Proactive Healthcare

As we all grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic I think it’s important to address self-care when we are ill or in recovery. In years past it was always a rush to get back to a typical schedule, pushing ourselves and our bodies back into full activity and agendas. Now that we are all being forced to slow down, to choose to care for ourselves physically may be the key to our continued health or recovery should we become ill. The goal however it not to get back to regular activity but to determine how we wish to engage going forward. How will we tend to ourselves and help our minds and bodies to heal?

Food – One of my favorite pastimes is sharing a good meal with people I love. Friends, family and good food belong together in my mind. I also love how food bridges the gaps between cultures and gives us all something we can share. Flavors, recipes, and cooking techniques are wonderful common ground we all share no matter our background. It is also necessary for health. As you ease back into you regular routine and start adding your preferred foods back into your diet, choose foods that sustain and nourish your body. 

Body – Learn to honor your body’s needs. I am no longer one to push myself to accomplish the next goal or rush from one thing to another. There is no prize for pushing my body past its comfortable limits. I am realizing that for me to be my best self and operate at the level I wish to operate, I need to be well rested and comfortable. This includes making time to exercise and stretch – it feels good to get my body moving but also to let it rest when it is ready. I am being active without overextending myself beyond my body’s boundaries. Taking care of my physical self includes nurturing and noticing when my body is tired and needs more time to heal.

Sleep – Getting enough rest is always important – doctors recommend eight hours a night for most people. To learn more about the scientific impact of sleep less on your health check out this Ted Talk, Sleep is Your Super Power by Matt Walker. The most striking takeaway that stays with me, “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”

Mental – Recovery from COVID, injury, or any illness requires mental investment. It is important to mentally prepare ourselves and create an environment for health and wellbeing. If we are hopeless, superstitious, or preemptively defeated we cannot face our challenges with the determination and grit they require. Mental endurance, recovery, and resolve are much like physical strength – we must train our muscles. This means visualizing ourselves well, remembering those that we are living and fighting for, and having hope that despite the challenges we face – illness like wellness is temporary. We are not going to be sick forever, though sometimes it does feel like it. We are going to get well and to do that we need to remember our mental health is part of our practice for healing. 

When we are worn down we are all more susceptible to illness and fatigue. The best way to combat illness and take care of ourselves is to practice everyday wellness so that if we should be confronted with an injury or ailment we are ready to face the challenge with grace, optimism, and strength. 

Preventative self-care may seem simple but as we’ve all been masked, socially distanced, and isolated for three years we can get tired of the routine and let our guard down. If you’re feeling worn out by the obligations of COVID and the proactive steps we’re all taking, just remember that you’ve made it this far and I’m proud of you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking care of ourselves is our most important work, you’re important to the world, we need you well – keep up the great work! 

Abundance and Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Today as we prepare for the coming Thanksgiving holiday and all the bounty of harvest, hearth, and home, I am reflecting on abundance. I am reflecting on the wealth and beauty that we have in our possession already. I am full. I know I often reflect on gratitude and this is the perfect week to remember all of those things and people that I am grateful to have an hold. I also want to hold still and absorb the abundance of joy and connection this time of year brings. 

Like many of our holidays since COVID-19 took hold nearly two years ago this year’s celebrations will be scaled back and shaped differently than years before. On Thanksgiving 2020 we took a totally different route to our celebrations. We usually gather with extended family and even borrow chairs from the local funeral home to accommodate the crowd that gathers at our long tables. Last year, instead of that annual gathering of cousins, family, friends, and long lost relatives we stayed home. We hosted no-one and celebrated our own small family gathering. It was gorgeous. I broke out the fine china, used a fresh cocktail recipe, and old traditional foods. Everything was smaller than usual, but it’s intimacy made the experience so much richer.

