Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Learning To Be Still

Do the noises in your head ever get so loud that you can no longer hear yourself think? Not to worry, I'm not losing it, but there are nights when my brain seems like it's on overload. We tend to replay the events of our day in our mind. We re-listen to a conversation over and over, word by word. We wonder about what we could have done differently or better. We plan ahead. We make mental lists. Don't even get me started about the nights when insomnia has settled in and lets you know that it's not going anywhere and you won't be getting any sleep any time soon.

What do you do? Do you get up and take a walk around the house in the dark hoping to reset? Do you wander into the other room and read on the couch or turn the TV on for a distraction? Maybe get a drink of water?

For me, this happens more often at night, but there are also days when my head is spinning from storing up too much information at one time. I find that I need to search for the quiet and learn to be still. Sometimes it's the only way to clear my head. Where I work we have a memorial garden behind the church building. It's a great place to sit on a bench and watch the squirrels run around and listen to the many birds chirp their afternoon songs. It can be just the distraction I need. I need to seek out the quiet. It's only then that I'll be able to take a deep breath and listen to myself breathe. I need to learn to be still more often and try to block out the noise and the distractions. I know my heart and my gut will guide me and I trust those instincts (well most of the time anyway), but I also know that I need to be able hear my own internal voice.

If you're feeling a little overwhelmed (and who isn't at some point?) then make some purposeful time for yourself. Be selfish. Take a walk. Go for a ride in the car. Sit outside and just close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Give yourself permission to take a time out. You'll find the right time or place where you can find your stillness and then you'll be able to hear what's most important.

Where do you find your inner peace?

Is it a place or something you do?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Are People Losing Interest?

It's been more than a year since everyone's lives changed dramatically due to the Covid pandemic. Our schedules and daily routines changed, where we work from changed for some (now the make-shift home office or dining room table), what we wear while we work changed (forget the khakis - it's all about jeans and leggings and t-shirts), our eating habits changed (with the occasional treat of picking up a carry out), and some of us saw some different numbers appearing on our bathroom scale. 

We've learned to adapt and adjust when necessary. We had to temporarily quit doing some of the things we always liked to do; social gatherings, going to church in-person, birthday parties, etc. Some things are starting to return to our routines, but slowly and in ways that seem a little different. Restaurants can offer indoor dining, but with a 50% capacity. We still wear face masks where required. We've started going back to church with socially distanced pews, but we miss sharing the peace and giving hugs ... but we'll get there.

As things have changed we have to wonder how much WE have changed in the process. I've heard it said that once you do something OR not do something for three weeks it becomes a habit. It makes you wonder if people will get too used to their new routines and the dos and don'ts that were thrust upon them. Will they lose interest in the things and people that once meant so much to them? Will previous extroverts now become introverts because it's easier? Or will we understand that the changes were merely choices we were forced to make and be willing to go back to our previous 'normal'?

Right or wrong, I have now had both doses of my Covid vaccine and waited out my two week post-shot period. I'm sure that the first time I meet up with other friends who are also vaccinated without a mask will seem a little apprehensive and risky; kind of like taking the leap into the deep waters of the pool. We'll just have to hold our breath and do it to get past it.

I have faith that with time we will get past it and remember our former selves. It's the only choice I have because I refuse to adapt to a 'new normal' with no timeline. I want more than that for all of us. We deserve more than that. I will continue to make the best choices I can for myself and my family and hope that it will be enough.

What is the biggest thing you've missed during the pandemic?

Have you resumed doing anything specific and how was it for you?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Don't Pretend To Be An Expert

Some days our world seems a little crazier than other days. I wish I knew the answer to the big WHY questions. Why is the pandemic still going? Why aren't things back to normal? Why are some companies having a hard time hiring employees? Why don't some people want to work? Covid has become the convenient excuse when we don't have a good answer. Why are gas prices going up? ... must be because of Covid. Why are we encouraged to still wear masks in public? ... must be because of Covid. Why does it take longer these days to build a new house? ... must be because of Covid.

We are constantly dealing with unknowns, lots of questions, and often misdirection ... from the media, from our leaders, and even the people we know. We can ask Siri anything we want to know anytime we want to know it. We have technology at our fingertips, which for some reason seems to make us think we're suddenly experts on everything. Either that or many people have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and feel a lot smarter (at least that's what the commercials suggest).

Information is a good thing when we use it in proper context and do our research, but when we only tap the surface and then run with the information we can become an unnecessary roadblock. A lot of people have become too quick to offer their advice and sometimes to total strangers who never asked for their input. Opinion is one thing, but offering up self-defined lines of what is right and what is wrong is something else entirely.

