of the virus. Just because we have cabin fever does not mean the virus is magically gone. Nor will it be gone for a long while. Nor do we have herd immunity. Researchers are not even certain, at this point (as far as I’ve read) how herd immunity will even play out. But, though I feel we will open too fast and too soon, I get that we need to “open” CAREFULLY so that financially bereft families have income coming in, so they can eat and keep a roof over their heads. I am one of those people. BUT I hope that we will self-reflect for the longer trajectory of “opening.”

Do we really want gridlocked highways? To be sitting in our cars for 2-3 hours a day? To be so harried that we barely get to see our families? To be mindlessly consuming the next shiny thing to quell the existential ache in our hearts?

Do we really want brown air, the same level of noise from traffic and planes, and the machines that bulldoze and carve up our remaining wild spaces? Do we really want a world with so many fewer birds, so many species gone extinct? Do we really want particles of discarded plastic ending up in our food and water, like they are now? Do we really want to eliminate our pollinators with loosely or now unregulated pesticides? (Look sharp to the EPA rules that were suspended and are being drastically eroded.)

Do we want a world of unprecedented droughts, storms, fires and floods due to a dramatically altering climate? Do we really want no ice sheets at our polar caps?? For the permafrost to melt and release large quantities of methane gas and create a runaway warming?

And do we even need to rescue the fossil fuel industry (with price per barrel in the negative)? Let it fall. It is time. It is way past time.

Do we really want to continue a society where some people don’t have a place to get out of danger in the face of a threat like a virus, or a catastrophic weather event? A society where the poorest had the least ability to self-isolate safely, due to crowded living conditions? Where the poorest ran out of food first? Or had the highest mortality rates?

Let’s instead open up to a new idea of “wealth” where the wellbeing of all people, animals, and wild spaces is what is measured, is what drives our decisions, and is the focus of our “work.” Capitalist consumerism is soulless; neoliberalism only works for an elite few and it sucks the life out of Nature and out of us.

Let’s instead pour the recovery energy and money into green technology, into local sustainable living, into buying ourselves more time to do what we love, into more practices of working from home for some of the week, into a new way of living.

Let’s ALL re-envision this, so we can preserve the precious little gifts we’ve discovered while self-isolating.

For those of us privileged enough to have a place to self-isolate, how many people, in the past month, have deepened their relationships with partners and children? How many people made some art for the first time since they could remember? How many people read a really good book? Or several? How many people made amazing food and relished the process? How many people meditated more, walked more, did yoga more? How many people created a much more healthy routine in working from home? How many people did some thoughtful introspection and felt themselves grow consciously and in dedication to live a more compassionate, meaningful life?

Let’s not throw away the silver lining while we chase the gold of the opening up. The reality is that there is no “normal.” We can create a new normal, a better normal.


blue-jay-branch-tree-nature-animal-plants-1446183-pxhere.com (1)

Photo from pxhere.com

This morning I sat down at my breakfast counter to a creatively crafted omelet with broccolini and sharp cheddar, local-baked white toast, and raspberry jam from the farmers’ market. It was a simple feast, but a feast none-the-less. I took my first bite and looked out the window at a blue jay in the lower branches of a small pine. I idly wondered what it was doing. Was it eating the seeds of pinecones?

No sooner had I swallowed the bite, as this question drifted away, when an impulse seized me: I should check my email on my phone! The phone was lying within easy reach on the counter, facedown, the way I usually put it so I am not distracted by messages that appear. The ringer is off, so I am not hostage to every notification. Still, something inside compelled me to grab for it. But … I resisted. I consciously resisted, thinking, if I pick that thing up, I won’t taste this delicious breakfast I just made. I will mindlessly shovel the food in while my being is sucked into the screen and pulled in 20 different directions.

I finished my breakfast with mindful bites, allowing the salty cheesiness and the green goodness of the broccolini to rest upon my tongue. But as I ate, I wondered—what drove that impulse? Something inside me in that moment was not content to just BE, as if I harbor a fear of the mundane, of these moments in the actual physical world where nothing in particular is happening. Except, so much is happening! The jay in the pine, the snow sliding off the roof, the clouds of the big nor’easter rolling in, the water on the wood stove bubbling. Perhaps, too, I was driven by guilt. It was already 10 am on a Saturday morning and I needed to get to my writing client work if I had any prayer of taking Sunday off as a “normal” weekend day.

Getting “screened” is a ubiquitous cultural experience. It’s one thing to listen to a news story about technology addiction, and quite another to observe it in your own life, the lives of your friends, and then attempt to do something about it.