Because there were so few of us, we did not have the constant flow of conversation or people popping in and out, we prepared our meal, dressed for dinner, and when the days preparations were done in the blink of an eye we let the children bathe and put their jammies on early. We decorated the tree, we savored each  other’s company and when we toasted our health we truly meant it. Our time as a family took on a new sacredness under the light of our small hearth and the glow of Christmas lights. 

This year we have yet to determine how we will celebrate the day. Like many families, not everyone in our circle is vaccinated and while our children cannot yet be vaccinated we will not be gathering. Instead of seeing this as a disappointment, we are going to focus on our good fortune. How lucky are we that we have so many people in our lives with whom we wish to spend the day? How fortunate we are to have enough to food to share. We are truly blessed with health and love. We are surrounded by the spirits of those who have gone before us and by the love that fills each of our hearts when we are together as well as when we are apart. We are also fortunate to know and love so many people with so many perspectives. The diversity of our community is what makes us all stronger. 

I am grateful for all of these things and more. I am surrounded by wealth and abundance. It is my good fortune and joy that there is so much food, family, love, and light to share on these shorter and shorter days. There is nothing easy about this disease but it has given us a new perspective. It has given us back to the outdoors and spending time outside with friends. It has given us opportunities to deepen our connections with those friends and family that truly fill us up. And it has given us the time to draw comfort and consolation from the world by rekindling the love we build in our homes. How fortunate we all are and how grateful I am that this season is upon us and that we have such an abundance of blessings to celebrate together either virtually or just in our hearts. 

What are you looking forward to this holiday season? Are vaccinations making it easier or harder for you to gather with loved ones? What are you most grateful for this year?

Vulnerability: Getting Behind the Mask

I recently had brunch with girl friends. We drank mimosas, sat outside under the trees, laughed, and celebrated just being in each other’s presence again. It was deeply nourishing and satisfying. And more than that there were some refreshing and honest conversations. One began, “I don’t know how you women with children are still married because if I have to clean up cat vomit off our new carpet one more time while I listen to my partner snore, so help me!” Another began, “I’m just going to say that it was awful because I find that if I don’t we’ll just have these conversations about how brilliant and lovely our children are and we’ll start by lying to others and end up lying to ourselves.” And let me just say that statements were so freeing. They were the balm my weary soul required. 

The bold honesty of my fellow women just opened me up, cracked and jostled the persona just enough so that we could really talk. We could have those deep dark conversations about what it has been like to be human and alive throughout this pandemic. It has not been good. And it has been hard and there is a lot of bitterness that we feel guilty expressing or sharing because everyone else seems to be living this idyllic existence. We presume others caught up on their reading lists, home schooled their children, and reconnected with their spouses throughout this global pandemic. 

We know that reality is shaped differently. We know know this because we see it in our own homes, and yet, for some reason we suspect that this pandemic has been easier for others. Easier for those without children. Easier for those with more resources or those who planned ahead and booked vacations, or those who hired nanny’s, or sent their children to private schools where in-person classes never stopped. Easier for parents who were both working throughout the pandemic. Easier for those who’s parents did not live with them. Easier for those who had groceries delivered. The thing of it is that none of this pandemic was easy for any of us. We collectively have suffered, endured, and lost a lot. And just taking a minute at a table surrounded by compatriots and battle weary gladiators, it felt good to see and be seen. 

It felt good to admit our shortcomings and confess our fears and challenges. It felt good to embrace the chaos and own the reality instead of pretending that the illusion is real. We got to take off our masks and reveal our weaknesses to one another and we all felt better for it because then we could laugh. We shared what we could, we kept it light. But we also kept it honest. We gave of ourselves, our hearts, and our humor. We laughed big and hard and the women brunching at tables near ours commented on how jealous they were not to be included in the conversation. 

