paper boat with red sail floating on water – thanks to Zolotarevs Shutterstock
Cultivate a Flexible, Curious and Adaptable Mind
It seems to me that at times like these we need to be able to adjust our plans on a moment’s notice. I find I cannot make a plan for one week and keep it. Too many things pop up, including my own resistance to thinking I need to work as though nothing has changed, when in fact everything has changed.
I hear that “everyone” is now baking bread, although I am not one of those. Toilet paper is not the only empty shelf in grocery stores, so are the flour aisles. Flour Mills have altered their production to try and keep up with demand. It could be comfort; nostalgia; a reluctance to risk going out to purchase fresh bread or a return to pioneering norms as we hole up inside to protect ourselves against the virus, outside.
No matter what the reason, things have changed for all of us. And I think it’s important to deliberately set aside time to do more of the things that lift our spirits. We may enjoy getting that basement cleaned out after five straight days of zoom conferences and meetings. But the novelty of this kind of satisfaction is bound to wear off, especially with spring in the air. To shore up our resolve to self isolate, we might be better off to look for beauty in all of its forms: gardens, books, art, music, sewing, photography, woodworking, writing, poetry, to name but a few of the many ways to find and create beauty. And yes, de-cluttering is part of finding beauty as we intentionally make space to create.
But even more, I suggest we need to do things ourselves that can absorb and transport us into what scholar Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow- a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities we enjoy. He asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about the state of “flow,” such as art, play, music and work. Obviously, while learning a new skill we rarely slip into flow, even though we can be fully absorbed in the activity, but we all have had the experience where we are so absorbed in something we love that we completely lose track of time.
This can happen to me when I work with my photos creating slide shows and finding just the right music. I don’t make the time to do this very often, but when I do, I love it. It also happens when I build a collection of poetry and look for a photo to go with each poem. Hours disappear without a blink. Or when I take the time to sit down at the piano and teach myself how to play again. Stress falls off my shoulders and I can disappear into those moments. And always when I am working with Living Well with Illness, whether it is on or off line.
So, as we go along, I find that I need to keep adapting my plans. What holds true a week ago doesn’t work now. Although my early morning routine holds steady, I discover I now need three shorter walks a day rather than one long walk. So this week, directly following my 8:00 meditation, I take a 30ish minute brisk walk to get my day off to the best start. Probably has a lot to do with the spring sunshine and the need to break out of confinement, while still following the rules.
I am curious, seeing my own inability to hold steady to any one plan. But as we get new information, including the change of weather, we need to experiment. My heart is giving big hints that it needs time for moodling. My brain wants time to try new things, and so I experiment. What do I/we do that brings more energy, joy and satisfaction? What times of the day do I/we need a boost or do we need a rest? I am not suggesting that we become so self absorbed that all we do is run experiments on ourselves. Yet, I am suggesting that we pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.
We may find lots of satisfaction in reaching out to others at this time. Video chats; cards in the mail (while it is still operating;) a few homemade cookies dropped off in a friend’s mailbox. Maybe we can invite a friend to join us in an online yoga class. I recently heard of a son living in a different city from his Mother, who orders a variety of delivery dinners for his Mom, who has a compromised immune system. Time to notice friends and family who live alone. Generosity and thoughtfulness are known spirit boosters.
Did you know that local garden shops are all going online with curbside pickup? Business is booming!! It is kind of like the bread baking. We need food and we can grow our own. What a novel idea for many city dwellers. I am hoping that Community Gardens will be considered an essential service, and I hope everyone who can has some kind of garden. Let’s face it growing a few vegetables, herbs and flowers is good for our spirits, bodies, mind and heart.
You know, dear readers, that I am all for learning new things. If you want to learn Greek and can do it, now, is the best time to find others online who will happily join you. Yet, remember to cut yourself some slack. We don’t need to devote ourselves to being constantly productive. People who work from home often have longer hours, and it is equally important to carve out time for hobbies. If you don’t have any, well, now is the time. Create, share the beauty, smile as you keep your distance, and have a good laugh everyday. We need medicine for our spirits and it is often found in the arts and humanities, and in our hands. Perhaps we will rediscover what we have lost as we reevaluate our lives in light of covid-19.
It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from The Little Prince
Note 1:) Watch for a very special blog post on Monday the 13th. This is my Mother’s 100th birthday, and as we all know there will be no party. Coincidentally, this day will be my 100th blog post as well, so it seems ordained that these two occasions can come together. It will be all about her. (sorry, Mother, who I know will soon read these words)
Note 2:) Here is a beautiful little lesson in painting watercolour flowers I first found it on my friend Patricia’s FB page many months ago. I am definitely setting time aside for this.
Note 3:) I LOVE this photo of the paper boat on water. I first saw it in Atlantic Monthly illustrating an interesting article on poetry. (OK, since you insist, here is the link to Poetry is Everywhere) I noted where they purchased it and got my own copy from Shutterstock. I find it the perfect photograph for these times. It’s made of paper and floating in water; how long can it last? It represents my ever changing daily plans and is beautiful, mysterious, adventuress, playful and somehow holds the possibility of surprise. I think we need all of that as we navigate our way through this pandemic.
Note 4:) I keep forgetting to give you this excellent article: What Cancer Patients Can Teach us About Surviving the Corona Virus Pandemic by Andre Picard