Look, during these most recent weeks of COVID precautions and isolation, it’s easy to get caught up in shit one can’t do any more. It’s easy to worry about the present, and about the future. It’s easy to worry about the lack of toilet paper, facial tissues, and the grocery store running out of random items like eggs and tortillas. It’s easy to worry — but it’s not productive.
I realize that it may be a lot easier for me to say, “Let’s look at the things we can do. Let’s look at the things we have,” than it is for some people who are in much worse situations. I live in a house. I like spending time with my family. I have Internet connectivity, and I’m basically doing what I love to do right now — which is write. But, I am not immune to fear, to panic, to catastrophizing an already pretty dire situation. Every day can be a battle, between my better angels of hope and the forces of darkness and pessimism.
However, there is the matter of feeding the right wolf.
An Indian grandfather was talking with him grandson. He said, “There are two wolves inside all of us. One is a wolf full of anger, hatred, irrationality. The other one is a wolf full of love, patience, compassion. And they are always fighting.”
“So which wolf wins?” asked the grandson.
“The strongest one. The one you feed,” answered his grandfather.
It’s difficult to get away from the news feeds on TV, in emails, texts, and the smartphone apps. It’s impossible to get away from one’s mind. I can’t tell you what to do. I live in the same pickle barrel that you do. All I can tell you how I fill my most recent days.
I am actually trying to get more sleep now. The best moment and the worst moment of my day happen right next to each other — one when I wake up and forget that the world is different, and then when the reality catches up with my addled morning mind. Sure, it’s difficult to fall asleep, just me and the darkness. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed reading into the night, in my bed. I read and read until my eyelids begin to close or until I realize that I’ve been reading the same sentence over and over and still not understanding it. Afterwards, sleep comes easier. Usually.
During the day, I also make sure I do at least two things that I enjoy. This could be coloring, or knitting, or playing games. I have to watch playing games on the computer, as this activity can completely take over if I don’t set a timer for myself. I like to cook — and it doesn’t have to be complicated dishes — for example, I have a wonderful recipe for no-knead bread. It still takes time, raising over 18 to 24 hours, but it’s not complicated to leave dough alone, and the reward is a warm loaf of bread. And, in my case, I still get to enjoy one of my favorite activities with much less guilt — I get to watch a great deal of TV!
I also try to take a walk on a daily basis. Some of my walks are shorter and some are longer, but all are within my neighborhood. I also try to stretch a little bit ever day. I’m ridiculously non-flexible, nor do I have good balance, so these are things I try to do simply because I know it’s good for me. During this time of social isolation, I still find myself eating, and craving food that is good for hibernation — bread and butter. So, doing something — anything — physical, is vital for me. I suppose exercise is vital for everyone — movement is life.
I also like to listen to classical music. Not only does it relax me, it also refreshes me. So, I put on vinyl records of Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and color in one of my many coloring books. These two activities combined help me breathe deeply, and shut my monkey mind off, for at least a while.
Another thing I do, and I cannot recommend this enough for every one, is writing in my journal. After a while, even my own whining and fear-mongering gets on my last nerve, and I begin to write about other things. Doing the mind dump, though, is something that is a great service to myself. Don’t believe me? Conduct your own experiment. If you don’t feel better after journaling for a week, you’ll get your money back.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed one of my wolves. The right one.