In a few days, these avocados will be ripe enough to mash. I’ll add a little sea salt, onion powder, a dash of cayenne and a squirt of fresh lemon. Plop it on some toasted multigrain and voila, breakfast is served. Delicious avocado toast is certain. So much else is not.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve trained hard for Covid Times. When I was little, a friend of my Dad’s once coined the phrase, “The Leffert Uncertainty Factor,” to explain why no one ever knew what to expect from my family. While all the adults laughed I remember thinking, that’s not funny. All these years later, my youngest child is similarly unsettled by my refrain about when the pandemic will end. “We just don’t know,” I’ve said, over and over. That’s not funny either. We count on our routines to feel safe, rites of passage to mark how far we’ve come and celebrations to enjoy our accomplishments. They’ve all been swiped off the calendar and it’s unsettling, to say the least. And then there’s the news. For many, the pandemic has wreaked havoc. If you’re not accustomed to having your life turned upside down on a semi regular basis, I can see why these times might throw you.
If we think about it, the uncertainty has been here the whole time, we’ve just assumed our plans and supports will hold. In Florida, we know we can’t always count on each day going as planned, especially during hurricane season. Any amount of certainty is an illusion, even “hurricane season” itself. We’ve had a hurricane in Florida every month of the year, it’s just more likely to blow into town during specific months.
No matter where you live, we’ve all dealt with some level of unpredictability before this. But the pandemic has been a master class in the concept. So, how do we deal with not knowing? There are no experts on this in my house, but we have been able to ride the wave without completely falling off the board, most of the time. Here are the go-tos we regularly incorporate into the march through the bog of coronatimes.
Everybody knows this one. When we find something to laugh about together, worries evaporate. My family is always looking for a laugh. Over the last months, we’ve binge watched Key & Peele, The Office, Parks & Recreation, The Chappelle Show, New Girl, and Bob’s Burgers. Thank God Netflix is a closer family member than many of our own blood relatives. A good laugh releases the pressure.
Mark and I are pretty bad at this, but when disappointment is at it’s most crushing, we all need validation. One of our kids has accused us of something called toxic positivity which is pretty horrible—I googled it. When the one special trip to Europe with Grandma got canceled, our kid didn’t want to hear how lucky we all were to be healthy with a roof over our heads. When things we’ve been working towards evaporate, it sucks. I watched Glennon Doyle’s video on how to listen repeatedly and I am finally starting to get it. Commit it to memory so your loved ones don’t call you names. http://bit.ly/2WkmbFq
When we are wallowing in all that we’ve lost, serving our community helps us realize we are all in this together. That sense of a shared burden lightens the load a little. It’s like when everyone cleans up after dinner and it’s not left to just one resentful person, as a totally random example. And our family could do a lot more of it. Especially helping others who don’t have it as good as we do. One of our favorite helpers is Educate Tomorrow, an organization that supports young adults aging out of the foster care system to pursue higher education (and so much more).https://www.educatetomorrow.org/who-we-are/who-we-are/ We love the SEED school too—the only public boarding school in town and one of only three in the country. https://miami.seedschool.org/about-us During the pandemic we stocked the new dorms with college gear to create an inspiring home for the students. Because of the hurdles I faced as a kid, I am drawn to organizations focused on helping children. Involving my own kids in programs for children who’s parents have been unable or unwilling to care for them has been a challenge, however. I felt so ashamed when my needs were not being met that it’s triggering for me but I do as much as I can and applaud the efforts of my dear friends who champion this incredible work.
ONLY USE YOUR IMAGINATION FOR THINGS YOU WANT
The anxiety of not knowing when we will ever get to leave our homes safely only goes away when we break the habit to worry. That may sound nuts, but hear me out. Years ago, in the Before Times, I used to worry so much it was debilitating. Some awful things actually did happen so I felt justified. After working on my mindset, I now understand that worrying is a choice. Now when I stumble over my worry trip wire, I think of surfer Eddie* who says, “don’t worry because that shit ain’t happenin’ right now.” I look around and notice that none of my worries are in the room with me. Most of them aren’t real. There’s loads of research that shows when we spin nightmare scenarios, our body feels as if it’s actually happening—we unwittingly put ourselves through tremendous stress. We can get out of our heads and back into our bodies, to the present moment where for most of us, everything is fine. I am no expert on mindset training but I have learned from some of the best: Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins and Maria Forleo to name a few. Luckily, now that we are in full blown crazy town, my mind has been trained not to worry. If the problem is something I can solve, I make an action plan. If not, I let it go and only use my mind for things I actually want. Choose another thought. If you study how to do this, you can be a reformed worrier too.
The other thing that helps is accepting that this is harder for some of us than others. We all have had moments of hitting the wall during coronatimes. And that just has to be ok. We can’t expect everyone to handle this the same way because it affects each of us differently. And we came to this moment in varying degrees of readiness. Relaxing expectations has been an absolute must around here. The more love and acceptance we can show each other right now, the better we will get through this, and the more connected we will be on the other side.
MAKING PLANS WITH STUBBORN OPTIMISM
Lastly, as evolving humans we freaking need something to look forward to, especially kids. When our present feels tedious and frustrating, future plans energize us. They help us with discipline and motivation. If we are going nowhere and doing nothing, it can lead to despair. Regardless of whether it’s going to happen, our family will be making plans to get the heck out of dodge on go to the mountains. https://www.theemotionmachine.com/power-anticipation-need-something-look-forward/
So. Take it easy on yourself (and everyone around you) and trust that it’s all going to be ok.
Writing Prompt: what are you looking forward to?
*Mentioned on The Robcast. Rob Bell is one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s buddies who I tune into from time to time.