What’s Working (when everything seems broken)

Greetings from my apartment.  Tomorrow will begin week 5 of sheltering in place.  By myself.  I would never, ever have thought I could be alone for 4 weeks without going insane.  What I “counted on” in life has either completely ended or radically changed.  Between the news of the world, concerns for my family and community, and getting laid off, I’m processing A LOT!  Falling back on my grief counseling experience, I am able to remind myself that it’s normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

Here in no particular order are a list of things that seem to be “working” for me – as in they bring me comfort, help keep me sane, elicit gratitude and even joy.  Some of them are contradictory, and some things that work today may not work tomorrow.  I’m sharing these with you with the hope that they may help, or you might laugh and see yourself in these.  And also, I’ve been home, alone for 4 weeks, and I’m tired of talking to myself.

What’s Working:

  • Getting outside every day, taking a walk
  • Not hating myself if I don’t get outside every day and take a walk
  • Smelling spring flowers (jasmine, hyacinth, daffodils = aroma therapy)
  • Finally hanging up the hummingbird feeder gift I got for Christmas
  • Watching the hummingbirds drink from the feeder, live TV
  • Looking for things to be grateful for right as I wake up, reciting them
  • Going for long bike rides
  • Praying for all the people suffering in the world
  • Ton Glen breathing/meditation technique
  • Getting into bed early (like 8pm)
  • Zoom calls
  • Limiting my Zoom calls
  • FaceTime with my mom, staying in “close contact” with her
  • Texting with my kids
  • Checking in daily with a few friends
  • Not beating myself up about my messy desk or laundry pile
  • Laughing at COVID19 memes
  • Hula hooping to dance music
  • Yoga at home and with my Santa Cruz gang on Zoom
  • Thank God for Zoom!
  • Facebook!  Seriously, so beautiful to be able to connect to humans virtually
  • Instagram (see above)
  • Reaching out to old friends (great college roommate zoom hangout the other day!)
  • Dancing in the living room, shaking it
  • Lighting Shabbat candles every Friday night
  • Crying
  • Virtual Seder (so sweet – next year Jerusalem!)
  • Bollywood films on Amazon Prime and Netflix
  • Amazon Prime and Netflix in general
  • Watching short, light, shows due to zero attention span
  • Not judging my TV choices
  • Getting up in the morning and making my bed, so I don’t get back in it at 9am
  • Establishing “order” by keeping the house clean, doing the dishes
  • Cooking delicious and thoughtful meals for myself
  • Freezing the leftovers
  • Being kind when I am not able to maintain the “order” of the house
  • Eating my greens!
  • Taking Bach flower remedy “Star of Bethlehem” for grief and shock
  • Reading stories on Zoom to preschoolers, seeing their faces every day, laughing
  • Checking in on my neighbors (2 lovely women on either side of me, both in their 80’s)
  • Finding out that PG&E reduced my energy bill to $8 this month

What’s Not Working:

  • No attention span for all the offerings (free or paid) on FB and Zoom
  • Really hard for me to meditate right now
  • Can only read a few pages at a time of books (see short attention span)
  • Long Zoom calls (short attention span again, overload)
  • Pep talks on how this is a perfect time to become awesome
  • Missing physical contact with people and animals (missing having a dog!)
  • Missing human contact in general
  • Wishing I could swim (all pools are closed)
  • Grieving all the fun things I had planned that have been canceled.  (I had A LOT of things I was looking forward to)
  • Keeping fruits and veggies fresh (eating them before they go bad)
  • Wondering where/when I will ever be able to buy T.P. again, WTH America?
  • Not sleeping very well at night (lots of thoughts between 2 – 4am)
  • Looking at the FB Group “View From My Window” and comparing my view to everyone else’s

 

What to Do?

 

Roxanna Promo 4

Every day I wake up and read the New York Times on my phone.  I read the California edition.  Almost every day there are stories about the housing crisis in this state; the rising cost of homes and people living on the streets.  Today the news has stories of fires burning and evacuations.  And I am reading with a broken heart about the families that are separated at our border – the children in cages, the mom’s in jail, fleeing violence in their countries, hoping for a better life.  Taking that chance.  It is almost more than my brain and heart can process.

I see friends on Facebook imploring others not to go to sleep.  Stay outraged!  I agree.  Let us not turn our backs on humanity and go numb.  At the same time, let us not beat ourselves up if we cannot be on the front lines.  Look into your heart and ask yourself what can you do right now?  Are you able to write a check?  Can you make phone calls to your senators?  Are you able to sit in meditation and offer positive energy to those that suffer?  Can you be extra loving and kind to the people in your life?  Can you take impeccable care of yourself so that you have energy and resources when  you get called to action?  I donate.  I pray.  I sign petitions.  I teach preschool.  I try to facilitate and support concepts of love and kindness.

This conversation is taken verbatim from an interaction I witnessed last week.  It happened between 2 boys, one age 4 and one age 5, after feelings were hurt and they were having a conversation using the “Peace Flower” which is kind of like a talking stick, only it’s a talking .  It went like this:

Boy age 4:  (while holding the peace flower)  I wish I could wun as fast as you.  (hands peace flower to other boy)

Boy age 5:  Well, I run fast because I practice at home.  Maybe if you practice you can get faster.  (hands peace flower back to 4 year old)

Boy age 4:  But, but, but…I wun and fall and you keep going.  I want to be fast like you.

Me:  Does it hurt your feelings when your friend runs fast and you can’t catch up?

Boy age 4:  Yes.  (hands peace flower to other boy)

Boy age 5:  I bet you will get faster when you practice.  I have a good idea! Let’s be on the same team and run together at the same time!  (holds out peace flower and they both hold the stem and say in unison:  Friends.  And run off to play.  Except Boy age 4 says “Fwends”)  Peace on the playground has been restored.

I was relaying this story to a friend yesterday and we were laughing at how sweetly transparent children can be.  They have all the emotions that adults have but the feelings move transparently across their faces like clouds blowing across a wide open sky.  No place to hide.  Every day there are tears, laughter, shouts of glee, angry scowls, hugs.

When I have hurt feelings, I do my best to hide it and stew for a few weeks – er…awhile and then become full of dread and eventually have a conversation with the person.  Usually the conversation goes well and we are both relieved afterwards.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could handle it immediately and we could both hold the peace flower for a few moments and then skip off happily?

Every day I go to work wondering what the day will bring.  The work is so dynamic!   There is no template for an “average” day.  Working with children is a constant invitation to stay present – to keep my heart open, not look at my phone (which is tucked away in a cabinet for the entire day), literally get on my knees, make eye contact, speak kindly, be of service, be loving and gentle, hold boundaries, rub backs, give hugs.  It’s like spiritual boot camp 😉  Truly.  These little gurus are ninjas at testing limits/boundaries.  If I take it personally, I’m a goner.  They are also human love bombs who offer affection and acceptance freely and often.  You’d think a rock star was arriving some days when I arrive – all the faces and arms waving at the window “Roxanna!  Roxanna!”  Sometimes I have to use the back door so I don’t start a riot and disrupt the class.  Haha.

I am grateful to the Universe for bringing me to this present moment, this job, this life, these kids.  Being a preschool teacher stretches me in myriad ways while simultaneously nourishing me and feeding my heart.  As GuruGanesha Band sings in their song, Troubled Times:

In this troubled time we look to find the way.  To heal our world, heal our hearts.   In our confusion when we don’t know what to do, can we live for each other?  Come Together For Each Other.