Surviving Another Lockdown

Can it be too quiet?

[If you’re too busy to read, scroll to the end; I need your help with answers to weekly questions.]

The Current State of Affairs

A friend of mine who happens to be alone a lot because of his work, had this to say about quarantine:

“I’ve been practicing how to isolate my entire life.”

I can relate to that. I’ve been living alone for eight years now and it’s been pretty quiet and more peaceful than I ever imagined. So much so that I cannot imagine it any other way. Still, it’s different when you choose to be alone versus having the government enforce it. And for you partnered folks: if living with someone works for you, I wouldn’t want you to change it; just presenting alternatives.

I guess there was always the possibility that the government in Portugal would decide a second lockdown was necessary. I saw it happening in other European countries and it was only a matter of time. So here we are again: big infection rates and more deaths than we can handle. And as you’ve heard, a slowdown in vaccine production and delivery.

Intellectually, I get it. I’m constantly imagining what it must be like for people losing family members and close friends. And believe me the last thing I want is to be in hospital in a foreign country hooked up to a respirator. I’m living in Portugal where I have new friends who care about me, but who wouldn’t be able to see me in hospital anyway. And then of course there is my dog Paco; it’s been just the two of us for a year now. I’m convinced that without Paco, I would be a slug with a big bag of chips, on a too cushy sofa, rewatching Netflix originals and endlessly surfing Youtube videos.

The Right Head Space

Attitude is a huge part of a successful lockdown. If you spend a lot of time thinking about what you cannot do and where you cannot go, you will become bitter and filled with anxiety. On the other hand, if you remind yourself that lives are being saved by staying put and it’s temporary, coping becomes easier (at least for me).

I also purchased a tiny little fireplace for 30 Euros on Amazon. It runs on ethanol and it’s very safe. So when I’m wrapped up in a quilt with Paco curled up next to me, I now have a fire to add to the peaceful ambiance. Make your space comfy and cozy so that you never want to leave.

Routine

I’m finding that routine helps me feel better about the situation I find myself in. I go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, spend time journaling and blogging in the morning, take Paco to the dog park (where I can also socialize from a distance), do some stretching and walking, learning Portuguese on Memrise, cleaning up a bit, cooking new dishes, going to the market (allowed), reading, watching a bit of news (not too much, I find it depressing and the media sensationalizes everything), Facetime or whatsapp family and friends, etc. If I do all of these things, just about everyday, time breezes by and I feel fulfilled. I have also discovered the art of napping. Closing your eyes for 10 to 20 minutes in the middle of the day, can be quite rejuvenating and there’s no guilt attached.

Newish Hobbies

I’ve always been at a loss for dreaming up new and interesting hobbies. Like most people, I’ll try something a couple of times and put it down. Pre-COVID-19 I discovered that I enjoyed croquet; bought an expensive new mallet and everything. Now I hang my jacket on it. The point is, I found a passtime I enjoyed and now I know that I can do it again . . . hopefully in the near future.

Lockdown has forced me to cook more and that’s a good thing. I’m enjoying watching Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson on Portugal’s mixed Portuguese and English food channel, 24Kitchen. Not just for enjoyment (most of the Food Network these days), these are shows where you can watch, listen and learn. I’m having fun duplicating recipes with my own twist. I don’t write them down, I wait a day or two, let it churn in my head a bit, and then give it a try. I’ve come up with quite a few very satisfying meals. I’m not photographing most of them — something I’ve discovered about social media: most people couldn’t care less what I cook.

I’m occasionally enjoying a virtual meal with my friend Gina. It’s not the same as sitting across from her, but it’s fun for the two of us to plan a menu, pull up a laptop, and chow down together.

The Quiet

There is a high school with hundreds of students very close to my apartment. Students hangout at a caf√© at the base of my building, pretty much all day. A few weeks ago the government decided that all of Portugal should stay at home except teachers and school kids. So for the first few days, when the second lockdown began, I continued to hear the chatter of high schoolers from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admittedly, I resented it. Even the owner of the caf√© was concerned about the pile-up of young people on the sidewalk. They were maskless and all over one another (well that’s what you do when you think you’ll live forever). I guess their infection rates went up and the kids are back home. I miss the chatter. It was a reminder that there is life out there in the world. Quiet is grossly overrated.

My Perspective

It helps to have a place to breathe. The view of the Ria Formosa and Atlantic Ocean from my terrace never gets old. Some days the temperature goes up to 70 degrees (21C) or higher. If you’re going to have to stay home, the Algarve isn’t a bad place to be.

