Plant your seeds, wide and far.
Let the rain come.
Watch the magic happen.
I have spent the last 2+ years taking care of my family and friends. From Pandemic mental health, to emergency surgery recovery, to navigating Middle School, to writing cookbooks, I have taken care of my family and friends.
I have also spent a significant amount of time thinking, “So, what is next?”
Often, the next was about immediate needs – dinner, forms that needed signing, conversations with clients, taking a shower, or sleeping. And every now and then, the bigger “what next” popped up.
Much like I talk about in my cookbooks, we plant seeds, and then we wait. Sometimes they grow right away, sometimes they slowly grow and never really become mature plants, and sometimes we don’t see growth and are surprised a season, or a year, or even two later when we see those seeds are now grown-up plants ready for harvest.
I think of myself as someone who scatters seeds everywhere I go. They are the quick conversations with people I run into, the long talks in the car with teenagers during carpool, and the deliberate seeds I plant in my professional and personal space. Everywhere, I scatter what I can, and hope the soil is rich.
In my personal life, I have done work on preparing that soil, and making sure the conditions are right for things to grow, and still, the seeds that have taken hold are not necessarily the ones I thought would grow. But they are the plants that I can learn from, and harvest, and share with those around me.
So, what is next? In the grand scheme, I do not know. But in the soil in front of me, I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I am someone who functions best when I eat good food, spend time in The Nature, exercise, laugh, and sleep. I know that the best way to create change is to work with what is in my garden (both actual garden and metaphysical garden). I know that every seed I plant creates the potential for a new future, new growth, and new harvests.
Hope is hard to come by these days, unless you find the seeds… unless you can see the tiny shoots popping up between the cracks… unless you slow down enough to watch a seed turn into a mighty tree in a forest where nothing exists but our greatest potential.
In the coming days, weeks, months, and years, I will be sharing more of the work I have been doing. There are so many ways you all can help me plant seeds, and water them, and make sure the soil is right. As a collective, we have so much power, when we each step up and say, “I too, can do the work.”
In the meantime, take a shower, eat some good food, laugh, and sleep. Sometimes growth and hope show up in the most unexpected ways from the most unexpected actions.
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
― C.S. Lewis
I love you all so much. I love your spirit of adventure, your desire to learn, your giving hearts, and your giant laughs. I love your dirty faces, hands, and feet. I love your determination to conquer the next task put in front of you.
I know that the adults around you are asking a lot of you. We are asking you to behave, to be quiet, to take on jobs and feelings that are beyond your years. We are asking you to learn and master technology that you have never seen before, often on substandard devices. I know we are asking you to manage much of this on your own, as the adults around you have to work and worry and be adults in the same space as your classroom, bedroom, and play area.
When I go for walks around my neighborhood, I notice the chalk drawings, the windows filled with rainbows, teddy bears, and paper hearts. I know you made these displays. I know you are still creative, and experimenting, and not afraid to share your best effort with the world. I want you to know how much it means to the me. It tells me you are still sparkling bundles of light capable of melting me on my saddest days.
One thing you all have taught me over the years, is that you understand more than we think you do. You show me that when you share lunch with a friend after their’s is accidentally dropped on the floor. You show me that when you make 100 Valentine’s cards and ask me to take them to the Nursing Home for “The Grandparents That Don’t Have Families Close By.” You show me when I am deep in the world of adults, and you gently wrap around me and say “Miss Joanna, we’ve got this. Can I give you a hug?”
Some day, you will be grown, and this time will be a memory, and not a current reality. And when that happens, I want to you remember your triumphs, and your sadness. I want you to know that this whole time, even when you think you didn’t, you did your very, very best. I want you to know that I see you. I want you to feel that even though I am in my house, and you are far away, I see you. I see your struggles, I see your boredom, I see your fear, I see you.
You are still the most magical creatures I know. And you will grow up. Faster now than we had planned for you. And your lives will be forever different – not in all ways, but for sure, in some ways. You will forever be the children who made paper hearts during the pandemic, the children who learned how to wear medical masks, and the children who spent more time on Zoom than on the swing-set.