What a gift to be at the table. What an honor to be surrounded by brave and proud warriors. What a joy to know that I am not alone in my failings. Each of those women gave me hope and comfort and a shelter from the storm of reality. We could admit our weaknesses and we could build each other up. We could forge new bonds and rekindle connections. We could be our most authentic selves and be celebrated for it, not ridiculed or shamed for not portraying the perfect image the world wants. What I celebrate is an act of tyranny. A rejection of the illusion that we are all perfect, that we are taking all of the garbage the world throws at us and making it into homemade dinners and family game nights. We are parking our children in front of screens and baking frozen pizzas so that we can sit silently in the same rooms as our partners scrolling on our phones because that is all we can manage and that is enough. We are all just doing our best and we are enough.

Intentional Interaction

Today feels like a day that I am chasing to catch. Even post-meditation I am 15 minutes late for a call. And I am just going to make the call, show up for the appointment, be present. It feels like with the world opening up, vaccinated friends reaching out to gather, the joy of being present and in the world safely, it feels tempting to slide back into that pre-pandemic mode. The usual, “What friends are we seeing this weekend?” It’s a dance of overbooked, constantly moving forward, hurried compulsion to attend every event, be engaged in every gathering, and not only to show up but to sacrifice quiet nights at home, restorative rest, and the peace and comfort of having nowhere else to be. 

First, I want to say that it is such a gift to be included and invited out into the world. Second, I want to say I am going to respectfully and gratefully drag my feet because I don’t want to go. I want to be ready when the world arrives at my door or when I venture out into society. I want to consciously and deliberately make healthful choices for myself and my family and right now that means breathing deep and being still. 

I am not in a rush to get back to, “regular life.” To be honest I prefer the solitude and reflection of time to myself. But I also get FOMO. The first time I remember this happening was in high school. A friend called me repeatedly and I avoided the calls, I remember hearing her voice on the answering machine and thinking yes, but no. I was super disappointed a few days later when I gave a listen and realized I had missed her brother’s graduation party. I’m sure the event was fun but I was not there for it. And I was disappointed to miss the party. I wanted to support my friend and her family but I needed that time for myself. As I age I realize more and more how much I myself need this time to be quiet and alone. How much work I am quietly doing in my own mind and in my own space to create, build, and design my own life – and that is time consuming. 

Building a world in which I want to live takes a lot of time and I’m not talking about the larger exterior world that we all want to save or are working to make better. I’m talking about my own little unit, my own little house, my own mental wellness, solitude, get dinner on the table and the laundry folded and the emails answered world. And sometimes for me that’s enough. Sometimes it feels like too much and then I have to get even more micro. My gift to myself is patience and forgiveness. I’m going to go slow and I like it that way.

Are you plunging back into social interactions with friends and family? Are you wading in cautiously? How do you check in with yourself to make sure you’re aligned before you engage?

In Gratitude for Family Zoom

Like many families, when COVID hit our extended family circled the wagons virtually. We hosted a family zoom that met weekly, on Sunday’s. Since Grammy could not attend church – for the longest stretch of time in her 86 years – we met for fellowship, conversation, and information sharing. We learned how to make masks, current travel restrictions across the country, and where to purchase supplies should the toilet paper shortage turn out to be only the beginning of a modern day apocalypse, as one can never be too prepared. More than anything we met to see one another, to be comforted by each other’s presence and to reaffirm our connection and bond.

Every Sunday since March 2020 we have gathered for conversation. In May we celebrated graduations with virtual gatherings and slide shows. For Father’s Day we shared memories of my Grandfather and what stories we hold dear with one another. On birthday’s there are text chains and photos. And now like donut Sunday, we linger sometimes for hours as people leave and rejoin the conversation, share updates, and just feel the comfort and connection of family. 

We’re still working on vulnerability and sensitivity. The month of the election and its aftermath were sparsely attended and even then there were arguments and debates. Our solution was that we could debate, but conservatives had to debate the liberal position and liberals the conservative. Mostly, we just chat, celebrate promotions, personal victories, mock one another and egg each other on as only family does. If not not for COVID we never would have found the time or made this activity a priority, now it is a ritual we share and one that has made this year a little bit more bearable. 