I’m legally permitted to exercise close to home. Long walks with earbuds and music was no longer satisfying, so I have started listening to podcasts. Wow, if you want to pass time and be stimulated while you’re doing it, this is the way to go. You have to sort through the bed stuff to get to the good ones, but once you find a few you like . . . it’s like my outdoor Netflix and they’re free on Spotify (with occasional ads). Modern Love, The Counter Chronicles, The Daily, The Daily Zeitgeist — all very interesting. Short spurts of listening are not a problem. Audio books next?

Eat. Sleep. Isolate. Repeat.: Funny Self Isolation Notebook Journal.  Quarantine Humor for Coworkers and Friends. Social Distancing Sarcastic  Quotes.: Press, Twisted Journaling: 9798639563256: Amazon.com: Books

Question of the Week:

How has lockdown changed the way you think about life?

Right Where I am Supposed to Be

Accept, Adjust and Adapt

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There have been many life lessons learned over the past couple of months. I can’t speak for those of us who were/are in quarantine with others and in fact, I cannot speak for those spending this time alone; I can only speak for myself. Clearly, this is and has been a unique experience for all of us. I have been alone in a foreign country since the lockdown began and it is surreal at the very least.

It’s difficult not to be confused about exactly what is happening with COVID-19. It depends on who you’re watching or reading and what you choose to believe. There is a reason most people no longer have faith in the media or their government. I only allow myself a few minutes of news a day. It doesn’t matter when you turn on the television, it’s one big loop of sensationalism and half-truths. For the most part I choose to read a couple of sources and form my own opinion. I do what I have to do to stay within the law as we battle the unknown. Since fear is a major motivator for government and the media, I refuse to get sucked into this toxic vortex. I rely on facts as much as possible and I leave speculation to others.

 

Once You Discover Who You Are . . .

When you’re alone with your thoughts, you come to realizations and you make choices. Do you dwell on the negative? Do you get angry? Do you find yourself escaping? What mechanism do you use to cope? You probably have an arsenal of weapons on hand to deal with reality. Choosing healthy tools is the best way to go, however, that’s not always possible. So how do decide the route to take? First, do you know who you are?

There are things I have discovered about myself that help me develop the tools I need and make the right choices:

  1. I do not like for anything to interfere with a good night’s sleep (about 7.5 hours).
  2. I do not like paying for my bad choices the next day.
  3. I do not like how it feels when I beat myself up.
  4. I love how it feels to be well rested.
  5. I do not like how my stomach feels when I have overindulged.
  6. When I have the discipline of going to the gym five or six times a week, I never contemplate not exercising. When that option is not available, one out of two times, I will not exercise. Even writing this down helps to motivate me.
  7. There are times when I’m stressed and concerned and in complete denial about my state of mind.
  8. As I get older, I have less tolerance for many things.
  9. Food has become my primary motivator.
  10. Having a pet helps with self-discipline.

It all seems pretty straightforward and normal. So why am I still uncertain?

 

Tools & Rewards

One of the tools I frequently use is the weighing of pros and cons. Yes, that second Marguerita would taste really good with my Mexican food, but what price would I pay? When I do this simple assessment, nine out of 10 times, I will decide to pass on the second cocktail.

I live for rewards. I find them to be a positive way to live a healthier life. If I do blank I get blank as a reward. This has been my MO for a long time. During this time — the lockdown, I have noticed this happening more often. If I complete my language lesson, I can read my novel for an hour. If I climb the stairs in my building for 30 minutes, I can have some chocolate and on and on. It seems to be the only thing that motivates me, but it works.

 

What Matters Most

What matters most in my life has been the greatest lesson learned during this time. I thought about this prior to the virus, but sorting it out has become a much greater priority. My family has always been important to me and that will continue until I die. A trip to the States this week was unfortunately cancelled. Now that I am a resident of Portugal, I cannot fly to the States at this time; my legal address is here. I need to be certain that I am okay with this situation for at least the next five years. Selling an apartment in Faro is not going to be like it was in the States — I sold my last three apartments in less than a week. In Portugal, your place can easily sit on the market for up to two years. That’s fine, it just means planning a bit further into the future.

The good news is that I have come out of this knowing that living overseas is definitely what I want and remaining overseas is a certainty. I have come to realize that there is another move left in me and it will more than likely be Italy. I ultimately want to be where my father was born. I am Italian after all. Now that I have my father’s birth certificate, I can begin to look into dual citizenship. The coast of Croatia is also a possibility — all options are currently open. It’s a big world out there isn’t it?

 

Noticing Changes 

It seems that people are more grateful now than they have been for a long time. Grateful to others, grateful for their own good health, and grateful to be alive. I remember how people in New York City were after 911. I rode the subway watching strangers who would have never considered giving up their seats, stand for older people or the disabled. I saw people smile at one another for no other reason than to show gratitude and solidarity. This was a New York City I could love. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. We slowly slipped back into our everyday, former routines.

