My intent, at the outset, was to write a thoughtful blog about lessons learned in quarantine. Then I came upon this article in the New Yorker by Grace Henes. It caused me to put my own reflections on hold. Thanks, A.J. (and Grace) I think we would opt any day for your version of suspense over the current pandemic anxiety.
Plot synopsis: Man trapped in his apartment stares at neighbors through the window all day. No one bakes bread.
Quarantine takeaway: New hobbies can be a bad thing.
Plot synopsis: Woman leaves town even though she probably should have stayed home. World’s loneliest boy owns a B. & B. that’s not doing so hot right now. Imaginary friend has to do a lot of emotional heavy lifting.
Quarantine takeaway: Avoid non-essential businesses.
Plot synopsis: Man is in shock after sudden, unexpected events. Has bouts of extreme dizziness, such as those one might experience after watching six hours of true-crime reënactments. Is tasked with following a woman at a safe distance.
Quarantine takeaway: Don’t ignore your symptoms.
“Strangers on a Train”
Plot synopsis: Two men purposefully engage in a close conversation on public transportation, without a face mask in sight. It doesn’t work out well for either of them.
Quarantine takeaway: It’s not a great time to travel.
“Dial M for Murder”
Plot synopsis: Man worries about maintaining his comfortable life style and regular income. He reaches out to a friend he hasn’t spoken to in many years, then orders delivery.
Quarantine takeaway: Business is best conducted over the phone.
“North by Northwest”
Plot synopsis: Man eats at a restaurant, inadvertently risking his life in the process. He seeks assistance with his problems from a government official, with disappointing results. Everyone is having an identity crisis.
Quarantine takeaway: Planes = danger.
“The Man Who Knew Too Much”
Plot synopsis: Chaos at an international level; church services and concerts are disrupted as a result. Iconic song that’s meant to be comforting doesn’t really answer anyone’s questions.
Quarantine takeaway: There’s such a thing as being too informed.
Plot synopsis: Bad things are happening outside your house. Those bad things are birds. Even though you may not have personally seen the birds, or known someone who was attacked by the birds, be assured those birds are out there.
Quarantine takeaway: Fear the outdoors.
It’s been said by those who study these things that gratitude and depression cannot live in the same space. If one has true gratitude it is not possible to be depressed. Given recent computer issues, I am wondering if that also applies to gratitude and frustration. Let me explain.
About 2 months ago my computer developed an irritating quirk. It was an issue with One Drive, the back up for everything. Suddenly, I would get messages in my documents that sign in was required. At the same time a message from Microsoft would appear saying there was a problem with my account. I discovered that logging into my account and putting in the password, resolved the matter. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. The problem would reappear every 3rd day and would require going through the same process of logging into my account. It was getting most irritating so I phoned Microsoft Disabilities for assistance hoping they could fix the issue once and for all. The tech did some techy stuff and all seemed to be well. Three days later it was no longer well. Same snag. I ended up phoning MD 4 times over a few weeks. Each tech believed he or she had the remedy. Nope. The 5th call was to have the situation escalated to the upper level techs. I was given an appointment with the level2 crew.
Level 2 tech phoned. He had been using One Drive himself with no issues. I had a little more confidence with this guy. He seemed to have a clue about unquirking what was going on. He did all kinds of tech things which appeared to solve the mystery. We’ll see. The caveat is what happens on the third day after the fix. Level 2 guy is calling back in 4 days to see if the glitch no longer exists. I won’t be able to provide the results because this blog will be posted before the final test.
Regardless, this brings me to the gratitude vs. frustration conundrum. Having the One Drive glitch surface every third day was driving me nuts. When I get that Microsoft message every third day it is like Ground Hog Day and we’re not getting it right. Then I call Microsoft Disabilities and it is always an hour call no matter what they do. I’m not always sure they are actually hearing me about the issue. Every time I get off the phone with them my head feels like it wants to explode. That’s the frustration piece.
Then I flip over the coin to the gratitude side. I do not have access to any tech support person. Because I use a screen reader on my computer I am eligible to get cost free technical assistance and support from Microsoft Disabilities. I try to remind myself of this every time something goes haywire on the computer and I feel like tearing my hair out. Ugh. I get so conflicted. What to do?