As we step back into typical life, so too has our family zoom shifted to suit the times. Churches have reopened and Grammy has plans on Sunday once again and so the calls are later. And while we’re vaccinated and ready to return to our regularly scheduled programming this is one ritual I will be sad to see go – fortunately my family agrees as there has been no talk of cancelling.

Yes, being with extended family every week can be a bit much and now that we are not so starved for connection and entertainment the calls can sometimes drag. But I remain truly grateful for everyone who showed up on these calls. I’m grateful for those that didn’t show up because it reaffirmed our freedom to attend and engage at our own comfort level. And it reminded me that there is always a spot at the table for each of us. Even if someone chooses not to attend for weeks on end, we still hold space for their return while still respecting their boundaries. This willingness to embrace one another when times are tough gave me more than I realized I needed. I suspect our new way to connect with one another will last far longer than this pandemic and for that I am truly grateful.

Making Space for Connection

I caught up with a friend today, or rather we both spoke in half sentences as he answered work emails and I shared what was happening in my life in vague platitudes. To be honest, it wasn’t a great moment for connection or conversation. It was a great moment to remember that sharing these experiences side by side is a different type of relating. 

We were not coming together to better understand one another or even to provide insight, we simply missed one another and wanted to share the comfort of having a dear friend by our side, even as we each went about our separate lives.

It felt good to simply co-exist with a trusted friend. In that conversation we each gave the level of focus that we were equipped to give and mutually respected each other’s boundaries. Many of us are already operating at max-capacity so carrying the burden of another person’s troubles may be too much. So too can the emotional investment of re-hashing our own challenges feel overwhelming. But there is comfort to be found in the simple sharing of a moment with a friend. 

It was like doing homework at the same table again, familiar, comfortable, and easy. There was no pretense and no effort made to impress or guide the conversation toward some goal or purpose – we were together and that was enough.

He had to wrap the call early in order to handle a work emergency. I was grateful as I needed to empty a gallon of pond water from my toddlers boots and redirect him to the tub. We both knew that each of us was giving full attention to the priorities of the day but also making space to share our day with each other.

More than anything this conversation made me proud of us. Proud that we have such a sturdy relationship that is not based on this moment, or this one conversation. It is a dance we’ve been doing for nearly 20 years – nurturing one another and our relationship through countless ups and downs. Trusting that when the time comes for us to support one another we will arrive with hearts open and be there for each other.

I am also grateful that we make a point to take the call and catch up, even if the interaction is brief. It is wonderful to be fully present and focused on the situation you are in and the person you are with, of course. But that isn’t always reality, reality is sometimes managing chaos while juggling responsibilities. Much of life has slowed down due to COVID, however it has also sapped our emotional energy. Sharing what we have to give with the people we love is always a gift and it is something I am truly grateful for today. Sometimes just going through life together is enough.

Keep Calm and Carry On – Like Children

Hope has to be my default. There is no other way. 

A friend called to share that a co-worker was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Their mutual boss demanded the co-worker come into the office. The co-worker re-iterated that with a positive covid test they were not coming in, they would return at the end of the required quarantine. 


“After fourteen days.” 

“Fine, then you better be here.” 

In a typical time in history this might have been viewed as inconsiderate, rude, or even callous. Now it just makes me laugh. Are you kidding me? We are living in intense social angst, each of us separately and communally confronting our own mortality and your focus, your hyper-focus, is on when this person may return to their office. You poor person, clearly your priorities have not yet adjusted to our current reality. 

And that’s what this is, this is reality. The low-grade constant anxiety, the ongoing waves and resurgences, the fear for the safety of those we love and ourselves, that is all going to be with us going forward. The difference will not be in the disease but in how we face it. We can shelter in place and hide. We can demand the world operate as usual, pretending it does not exist. Or we can do what children do, resiliently go with the flow. Children ride the waves, have you noticed this?

