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I am a fairly calm person, but these are extraordinary times. It’s natural to feel some anxiety in the middle of a pandemic. The issue isn’t if I will feel unnerved by COVID-19, but rather how I am going to manage my reaction to this global turmoil.

In the past week, I felt like I was coming down with COVID-19 about ten times. Each case lasted about an hour, and each incident could be traced to stress rather than a coronavirus exposure.

Here is what helps me maintain equanimity or re-center when I lose it:

  • Confine the number of times I check the news. I aim for twice a day, but it often creeps to three times. After two sleepless nights, I stopped looking at news after 6 pm. When I hear news in the evening, it interferes with my sleep, which makes me tired the next day, leading to imaginary virus symptoms. 
  • Maintain my health. I participate in some sort of physical activity nearly every day. For those who are completely housebound, browse the internet for exercise programs you can do at home. Some gyms offer free work-outs online. Between yoga, strength-training, and aerobic actives, there are programs for all sorts of fitness levels. YouTube is a great place to find programs.
  • Employ stress-reduction tools and use them often. In addition to my own meditation practice, I participate in a live guided meditation compliments of the folks at Ten Percent Happier. This occurs every weekday at 3pm Eastern and is free. You can listen to previous meditations as well. These meditations are also on YouTube. I look at the news before the meditation; not after.
  • Limit social media. We need each other, and it is essential to connect. However, it is important to balance social media with other activities, especially ones that move the body.
  • Help others. There are all sorts of ways we can help others. Keep in touch with people who live alone or are having a hard time. Donate money to charity.
  • Look for pleasure, beauty, humor, and toilet paper. We need all of these things. There are some fun posts on the web about hand washing songs. When washing my hands, I say a 20-second loving-kindness meditation that not only keeps me safer, I’m holding good thoughts for others. I step outside every day and look at the sky or birds near my house. I’m reading a detective novel, and although I didn’t stock up on t-paper, I have enough for now.

If you are having a hard time, the crisis hotlines are still up and running at 800-273-TALK (8255). If you need help with drinking, drug use, addiction of any kind, or are concerned about a loved one with a substance use problem, there are online meetings in many communities across the country. For information about these, call your area AA, NA, Alanon, etc.

How are you weathering the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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COVID-19 Has Changed the World

In recent news, New York has become an epicenter of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. In a mere three weeks since New York’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the city now has 5 percent of the global number of cases. COVID-19 has changed the world.

COVID-19 Has Changed the World
Image by Elchinator from Pixabay

If any of my regular readers are tuning in, you can see that I am coming out of retirement. Writers need to write, and by returning to blogging, I am doing what I need to do.  I can’t sit around while COVID-19 continues to claim lives, increases fear, and sends the economy in to a nose dive.  I won’t pretend that I can make a difference, but here is what I can do:

  • Provide fact-based, understandable information.
  • Share information about how to manage fear.
  • Offer a set of helping hands, my open heart. and the belief that if we lean on each other, we will get through this.
  • Plant some light-hearted amusement because we all need a break from fear and pain.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge subject, and I confess I am not sure where to start. The most important aspect about this particular coronavirus outbreak is to be sure that we are practicing social distancing. If you still don’t understand why we need to do this now while the number of cases are still seemingly low (and I would argue that we are long past the “low” mark), I’ve provided 3 links. These experts have done a better job than I can to explain this. My short explanation is, isn’t it better to put out a small fire than a larger one? However, you deserve better than a fire analogy, so click below to read more.

Please check back regularly. Up next: How to remain calm during the COVID-19 pandemic

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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Emaho

I was reflecting on my recent blog, and a critical voice kicked in saying, “Who wants to hear how good your life is? Happy people don’t read blogs, Besides, we read blogs to get something.” I couldn’t find a single benefit to be gained from that particular post.

Was my inner critic right? Perhaps, perhaps not.

The perhaps part harkens back to remembering when I was miserable. Twenty years of severe clinical depression and associated mental illness was an ordeal beyond anything I’ve ever endured. Living with hepatitis C for the twenty years following were also hard. I dealt with painful stuff for most of my life, and I survived because of the hope I borrowed from others. A blog about someone’s joy would not have helped me when I was in my darkest hours. Misery does like company.

However, perhaps it’s good to write something joyful from time to time. What good is the insight from misery if I don’t also have happiness? It’s like a stained-glass window. Sometimes the picture in the glass looks brilliant, sometimes dull. The glass remains the same; it’s just the outlook that has changed.