Just a suggestion; research the Internet all you want and begin building your information foundation, but before you begin offering up free advice to other people imagine walking in someone else's shoes for a moment and then decide if your 'advice' will be welcomed and well received or not. If it's the latter, then it might be best to keep your 411 on the downlow for a while.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Hope Of Spring

We've had primarily great weather over the last week. We've had days filled with blue skies and sunshine, afternoons with a slight breeze, and thanks to the time change evenings with extended daylight offering up opportunities for a walk after dinner. Of course, it's still Michigan weather so with this time of year anything goes. The temperatures could change 25 degrees during a 24-hour period. Nonetheless now that we are officially entering the spring season, I find myself hopeful.

The winter was a long one, perhaps due to the pandemic and limited visits with friends and family. Outdoor dining and driveway visits just weren't happening unless you waved at a neighbor while shoveling snow off of the sidewalk.

Spring brings Lent, renewed hope, and an array of opportunities. I find my spirits lifted when I get to leave my desk in the late afternoon and take a walk around the parking lot. Working in a church has been extremely lonely these past twelve months with having the majority of our ministries and services being held virtually. Technology is great when it works, but there's nothing like actually seeing people in person. We aren't quite to the hugging stage, but we will get there. We miss social interaction. We miss human contact. We miss verbal communication in person.

In the autumn we have cider mills, pumpkin patches, Thanksgiving and Christmas to look forward to (even though this past season was limited). But once we get into January and February in Michigan the days can seem darker; it's dark when I leave for work and dark when I return home and pull my car into the garage. Yet, we are resilient and we've learned to get through it. Now spring is here and there is a renewed sense of hope; more daylight, slightly warmer temperatures, and outdoor walks again.

If you're still feeling dragged down (physically or emotionally) from the winter, know that you are definitely not alone. Walk with me and take some baby steps that will help you re-engage. Do a little spring cleaning. Make some plans for the summer; plan a getaway that you feel comfortable with, think of some ideas and ways to spruce up your landscaping, or simply take a walk and look for inspiration. Last week I found myself walking through a local garden center just to see the patio set ups and the colorful flower pots.

I know many of us have gotten used to being more isolated during this pandemic. I know that I will have to ease myself slowly back into indoor dining (it's been more than a year since I've eaten inside of a restaurant). It's all about baby steps. Every day that the weather is nice, push yourself to go outside even if you have no particular place to go. Go for a walk or a drive with the windows rolled down.

Life will improve from the way that it's been. So get out there and enjoy the spring weather and be reminded of the hope of the season.

What are you getting back to that you've missed?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Don't Let IT Win

One year ago we were presented with an unheard of Covid pandemic, lots of new restrictions and requirements, and an immediate lock down. Kids started virtual learning at home rather than going to school, many parents started working their jobs remotely, and the store shelves were mostly void of Lysol wipes and toilet paper. We were told not to leave our homes or see our families, but if we did have to leave to go to the grocery store we were to remain six feet apart and wear masks at all times while in public.

Last March we were told it would last three weeks and people were skeptical about whether or not they could even manage to wear a mask that long. People whined and complained and finger pointed and shared strong opinions on social media (after all, what else can you do from home after you've organized your closets and cleaned your basement, lol). Wow, a whole year has gone by and wearing masks outside of your home has become the new norm. Twelve long months can certainly help you gain some perspective.

Now as three vaccines are slowly becoming available and some people have been fortunate enough to get their shots in the arm, the hope of society gaining some herd immunity is a light in our tunnel. 

There's a saying that suggests if you do something for three weeks it has the ability to become a habit (good or bad). Most people continue to wear their masks in public to reduce the spreading of the virus, something many didn't think they'd be able to stick with a year ago. But there are other aspects of the pandemic to look at as well. We've stayed home, we've stayed out of restaurants and public places, many have been forced to stay out of church (in-person). The truth is that the longer you stay away from something the harder it is for some to go back. There's a sense of excitement for some that things will automatically be like they used to be once they walk back through the doors of their church or office or movie theatre. But for other people they've become so used to being isolated that the idea of being back around people again has become immobilizing. They're nervous and rightfully so. The reality is that the longer we wait to call someone or go somewhere or do something we used to do, the easier it will be for our minds to tell us that we've done fine without it and just don't need it in the same way as we used to.