Let us consider what this time, this experience has been like for our children. Even if we are able to insulate them from the violence of this disease there are some cultural shifts that will forever be a part of their memories, if only a part of their lives for a brief time. The wearing of masks when they leave home or go out in public. The fortresses of plexiglass that surround their desks. The loss of social engagements, rites of passage, and closure that many of them have missed because it has not been safe to host prom, graduations, or birthday parties.

Now, these are small sacrifices in the face of impending death, but to children who are so small already, is any sacrifice tiny? Is any loss a little one? The impact of this disease on their lives will extend long beyond vaccines and returns to “normalcy.” However, one fact that seems to flicker on my lips as I consider these deep and enduring realities is that I am impressed by how in the face of these challenges little people forge on. 

They play, run, jump, wear their masks to the park, and carry on. There is no fear for the future or mourning for the past, only gratitude for the present and maybe the hope for ice cream later. There is a sense that they are rowing hard, but they are doing their work with no fanfare. Children carry on and carry within themselves a torch. A torch that endures this darkness. A torch that is not dampened by circumstance but that burns within them. It is their resolve to go on, regardless of the challenges they face. It is that spark for life and that willingness to go on, move forward, just keep swimming I admire most. 

It inspires me to see so simple a concept exercised so beautifully and without calls for attention. The simple, daily, repetitive marching forward. They push the boundaries, test the limits, see how far they can go today. It may be only slightly further than yesterday but that’s still further than they went before and isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that a win? Indeed it is. We carry on, we march forward, for that is the only option we have today.

Happy Anniversary?

As we commemorate this first year anniversary of COVID-19, this collective moment of awareness reminds me of where we were a year ago. The language of a brief shutdown, flatten the curve, stay home stay safe, we’re in this together – all of it hopeful and calling for unity. As daily updates from Governors called upon citizens to step up in order to save the lives of loved ones and strangers alike. 

Yet as the curve turned into second and third surges our American cynicism kicked into high gear. We joked about phrases like, “avoid it like the plague,” because as American’s we in fact do not avoid the plague. We are such a social society that the idea of being alone, even if collectively, instigated feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out), loneliness, and fatigue. 

Here we are a year later with more than 500,000 deaths at the hands of Covid-19 so many of us have lost jobs, health, and loved ones. Yet, we have also triumphed. We have multiple vaccines, we have (most of us) gotten the hang of wearing our masks regularly, and we are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring and with it the hopeful eradication of this disease.

Perhaps unintentionally, or in answer to this reckoning, I have taken a stance of radical generosity. I keep a bucket list, a running tally of the things I hope to do someday. Some are personal, my own writing cottage, a lake and a small boat to paddle. Some are big, visit all 50 states, play a grand piano in an empty house… also, learn to play the piano. Not all of them will get done – but playing chopsticks in an empty house still counts and I did that last year so technically, the goal was accomplished but it stays on the list, in case I do ever take lessons I want the satisfaction of really scratching it off. 

One of the items on my list is to pay for a child to go to summer camp, a child who would not be able to attend without support. And this week, I did it. I don’t know what child will benefit from this gift, my only hope is that after this year that has taken its toll on all of us that some little person may enjoy paddling around a lake, horseback riding lessons, or just singing songs and eating s’mores. Whatever it is that this child needs I hope they have it at camp, I hope in some small way to make their lives better, even if only for a week. 

Camp to me has always been the Haley Mills Parent Trap dream, uniformed children in bunk beds, reading, hiking, swimming. Children from all over the world coming together in an idyllic setting to play, grow, and learn. Mountains, horses, and sing alongs. And while I never had that experience myself, our family was more the day camp kind, I want to give that gift to another family. So this year I did it. 

Honestly, I feel proud of myself and that feels like a warm tea pot gently tipped and began filling me up with warmth, safety, joy, and contentedness. I want that for the child who receives this gift. I want that for all of us. After this year, in spite of this year, I want that for all of us. This is how I got it, how about you?