Practicing What I Encourage

Last week, I wrote about the power of the little word, “and.” You can read my comments here. In that post, I talked about holding two seemingly contradictory beliefs simultaneously. For example, I can simultaneously believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst thing that I have ever experienced AND that the pandemic has made me aware of many blessings in my life. I’ve been encouraging my clients to pay attention to both their very understandable negative feelings such as fear, boredom, loneliness, and anger AND any positive feelings they experience: joy, wonder, peace, and gratitude. Today I am practicing what I encourage and focusing on a much bigger word, “gratitude.” Below is an inexhaustive list of some blessings I have experienced since the stay-at-home order began:

First and most importantly, no one in my family has contracted the novel coronavirus. Everyone is safe and either staying at home or able to practice recommended safety precautions as they go to their essential jobs.

My husband, who is having a big birthday today, was delighted when the kids and I surprised him with a picnic and a 9-hole round of disc golf instead of the big party we had planned. He was really happy that I caddied for him.

While I wish that my son could be on campus having a “normal” college experience, I love having him home.

My daughter, who is out of work because of COVID-19, has been stepping up to help around the house, graciously doing any task my husband and I request.

My dog is happier than ever with all four of her humans home almost all the time. And the walks. So. Many. Walks.

It is spring. Flowers are blooming, birds are skittering around, the sky is bluer than blue, and I can finally put the hats and mittens away.

There are doctors and nurses and a bunch of other healthcare providers working tirelessly to save the lives of those who have been made very sick by the virus. They are doing this under terrible conditions and often without needed personal protective equipment because that’s what healthcare professionals do.

My friend and business partner, psychiatrist Mona Masood, launched a support line to help physicians dealing with the stress of fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. You can access it at 1-888-409-0141 or here. Very early in the public health crisis, she anticipated the need and got this service up and running incredibly quickly, gathering hundreds of psychiatrists to volunteer their time. A former colleague, psychologist-turned-lawyer Greg Fliszar, provided legal counsel pro bono, also in record time.

Poetry.

In my volunteer role as board chair of a pre-K through 12th grade school, I have seen teachers and administrators demonstrate heroic commitment to students and superhuman adaptability as they moved instruction to an online format. And, they are holding the well-being of their students at the center of everything they do. I ran into one of these superstars a few days ago as we were both picking up take-out food. He said, “This (online teaching) isn’t why I went into teaching, but I am really proud of what we’re doing. Our school is doing an outstanding job.”

Tiffin is still serving delicious take-out Indian food and has adopted a no-contact way to do it.

After I asked in a Facebook post if anyone had experience ordering wine online, two friends delivered bottles of wine to my front door.

A dear friend who is a gatherer of friends planned a Zoom game night during which a bunch of adults checked in on each other and then laughed over a silly game. It was medicine for the soul. We plan to do it again soon.

I have lots of time to do the things I love. I don’t always feel like doing them, but I do have the time.

Countless friends and strangers are making masks so that people who need them can get them without taking away from medical personnel and those at higher risk of getting sick. Every time a call goes out for supplies (buttons, elastic, fabric, etc.) on the community Facebook pages I follow, the call is answered mightily.

During my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, the folks standing in line to get into the store have been friendly at a social distance, a staff member has wiped my cart down before handing it off to me, and another staff member has sprayed my hands with sanitizer as I exit. The staff in the store has been beyond pleasant, and I have not heard one complaint from a single person working there. Even when I acknowledge how hard it must be to work in a grocery store during the pandemic.

When Trader Joe’s was out of fresh ginger, a worker showed me cubes of crushed ginger in the freezer section, and now I never have to mince fresh ginger again!

The staff and therapists in my practice have shown amazing resilience and flexibility as we transitioned almost overnight to providing our psychiatric services virtually.

In my neighborhood, people have been sharing and bartering and just generally helping out. I’ve acquired canned pumpkin, frozen fresh pumpkin, eggs, and toilet paper and given pumpkin bread, puzzles, yeast, and buttons.

Even though we cannot come together physically, my faith community, Abington Quaker Meeting, continues to gather virtually for weekly meetings for worship and held a beautiful and meaningful Easter program filled with singing and poetry and readings and love.

My clients have handled the transition to virtual therapy remarkably well and are digging deep inside themselves to find the strength and will to cope with the strain of the pandemic. One of my young clients, who is really, really unhappy to be out of school and believes summer camp will be cancelled as well, said this:

Well, at least I get to sleep later, play videogames more than usual, Facetime with my friends, and play with my new puppy. Things could definitely be worse.       Trisha, age 9

Out of the mouth of an unhappy babe.

Let’s remember to practice gratitude, kindness, and self-compassion and recognize that we are all in this together. We will be more unhappy if we focus exclusively on the negative. Let’s do our best to fight that temptation. This is a good time to start a daily practice: make note every day of at least one thing that brings you joy or peace or fills you with gratitude. Share your appreciation with others. Post it on Facebook and Instagram. Tweet it. The virus doesn’t have to be the only thing spreading around right now!

[Names and other potentially identifying information have been changed to protect privacy.]

 

About Dr. Sayers

I am a child psychologist and mother of two. This blog is about the lessons we, as parents, can learn about parenting from the things that child clients have told me over my 20 years in private practice. I continue to work with children and families at Southampton Psychiatric Associates (www.southamptonpsychiatric.com) which serves Bucks, eastern Montgomery, and northeast Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania. In addition, I train psychology graduate students and psychiatry residents at Temple University.
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