Ten Things I Have Learned
We’ve talked a lot about the lessons we’ve learned individually and collectively these last few years, specifically about who we are in relation to our bodies, our work, our time, our family, our friendships and the world. My book, Be Still and Soar is an homage to the importance of living into the tough questions and offers some of the wisdom I’ve gained from so doing.
And just as my book is about to be launched (it’s available for pre-sale now on Amazon, https://amzn.to/3n4PeKd ) I got sick with Covid and am now examining even more closely what really matters to me.
Here are ten things I’ve learned from having Covid.
1. ALLOW YOUR MIND TO WANDER
I have been laid up for ten days, and for the first five I couldn’t lift my head up. I’ve been without input for what seems like an eternity; no radio, no tv, no podcasts, basically nothing “coming in”. It’s a different kind of quiet than meditating when I go within and allow let my thoughts to pass by and focus on my breath. This time of nothingness has been very different. I am allowing random, seemingly inconsequential thoughts, take me where they want to go. It feels like wandering, something I rarely do.
Yesterday, I watched a bird jump up and down on my patio, making a high-pitched sound which led to thinking about wallpaper that was in an old bedroom that had exquisite birds on it that scared me so much I had to have it taken off the walls.
Earlier this week I listened, really listened, to the rain hitting the side of the house and was transported back to my days at summer camp almost fifty years ago when the rain would hit the roof of our bunk while my friends and I would be lying on our beds, writing letters or reading Archie comics. These day dreams have been my entertainment, sparking memory and igniting imagination. Lesson: the less distractions you have, the less distracted and more present you are to your life. Duh.
2. IF YOU’VE GOT YOUR HEALTH, YOU’VE GOT EVERYTHING
My grandma used to say this all the time and yet, it’s one of those truisms that you only understand when whatever you are taking for granted is at risk. When my brother got cancer, I began obsessing about how easy it is to go through life, not realizing how damn lucky we are that we aren’t ill or in pain all the time. I cried this week thinking about how much pain he endured for so many months. What heroes he (and all the others who live with pain) are, never giving up and not becoming the pain. I had a few weeks of feeling horrible but am so lucky that I am recovering and that my health will return. I vow to be less glib and more grateful for my health on a daily basis. Grandma, you are always so right. 3. ALLOWING OTHERS TO DO FOR YOU IS A GIFT TO THEM
After my Covid diagnosis, a number of friends and family members began asking what I needed or how they could help. My response was what it has always been throughout my life. "I’m ok. I don’t need a thing.” An automatic response, even when I am badly in need of help.
I won’t analyze why it’s hard for me to accept help but I will express this- allowing others to do for you really is a gift to them.
The lovely flowers, meals, cards, check- in texts and other acts of kindness were as meaningful to those who reached out and offered to help as they were to me. I know because when someone I care about is ill or hurting in some way, all is want to do is be able to lighten their load, help in some way and make them feel loved and supported. It works both ways. Give and Receive.
4. GIVE YOURSELF WHAT YOU NEED
While I advise my clients to focus each day on what they need and bring that energy in, I rarely do so myself. Every day comes with its own set of challenges and circumstances and we usually find ourselves reacting to what’s in front of us rather than being intentional about what would be the most helpful or effective approach to dealing with the tsunami of the day.
Being sick really is a game-changer. Each morning for the last two weeks I had no choice but to ask myself what I needed in each moment. Did I need to go back to sleep? Take Advil? Drink water? Try a piece of toast? The needs were simple but demanding. I learned to focus on exactly what I could do in the moment and not worry not about anything else. Knowing what we need and giving it to ourselves is no easy task but when we learn to slow down, focus and ask ourselves the question “what do you need right now?”, you may actually get what you need.
5. EMBRACE COZY
Since the beginning of Covid, we have started to consider comfort more than ever. Some of us have sworn off bras and are living in sweatpants. I wonder if I will ever wear a tight pencil skirt again! I threw out almost all of my 4 inch stilettos and began wearing sneakers even when I’m not exercising!
