Monday ~ March 23, 2020
I was blue on Monday. I think a combination of lockdown and missing my weekly visit to the refugee center in Brussels. Lockdown does not affect my regular routine all that much because I already work from home and spend many hours alone with my dog and three cats. In other ways, I am affected a great deal because the fact that I spend so much time alone already adds that much more weight to the times I do leave the house to interact with other people.
Talking with people on a walk is helpful, and now people actively avoid walking near me.
Going to the refugee center on Mondays is an enormous spirit and perspective shifter. I can feel a complete shift in my mood and feeling about life overall. I might be feeling really down and thinking, maybe I won’t go to the center this week. But I still make myself go through the motions to get there. By the end of an afternoon with my co-volunteer, Sarah, the asylum seekers we meet, and of course, the pigeons of Petit-Château, and I often feel myself floating home on a wave of good feelings.
How am I cultivating good feelings in the absence of such needed interaction with other people and immersion in creative pursuits?
Well, I am offering a daily afternoon concert in the spirit of a creative project my husband recommended years ago when I was living and working in Lowell, Massachusetts. He had suggested that I write a song a day for 30 days. I called the project A Month of Music (AMOM). I even wrote about it in my dissertation, which focused on a concept I referred to as “self-sustainability”. I studied the idea of sustainability for an individual life and how to create balance in my own life. The particular challenge was in learning how to restore balance when events beyond my control (RE: pandemic lockdown) threw my system out of balance.
In my research, I learned that self-care and creative pursuits could help me find my way back to equanimity in the face of adversity and chaos. Even with everything I learned, I still find it challenging to engage in these activities. Feeling low is powerful. Cognitively understanding that I will feel better if I pick up an instrument does not always transer to actually picking up the instrument, particularly when the only person I am accountable to is myself.
I think making myself accountable to other people (i.e., a virtual audience, even if it is a perceived audience) helps me to pick up my ukulele every afternoon and sit down and sing for an hour. Even if only one person tunes in, I still feel an obligation to sing to them. And in so doing, I ultimately succeed in making myself feel better, if only for a little while.
Yesterday, I also practiced yoga, vacuumed, and went for a long walk.
Even though I wanted to write and post a blog post about that day in lockdown, I also felt that it was more important to leave my computer downstairs and unplug for the evening. So, I am writing about yesterday today.
Tuesday ~ March 24, 2020
Since moving to Belgium, several of the fingers on my right hand have started swelling up and getting itchy to the point where I tell my husband I might as well just cut them off and be done with it. Six doctors have not been able to determine what might be causing the discomfort. I imagine it is some kind of contact dermatitis, and I imagine all of the stress and incessant hand washing is not helping.
This morning, I was so overcome with discomfort that my husband suggested I try the very strong cortisone cream his doctor had prescribed, as well as a “chill pill”. I tried both of those and also made a strong gin and tonic (it was after noon and it’s a global crisis, so that’s ok, right?).
A couple of hours later, I told my husband I might not be in the best state to offer my usual afternoon concert.
Maybe an Irish concert, he suggested.
I offered my concert, and I gave myself permission to not be as prepared as I would like to be. I thought of it like a yoga class sequence. There are classes developed around a specific theme (which I have done for some of my afternoon concerts). There are also potpourri classes with a little bit of everything to open the body and heart and mind. This afternoon was a potpourri concert.
To be honest, I think this is the time to quiet the inner critic. Atticus and I went for a safe social distance walk this morning with a friend and her dog in the forest, and we talked about the difficult time our inner critics were giving us during this lockdown period. Like we should be super productive because we have so much time, all the time in the world, to get things done. And yet, we were finding it very difficult to concentrate. We were feeling a roller coaster of emotions.
I think that if any time is one when it is ok to cut yourself some slack, it should be during a global crisis. Self-care is key during this time. Be gentle with yourself. Explain to your inner critic that while you appreciate the enthusiasm, now really just isn’t a good time. Maybe you can think of your inner as a border collie. You just need to give it a job to do. Or ask it to get its favorite ball, and each time it brings it back to you throw it a little bit farther away so it takes just that much longer for the retrieval and return.
My inner critic is crazy intense and stubborn. Not easy to distract or get rid of in the best of times. I am trying to give myself credit for getting out of be each morning and doing any of the tasks that bring a sense of “normalcy” to my daily life. Taking the dog for a long walk in the forest. Cleaning. Doing laundry. Doing my bit to tidy the house and create a sense of tidiness amidst the groundlessness and chaos.
So if I can get it together enough to just show up for a Youtube live video concert, speak my piece, and share a few songs in the process, I think that is cause for celebration.
Take that, inner critic!
How are you holding up? What are the ways you are cultivating a sense of stability and grounding during this time? I would love to hear from you 🙂