Please don't let IT win. By IT, I mean the worry, the self-doubt, and the fear. Whatever you have been yearning to get back to, make plans to do it. It's perfectly okay to take baby steps and reacclimate in a way that makes you most comfortable. We didn't ask for the pandemic or the lockdowns or the lack of socializing or conversations with friends and family. We didn't ask for extroverts to be guilted into becoming introverts by forcing them to isolate themselves. This process has taken way longer than three weeks, so it's natural for it to take longer to get back to where we want it to be.

For those who miss seeing their grandkids more regularly or their friends or co-workers in person (anything other than Zoom calls and video chats), know that it will come. Now you need to start preparing yourself for when it does. Don't let your fear and worry dictate to you that it's better for you to give up and close yourself off. Don't let IT win.

How are you faring these days?

What things are you most looking forward to getting back to?

What have you found you've done fine with giving up?

Friday, February 19, 2021

Starting Fresh

February 2021 is turning out to be a snowy month here in the mitten, but also across the U.S. including the southern states. The last year has been full of Covid stress, political chaos, surprises (some good, some not), and many changes. With change all we can do is adapt the best we can. It doesn't mean we have to like all of the changes, but we have to learn to live with them. In the last twelve months I have gone to work every day to a primarily lonely empty building. My family has seen very few people outside of our bubble. My sleep patterns have progressively gotten worse, my hairline has thinned out, I've lost a little weight (not necessarily a bad thing)  ... but on the bright side I've saved money and been thrifty, I've read a few books, and I've accomplished some pretty detailed PBN paintings. Like I said there is the good and the bad. The important thing is to find a balance you can handle.

So what does any of this have to do with there being snow outside? Perhaps nothing, but as I drove down the street this morning I was in awe with the fresh couple of inches of snow we got last night. It's sparkling and amazing! The snow was layered delicately on the bushes and tree branches. It gave me a fresh outlook on my day. It covered the grey and doom and gloom I've been feeling and gave me a sense of hope and a new day with a new start. I know it will melt and the dirty slush will appear again soon, but for right now I am enjoying the moment. 

Wherever you are today (geographically, mentally, or spiritually) ... embrace it for what it is. Make a choice to either let it run your life for you or decide what you can do to make it what you want. Many people feel isolated and out of touch right now, but take a chance and reach out to someone (a family member, a friend, a neighbor). Send a text, an email, or make a phone call; but don't choose to be alone. More importantly, if you find yourself on the receiving end to someone reaching out to you please don't ignore them. Take five minutes or more and talk with them. Your voice and conversation lets them know people still care about them and they don't have to be alone.

Wishing you a wonderful day and bright tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Recognizing The Power of Words

Yesterday was Inauguration Day as our 46th President of the United States was sworn into office. I was working at my day job as an Administrator at our church, and due to our ongoing pandemic restrictions it was like a lot of other days ... productive, but quiet without a lot of human contact or conversation. So as I worked on yearend reports and email communications to our members and visitors I streamed the inauguration on another tab. Pandora music (my usual office companion) would have to wait for another day. Whether you voted for or against our 46th President isn't my concern. Good or bad (depending on your opinion), yesterday was about watching another chapter in the making of our history books. Generations from now people will read about our behavior, our passions, our goals, our accomplishments, and our regrets.

If nothing else 2020 has been a subtle reminder for us all that our actions directly affect each of us and other people. Our motives and follow throughs can make or break long-standing friendships. As a full time church administrator, but more importantly a part time writer I cherish the value of words. I always have. As a sometimes introvert, writing and journaling can become your best friend. It reminds you that you still have a voice and provides you with a platform or release.

Livestreaming the Inauguration I listened to Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks as they shared their voices musically. I listened to various speeches and introductions. I listened to promises being made. And I listened to Amanda Gorman, the youngest known inaugural poet. She was poised and delivered a heartfelt message. Of course there will be those who didn't really listen to her words and will spout words of political parties and ulterior motives. I however recognize the power of words. I watched an interview with her later in the day and found her actions and her words during the interview to be even more powerful as she reflected on her poem, the process of writing it, and her presentation. I thought she did a wonderful job and I found her to be inspirational.

Those that appreciate music hear chords and harmonies that I can never grasp; it's their language. Those that like to read appreciate well written books and find them intriguing and fulfilling. For those like me who appreciate the strength of words I remember daily that words and how and when they are used can impact how you feel and how you make someone else feel. Words can lift a person up and give them needed hope or they can instantly belittle and pull someone down into murky waters of loneliness and depression.

We don't need an Inauguration every four years to remind us of the power of words. We only need to wake up each morning and look in the mirror. Think in your head first and listen to your words carefully before you make the decision to verbally share them.

Because I value good words I will leave you with this quote:

Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.

~ Mahatma Gandhi