I suspect the same thing will happen with this pandemic. People will be more grateful for a short while and then we will all go back to “normal.” Even if we have to socially distance ourselves from one another for a long while or wear masks when we get a haircut; we humans adapt pretty quickly. If we’re conscious of our nature, is it possible to change? I think it is very possible. Your new normal can be based on what you learned from past experience. If you took up running while in quarantine, then continue to run. If you started eating healthier foods, keep it up, if you called people you care about more often, and so on.

The hardest thing for me has been isolation. I enjoy being out and about. I’m not sure it’s in my nature to spend a lot of time at home. I currently do not have a lot of choice and I’m hoping that will change sooner than later.

Life Goes On! | Change my life quotes, Go for it quotes, My life ...

 

Feelings Reiterated

Reblog — difficult time to write and some things require reiteration

 

 

Your State of Mind

One of the many things that happen when you grow older is coming to terms with your feelings (if you’re lucky). Coping with your feelings, identifying your feelings, sorting out your feelings, embracing your feelings, allowing yourself to feel, projecting feelings; you can see where I’m going with this.

Why Your Biology Runs on Feelings (click for more)

Feelings are complicated and so is being human; it comes with the territory. Some people are so wrapped up in themselves, they neglect to consider the feelings of others. Is it social media, the pressures of life, family, coping skills, socialization? What is it about the world around us that has made us less empathetic? Some would argue that humans have always been this way. I’m not sure about that. I recall a time when people had more time for one another and seemed to care more; I could be wrong.

I’m sure the news media has something to do with it. Around the clock news covering the world. It’s easy to become numb. The “this doesn’t affect me” attitude is also pervasive. I certainly do not have the answers; I only know how I feel.

Anger
I hate it when I get angry. Mostly because I feel that it could have been avoided. Harnessing my anger has been a long-term goal. When I’m well rested and relatively happy, any anger I feel is short-lived and can be sorted out. On the other hand, when I’m tired and things are falling apart around me, anger becomes a ball and chain around my ankle; impossible to get rid of. I can usually take a step back to process my anger and that seems to help; however, let’s be honest, sometimes the stepping back part just doesn’t happen. When I react based on emotion, it’s usually an outcome I regret.
Not long ago I was having lunch with a friend and she started spewing what I thought was bigoted hate speech. You’d recognize it in a minute; when the words come from privilege and a lack of empathy. No matter how hard I sit on my hands and push the anger down, I find myself gritting my teeth and becoming righteous. I don’t like it one bit. The person sitting across from you does not hear the words you are speaking, they only experience the anger. What it does do is justify their feelings. What they hear in their head is:¬† it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, he always has to start an argument or why does he think he’s smarter or better than I am? None of this is productive; in fact, it is counter-productive. Now we’re both angry and not speaking to one another and we both feel justified in our feelings. I shouldn’t speak for this person, let me say, I feel justified.
We seek out like-minded individuals in order to avoid this kind of anger, but you have to ask yourself if avoidance is the right way to go. I’m not providing answers, I’m merely asking questions; processing for myself and hoping it helps others.
Tears
I am often moved to tears. I cry while watching movies, I weep while reading novels, I’ve been known to shed tears in the middle of a conversation with a friend, I cry in my dreams and at poetry readings, and I have cried myself to sleep a time or two. My father was a big man and he cried; he taught me that crying was okay and I am forever grateful to him for this. I feel sorry for people who cannot cry. I highly recommend it.
Loss of Control 
I have come to terms with being a control freak. I like to be in control. If something bad happens and it is beyond my control, I get angry. I have a difficult time processing:¬† how did this happen, why did it happen, who made it happen? I guess I believe that if I were in control, bad things wouldn’t happen. This is of course, untrue. Many bd things have happened while I was in control. The helpless feeling that I have when something is out of my control is unpleasant and frustrating. I am learning how to “let go” of situations, events, and reactions that are out of my control.
Pain
The hardest thing about pain, emotional, physical or psychological, is coping — not denying it, but feeling it. Let’s face it, pain in any manifestation sucks, but it’s unavoidable and must be felt. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and wait for it to pass. Unless we’re talking about a terminal illness, it will pass, and you will more than likely be stronger for having dealt with it.
Happiness
I hear about and read about happiness a lot lately. I was watching an old episode of the Good Wife last night and Stockard Channing (love her — did yoga with her in NYC once) was the guest star. Her character said this, “When you get older, the only thing that matters is your happiness.” I guess it struck me because I was in the middle of writing this blog. I don’t think it’s true. Life is so much more than my personal happiness. Yes, lots of things make me happy and I do often pursue my own happiness, but I also spend time thinking about the world, friends, family, cleaning my apartment, paying bills and none of that is necessarily about happiness. A good deal of the day is spent just doing what needs to get done. What makes me happy is just that, getting stuff done — it’s that sense of purpose I’ve discussed in earlier blogs.
Joy
I have to give myself permission to feel joy. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is what it is. After a while, if you’re watching, you get to know yourself and your limitations; your proclivities. I can hear this little voice in my head reminding me to smile and enjoy the moment. I have stopped questioning why this is so. As with any habit, good or bad, you do something often enough and it becomes part of your everyday life. It’s a good habit I am striving to teach myself . . . live a life filled with joy.
“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”
Kevyn Aucoin
Gratitude
Feeling grateful is powerful. Replacing feelings of pity, blame, resentment, anger, heartbreak, and regret, with gratitude can be more powerful than just about anything else. Sweeping feelings under the rug doesn’t work. Taking pills or drinking alcohol is temporary relief at best. Sitting quietly and thinking about or even writing about, what you are grateful for, helps you to feel more joyful.
Tools
Tools are helpful when feelings become difficult or painful. Some tools/coping skills have been discussed in this blog or past blogs. What I have learned is that tools are at our disposal and can and should be used as often as possible — not as a way of hiding or denying, but as a way to guide us, comfort us, and teach us.
What’s Next for me?
This is the six million dollar question I often ask myself. The answer is:  I have no idea. For the first time in my life, I am not thinking past the next few months and I have to say, I like it.

