In this strange, new world, there are things I hear myself thinking that I never have before.
Who else touched this?
There’s a lot of people in that car.
Am I going to die of the Coronavirus?
That one comes up kind of a lot because I have a lung thing. I’m healthy and I take good care of myself, but sometimes even healthy people get infections, and this virus doesn’t seem to discriminate. I take comfort in hearing that most of the people who die from it have other health issues, and I don’t have other issues. I just have a lung thing.
I was born with my esophagus attached to my windpipe. No one could really explain to my parents how that happened, but luckily they were able to notice it right away and within five hours of being born, I was in surgery. One of the long-term side effects of the procedure that fixed me is a condition called bronchiectasis, which is the result of airways being damaged, putting you at higher risk of infection. Mine were damaged by having surgery on them. So, growing up I got pneumonia quite a lot, and even now when the pollen falls I get out the Mucinex. If I get sinus congestion, it invariably moves to my chest, and then if not treated turns into bronchitis, and then pneumonia.
Funny thing is, the doctors told my parents that I would never be very active. So, I really take delight in being a marathon runner, reaching the summit of a 14,000-foot mountain, and stuff like that. But, when I read about people dying from COVID-19, I wonder if I could fight it. I honestly don’t know.
But what I DO know is that for the time being, this is our life now, and I still have jobs and clients and deadlines and all of that. So, as is my way, I got out a notebook and a pen and began making lists.
I made lists of what opportunities I saw in this new lifestyle.
I made lists of my deadlines and work projects that needed to be completed and by when.
I made lists of the projects around the house that needed doing.
I made lists of what things I needed to think about.
Then, I made a schedule. Well, I made about four schedules! I made one that was all work, broken down by hour and task. Then I crumpled that up and tossed it out. Too rigid, not realistic. My next schedule was too unstructured. Finally made a schedule that I thought I would use, which included time for exercise in the morning, then set times to be at my desk working, and time to wrap it up and make dinner.
And then, that evening, I corralled my boys out for a walk around the circle that we live on. The weather was nice and breezy, and there was a calmness in the air, as if the earth was at peace. It was quiet. Really, really quiet. And as I watched my boys walking ahead of me and thought about what to make for dinner, the right schedule came to my mind.
This is an opportunity to completely change the way we live. I’ve craved a simpler life for a long time, and I have it now. It’s more complicated in some ways, but soon we will get work figured out and fall into new patterns. But I am curious to see what we don’t spend money on anymore, and how we benefit from more sleep. Our mornings can be slower, since we don’t have to rush out of the door to get to school by 8:30 am. I can do the things that usually get put off for the weekends, because I’m not driving all over creation every day. So I made a new schedule.
Personal exercise just for me.
Breakfast on the porch and checking in with my online group.
Morning couch to 5k workout with my boys.
Work projects and clients, prioritized for the day.
Lunch followed by yoga or guitar practice.
Second half of work projects.
House projects, one each day, indoors and out.
Evening walk with my boys.
TV time and in bed by 9.
Now THAT is a day I feel at peace with. Just having it on paper makes me feel more calm, organized, and energized. I encourage you to do the same - what opportunities do you see? What can you delete and bring in? What would be your ideal day, and what is stopping you from living it?
If you need a little motivation and accountability to make this happen for you, join us in The Good Life.
I know I am not the only one hammering out a blog post about COVID-19. So, I won’t pretend like I have brilliant advice that you or someone else haven’t already thought about. Many of us are in similar circumstances: suddenly housebound, contemplating homeschooling, overwhelmed with suggestions and resources, wavering between staying away from others and rushing out to help, and wondering how long it will go on. Oh, and there’s that thing about needing a paycheck!
Yesterday was pretty chaotic at my house. I had interviews to conduct, requiring active listening followed by creative writing on a deadline. I had administrative work to complete and send to others so they could do their jobs. In the midst of various closures, I needed to make phone calls and coordinate new schedules. My 8-year-old didn’t understand why we were not going on play-dates during spring break, and I felt guilty about my teenager sitting in front of video games all day. By the end of the day, I was emotionally and physically spent. Then, our pet fish died. I mean, come on!
We don’t know how long this virus is going to last or when things will get back to “normal.” But, like in my post last week about the three columns - what we can control, what we can’t, and where we are still okay - that doesn’t mean we are without any structure at all.
I laughed along with everyone else at the meme of the color-coded schedule. Mostly because I was absolutely the mom thinking that I’d make a schedule for my kids. Then I realized how completely naive that was but, today I made one. Although, it’s more of a loose framework; a to-do list that makes sure we check off the boxes of Life As We Knew It.
On my list: go running, email my best friend, meet my deadlines, and practice guitar.
For my kids: music practice, reading, a walk and some time outside doing I don’t care what until I can think again.
It’s Day 1, and it’s only 10:30, but so far it feels like a regular day off of school and I am a lot more calm. And when I am calm, everything is better. What brings you calm? What do you need to do each day to feel grounded and “normal”? Make yourself a list, and do them.
I’m an optimist, and I do believe that there will be a day relatively soon when we turn the corner and are able to loosen the restrictions that we have placed on ourselves in order to contain this virus and make it easier for medical professionals to do their work. Between now and then, there will be days when we do a great job and days when we aren’t at our best, just like before. If you're in need of an online community, join us in The Good Life! We set goals together, offer group accountability and I share ideas of how you can stay level and ride the wave. We are going to be okay!
It's not unusual these days to be reminded of the difference between what we can control and what we can't.
I remember my mom advising me when I was a kid to not worry about things I couldn't control. In my cocky youth, I thought I could control anything if I worked hard enough! Right? Wrong.
Accepting that I could not control things just because I was a hard worker was discouraging. Can't anything be possible with hard work and perseverance?
There was good news, of course. A third category exists: things that can happen and I am still ok.
It took a while for that list to develop, but in time I began to learn that some things in the list of things I can't control weren't necessarily things I had to deal with or accept in spite of my plans, but that in fact they didn't have to be anything at all.
Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that circumstances beyond our control are something to be tolerated or endured. Even acknowledging them feels like a pain. "I can't control what so-and-so says, I can only control my response." Sound familiar?
Thinking ahead about how so-and-so might say something annoying sets the expectation that not only will that happen, but that it will be bad and you'll have to respond positively. That thought took energy, and since it was a defensive thought, I'm willing to bet it was negative energy.
What if instead, so-and-so and the things they do were in a third column, a category of things that don't affect you at all? Things that are allowed to exist without you having an opinion about them?
How much energy would that save? How much energy would that free up for fun things, for creative thinking, for your own peace of mind?
Give it a try this week. Instead of categorizing events as things you either can or cannot control, let them be in the third column of things that are okay. Then, when they happen, just say "okay." Or "great." Or nothing.
Now I know what you're thinking. Not everything is okay, Heather! I know, but that's okay too. With patience and practice, when those things come up, you won't be able to say "okay" and feel okay about it. Then you'll know it's something you really have to deal with. And even then, it will be okay.
There will always be things we can control and things we can't. And there are things that just are. Open up the third column, and see who is really in control.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!