I don’t know what you will become, but I know that you will amaze me. What you are learning now is the start of new ways of thinking, new solutions, and new ways to interact. And you constantly impress me with taking what you are given and transforming it into something I could not imagine. I cannot wait to hear your ideas, and help you make your plans come to fruition.
Do not lose your sense of wonder, and your lovely kindness. Do not let the adults scare you into being small instead of ginormous. Be bold, and brave, and laugh your biggest laughs. Read books, and look to the stars. Make art, and bake cookies. And know that when this is over, I want you to tell me ALL OF IT.
I love you!
I’m struggling. I need to say that.
I love seasons, I love day and night, I love the contrasts. But lately, the constant rain and heavy clouds, the thick black sky, and the overall tension in the air has just felt heavy. I want darkness filled with starlight, and quiet animal noises, and gentle snores. Not the scary “who has a flashlight?!” kind of darkness.
I am spending countless hours on the phone and text helping family, friends, clients, and first responders as best as I can. I am keeping my household going and doing things like laundry and baking and watching tv. I am eating too little, and then too much. I am not sleeping, and then napping three times in a single day.
I have resisted making masks. It feels insignificant. It feels like the wrong solution. It feels like an admission of failure of systems, ideas, and hope. I have resisted until this week.
Thursday, April 2, a medical friend called me. As we talked through what was going on and the conversation was wrapping up, I asked him, “How else can I support you?” And he answered that he wanted me to make the best masks I could. I asked how many he needed . He said, “Make 10. Give them to your dad, step mom, and mom. Give them to your husband and child. Give them to your elderly neighbor. Don’t let them use bandanas. Don’t let me be the guy who has to call you and ask what final words you have for them. When you are done with those 10, make another 10 and give them to any local helpers that need them.”
So I made masks. Ridiculous masks with silly printed quilt fabric, and my reusable Girl Scout bags cut into bits to line them. And I fought a battle with myself all day….
My husband helped me sort it out. I am making masks because yes, they are better than nothing. I am making masks because wearing them is so uncomfortable it forces a mindfulness on someone who is not use to wearing them about how serious this is. I am making masks because what I make is significantly better than a painter’s mask or reusing an old medical mask. Because everything I do is done with an intention and infusion of love. Maybe the bugs and spider print is over the top, but so is the whole situation. Yet, some color, some laughter, and a huge sensation of love is the best medicine I can provide from the confines of my house, to the confines of someone else’s house.
And now I know I can do it. I can make masks that are not-enough-and-yet-everything for my friends on the front lines. And they will accept them lovingly, knowing that I know they are not enough. But the love is. And that is what makes the darkness a bit less heavy and instead a place to be still and open, where paths exist that I didn’t see before.
I have talked to a number of people this week. This is what it looked like every time:
I am sad. I am lonely. I am bored. I am so lucky and shouldn’t complain. My neighbor/friend/co-worker has it so much worse.
I have a job. I like my family. I feel like I am losing my mind. I can’t sleep. I eat everything or nothing. What about people who don’t have money to have a full pantry? I shouldn’t complain.
I got in a fight with my pet about space. Why am I a mess? I am so lucky. I’m sorry I’m wasting your time with this right now, I know you have clients with more important issues.
I’ll be ok, I’m going to go for a walk. I’m so lucky to live in a neighborhood where I can do that, I need to remember that. I just wish this wasn’t happening.
We look for words to express what we feel. But then the words get in the way, and we start thinking instead of feeling. As we look externally and see other people’s experience, it is easy to minimize our own.
I have decades of experience working with various forms of trauma. Here is what I know: It’s all trauma. My trauma is real. Your trauma is real. They are not the same, but that doesn’t matter. It is not a competition.
If I minimize my trauma, it does not undo yours, it only makes me less capable of connecting in a space of empathy and vulnerability.
I have worked with survivors of severe childhood abuse, I have worked with people who have head injuries, and I have worked with trauma that the client didn’t even recognize was trauma. The tools and skills I use are the same, although the trauma comes from very different places. I hold space for myself, and my clients, with the understanding that all trauma is real.