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Being Introverted

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Photo by anna-m. w. on Pexels.com

 

How do I know that I’m introverted? A few tell-tale signs:

  1. I took the Myers-Briggs test numerous times and I always come up introverted. (see below for explanation.
  2. I prefer being myself to being with people. That is not to say I don’t like people; I do like people very much.
  3. When I’m attending a social gathering, I have to go out of my way to be social
  4. I have many, many brothers and sisters. Doesn’t that explain why I’m introverted?

The¬†trait¬†of¬†extraversion‚Äďintroversion¬†is a central dimension of human¬†personality¬†theories. The terms¬†introversion¬†and¬†extraversion¬†were popularized by¬†Carl Jung,[1]¬†although both the popular understanding and psychological usage differ from his original intent. Extraversion tends to be manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior, whereas introversion is manifested in more reserved and solitary behavior.

Extraversion and introversion are typically viewed as a single¬†continuum, so to be high in one necessitates being low in the other.¬†Carl Jung¬†and the developers of the¬†Myers‚ÄďBriggs Type Indicator¬†provide a different perspective and suggest that everyone has both an extraverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other. Rather than focusing on interpersonal behavior, however, Jung defined introversion as an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents” (focus on one’s inner psychic activity) and extraversion as “an attitude type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object” (focus on the outside world).[3

There are times when I tell friends that I am an introvert and they challenge me. I’m often told that I am far too social to possibly be an introvert. Those who know me well, know that there are days when I just need to be by myself. One of the many reasons I moved overseas, was to spend more time alone. The older I get the more introverted I become. There is absolutely no danger in becoming a hermit, I like¬†love my friends and family too much.

Just back of five weeks of visiting the U.S. to see friends and family, may of whom I have not seen in years. I truly enjoyed seeing and spending time with all of these folks, but honestly, being “on” for such a long period of time left me completely depleted of all of my energy. I got home to Portugal, closed my door and sat in the splendor of isolation . . . I sat for a long time.

I know people who can never be alone. My mother was such a person. She would call anyone or go anywhere so that she could have company. I guess that would be a case of extreme extroversion or perhaps it was fear; fear of having to be with oneself.¬† When I was kid, my mother would climb the attic stairs; my bedroom was in the attic, just to chide me about being in my room alone. She would practically force me to go outside to play. If you have children that tell you that they’d rather read or write or play games, for goodness sake, let them be.

 

A Quieter World

Noise as loud as jack hammers

I cover my ears

Piercing sirens and car horns

Muffle it or make it stop

 

Rock turned up six decibels

Slammed shut to block it out

Doors closed, pills popped, eyes squeezed closed

Two a.m. and I still hear it

 

Chatter, chatter, chatter

Barking, bells and horns in surround sound

Planes take off and circle overhead

Breaking in speeding traffic

 

I tell my brain to turn it down

Use reason to soothe the sound

White noise in the dark

Deafening silence as I sleep

 

[I haven’t written a poem in years; it’s a good sign.]

 

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A quiet place at the top of the world

 

 

The thing is, when you know who you are and what you like, you can just enjoy being.

 

Over ten million people have watched Bren√© Brown speak, but I had never heard her name until browsing through Netflix offerings last night. Not only does she know what she’s talking about, in fact, she is a pleasure to listen to. Take a listen: