Everyday Joys during the Summer of 2020

scrabble tile spell out summer on the beach

Regardless of our circumstances, everyone around the world has been affected in some way by the Covid-19 pandemic. The losses and changes are too numerous to count and the number of people who have died is tragic. There’s so much happening right now that is out of our control. 

As I have said to my son many times, “Everyone has challenges. You don’t get to choose what they are, but you do get to choose how to deal with them.”  

Ok, so that was super easy to say when everything was going well, and the challenges were different than they are now. Because right now, it’s incredibly hard for most people to motivate and dig deep to find those strengths that help us deal with all of the uncertainty swirling around this pandemic, the awakening to systemic racism, our present and our future. 

Looking for Inspiration

I’m inspired by the Academy Award-winning movie “Life is Beautiful” with Robert Benigni. He plays a father, who uses his joy and creativity to help protect his son from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. I’m not comparing this pandemic with the Holocaust, I’m simply looking for inspiration for how to deal with the current challenges.

As a nurse, I have seen more than my fair share of tragedy and in the past felt burned out, angry, and traumatized, but this pandemic and the social upheaval is unlike anything any of us have ever encountered before. I think of myself as pretty resilient and yet, I’m challenged by all the things that are happening right now; it feels like layer upon layer of loss and wave after wave of uncertainty that sap energy and joy. 

As Brené Brown said in one of her first Unlocking Us podcasts, we are all in the midst of an FFT: F’ing First Time or the PG-rated version: TFT: Terrible First Time.  I like that! Thank you Brené for providing a label I can relate to. 

Finding Meaning

It’s easy to feel the weight of all of this and become bogged down or feel so overwhelmed that we just freeze and do nothing.  Well, as tempting as that is, I’ve found that my antidote to depression and to giving up, is to stop and look around, noticing the abundance and beauty in life that surrounds us. This for me is hope, the antidote to throwing in the towel and staying in bed all day. 

When I worked as a nurse in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU, and encountered day after day of tragedy, I kept that near and referred back to his story for explanations and inspiration from Viktor Frankl’s Book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Ahhh, there it was, a written account from a Holocaust survivor, that life indeed does go on. One of my favorite quotes from that book 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

For me in the PICU, that meant changing my perspective, being more in the moment, and noticing the grace in moments when families gave us the gift of being present with them and caring for their sick child. And, it helped me provide the “little things” like brushing someone’s hair, having a frozen popsicle at the ready, a cool cloth for a forehead, a gentle hug, warm smile, favorite foods, a game for distraction and being 100% in the moment, enjoying those experiencees.

Mindfulness and Meditation

As I’ve practiced and practiced mindfulness and meditation, I can honestly say that it is possible to have joy in seeing more birds at the feeder, clearer skies, and noticing the budding trees and spring flowers when I walk. I am grateful for the food in the fridge and pantry and feel inspired by neighbors dropping off hand-sewn masks for providers and front-line workers. When friends drop off bags of groceries for distribution to families without an income, or people dig deep and donate to FAME Hospital in Tanzania, it’s a reminder that we are all connected and yes, we will come through this together.

I am an optimist, and I do sometimes notice that the worst comes out in some of us, some of the time, and yet the best is also on display.

So, every morning, I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that I am lucky. I am grateful to be here, breathing, and healthy. I love so many people and feel loved in return. Then I settle into a guided meditation or mindfulness, which is how I practice being 100% present and try to breathe into the moment, hopefully being less reactive and more thoughtful.

Some moments are much more difficult than others, from helping my nephew with hospice care for his terminally ill father to providing support to a friend whose child has Covid-19 and is in the ER all alone. I have to remind myself to breathe, to keep living my life with the values that I believe in. Being kind, empathetic, and supportive. Keep breathing, even though the feelings are difficult and the uncertainty is unnerving. Some things in life are and should be difficult and it’s ok. It’s ok to feel them and let them wash over you, not judge yourself, but be as kind to yourself as you are to others. 

And some moments are joyful just because they are ordinary and don’t have to be over the top or be social media worthy to be lovely and full of life. From tasting the sweetness of spring strawberries and walking along a path, to showing a newly pregnant mom her baby on an ultrasound and talking to my son on the phone. 

What are you doing to find and savor everyday joys?

Days 14 to 19: You Vs. COVID-19 Challenge

the bluebird in my yard

In addition to these new challenges, keep on drinking 2 glasses of water each morning and getting your exercise. Pre-decide your healthy snacks and try to get a few minutes of mindfulness or meditation in as well ask keeping your sleep routine, sparking joy with creativity and keep on being of service.

Have you been so inspired by pushing out of your comfort zone that you’re doing a home improvement project or are studying ballet on-line? I hope you’re still practicing affirmations and have incorporated more plant-based meals in addition to doing core exercises which also helps boost your resiliency.

Day 14: Coloring or Drawing to Tap into Your Feelings 

Sometimes words fail us, which is one reason that coloring, drawing and art therapy is a powerful way for people to express themselves without words. Research has found that choosing colors, creating patterns and working with your hands helps reduce anxiety, intrusive and negative thoughts and helps diminish the fight or flight reactions that may be troubling.

Focusing our thoughts on colors and creativity and is a calming activity that has been used for years, it provides a sort of mental canvas to work out and process feelings. 

Resources:

The Kennedy Center is sponsoring Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmzjCPQv3y8&t=13s

Dover Coloring Books: https://www.doverpublications.com/cb001/index.html?s1=Colornews2&s2=NewSite-Various&s3=cb001&s5=colornews2

Day 15: Taking a Photo of Nature to Remind You of Our Interconnectedness 

I discovered a pair of Western Bluebirds in my backyard about 5 weeks ago, which sparked my interest in creating a safe place in my backyard for all sorts of birds. Before I knew it, I was purchasing live mealworms, setting up a sunflower feeder, filling up a birdbath, and buying suet by the case, and that’s in addition to the 3 birdhouses and 2 hummingbird feeders. 

The truth is, we are all connected by the air, water, and earth that surrounds us.  We don’t have to go on an African safari or Alaskan cruise to see wildlife, it’s all around us: Flowers, squirrels, and birds in any park. It’s just a start. 

Just as you slow down and focus on your breath in meditation, slowing down, being still and quiet while you’re out will inevitably attract your attention to the beauty of the natural world. 

I hope you’ll share your photos.

Day 16: Listening to a New Podcast to Expand Your Perspective

Broadening your perspective is like peering into a new dimension.  You may be surprised at what you find. 

Look for a topic that you know nothing about or something you normally dismiss. Maybe it’s Italian Opera or Japanese baseball. The list is endless. Just commit to something interesting and dive in at least for 1 hour. 

Here are some suggestions:

Song Exploder: For all of us who wonder how a song was made or the meaning behind it. You might listen to Will Butler from Arcade Fire or Ramin Djawadi who wrote the theme song for Game of Thrones.

The Black Guy who Tips: A hilarious married couple, Rob and Karen keep it real and cover current events and celebrity issues.  

Stuff You Should Know: Explains everything that you never thought about before

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Very informative and thorough information explained in a way that makes sense.

.

Day 17: Reaching Out to Remind You the Value of Connection

Staying connected during the Covid-19 pandemic has many important benefits. People who are isolated are more likely to be depressed, angry, self-medicate, and indulge in less than healthy habits like smoking and using too much alcohol, all of which can weaken the immune system.

Reaching out and extending yourself to a neighbor, to someone you see walking the same path every day or to an old friend helps build a network of community, more love, compassion, and the very real sense that we’re in this together. 

Suggestions for Covid vulnerable neighbors

Leave some flowers from your garden in front of their door

Offer to pick up groceries, prescriptions 

Drop-off a meal or snack

Offer to walk their dog, mow their lawn or put out the trash

Day 18: Strolling Through a Virtual Museum, Aquarium or Garden Tour Online to Nourish Your Soul

Art, music and dance are all part of nourishing and nurturing more health and wellness.  Take a stroll through a museum or garden to delight your senses and expand your thinking. 

No matter where you are, you can have a virtual tour of many museums including:

 The Louvre in Paris (https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne#tabs

The American Museum of Natural History: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/american-museum-of-natural-history?hl=en

The Georgia Aquarium has live webcams for the tanks with Whale sharks and Beluga whales: (https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/ocean-voyager/ )

The Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel: http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.html

Where will you go? Leave a comment or link to your favorite discovery.

Day 19: Reviewing your Notebook to Remind You of Your Limitless Potential

Has it really been 19 days? This has been so much fun!

I’m so grateful that you’ve come along on this 19 day journey.

Today, I’m inviting you to take a look at your notebook and see all the healthy and protective routines that you started, and hopefully are continuing. I hope you feel stronger, more rested, recharged and are seeing joy in small things.

I hope you’ve enjoyed healthier snacks and more movement and that it’s easier to sit quietly for a few minutes of mindfulness or meditation.

All of this will serve you well in the coming months and will help you live more fully in the present, developing more resilience, health, and wellness.  Take care!