I have been trying, like most of us during this time, to do something. Make some progress. Accomplish stuff. I have written things, even written good things. I have gone on walks and cycle rides. I have sometimes been caught eating well — Hey! A Brussel Sprout!
And I have struggled. And I struggle still. For every moment of joy — I surreptitiously opened windows to let air and life into the room we rent for a few minutes — there are times of struggle, reading news and eating DQ. I wouldn’t yet want to put the two sides of my life right now on a scale and see which one is winning.
But I keep fighting this low-grade depression of news and limitations and the extra effort seemingly everyday activities now take — remembering to wear your mark when picking up takeout, stepping backwards in line at Wal-Mart when the cashier says you’re too close to the older lady ahead of you, going to a park. ‘Even going for a walk is a Covid walk,’ my sister said as we stepped off the trail to let someone safely pass for probably the tenth time.
But there is no such thing as a non-Covid walk right now, and so — out on the beautiful spring trail of Shevlin Park in Bend, OR (a local park still open), we talked about ways to improve this difficult time.
Here’s what I came away with —
The 10 Things That Are Helping Me Most Right Now
- Exercise/Nature. It might be a hoary old chestnut (or an actual chestnut tree) but getting out and getting moving really is the number one best thing I’ve done. Obviously, you have to be careful to social distance and not everyone has the luxury but if you can, get out! Take a walk, a hike, or a cycle ride. The fresh air is great, the exercise makes you feel better, and seeing the comforting and beautiful familiarity of the changing season is very encouraging and helps put this limited time in perspective.
- Creativity. Your mileage may vary but for me, creativity (when I feel like doing it) has created some of my best moments. From coming up with story ideas to writing to learning the banjo (working on my fourth song!), it’s nice to make something in this time and just zone/bliss out for a minute. I’ve especially enjoyed playing around with a musical instrument since it’s far removed from my passion/career/destiny of writing. It’s a very fun release.
- Having that one friend. Obviously most of you aren’t lucky enough to have my sister in your lives, but if you do have a person you are on the same wavelength as — then lean in to talking to, texting, or calling them often. It’s a tough time, and having someone who you can be honest with really helps.
- Keep it clean. Since we are renting one room in Bend, OR, it is kind of imperative to keep things picked up but I am surprised how even vacuuming or emptying out the car can help provide a sense of hope and accomplishment.
- Making a daily plan. I like plans. They got me to Oregon, to the Pete Campaign, to having written a lot of screenplays. But even though I left my white board behind in GA, I have enjoyed making a list each day and each week of things I want to get done. They tend to fall into three categories — self care type things (take a walk), goals (finish this blog post), and things I need to do (submit my weekly unemployment claim — I am furloughed right now from my Best Buy job). I may not really ever finish the whole list but even having ‘brush teeth’ and ‘good lunch’ on there reminds me of my priorities.
- Eat real food. I haven’t been perfect at all but I appreciate that each healthy meal does make me feel better, so I try to string as many of them together as possible. I have really enjoyed ‘Grape Nuts’ and (sugared) almond milk for breakfast, and even if I get taco takeout for lunch, I still started strong. Treats are also important — just aim for the best — a local bakery vs. DQ maybe.
- Outside. Separate from exercising, I have found that just sitting outside tends to be better than inside. If the weather and your situation permits, put your chair under the eves in the backyard, or dust off the porch seat cushions, or even sit in your car with the windows down (my favorite banjo/phone call spot) — it can literally be a breath of fresh air.
- A few new items. This is a different world right now and you may need a couple of additions. I’m not advocating spending beyond your means or engaging in ‘retail therapy’, but getting a new little table and chair so you can write outside, picking up that second-hand bicycle, or ordering a new jacket might encourage you to pursue the good things in life.
- Pleasant relaxation. Really settling in and enjoying a nap, bath, or soft pillow. Too often we do half and half — laying in bed but are focused on the news, or taking a quick bath instead of really enjoying an extra five minutes. Actually really feeling the comfort and peace around you is simply nice.
- Treating yourself. Not exactly the opposite of real food, a true treat to me is extra fun, enjoyable, and you don’t regret it when you’re done. I’ve really enjoyed indulgent homemade coffee drinks, some take out coffees, Too Sweet Cakes — a local bakery, and tongue tacos and fajitas. And smoked clams! It’s not really the bucket of fried chicken or package of Oreos (though those have an appeal), it’s about something special to you, that represents the best of life.
Because life still does have some ‘bests’ going on — sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. But, slowly, I’m finding that just stringing the good together, day by day, helps build a more peaceful present and a more hopeful tomorrow.