Another Week of Blursdays

When I started to see photos of ash raining down on my friends in California, I was so confused. Wait. It’s not wildfire season. I mean it’s…what, spring? Winter? 1992? When is it again?

Oh, right. It’s late August.

It’s late August, y’all. As ridiculous as it seems, after weeks and months of consecutive Blursdays, we’ve arrived at the end of summer.

As we all know, things we used to take for granted (e.g., time passing in a familiar way; basic neurological functioning) have been warped by the pandemic. I’ve been at a new job for four months, but my internal clock tells me that it started yesterday, or never. My ability to concentrate lasts anywhere from zero to three seconds. And my baseline emotional state is the unpleasant combination of tension and boredom that I normally associate with watching baseball. The problem is that this game has lasted for 5 months. It’s been well over ten thousand innings, and it just keeps going.

For a mental health worker, it’s a particularly troublesome time. Ordinarily, folks in my field help people identify the disconnect between their anxious/depressed moods and reality, but these days, extreme anxiety and depression are perfectly rational. Pretty much all I can tell people is: Try meditation. There’s a lot to be said for giving yourself permission to think about nothing.

On the upside, my husband and I fell victim to the lure of the Pandemic Puppy, and this little guy has been added to our family:

Say hello to tiny Titus. We’re thinking he’s a Mastiff/Great Dane/Horse/Godzilla mix.

Here’s how he looks on a paddleboard:

And here’s how he looks upside down:

As difficult and annoying as puppies are (and oh, they really are), Titus provides a spark of joy to our stupid, quarantined lives, and for that I am truly grateful.

There have been a few other sparks of joy during this utterly craptastic era. Alicia Bognanno, lead singer of Bully, livestreamed a few shows from her home, and they were amazing. We get to access The Moth’s storytelling events via Zoom. And I’ve seen some really cool mask designs. So there ya go! Three good things. But goddammit, I sure do miss hugging my friends.

In conclusion, I offer the same advice I give myself every day ~

Keep breathing. Drink water. Maintain hope. Be kind to yourself and others.

If you haven’t already, try meditation. It really does help.

And to all of you out in Cali ~ stay safe. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

Virtual hugs to you all. 🤗

Different Boats, Same Advice

I recently listened to a “Self-Care in the Age of COVID-19” talk, and the presenter mentioned something that bothers her about today’s pandemic dialogue. “People keep saying we’re all in the same boat,” she stated, “but that’s not the right metaphor. It’s more accurate to say we’re all in the same storm. We’re in very different boats.” Her words rang true for me, as I’m sure they did for all the mental health workers tuned in to the training. Over the past several weeks, I’ve counseled folks captaining a vast array of boats – from luxurious yachts to driftwood pieces lashed together with twine – all trying to stay afloat through a prolonged, deadly storm.

There’s a lot of advice being batted around on how best to get through this time. “Take the opportunity to deep clean your house and learn a new language!” is often countered with: “Don’t stress about productivity. If you get through the day, you’re doing just fine.” “Go outside and take long walks!” is met with: “If you go outside, someone is definitely going to sneeze straight into your mouth.”

Since the dawn of the pandemic, I’ve landed on just one piece of advice, but I believe it’s a solid one, and there is no true counterargument. It’s simply this:

Breathe in through your nose…

…and out through your mouth.

Breathe in through your nose…

…and out through your mouth.

When negative, intrusive thoughts try to capture your attention, make note of them and put them aside.

Breathe in through your nose…

…and out through your mouth.

In through your nose…

…and out through your mouth.

If you haven’t breathed properly in a long time, by now you probably feel pretty high. But keep going. That’s just oxygen doing its thing.

Breathe in through your nose…

…and out through your mouth.

In through your nose…

…and out through your mouth.

That’s it. Keep breathing. It won’t change our current circumstances, but it will keep you calmer, more rational, and better able to face what comes. In a time full of fears and unknowns, sometimes the simplest actions are the best option we have.