I believe I am finally coming around to the solution. The truth is that gratitude needs to be the go to choice. There are countless things to be grateful for and appreciate . When frustrations, irritations, annoyances et al occur, I will allow myself to feel them guilt free. The negative emotions are part of our humanity. The point is not to dwell on them. Notice, acknowledge, experience for a short time, then make a better choice. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about what really matters. It’s about what is most important.
Comments are welcomed.
In case you might be suffering from Zoom fatigue; if you are experiencing social media overload; if you don’t want to hear another strategy, technique, exercise, etc. to make yourself feel better during this crazy time, the following might be for you.
There is a great deal of scientific study and empirical evidence linking all aspects of nature to improved mental, physical health and well being. For example, the negative ions given off by water falls or a body of water tends to improve our mood and lift our spirits. Of course it is not always possible to be near lakes, streams, rivers, etc. Green spaces can do just as much, if not more for us. A walk in the park or woods or whatever part of nature you can find will also be calming and stress reducing
A practice that has grown in recent years is Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy. It comes from the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, or taking a slow walk in the woods and absorbing the surroundings with all your senses.
The practice of forest bathing or just being in the presence of trees is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well being.
If “bathing” in the forest is not viable, there are still other aspects of nature we can access that will produce similar benefits. Flowers are one.
According to lead researcher Nancy Etcoff, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, study participants who had fresh cut flowers in their home for less than a week had increased feelings of compassion and kindness for others.
Those who placed flowers in parts of their home where they spend most of their time reported feeling less negative and looked forward to seeing the blooms first thing in the morning.
Additionally, further studies showed people tended to have lower blood pressure and less anxiety.
Remember those tapes and CD’s of nature sounds? Well, “In clinical studies, we have seen that 2 hours of nature sounds a day significantly reduce stress hormones up to 800% and activates 500 to 600 DNA segments known to be responsible for healing and repairing the body.” Dr. Joe Dispenza
If leaving your residence is not an option you don’t have to. According to Rachel Kaplan, Dept. of Psychology at the University of Michigan, you can enjoy nature’s restorative effects sitting by a window, looking out at green space and taking in the warmth of the sun.
Finally, it is a known fact that recalling positive experiences, recapturing the feelings that were part of the experience and savouring those good feelings can boost happiness. Perhaps looking at photographs of nature and times spent in nature can give you some moments of joy and calm as well.
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come. - Chinese proverb
Comments are welcomed.
I seem to have hit a wall. Maybe even 2 walls. As I pondered the characteristics of these walls, I wondered about the origin of that idiom. I learned that hitting a brick wall and hitting a wall are both used, but there is an historical difference. Hitting a brick wall appeared in the language several centuries ago. Essentially, it meant literally coming up against a brick wall and unable to go further. Full stop. Hitting a wall referred to athletes who might run out of steam and temporarily hit a wall , then would gather a second wind and continue their run . As is the way with most things, people have used whichever phrase suits them in the moment.
I am going with just hitting a wall, or two. No brick here. The 2 walls may actually be one wall with variations on a theme. However poetic I may wax on this wall, the bottom line is I am stuck. The 2 areas of stickiness are a dearth of both creativity and human connection. Sound familiar?. The question becomes how to get that second wind.
Here's my remedy. The first thing was not to get down on myself. When we find ourselves going through rough patches, we need to exercise self compassion. We are experiencing a moment of suffering which is a part of life. Suffering is part of our humanity. We need to be kind to ourselves in these moments and treat ourselves as we would a dear friend or loved one.
When we give ourselves the compassion we need, it is like taking a big breath with a big exhale. We are more likely to relax and accept those moments. Acceptance will help us to evolve through the rough spot and gain that second wind.
Back to the first person. The next piece is what would I do with my second wind. The thing I decided not to do was make myself nutty with all the options that were opening up before me. I wrote down a few ideas, put them in a container and selected one. Whether I liked my selection or not was irrelevant. The point was to make a choice and get started. The easiest and quickest way to complete something, whatever it may be, is to just begin.
That’s what I did. As for the wall? Well, it came tumbling down. I didn’t even have to blow a trumpet to make it happen.
We don’t come up against these walls just so we have something to bang our heads against. They are more existential in nature. They actually illuminate our challenges, our dreams, our hopes. We are presented with choices and opportunities for how we want to show up in our lives going forward. there is always another side to the story. So maybe these walls are gifts rather than mere frustrations. What do you think?
Comments are welcomed.