I was talking to a psychologist recently who said, “You can’t think your way out of trauma. You really need someone to come to the edge of the hole you are in, and give you a hand up. You need that over and over and over again, because your emotional landscape is pocked with craters that you will never see coming. And once you are in the hole, you need a ladder, a hand, a light….that is what we must be in the world.”
We are in a time of turmoil. We are all in different spaces along that path. We are all looking for action to make it all ok. That is the normal right now. It is not stable, and it is not comfortable, but we are all doing it. We can be the ladder, the hand, and the light for each other. Some craters are small, and some will be surprisingly deep. It’s still trauma. And the way out is still to acknowledge it, and be open to help in whatever form shows up.
The world right now is hard. We have lost “normal.” We can debate the pros and cons, we can look for silver linings and appreciate the slower pace. But we also need to acknowledge. We need to acknowledge the major shift we are experiencing.
Most of us are living this in a familiar, comfortable spaces, with people we feel mostly safe with. We don’t immediately see the loss, but it is there.
…the quiet minutes on the commute when we are away from our family….the hug or smile from a co-worker or classmate…the ease of knowing where our tools are to do our jobs…the routines established by our culture, our lifestyle, ourselves…
We may be very comfortable in our pajamas with our pets nearby, but that is not how and where we are used to showing up in the world. We are being forced to bring our outside lives into our most private space. There is a loss that most of us haven’t even been aware of, yet is very real.
There is a loss of freedom, a loss of income, a loss of social interaction, loss, loss, loss, loss, loss….
Loss is grief. And grief is loss. There is research that outlines stages and steps of grief. But the reality is that grief is a swirl of emotions all at once, to varying degrees, for a long time.
Doesn’t that also explain life? Don’t we “laugh until we cry”? Or break into laughter when we are scared (some day I will tell the story of this picture of me on the log-ride) ? It’s all jumbled. It always is. And on an every day basis, we seem ok with that. But when it is loss and grief, the swirl of emotion is more tears, and anger, and less laughter and compassion.
While it is worthwhile to see the good that is coming out of this and our creative ways of connecting and functioning, we must look at what we have lost to truly appreciate the gains.
We must grieve the dying light of summer to enjoy the hibernation of winter. Life and death, gain and loss, creation and destruction – all exist on the continuum that lays the groundwork for the next to exist. We must take time to honor that process, in gratitude and with love for what we are losing and what we are gaining. It’s ok to be ok. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to laugh until we cry, and to cry until we can laugh.
Thank you to my people who have reached out to me and asked how I am doing. I am ok. I am here. I am present with the darkness, the trauma, the loss. It is where I need to be. And I am so grateful for your sparks of light now, so I can do this work.
noun: healer; plural noun: healers
a person who claims to be able to cure a disease or injury using special powers
a person or thing that mends or repairs something
something that alleviates a person’s distress or anguish
describes an individual with the ability to cure ails, be they physical or mental
in Role Playing Games, these players are the most vital
I have been struggling with what to write, and what to say. I feel like I am just a tiny voice in the void. Then, I had a friend tell me how much she was missing my voice. And another tell me that she has no idea how to respond to my words, but she needs to hear them. Then, a third friend reached out to see if I was ok, and ask me to help him find some light.
I have spent so much time in the last month talking. And talking. And talking. And I don’t know what else there is to say.
I have many colleagues, friends, and even family members working in hospitals right now. I have seen – for WEEKS – their pain as they try to do their jobs. And maybe it’s time to say something to them…
I see your passion. I see your light. I see that you could not walk away right now, even if that was a choice. I know the hours and years of study and sacrifice you have made to be able to do the work you do. I know the long days, and missed events because you were an intern, on call, or just too tired. I know the fears and worries you battle on a daily basis. I know your baseline level of grief that you carry day in and day out. I have sat in hospital rooms and held your hands during the worst times. I have cried in hallways, and bathroom stalls, and loading docks with you. I have been held by you, and I have held you. We have seen joy, and miracles, and love at a level that astounds. We have also felt the darkest and deepest sadness and despair. I feel it all with you right now.
One of my friends who is deeply entrenched in the current crisis, texted me “Who heals the healers? Will you promise me that you will be here at the end? Because we will need you so hard.”
To my friend, I say, I need you so hard, too. Our work has always been complementary. Our desire for mental, physical, and spiritual health has always been aligned. We have studied diagnoses and lab tests together, and combined our knowledge to create plans for healing. We have laughed and cried together. Your medicine is also mine. And my medicine is also yours.
I cannot do large portions of my work right now. I do not have the credentials to be in the hospital at large. I cannot do hands on work even in a private setting under current conditions. I also do not think my hands on work is the medicine needed under these circumstances and at this time. I miss it. And I feel useless knowing my family, colleagues, and friends are working non-stop in terrifying conditions.
And then I get the calls…. “What can I take with me to eat? … Is there something I can say over and over in my head to keep me centered? … What’s that thing you do to help people sleep? …. Can I tell you about my day because I have to share it somewhere and it’s too much for my wife?”
And I answer the calls. And I listen. I offer what tools I have. And you listen. And then you share with your family, colleagues, and friends. And maybe it makes a difference, even if no one is clicking “like” or sharing it on Facebook.
And then I cry a little. And take a nap. Because, yes, I want to be here at the end. I want to hold you physically close, and create safe boundaries for your fatigue, and grief. I want to be there to help restore health after long illnesses for your patients, and community. I want us all to breathe together, and widen the circle of love and healing. I want it all. I want you to be here to have it all.
I extend the utmost Gratitude, Love, and Light to all of the medical personnel, hospital staff, paramedics, and other healers putting their lives on the line.
I have been in frequent contact with family, friends, and clients. I had three almost identical conversations with them today about “What now?” One said, “You are always a few steps ahead. So help me. I’m doing my best, but I know I’m not doing all that would be good right now. Where are you? How do I get there?” I thought about it, and then I shared this story…
This morning, my daughter had her first big moment. It wasn’t watching the news or reading about COVID. It wasn’t as we talked about shelter in place or what the food options in our house are likely to be for the next few weeks.
It was cleaning. She slipped on a wet floor and stubbed her toe. She cried. Very hard.
I went into medical mode, and checked her toe and knee. I assessed if there was an injury that would require more serious medical attention than I could provide at home. I ran through four scenarios of how I could handle a fractured bone at home.
And then I stopped. “Sweetie? Are the tears about physical pain? Can you check in and let me know?” I sat on the wet and dirty floor and invited her into my arms. She came.
“Mommy. I’m not hurt. But I can’t quit crying!”
Guess what? It’s ok. I held her. We talked about how she has made such big adjustments the last few weeks. When she was still in school, she led a group of kids in sanitizing classrooms twice a day, and insisted that she would do the infant and toddler rooms since she understood how important this was. Then, she gracefully gave up Girl Scout meetings and Cookie Booths when others around us were still participating and wondering why we weren’t. She was part of conversations weeks ago about how this was impacting our Italian family, friends, business. She has been a team player in negotiating space, love, and kindness in my house and in our world. She understood when I pulled her from school before it was closed. She has embraced e-learning, and helped us all maintain a semi-normal schedule. She has done so much that an eleven year old doesn’t normally have to do. And she has done it with love.
So, I held her. And she cried. And I suggested that maybe the not-physical tears were all the other tears that seem inappropriate, too early, or too much to share right now. And we talked about embracing the opportunity of a stubbed toe to cry out what she could. Because there is more, and it’s too big. But a stubbed toe means 5 minutes of sobbing in Mommy’s arms in a safe way, and that’s 5 minutes of release that we all need.
I am not on the front lines in a hospital or clinic right now. I have been resisting sharing my credentials, expertise, and medicine because we are already flooded with experts telling us what is happening, and yet, we still aren’t listening. How can my voice make a difference? I have found myself distancing from my work, and sinking into depression. And then something happens where I remember that I am powerful, and so are all of you. And doubts, and tears, and hard moments are part of that process. I need my clients. I need to be able to help. I need to see light, and growth, and change, or I despair.
