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white ceramic mug with black liquid on brown wooden coasterIt’s important to get the latest information about COVID-19, but consuming too much negative news can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. Take a break from that continuous flow of “breaking news” and put your mind on good things.

Think about the people in the world who are doing what they can to help frontline workers, right where they are, like the 99-year-old British veteran who walked 100 laps for charity in his own backyard and raised over £500,000.

Or the teacher who walks five miles every day to deliver lunch to his students in need.

One silver lining of the quarantine is the fact that people are realizing that a home is always better with a pet, and now dog and cat adoptions have increased exponentially. Some shelters, like the Chicago Animal Care and Shelter, are reporting that every shelter pet has found a home.

It’s also encouraging that people are reading books again and getting interested in history, like the fact that in 1847, the Choctaw nation donated money to Ireland during the Great famine. Now, some Irish people are sending relief to Native Americans affected by COVID-19 as an homage to that long-ago act of compassion.

It’s also important to remember how to laugh in these heavy times. For an instant mood-lifter, do a Google search, typing in “Do a Barrel Roll” and watch what happens. Now type in the word, “Askew”. Feel like a quick retro game on your computer? Type in “Play Atari Breakout”

So when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the daily news coverage of the pandemic, take care of yourself and step away from it. Find a way to lift your spirits and center your soul again.

[Note: The following is a collaboration between Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness and Lori Strawn of Praypower4Today. Krissy’s words are in bold; Lori’s in regular type.]

In the deep dark depths
where lost things go
Outside, at the bottom of ourselves
three steps down before the sidewalk begins
where the heartbeats are faster against the pavement
I found among the roots
and angled shoots a stone
that mended the spot in my soul
where once a wall stood.
I took it.
palpitations rapid, helpless hearts are fallen
stricken — what will it be now?
to hope in vain
to pray and never get an answer
blow by blow, wave after wave,

Though all falls to rubble,
though my spine is plucked
like the pith of an orange,
but suddenly through this gush of disaster
long before I stepped outside to wonder
long before the aromatic taste of morning 

I will not fail. Faith, like all
final things, falters, falls,
loses footing, fades, then
surges, sure as the sun
we’ve been circling since
long before our tragedies
were named.
Hope’s on the scene
plunging out the dark-dank air
pressing fear into faith:
second wind’s arising.

 

purple flowers in tilt shift lensThe lockdown due to COVID-19 has changed our lives and caused hardship, but it’s also a chance to take stock of the blessings we all take for granted:

  • A steady supply of food and water (so you can make meals, eat too much, try to exercise it off and, finally, re-hydrate).
  • Paper products for the posterior (like those inexplicably sold by a family of bears on television).
  • The ability to travel wherever you’d like at any given moment (to spend money in foolhardy ways, then wonder why you’re always broke).
  • Being able to get together with friends who just “get” you (so you can split a piece of cake three ways, thus draining all the calories out of it).
  • Interactions with humans (just the pleasant ones. The unpleasant ones, not so much. Feh.).
  • Information (from reliable sources who help us live healthier and happier lives. Not from ones promoting dangerous misinformation).
  • Income (if you work and are currently on furlough), so that you have enough Outgo (the monetary opposite of income) to pay the bills.

For me, this time in our history is about remembering that all of humanity is connected. The virus is passed from one human to another, but so is compassion. People are healing each other by treating them in hospitals, volunteering to deliver groceries to those who can’t leave home, and by the kind gestures being shared online to keep us all in good spirits.

Just as you “suit up” to go to the grocery store — mask, gloves, sanitizer in hand — remember to keep that same kind of armor around your psyche. Focus on what you can do, stay positive, and leave the rest in God’s hands. 

selective focus photography brown cat lying over black catWith so much of the world on lockdown due to the CoronaVirus (COVID-19), many people who are not used to being at home for long periods are feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

Since depression is a medical/psychological condition, perhaps its cousin, ennui, is a soul state, and it’s treatable — not by a pill, but by:

  • A project.
  • A purpose. 
  • A passion. 
  • A place to belong.

Many of us have been “sheltering in place” for years now — some, like me, due to a disability, and others, like Lori and SueBE, because they are freelancers who work from home. This blog is an example of a meaningful project, and also one of the places I consider a second home. A place I belong.

Being at home all the time, my work is whatever is in front of me at the moment. It may be washing the clothes, which is a project unto itself, as my washer doesn’t always work properly. Will it agitate this time? No? Okay. I’ve got to roll up my sleeves and get a nice “bingo-wing” work-out by sloshing the clothes around in the water for ten minutes. It gives me a sense of purpose to know that I can overcome obstacles like this and get the job done. I’m not just building my physical muscles, but my reserves of resilience as well.

Encouraging others is part of my job as well, and really is my passion. I can even do this virtually, while playing “Word Chums” as I exercise on my stationary bike. “Just checking in on you, chum,” I’ll message during a game. “How are you holding up?”

Staying in touch virtually with each other, as well as connecting to the divine through prayer, is a constant comfort in challenging times. Remember: this too, shall pass.

You’ve seen the memes, the stories on the news. People are having a difficult time with social distancing. I ran into a church friend at the grocery store last night, and it was all I could do to refrain from hugging her. Right now, being together is not good for us. But how can we cope with being alone? It will take a journey to the center of ourselves to find the answers.

Though you fill a room with silence,
you are not alone.
Though you thrash in a sea of panic,
you are not lost.
Instead, remember:
everything you do is sacred;
every movement a dance.
Let your touch be only healing.
Draw energy from the sun.
Turn with purpose toward
what is essential and cull
with tenderness what is not.
Do not lose yourself.
Let the holy within you rise
to greet silence as a friend
and enter into prayer
that moves and lives
and has being in you
for as long as it lasts.
Gethsemane surrounds us.
But Easter is coming.

Blind with panic, we cannot see
God working, fingers flying,
amassing miracles, accruing saints,
laying hands on the dying, the mourning.
Deliver us, Lord, from this plague,
and in return, we vow
to treasure blessed boredom,
the hole of silence round as a mouth
in mid-yawn,
to bless each ordinary day,
to remember how it felt to need,
keenly, and let no other feel it
though selfish safety finds us;
to see we snub the least of these
at our own quite pointed peril.

rule of thirds photography of pink and white lotus flower floating on body of waterThe narrator on the meditation app that I use called HeadSpace said in a soothing voice, “We’re training the mind to both let go of difficulties and familiarize itself with calm, clarity and contentment.” As it turns out, that voice actually belongs to the company’s founder, Andy Puddicombe. Once I got past the fact that his accent reminds me of the Geico Gecko from the insurance company’s television commercials 🦎, I found the meditations relaxing. 

His suggestion to “let go of difficulties” gave me pause. While focusing on the positive is beneficial for mental health, discontent and anger are red flags that tell you that something needs attention. 

As Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, James Carmody says in this article, humans are wired to worry. “Tension is often unnoticed in the midst of managing everyday demands, but its background discomfort sends us looking for relief in something more pleasant like a snack, a screen, a drink or a drug.”

Those points of tension in your body are the way your psyche asks you for a relief valve. For me, along with meditation, I decompress with prayer, exercise, and knitting. Things that allow me to just breathe and be. 

At the risk of sounding like a guru-gecko, your to-do list will always be there in some form, so give yourself a break. Moments of repose can help bring you back to center.

Every month, a huge truck pulls up in front of my neighbor’s house to supply her with oil to heat her house. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple to get your own energy percolating again? Just pull up to a tank and restore your zhoosh. Perhaps you could even order it online for same-day delivery.

I’ve had some ups and downs recently: I was under the weather and over-extended (physically, financially, and emotionally). Some days I felt underappreciated. Other times, overwrought. I felt off-balance and on-edge.

It seemed as if I was running in place, and prayed to find a map to help me move forward.

As I woke up this morning, I still felt this way, but as I got out of bed, I inadvertently played an old video of my cat (God rest) as he sat in his spot on the bed, calmly grooming and just basically existing. He was happy just to be with me. Normally, that video would make me sad, since he’s no longer here, but today, it was a reminder of pawsitive things (sorry, had to): love, comfort, sitting in stillness, a peaceful home, warmth, a furry friend you can count on, blessings. All the things that comprise zhoosh restoration are gifts from God that you may take for granted. Focus on the things that lift you up today, and you’ll find that they bring you back to life.

Image result for british tea kettleOne of my go-to “happy place” programs is the Great British Baking Show (the original version, with Mary, Paul, Sue and Mel). Now, mind you, I’m not much of a baker, but I love to eat a nice scone in the kitchen while watching this show. Does that count as baking? I mean, I am sitting next to the stove, which I use often…to…uh…light candles 🕯 and such. 🙂 I’ll have to check my unimpeachable yet unidentified sources on Google Search and the Dark Web, but I believe that watching this show counts as surrogate baking. 

Often, I’ve had to look up British terms used on the show, such as “scrummy” (it means “scrumptious”) and “Bob’s your uncle” (that’s “you’re all set”), but the culinary creations and genteel charm of the show have won me over. It seems so civilized as the bakers compete politely to impress the judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (incredibly, his real name). Even the judges’ criticism seems less caustic than you’d see on an American cooking competition. After I watch the show, I find that I walk around calling my son and his friends “guv’nah” and using big words erroneously and randomly. Am I being subliminally influenced? Indubitably.😉

The bakers’ “soggy bottoms” are scrutinized scrupulously (that’s the underside of their cakes, not the bakers), and it’s actually the ultimate compliment when judge Paul says of one of the bakers (some of whom are lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc.), “Scientist? No. That guy’s a baker.”

Watching this pleasant show is how I take a break when life gets hectic. I put the kettle on, have a warm cuppa, and escape to a kinder, gentler world. You can’t take care of others if you’re running on fumes and faith alone, so put your own well-being at the top of your to-do list today.

down-angle photography of sunlight piercing through leavesThis morning, I tried a meditation app on my phone called HeadSpace, and, as I sat in my kitchen, listening to the instructor’s voice speaking in a calm cadence, I did find myself breathing easier. 

With the sunlight streaming in, it was peaceful. Just perfect for a moment of centering before the busy day begins. 

Toward the end of the meditation, the instructor guides you to become aware of your surroundings. As I looked around, I realized that the sunlight was like a spotlight. It looked so pretty as it shone on my plant. So shimmery on the pictures on the fridge. So lovely on the schmutz on the floor. Wait. What? Schmutz on the floor? I just swept the other day! But that was at night, using the kitchen light. Meditation over! Must sweep.

I decided it was a metaphor for the meditation. If you can’t see it, you can’t sweep it away. Anxiety, lack of sleep, full schedule… addressing whatever it is that led to needing a moment on pause is the real work. 

So I got more than I bargained for from my jaunt into the world of meditation. I feel like I cleared the decks of my psyche for the time being, but now I’ve got a lot of cleaning on my to-do list! It also gave me time to think about deeper issues in my life that need attention. I think it’ll be worth the effort in both cases. As the old saying goes: clean home, clear mind!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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