But my love for and commitment to cozy reached new heights since spending 14 days in bed. On the third day of my quarantine, my masked husband brought me a box with various supplements, tissues, orange juice, Advil and a crazy item called a “Comfy”, which looked like an enormous teddy bear without a head. When I opened it up, I felt like crying. It’s an unattractive but amazing poncho-type thing made of the softest fabric imaginable that covers almost every inch of one’s body. You cannot not be “comfy” when you wear it- it’s the embodiment of the Danish concept of hygge, which refers to finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things such as a cozy atmosphere or the feeling of friendship, and encompasses a feeling of coziness, contentment, and well-being found through cherishing the little things. Put on your Comfy and you are living hygge!
I imagine everyone everywhere walking around in Comfys feeling at ease, without bitterness, hostility, jealousy or hate making the world a warmer, more loving place.
6. TAKE UP MORE SPACE
The concept of isolating in one’s own home is no longer foreign to us. We’ve all heard the stories of spouses and children staying separately in their own rooms during periods of quarantine, being left trays of food outside the door. It’s not fun but maybe there are a few things that aren’t horrible about it. I’ve slept on one side of the bed for many years, often rolled up on my side just a tiny bit from the edge of the bed. These last few weeks I’ve had the whole big California king to myself and lo and behold, I discovered something - space. For the first few nights, I stayed curled up in my spot, oblivious to any other options. Then one day after lying for hours and hours on “my side” of the bed, I bravely opened my arms and spread out. Wow. I am allowed to take up more space than I give myself. Perhaps you do too. Where else do you shrink up? Hold back? Keep yourself small? Worth thinking about, don’t you agree?
7. PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK
If you’ve ever brought someone soup when they've been sick, you are a good person. Period.
We don’t often acknowledge ourselves for the kindness we show others, the sacrifices we make, the gifts we give to those around us. Many of us are taken for granted, particularly the mothers. We give, give, give and give some more. But as I lay in bed remembering the trays of soup my mom brought me when I was sick, I immediately felt good about myself as well. Having raised four children on my own, I have carried countless trays up to sick or feeling-out-of-sorts children. Each time you have been there for someone in a time of need, you have made a difference.
Thank yourself for your generosity. I know you’ll be bringing a tray of goodness to someone soon. The world is a better place with you in it. Thank you, Mom, for showing me the way.
8. THE WORLD GOES ON WITHOUT YOU.
This may be particularly challenging for those of us who are the most burdened with responsibilities. Many of us have lived for many years carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders; there’s always somewhere we need to be, someone who is counting on us, our schedule is packed and yet we still manage to take one more thing on, do another favor, agree to another task. We are needed, indispensable and although we complain about how much we carry, it is also what keeps us going. Many of us have not yet figured out that we are just as worthy when we do less. I have traveled this path for much of my life and while I have made huge headway since finding meditation and learning to slow down, my instinct to do more, give more, take on more is still intact. We tell ourselves there’s no one who could do what we do as well, as carefully, as effectively, as lovingly. Being ill teaches an important lesson. The world goes on without us. Miraculously, while I was sick my kids were fed, my house didn't burn to the ground and my clients survived.
9. INDULGE IN CHILDHOOD TREATS
After days of not being able to eat, I woke up one morning with a craving for cinnamon toast. Although its been over 50 years since I’ve had cinnamon toast, I had to have some. When my husband brought it to me, I burst into tears. The smell of it brought me back instantly to our house in Washington DC, with the huge magnolia tree in the front yard and a vision as clear as day of my mom, dressed in a fashionable a-line dress and perfectly coiffed hair, carrying a tray with a cup of tea with honey and two pieces of cinnamon toast. The taste was almost too delectable. (Thank God I didn’t lose my sense of taste or smell or taste). Smells, tastes, sounds can be powerful healing tools. One bite of that cinnamon toast and I felt my mother’s tender love, as if I was wrapped in her arms, taking in her magic healing powers.
What is that food for you that reminds you that you are safe? Loved? Special? Make sure to include it in your life, (even if it's got tons of carbs) and reconnect to those feelings of being held and cared for. The benefits are long-lasting.
10. THIS TOO SHALL PASS
The phrase, a Persian adage translated and used in many languages, reflects on the temporary nature of the human condition. The sentiment is often expressed in wisdom literature throughout history and across cultures, including in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became President.
It is what we say to comfort each other in difficult times and it is exactly what I needed to hear these past few weeks.
So, whatever you are facing that is frightening, sickening, horrifying or just plain sad, know that “this too shall pass”. To all of you, I wish you good health.
With love and light, Nora