I am not on the front lines in the public, but I am on the front line for my clients. I am the voice on the phone helping them decide the steps they need to take to care for themselves, their families, their communities. I am the checkpoint before they call for testing. I am the calm as they wait for results. I am the checkpoint as they ask for mental health resources. I am the calm as they wait for return phone calls. I am the checkpoint as they worry about whether ordering food or cooking it at home is safer. I am the calm as they make whatever choice is possible in that moment. I am the checkpoint when they don’t know what to do and don’t know who else to reach out to. I am the calm they can sit in until the clouds part and they see a path.
Today, I know that my town in Italy is experiencing their first deaths from COVID 19. Today, I know that at least one very close friend, a handful of acquaintances, and two clients have been tested and are awaiting results. I know that it may not be what you are experiencing today, but I know that it will be what you are experiencing soon. So what now?
Love harder – start with yourself. Do you need food? Water? Tea? A walk? A friend?
Love harder – Who around you needs a silly meme? Who can you text a heart to? What can you do to contribute to a greater good?
Love harder – When was the last time you let yourself ask for help? Reach out – in love – and someone will reach back.
I am here. I am always here. I have an amazing family. They understand my work. And in all the important ways, they know I am needed by so many more people than just them. Right now, my husband and daughter are in the garage working on some kind of project so I can write, and so I can be on the phone with a few more clients today who have called with “I mean, I guess it’s not urgent, but I was just wondering if you could help me?”
Yes. I am here. And I am laughing at things that aren’t funny. And crying at things that don’t really hurt. And doing my best to love harder every step of the way. Please let me know if I can help you, because that also helps me.
“It is only when we truly relax, that we begin to deeply heal.”
I’ve been practicing yoga for over 25 years. I don’t know which teacher said that. But, actually, I know that, in their own ways, they all did. The moment at the end of practice, Shavasana, the quiet time to feel the work that was just done, to allow the body to process it, to allow the mind to enjoy the stillness, to feel your own heart beat for just a minute, is the most powerful part of a yoga practice to me.
When I went to school for Ayurveda, and learned more about the Vedic texts, I learned that Yoga is only one piece of the puzzle. And that yoga can be used to prepare me for deeper meditation. In fact, yoga was not originally intended as a meditation practice, but as a way to prepare the body for the stillness required to achieve deep meditation.
In school, I was required to build a meditation practice. My mentor suggested that I do no less than 90 minutes of meditation on days when I was seeing clients. She told me that it would help me see where I end and begin, where others end and begin, and where the connections needed repair, as that is often a cause of mental and physical illness. Ninety minutes, minimum. In addition to being a mom of a small child, a wife of a husband in early years of remission from a serious illness, a student discovering my own limitations and learning disabilities, and an intern seeing people in need, she asked me to put 90 minutes of silence as my number one priority.
It was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. At first, I would make it two or three minutes before the fidgets, twitches, and anxiety threatened to consume me. My body screamed as if I was physically restrained and had been for days. My mind raced with fear, anger, hurt, and unresolved everything. Over time, and with many tools, I began to look forward to my meditation. I began to enjoy all of the magic that I felt in that space. But it was a long process, and I was well supported by experts who understood where I was, and where I wanted to go, and helped me get there.
With my own clients I do not recommend starting a meditation practice until many sessions, and sometimes even years, into our work together. It is too much. It requires baby steps. It requires work, patience, help, and time. It requires addressing inner thoughts and fears that still serve us in some way. And it requires support.
Our culture is filled with “to do”, “must have”, and other variations of sentiments that perpetuate the glorification of BUSY. Now, we are being asked to not do, and to not have. We are being asked to be the opposite of busy. It is a big change, and not an easy one. And we are all being asked to do it at the same time. As a culture, we do not have the supports and experts that I did when I was asked to find stillness and connection through isolation.
I am hearing from so many friends, family, and clients that they are struggling right now. Inundated with conflicting news, panic over the future, confusion over what choices they should make, and very real feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression, I am hearing that they do not know how to “not do”.