Recently I learned a new word–emaho. It’s a Buddhist word meaning the exclamation of wonder and amazement. Emaho describes my life right now, especially sweet because of the pain that I’ve endured.

I don’t know if my inner critic was correct or not, but I certainly can’t begrudge myself a bit of joy. So, I let the words stand. If nothing else, they illustrate the impermanent nature of things.

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Healthy Play

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

If you have noticed that I haven’t posted anything to my blog for awhile, I hope this hasn’t caused any concern. In fact, the reason for my blog absence is that I am having fun—and a lot of it. I’ve been taking weight lifting classes, learning yoga, and going for long hikes. I bought a kayak, which has been a joy to play with. In short, I have been engaged in healthy play.

Another new activity is that I have been cooking more of the meals in the house. My meat-loving amateur chef-husband has agreed to eat vegetarian, so the least I can do is contribute to the cooking. Although he is willing to grill tofu, it seems that I might benefit from honing my culinary skills.

I’ve also been meditating more.  In short, I have become insufferably healthy and happy.  I feel younger than ever. So much so, that I find myself singing a line from Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages, “Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.”

So, if you don’t hear from me for awhile, it is because I am out getting younger. What are you doing to get younger or healthier?

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Identity Crisis

Image by Ravi Shahi from Pixabay

Motivational speakers sometimes (wrongly) say that the Chinese character for crisis includes the element of opportunity along with danger. Although this appears to be a misinterpretation, I have found that opportunity does often come after a crisis.

I am not in crisis, but I am having a lot of fun shedding my identity. For years, my work gave me purpose. Hepatitis C defined who I was. My R.N. license defined me. Now, I don’t have a regular job. Who am I?

Actually, I don’t really need definition, other than being a person of integrity and compassion. What I mean by that is that I don’t feel attached to any labels. However, if I am going to maintain a website, what is it’s purpose and focus? So far, it seems to be a place to ramble.

I’ve done quite a bit of rambling this week. I turned 66 and decided to try 66 new things this year. I feel curious, adventurous and wild. Nothing is holding me back, other than a 66-year-old body. So, no cartwheels or bungee jumping in my future. However, burpees, planks, long hikes, kayaking and eating oysters are all within reach. I’ve already tried meditating under an oak tree in my yard and went to a film festival. I’ve gone dancing, discovered a new hike, tried two new classes at the gym, and read poetry by poets I’m not familiar with. Today I am going to make risotto for the first time. Learning how to hula hoop is definitely on my list.

As for this website, I think the shape is something that we will do together. On my home page, I wrote that I want to explore the following:

  • What does it mean to be healthy?
  • Can we be in illness, pain, and grief and still be healthy?
  • What are ways we can embrace health, especially when we feel uninspired, lonely, unwell, and out of ideas?
  • Can we talk about death?
  • What are our choices around death?
  • What is fear, and how do we live with it?
  • Are there secrets to life?
  • How do we age well?
  • Can we change, especially when we are older?
  • What does it mean to be fully alive?

Ultimately, what we are exploring is about life and death. These two concepts inhabit the same cell; you can’t have one without the other.

So, come along with me as open the door to wonder. As we travel together, tell me what you discover.

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Rewiring

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

On July 31, 2019, I ended a chapter of my life. I devoted more than 20 years to working with people who had hepatitis C. About half of that time was as a nurse at Stanford Medical Center; all of it was as a writer and outspoken advocate for those affected by a virus that kills more people annually in the United States than all 60 reportable infectious diseases combined.  It was hard to let go, but there are wonderful people doing great things in the hepatitis field; it is a good time to move on.

One might say that I am retiring from hep C work, and that would be accurate. However, I am not retiring from meaningful work. I prefer to use Dr. Ruth’s term ‘rewiring.’ (Dr. Ruth is a famous sex therapist known for her radio show, Sexually Speaking,)

Rewiring means that I am redirecting my energy and time towards other passions, passions that have been there a long time. What are these passions? There’s the rub; there are many, and at my age, I don’t have time to follow them all.

Writing tops the list. Exploring issues around health, aging and death make excellent subject matters. All of this rests on living a life of intention. For me, this means meaningful relationships, living simply and mindfully, giving rather than taking, and spreading as much love as I can.

The particulars will unfold as I explore this process of rewiring. As I do, I would love to hear from you. What are you learning from life? What is working, what isn’t? What is your vision for yourself?  As Mary Oliver wrote in her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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