Undated planners have become a big thing in the last couple of years. And I jumped on board. I use the Panda Planner. I never really use the calendar part of it. That part of my life is much easier to manage electronically (Outlook for my work life, Google for my personal life, and a smart phone app that combines them together for me on my phone). But I love my planner because it helps me to focus my attention on the things that matter.
My planner has a daily To Do List as well as an area to prioritize those tasks, and also a place to identify the day’s focus and a place to track my exercise. But the part of my planner that has been most helpful during this time of social distance is two daily small lists. Every day my planner asks me to list three things that I am grateful for and three things that I am looking forward to. When I look back to the “before times,” my lists were very different than they are now. Some staples on my grateful list have always included my cats, my husband, music, and coffee. My looking forward to lists have often included travel, music festivals, concerts, and nights out at my local brewpub. And while I am still grateful for those things and am still hopeful that I’ll be able to attend a music festival again someday, my priorities have become different over the last month.
I regularly write down that I am grateful for a job that allows me to work from home, a good broadband internet connection, a house with some outdoor space, and the occasional sunny day. I could easily make a list of 10 or more things I’m grateful for every single day. But the looking forward to lists have gone a whole different direction, and are much more difficult to produce in this time when every day seems exactly like the one before. I find myself looking forward to dragging my wagon full of recyclables down the street to the temporary drop off spot. I look forward to whatever my husband is creating for dinner each day. I look forward to a phone call with my parents. I look forward to whatever my current binge watch is (currently The Sopranos, so I should be good for a long time). I look forward to a treadmill run. A craft project. A virtual happy hour. I’ve learned that I can look forward to the little things, much like I’m grateful for the little things. It’s a change in perspective to accommodate the current times. But I hope that I can carry it forward into the new normal once we get there. Because looking forward to things (and of course being grateful for things) feels good. And we could all stand to feel good right now.
I’ve been feeling like a failure lately. I started off quarantine life on top of my game. I was doing well on a weight loss plan. I was working my way through Couch to 5K training. I was excited about learning new technologies and working from home with a cat on my lap.
Now here we are a month later. I haven’t tracked my food intake all week. I twisted my foot last weekend and haven’t been able to run. New technologies are great and all, but my learning curve is steeper than I expected. And my cat spends more time walking across my keyboard than he spends on my lap.
I like to joke that as a Generation X introvert I’ve been quietly preparing for this moment all my life. But the reality is that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and life is hard! My normal knitting has been tossed aside in favor of sewing surgical-style masks for my family. The novelty of feeling like I’m in the intro to The Brady Bunch during every Zoom meeting has been replaced with the dread of continued staring at my screen. Buying groceries is a choice between the fright of going out in public or the frustration of trying to book a pick-up or delivery time in an overcrowded schedule. The adventure of my daily walk out to my mailbox to retrieve the day’s junk and bills is ruined by the hand washing ritual that follows it. Every cough raises the hair on the back of my neck in fear.
We are living in a very strange and scary time. And I’ve been failing this week. And you know what? That’s ok. It is ok not to be perfect while things are all askew in the world. It’s ok to be not as good as was normal in “the before times.” We’re in the middle of a huge world crisis here. It’s unpleasant. It’s scary. And it’s far from over. Expecting to be perfect, or even normal, is ridiculous. We’re all just trying to do what we can to keep ourselves above water.
Luckily every day gives us a new opportunity to make the choices that keep us sane. This week I’m planning to track my food better. I’m planning to start running again now that my foot has stopped hurting. I hope to devote more time to mastering Canvas and PowerPoint. These are attainable goals. But, to be honest, if I fail again that will be ok. I’m not perfect. Things aren’t normal. But we’re going to get through this.
Someday we’ll look back on this and reminisce about our time in quarantine and the silly things we did to stay sane. And things will be normal again, even though different than before. And if we’re lucky nobody will ever have to wear real pants again. We must NEVER go back to real pants. 😉
With the world in its current state, it seems like we have no control over anything. But the reality is there are SO MANY things we can control. And what we do with that control can actually affect how we get through this challenging time.
We can control several things that improve mental well-being. Maintain a routine. Shower. Exercise (even if it’s a march through the apartment or a YouTube workout video). Go outside, even if only for a few minutes—preferably while the sun is shining. Eat fruits and vegetables. Talk on the phone with people you love. Talk on Zoom with people. Sleep. Binge watch Netflix. Listen to music. Play video games. Work puzzles. Do your schoolwork. All of these things have a way of making us feel better in this upside-down world.
We can also control some things having to do with finances. You should be noticing significant decreases in many areas of your budget. My Subaru is currently getting about three weeks to the gallon. My outlay of funds for restaurants and concerts is much lower than a normal springtime. I’ve had the same $20 bill in my wallet for the last two months. But this is NOT carte blanche to spend frivolously on Amazon. It IS an opportunity to get a little bit of money into savings for the future. When the world turns right side up again, I’ll have a cushion. Some protection against the unexpected. And as we know all too well, the unexpected can and will happen.
We have so much that we can still control. Use it wisely.