I am also hearing about deep fatigue, changes in appetite, disruption to sleep, emotions that come out of nowhere and result in either hysterical laughter or sobbing. I am seeing my clients, family, and friends grapple with the realizations of what they have been avoiding by being busy. Closets are being cleaned, floors are being swept, and boxes of old “emotional landmines” are being opened.
What I’d like to tell everyone reading this is, IT’S OK! All of what you are telling me is normal for a process like this. In order to heal, we need to deeply relax. And to relax, we must let go of anxiety and fear. We must let go of “to dos” and “must haves”. We must simply be. And if that was easy, we would have all done it before now.
So, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Maybe it’s time to add some mindfulness. Maybe it’s time to be ok sharing emotions from a position of vulnerability instead of defensiveness. But, don’t think you have to figure it out all at once. Have a meltdown. Eat too many cookies. Watch too much tv. Sleep – A LOT. We are all in this together, and so many people are having variants of the same experience. If you are feeling anxious, angry, bored, or really just feeling aware of anything, reach out. I’m here. Your friends are here. Your family is here. AND YOU ARE HERE. Be here. Move through the emotions and together we can find what comes next.
Mindfulness tools to try
Breathe in. Breathe out. Identify objects around you. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you feel on your skin? Do you taste anything? What is your body touching?
Breathe in. Breathe out. Find your nose. Can you do it without touching it? Can you see the shadow of it with your eyes? Can you feel it if you move your lips or cheeks? Find your nose.
Breath in. Breathe out. Say your name as you breathe in. Say your name as you breathe out.
What to do if you can’t focus
Make something – food, decorations for your windows, graphics on your computer, a goofy meme… Creating is living. It doesn’t matter what you create!
Learn something – what should you plant in your yard? How do you crochet? How is glass made? It doesn’t matter what, just engage in growing your mind, passions, and comfort zone.
Take a nap. Fatigue is a real thing. When was the last time you were truly rested? We all run on reserves, and when we slow down, that fatigue creeps forward so we can’t ignore it.
Many of us in the United States are now a few days into “social distancing”. Many of us are entering our first week of “e-learning” while parents are working from home. That’s a pretty big transition, and many of us do not really do transitions well. We must now work from spaces that are different than our routine. We must work with different tools, and expectations. We are being asked for self-discipline, self-motivation, and connection in ways we are mostly unfamiliar with.
It’s not just the humans, either. On a normal day, I work from home, and my 3 cats will come visit me, sleep in their favored places, and play with each other on a schedule that they have negotiated. With all the humans home, my cats lives are disrupted as well. They are finding new spots to sleep and new spots for quiet, alone time. They are playing more aggressively with their toys and each other. They seem happy to have us home at the same time that they seem confused by all of us being home.
These kinds of transitions require negotiation. They require presence and attention and love. We have to genuinely listen and hear the needs of those around us, as well as our own needs and find ways to allow space to be parceled out as lovingly as possible.
In my house, my daughter goes to a Montessori school from 7:30am to about 3:30 Monday through Friday. On Saturday mornings, she has Italian language and culture classes. On Sunday, she has her circus training. As of last Friday at 3pm, she has our house, and lists of things she is supposed to manage to ‘keep on track’. She is eleven years old. She has been raised in a house with routine, expectations, and support. But she is only eleven and cannot negotiate this herself.
I work very flexibly, although I do have a home office. My husband splits time between his downtown office and working in his home office, so this transition has not been as big for him. And for me, having him home has meant that I have not been in my office as it is across the hall from his, and we have different styles and needs for the space. But we have mostly adjusted, until now.
With our daughter home, we have spent time this weekend discussing what she needs to have success with her school work. What environment supports her? Can we create that in our house? We thought we had a great plan, but it was only great in theory. Monday morning, as my daughter and I attempted to implement our plan, we hit a major snag: I like to listen to music while I work, she likes to listen to stories. Neither of us can focus with the other’s preferred choice, nor do we like silence.
As I was citing neuro-research about focus and Ayurvedic principles of reducing the stimulation in our environment, she stopped me cold. “Fine, pull the Mom card, tell me I can’t have stories, and let’s move on.”