The other morning I stopped into my favorite bakery where they serve creamy lattes flavored with malted cardamom or ginger-maple. They have a range of cookies, scones, and croissants that keep me honest about making sure I get my body moving at some point each day, whether it’s a walk, yoga, or a fitness dance session. As I waited for my drink, I noticed a young couple sitting at a table facing the window to the street. Their backs were to me. What I saw was this: both of them were comfortably side-by-side, their heads and necks bent forward, and they were motionless. Intrigued, I repositioned so I could see what they were doing. They each had a large cell phone flat on the table, index finger on the screen, tapping and sliding. Neither of them spoke to the other. The whole 20 minutes I was there. Neither of them moved. As I passed on the way out the door, I glanced down and saw the comments bubbles and emojis of social media.

A couple weeks prior, I was in the same coffee shop meeting a dear friend for conversation. We were talking about pretty intense life challenges. But the whole time, her phone was face up on the table. At regular intervals she would jump as if jabbed in the back and pick up her phone. Then she would exclaim, “Oh, no, it’s my son. What does he want now?” Or, “It’s my husband. God, I hope he is okay!” The adrenaline rush that passed through her every time a message flashed was amazing to watch. It was clear that phone was keeping her, daily, in a constant state of mild anxiety. Needless to say, our conversation lacked a coherent flow with so many starts and stops. I felt genuinely concerned, with her being so jumpy from attending to every message.

I am not immune to getting screened, as my breakfast this morning illustrates. I am an information junkie. I LOVE to learn as much as I can about this crazy, fascinating world. This drive increases as I get older. I just want to have some sort of understanding of “What the heck?!” before I die. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is dark matter and what does it mean about reality? What is that jay doing in that pine tree on this frigid morning? You know, those kinds of questions. Because of this, if a wondering pops into my head, I reach for my phone. This is one of the cool things about technology—all this knowledge at our fingertips! Such a gift!

I also use my phone to track my calories, my client hours, and even to make sure I haven’t died in my sleep to lie undiscovered for days while my cat roams the house traumatized by my demise and hungry. Yes, there is now an app called Snug that allows people who live alone to quietly check in each and every day. If you don’t check in, the app texts your emergency contacts. Pretty cool!

There are also endless, fascinating podcasts to download that make long car drives a pleasure.

The problem is, once that little device is in my hands, there is no telling where I will end up or how much time will pass in that state of mental fragmentation within my benumbed body. Over time, I realized that certain activities such as surfing my Facebook wall often caused me to experience all sorts of negative emotions, such as guilt for not knowing that remote acquaintance lost her dad. Or a lonely pang of wanting a dog again after seeing a cute post of someone’s pup. Or a feeling of missing the train because I can’t afford to plan any exotic vacations. Or disbelief and discouragement over someone’s heartless condescension on a political thread.

On a recent New Years Day, I went for a walk in the woods. As we tend to do during moments of “beginning,” I was pondering my writing coaching and editing business and what I wanted to do concerning its marketing. I was pondering my life overall, what I wanted to discard and what I wanted to enact. I stood in a small grove of trees. It was silent except for a crow’s intermittent caw. Then the wind picked up and the trees made a soft sshhhh sound. I made a decision. I wanted a robust physical existence, not a robust virtual existence.

When one has a small business, or a band, and I have both, social media and an online presence are a must. But just how much, how often, and what kinds of online media can be a choice. I realized that most of my best clients come via word of mouth. I took my business off of Facebook. I never, ever had gotten any client through that page. Instead, I ramped up my LinkedIn for professional visibility. And I delved into the joy of my blog. That was it. No Twitter. No Instagram. I am busier than ever.

And, in one of the best decisions I have made lately, I took Facebook off of my phone. I thought about and researched deleting the account. Or going dark. But I have too many friends with whom I don’t want to lose contact. So I just took it off of my phone.

It was astounding how not having Facebook on my phone changed my life. Just one simple change like that. I no longer lose hours a day to all those screened emotions. I spend less and less time updating my persona online. I read more books. I write more letters (remember those??). I send more cards. I meet more friends for coffee. I make more phone calls and actually talk to people.

I no longer think in Facebook posts. I no longer respond in comments bubbles. My blogs are intentionally long, like real chapters or developed articles. I fear that the breadth and lack of depth of thoughts and of information is at the root of many serious current issues we face as humans. So many people knowing so little about so very much. Just a little of this. A little of that. How can we ever make informed choices?

Recognizing the ways that getting screened affects my life is a work in progress. I must remain aware, observing my own behavior and that of my friends and that of strangers. How is this habit affecting me, affecting us all? Our relationships? It’s fascinating. And a little horrifying. And definitely annoying. Of course, I am as easily sucked in as the next person. The wild and wacky world of quantum physics theories? Right there at my fingertips. On that device! Or maybe a good omelet recipe. Or a page on the behaviors of blue jays.