Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! How did it feel for you to turn the calendar from 2020 to 2021?

Most people I know felt a whole lot of relief and happiness as they saw the end of 2020 – a year that was full if unexpected challenged from public health to job insecurity to financial hardship to isolation and more. Even worse? It was all unexpected — a complete shock to ourselves as things unfolded and then dragged on and on — still actually dragging.

However, there was hope in turning the calendar a few days ago. We did end 2020 with seeing our healthcare workers getting vaccinated. Wow! Our US healthcare system may soon be completely secured from the pandemic. That is definitely hopeful — and we all know that we will have out turn sometime in the New Year.

With the vaccine there is also the hope that our lives will resume to normality — but I am left to wonder will it be a new normal? The pandemic has gone on long enough that people are making new habits, living their lives along different rhythms, and orientating meaning in a different way. Dare I say it almost feels like a return to olden day ways. We are at home most of the time, cooking our own food, spending time with our family constantly – not just quality time – discerning who we really want to share time with via Zoom, engaging with our children on a deeper level, and more. Life has shifted and it’s not all been bad — the break from our break-neck, fast-paced lives has provided us with a different way to live our lives.

How often do we get such a reset in our modern day?

Having had the reset, what will you keep and what will you discard when we are all vaccinated and life is ready to return to “normal?”

As we enter 2021, I am hoping a new normal takes hold that honors the best of who we found ourselves to be in 2020 under extraordinary circumstances and also allows us to bring these parts of ourselves to our lives as we resume normality.

Here’s to it!

A Writing Break

A Writing Break
I Took A Writing Break

I am a therapist. And I am also a writer. Are there two different professional paths that you embody? For me, my work is about seeing my patients as well as writing on a fairly continual basis. It may be a screenplay, a non-fiction book, or this blog — but I write and always have. Somebody once said to me, “If you write, you’re a writer. Own it.”

Why is it so different to own something like writing?

In any case, this Autumn I found myself without the impetus to write. My motivation sort of up and left in what seemed like a mere instant. Perhaps it was my own election stress, perhaps being caught up in home projects, or perhaps even the change of seasons. Not sure what happened, but I did not want to write — not even this blog.

I don’t know about you, but when I have something like a blog to write that I have committed to write on a daily basis, I tend to “feel bad” if I don’t meet my own expectations. However, when my motivation to write vanished, I let go. I decided that it was “OK” to not write and to be curious when my desire to write would alight upon me.

How refreshing to not put myself through the ringer for not doing something that I felt I should be doing. I allowed for there to be a pause in my writing on this blog and other projects as well. I just let it be. The longer I let it be, the happier I became with my decision to not write, to not do, and to simply be with this.

And then my writing impetus began to return. Not sure if it is a daily thing, a weekly thing or a monthly thing or if I will switch it up between all three. I am not sure at all. What I am sure of is how awesome it feels to let go of an item on the old “to do” list when it is really not something you want to do. Freedom!

Are you feeling this way as the holiday season kicks in? Is there something you think you should be doing — professionally or personally — that you have no interest in doing? Perhaps the greatest gift you could give to yourself this season is the gift of not doing without guilt or care. Trusting it will return — or not. But whatever the outcome, there is something to become curious about yourself and learn from.

For now, I hope to be back to at least semi-regular posting. After all, I am a writer, even if one who takes breaks.

Election Stress Disorder

Election Stress Disorder

Election Stress Disorder? Is this even a real thing?

Yes it is and is a term was coined by Steven Stosny back during the run up to the 2016 election. From what I read in the NYT about this disorder, it’s back — bigger and badder than ever.

How would you know if you are suffering from it? Well, common symptoms include: doom scrolling, watching polls non-stop, your mind being crowded with election scenarios — who knew there could be so many? (This is probably one of the main reasons why we even have election stress to begin with!) Everybody and everyone is so divided and it feels like it has already been formally announced —

If one side wins, they cheated.

If the other side wins, the vote was suppressed.

Who can win and where does this end? Anticipating this is driving many of us to have Election Stress Disorder. So much information to scroll, so many scenarios to consider, so much worry over where it’ll all end up. Talk about frustration and anger that leads to stress related directly the the election. Often it comes off as feeling and being irritable.

What can be done? Well, first off recognize that the political landscape is causing you stress. Also, be honest — is it just the other side that you are upset with or is it also your own side and the extreme views that lie within? Or even those you respect who may be forwarding or posting news that is not true. If you can answer this question honestly, it can help to create a strategy to combat your Election Stress.

So, what can you do?

First, if you are going to engage in debate try to limit your time arguing with people. Adding to the divisiveness due to your stress simply adds to more discord. Pick and choose who you do battle with and when you engage look first to connect with someone and understand their opinions — listen! — and then bring your own thoughts to the conversation. If the whole engagement stalls, let it be. Find peace within and give yourself credit for trying to understand the other. Make sure to limit the amount of time you engage.

Yes, take time out from the news. Yet, when you do engage make sure you are reading and engaging with sources that are accurate and truthful. It is on all of us to take responsibility for how we are getting our news and where we are spending our time reading news that informs us about the election and beyond. So, yes, limit your time reading the news, but, when you do, make sure it is worth your time and not “fake.”

Take a break. It’s hard to keep all of this in perspective, but it is necessary. Let history be a guide for you in these times. In the past, people have met the challenges of war and racism and pandemics and the world continued to move forward. Some may say that the world no longer has this chance due to man’s impact on the environment. If this is your perspective, take some of your stress and channel it doing something good for whatever cause is near and dear to your heart.

From there, take heart that life will move forward — no matter the election results. Being present, doing what you can do — especially VOTING — and keeping in mind the larger perspective of where this moment in history fits into the greater history of the world can help one see that it is a moment. Yes, there will be impacts, but there is also hope that we can overcome any one moment.

Election Stress Disorder is real, especially with this final lead up to the election on November 3rd in America. Recognize it, take care of yourself, and seek perspective of this moment across the history of time.

A Mum for the Season

A Mum for the Season

Are you a gardener? If so, I bet you are putting your lawn and garden away for another season.

You most likely are harvesting vegetables, planting spring bulbs, picking up the leaves that are already falling, and closing up the patio furniture. Even with this odd COVID summer, the time has flown and we are closing up our outdoor gardens and yards for another year.

For me, I must have a mum for the season. I don’t need a whole bunch of fall flowers, but I do need a burst of color that reminds me of fall. So, I went out and purchased one large yellow mum and plopped it on my front porch. What a burst of color even as we have shorter days and more rainy days. I can sit and look at my mum and think about all of the beauty to unfold this season.

Do you have a go to plant or flower that you look forward to having around as you change seasons? If so, I hope you will keep your tradition. It’s not quite time for pumpkins and gourds, but soon.

It’s all unfolding quickly…

First Day of Fall: A Balance Point

First Day of Fall

Today is the first day of Fall! Welcome, Autumn!

I am thinking about all the wonderful things I am ready to do as this new season arises. Cozy comfort foods to cook, drives to see the leaves, fall hikes, crisp weather calling me to pull out my sweaters and boots, a crisp chill in the air to accompany my running through the leaves, and more.

It’s Autumn. Yet, today is also the Autumnal Equinox. That moment — no matter where you are on the planet — where we are granted equal amounts of light and darkness. Daytime and nighttime are equal. It sounds like such a perfect balance and only Mother Nature can give us one stretch of perfect equanimity.

I feel like today is a perfect moment for a reflection on how well we balance our own lives. Often we live at extremes — not eating any sweets and then eating the whole cupboard, not doing any project and then taking on more than we could ever do, and on and on. Doing all or none of something always feels way easier than actually keeping a balance.

Making step-by-step progress on one project important to you, enjoying one cookie without regrets, spending one’s time across all that matters in equal amounts — now that sounds like balance. It also sounds incredibly difficult. I, too, favor the extremes — something so easy in the all in or all out approach.

However, the Autumnal Equinox gives us a natural example of how beautiful and fine it is to balance one’s self. It may not be easy, but what is in reality? Take time and savor this change of season and be present to how you can balance yourself and life this season.

Apple Season

Apple Season
Apple Season is Here!

I was just at the grocery store and noticed there are no more plums and peaches available, but rather so many varieties of applies. Definitely! Autumn is here. There is something about apples that take me back to my childhood days when I used to climb the apple orchard trees and pick my one apples. Such a fun excursion! I am curious if you have any fond memories of apple season?

Crunchy, tart, sweet, pies, tarts, hard, red, yellow, cores — some of the first words that come to my mine when I think of apple season.

And now my mind turns to how apples offer us an opportunity to relish the new season. There are so many things you can do with an apple — even putting them into a bowl on the counter to look at or even draw appeals.

Even as a mediation, keep your apples in mind this season:

Sketch an apple

Bake your apples — and what else to make with apples

Cut the apple peel in one long ring — I encourage you to at least try

Core an apple

Pick apples

Go apple picking

Host an apple tasting — can you taste the difference. Even better, blindfold yourself and try to guess the variety

What more can you do with your apples? You tell me. The most important thing is to be mindful that we are in apple season. Relish it!

This is Autumn!

A Plan for Autumn

A Plan for Autumn

Are you an endless summer person or one who is ready for Autumn? Recently, I was reading an article in the NYT about exactly this point in the year. It’s an important moment in the year.

During the regular years of the past, children are actually heading back to school, parents are returning to the hum of their lives with their children preoccupied for the better part of weekdays, we are turning over the closets to our sweaters and boots, apple cider and comfort foods are back in vogue, and all of us can feel the holidays coming — Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas — that is if you live in America and celebrate these holidays.

This year, this moment feels fraught. COVID is still alive and kicking around our communities. Although there is a degree of freedom that most of us did not have in the spring, it’s still advised to maintain distance, stay quarantined in your pod, and restrict what you are doing in the world. If you aren’t restricting it, somewhere guidelines are. So, now, it feels even more poignant to leave the carefree good weather days of summer where outdoor patio dining makes you feel somewhat safe to go out to eat, social distance picnics and camping kept us in real contact with others (goodbye Zoom for awhile!), and it just felt good to exercise outdoors!

So, what is your plan for Autumn? How are you going to approach this moment in the calendar year? Perhaps you are hanging on to dear life to these last days of summer? Perhaps you are already enjoying the pumpkin drinks at the coffee shop? Perhaps you are betwixt and between? It’s a moment to mark and to make a plan.

It’s going to be a different Autumn — many of the traditional activities are nil or on-line, flu season is almost here and so taking care is going to be extra important, we are moving into news media central with an election on in America this November – how will you take care, rejuvenate, stay connected, but also have space and time for you.

It’s time to make your plan for Autumn. May there be many magical moments even as we lose light and the air chills.

Puppy Love

Puppy Love

Puppy Love — it’s real!

It seems everywhere I look around my neighborhood there are puppies. During this COVID pandemic I have heard it’s a thing – getting a puppy – and now I know it is true. I walk anywhere and there is a six month old puppy walking along her happy owner. Perhaps you are one of these people who got a pup at the beginning of quarantine.

And what lucky puppies they are. Everyone is at home with hardly a thing to do. What could be a better time to enjoy a puppy and give time to play, walk, train, and be with puppy. I think our little animal friends can provide a calming effect on people as we deal with these odd times. Instead of focusing on all that feels blocked and off this year, puppy gives us something to focus on and enjoy in the here and now — allowing us to be in the present moment rather than getting into thoughts of an anxious future.

Only thing — puppy costs quite a bit these days. Specialized diet, toys, training, vet bills, possibly insurance, and more — it is a significant expense to undertake a puppy who becomes a dog for the long term. So, keep this in mind. Second, keep in mind your schedule. If you are working from home for the foreseeable future, this may not be a problem, but it’s important to note your schedule and how it may change. And when it does, what will happen to puppy? Keep this in mind too.

Outside of the considerations, pets help regulate us and our own emotions, help us remain in the present, and ease our anxiety as they grow into this fun world. For them, it is fun. Keep the puppy love going and take some advice from our little furry friends.

Everything is going to be alright!

Book Review: Before the Ever After

Before the Ever After Book

Happy Football Season! Well, it doesn’t really feel like the season at all with curtailed seasons under the COVID pandemic. Yet, it is still the start of Autumn and with that, if you are in America, football is called to mind. I guess it may be the season that has me so intrigued by Jacqueline Woodson’s latest book Before the Ever After.

It’s a novel about a boy and his father, but not just any father. ZJ has a football star for a Dad. He is beloved by the kids in the neighborhood and to many millions more. He is an athletic star. Life is good and glorious — until it is not. The book moves into exploring his Dad’s CTE diagnosis when he stops remembering and starts forgetting their lives.

It’s an interesting topic to take on quite frankly. In America, we hold up our athletes as invincible heroes on and off the playing field. Most of us know, by now, how dangerous playing football is to the health of the players, but no one is around when their health declines. We are around to watch them play. Yes, even though we know they are risking their health and lives, we show up and watch them play week in and week out.

Once their glory days have passed, we often hear a news headline that somebody or other that we once cheered for with all of our hearts is now ill with a diagnosis like CTE. We feel bad, but our attention has flitted to the next great athlete on the field. This is why I think this book is edgy, as it takes you into the life of the family that has to deal with their glory days being over and how it is to live with someone so crippled by memory issues. All of a sudden it’s not the glory days the family yearns for, but the person who made those days up.

For our society that worships sports stars without a care toward their future ill health, this is a great book to begin to extend our understanding and empathy toward the consequences of these games we so cherish. This is a perfect book to give your middle school child and a great one to read together. There is a lesson from ZJ and his Father for all of us.

Sound Limiting

Sound Limiting
Find your inner quiet this fall at home

I was reading an interesting article in the NYT, Can You Hear Yourself Think? It focuses on the idea of sound limiting, a way to limit the sounds around you so you can actually find peace and quiet in your mind during the days.

Although strict quarantine has lifted, most people are working and schooling at home this fall. There are still many limits on our time away from home and most of our time where we need to be focusing we are in noisy environments at home. The dog barks, the cat purrs, the neighbor is having construction done on their home, the kids are fighting as they school, your spouse is on a Zoom work meeting, the doorbell rings — and those are just the noises off the top of my head.

This article rightfully points out that Sound Proofing is super expensive and full of renovation costs. However, there is another idea where you can seek to limit the sounds around you. Perhaps there is a room in the house where it is designated as quiet. No noise no matter what. Noise cancelling headphones can take a lot of the noise away. Scheduling quiet hours for you and your family, designating a specific time to be quiet. Using inside voices together.

A good idea before all the madness at home begins this fall is to come up with a plan. Reflect on what made the home noisy this past spring and tackle these one at a time making a plan to reduce as much noise as possible for all members of your family. There will be noises that cannot be avoided, like the doorbell ringing, but some of this can be solved with a little planning.

Peace and quiet is often essential when it’s time to focus. Plan!