I stepped back, and asked her if we could try again. We looked deeper, loved each other a bit harder, and actually figured some things out.
She is used to a Montessori classroom where there is always a low level chatter. It is soothing to her. I mostly work at home, and constant talking means my work time is over and my family needs me. Suddenly, the original plan became very workable, so long as we took turns wearing headphones. What started as my resistance to her choice of “distraction” moved to an understanding of her need for consistency.
We are now on Day 2, and learning more about our working styles and needs. We are seeing ways we can appreciate the work the others do. We are being patient with our cats as they figure out what space they can carve out for themselves. And we are learning about our own habits and how we can be better.
Please be kind, and patient. With everyone, including yourself. Reach out if you need help. We are all in this together. Just at a physical distance.
Right now, the US is bracing for, preparing for, questioning, and attempting to avoid a personal experience with the COVID 19 Pandemic. My feeds on twitter and Facebook are flooded with stats, suggestions, articles, and debates about what is happening, what should happen, and who is doing or not doing the right things. My email is flooded with corporate newsletters announcing precautions. And most of my conversations with colleagues, clients, and friends revolve around this topic.
I have training in Eastern and Western medicine. I have a lifelong interest and study in viruses, their effects, origins and patterns. (One of my favorite books is The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett.) I have had numerous jobs as an educator, advocate, and healer. I have a voice, and I’d like to share it now.
I would like to offer 3 thoughts that have been a consistent theme for me for a few weeks. I would like to focus on how you can get through the anxiety, fear, disbelief, confusion, and other myriad emotions that are prevalent right now.
First: Intention is powerful.
There is a ton of peer reviewed scientific research on how our thoughts affect our brain chemistry.
If I say, “Hey you, my Facebook Friend/Internet Friend, I am so grateful that you are always there to click “like” and let me know that someone sees me and shares a moment of connection with me. It means a lot to have you in my life.” How does that make you feel? Is there a tiny spark that flairs up in you? When I was talking with a group of children recently about this concept, one girl replied, “Every time I see you I get bouncy inside because I know you will tell me I’m amazing. I always feel better after that, even on days when I didn’t do well at school.” Imagine how much you can do for yourself and your loved ones with this! And the best part is that it is free and easy.
Another client was texting me last night saying, “I keep feeling stabbing pains in my lungs. I’m so anxious. I don’t know what to do.” This client has significant issues with asthma and is high risk for most things. We discussed how finding gratitude for how well her body has taken care of her in her 40+ years might feel. We talked about how living in awe of what works well and having sincere gratitude for that will calm the fears, and opens possibilities of living fully even in trying times. Her last text to me read, “Thank you! I forgot to thank my body. That’s a great idea.” She hasn’t texted me since, which means she is calmer and out living.
I invite you to give it a try:
Find a quiet space, take a few deep breaths.
Read these words out loud to yourself.
Thank you, Body, for being strong and working at your best capacity. Thank you, Lungs, for breathing and filling my body with needed oxygen. Thank you, Food and Water, for nourishing and hydrating my cells. Thank you, Mind, for allowing me choices and supporting those with your chemical response. Thank you, Immune System, for always doing your best to evaluate what is happening and act appropriately for me.
Feel free to modify this, or expand it to include your friends, family and community. Live in awe and gratitude for the opportunity to grow, change, and love.
Second: This is an opportunity to address the “deferred maintenance” in our own lives.
One of the main things clients ask for help with is lifestyle. As a culture, we are too busy, with too many expectations and obligations. We rarely say NO and re-prioritize our lives. Yet, much of our health and mental health is dependent on our lifestyle: what we eat, and how; who we interact with, and how; how much true rest we get; time and space to be creative and maintain perspective; time and space for deep connections with those around us; time in nature to return to our roots and understand the cycles of the planet we live on. My biggest obstacle in helping clients heal is their inability to address these lifestyle issues. Maybe this is an opportunity to evaluate what really is essential in our lives and pour gratitude and effort into those areas.
I have been shopping this week. Here is what I got:
- Mineral water (that’s for another day, but I only drink mineral water.) If I run out of mineral water, I will make adjustments to my fluid intake based on knowledge from Eastern and Native medicine. I didn’t buy hundreds of bottles, I bought enough for 2 weeks, mostly so we don’t have to grocery shop this weekend.
- Frozen berries and pineapple. These are handy if we do get sick. They are dense in nutrients and easy to absorb. Pineapple is a great anti-inflammatory and I think it’s delicious. If we don’t need them now, I will be making some great gelato out of them in a few months.
- Extra yeast, flour, and sugar. My family loves cooking and baking. If we are stuck at home for weeks, I’m pretty sure my kid and my husband have ideas of what they’d like to make. In fact, my eleven year old daughter mentioned this morning that she was researching Irish Soda Bread recipes and thought she could substitute cranberries or currants for raisins since I don’t like them.
- Treats. One box of Peanut Butter Ding Dongs, and one box of Swiss rolls. Food is medicine – and that’s emotional and spiritual as well as physical. While these “treats” contain little nutritional value, they are something we splurge on when we take road trips or have large parties. I bought them so if we do have some darker moments in the next few weeks, there is an external spark of happy that I can inject. Sometimes the happy memory far outweighs the nutritional value in the balance of living.
You probably don’t need 600 rolls of toilet paper, but do you have basic first aid supplies? Are your prescriptions filled and up to date? Do you have support from family and friends, and are you available to support them? Are you dreading spending time with your family stuck at home or are you comfortable with a chance to reconnect, clean out closets, and watch some movies? Are you so perpetually busy that the idea of weeks without activities makes you spin in terror, or do you see an opportunity to quietly read a book, do a craft, or have a long overdue conversation? Do you have a backlog of things that you really don’t want to tackle and know feel you may be “forced” to, or is there an online class you’ve really wanted to take but couldn’t find the time?
Because of what I do for a living, I didn’t need to stock up on Advil, Tylenol, couch medicine or thermometers. But that goes back to the concept of deferred maintenance. I have plenty of closets that need to be cleaned, but as far as medical preparations, I am current. If you are not, it is a great time to take a deep breath, and reset the basics.
Third: Make future plans!
I have a long standing practice with many of my besties, my family, and my clients. I like to make plans for our next adventure, get together, conversation, or meal before we end our current one. That way, our relationships don’t get lost in the “I meant to, but got busy, and now it’s been 6 months, and do either of us have time” loop. Often, those plans we make now have to be rescheduled, adjusted, or otherwise changed as the days unfold. But because the plans exist, they remain a priority and it is not 6 months before we circle back.
If reports from other countries are any indication of what is coming in the United States, I think it is more important than ever to plan for a future on the other side of this Pandemic. Where do you want to travel to? Go look at websites, visit the plethora of virtual museums online, and start planning that trip. What friend have you not talked to or seen? How can you make plans? What about a big summer get together?
It is likely that we will be impacted. It is likely that our friends and families will experience hardship, illness, and possibly worse as this unfolds. But it is also possible that on the other side of this is time to fully live and enjoy what we have. My annual 4th of July party is already in planning mode. I have ideas for summer camping, and road trips. I have clients, and friends, penciled in for appointments and coffee dates for the next 3 months.
We cannot know what will happen, nor can we know how we personally will be impacted. What we can do, is plan lovingly for a time when all the missed handshakes and hugs come back. Where joy and laughter, and tears and sadness, can be shared and processed in our communities.
A friend in Italy posted an event on Facebook this morning announcing a “Flash Mob Sing Along”! There was a start time, a song list, and instructions that included: Open your windows and join us in lifting your voices together, as a community. It is in that spirit that I encourage you to make plans. Set a skype date with a friend for next Wednesday. Plan an online lesson you can share with your friends who also have children stuck at home with them, and offer it next Saturday. Create an evite for your summer BBQ, birthday party, or pool party. Create a Pinterest board of your European Dream Vacation.
With all of that, I wish you all the best. I will be available through my Facebook page to answer questions. I will be posting as I feel it is appropriate or helpful. Thank you. <3
Research on thoughts affecting brain chemistry: