Pinch Me. I Must Be Dreaming.

Pinch me. I must be dreaming. I’m seeing too many things that make so little sense they don’t seem real. A dream state could explain this and ease the distress I feel from being surrounded by cognitive dissonance.

But I know I’m awake. I know the contradictions that have dominated pandemic news will continue to be paraded before me in my newsfeed, on TV, and on Twitter. If I’m going to stay abreast of current news, I have to tolerate what feels delusional.

I believe thriving and making good health decisions require staying abreast of current research, virus spread, government policies, and community activity. Doing so demands tolerance, fortitude, humor, and the ability to shift as things change. It isn’t easy, but to me, it’s worth it.

If you feel a need to stay informed, but worry that you’re not up to the task here are some tips to keep you feeling balanced:

Adopt a learning perspective.
When someone else’s point-of-view annoys you or sends you down a dark path, get curious. What motivates that person? What do they gain from taking a particular position? Are their values aligned with yours? If not, what values do you see demonstrated in their actions? Are they just taking a different path to reach the same conclusion you reach?

Sometimes things that look opposite on the surface are not. Further investigation can be revealing. Beginning with curiosity rather than assumptions or knee-jerk reactions can enrich your understanding.

Not to be forgotten, knowledge is power. While it may be a cliché, it’s also a good reminder that learning will give you more leverage than simply reacting.

Reject attempts from others to define your priorities.
You can set your own priorities and stick with them. These may go against the grain. That’s okay. In retrospect, conventional wisdom is often wrong. You may just be ahead of your time.

Feel free to hear a message while rejecting shame.
None of us are perfect. We make mistakes that can’t be taken back. Sometimes we see our errors reflected in the mistakes of others. Sometimes we need the opportunity to view our errors so we can correct them.

Once we recognize our mistakes, express remorse, learn and do better, there’s simply no reason to feel ashamed or punish ourselves. Period. It does not matter how other people respond.

If I would grant someone else grace and forgiveness for the same offense. I can forgive myself.

Have confidence in your perceptions.
You don’t have to believe incorrect information. Just because something is often repeated doesn’t make it true. Trusting your perceptions will allow you to keep an open mind and see past deception.

When you live or work in a dysfunctional system, there can be immense pressure to conform to distorted ways of viewing things. You may believe you’re alone in seeing things differently. Even if you are, that doesn’t make you wrong. Reread The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Choose your battles or choose no battles.
You don’t have to fight. Some of my friends and family are now ignoring the news because they feel they have to fight every single piece of misinformation and that looms so large they give up before they get started. You can stay informed without fighting. It’s a choice.

Doing something of value is centering. It doesn’t have to be large to be significant. Sew masks. Send encouraging texts. Mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn. Organize a driving celebration. Call a friend who lives alone. Create an online social experience. Raise money. Design and assemble goody bags for your neighbors.

You can create an experience each day that puts you in the position to be at your best and show it off. The result will boost your spirits and resilience.

Allow yourself to be strong.
If you always avoid the difficult, you’ll never know how strong you are. You may need that strength to get you through an unavoidable illness or natural disaster down the road. Most of us have internal resources we have not tapped. Now is a good time to get familiar with them.

Of course, you can use all of these tips and still feel crazy right now. Rest assured, there are other people who see things like you do. You haven’t lost your mind. Things are swiftly changing and uncertain. It’s unsettling.

I often feel like I’m living in two realities at the same time. I don’t enjoy that, but I know I’m okay and I will be okay. It’s the circumstances in which I find myself that have changed. And boy, have they changed! Pinch me. I must be dreaming!

Only one thing changed. Why do I feel like EVERYTHING changed?

It’s Saturday afternoon and this weekend I have no water at my house.  My pipes developed a leak that was running even with the faucets off.  Already, I know I’ll have to replace the entire ceiling of my downstairs bathroom and part of the office ceiling. There may be more. Rather than pay a plumber’s emergency rate, I decided to dry out the environment with a dehumidifier over the weekend and have the plumber come next week. The earliest appointment I could get is late Tuesday afternoon.

 On Thursday, I had all sorts of goals for this weekend punctuated by a wedding shower I’m attending on Sunday afternoon. My running list included proofreading some recipes, working on the website, designing some new packaging for an upcoming product, and testing some recipes. I was focused on what I felt I needed to accomplish. 

 I also felt an edge of foreboding and dread knowing that I wasn’t exactly feeling up to tackling such an extensive list right then so I’d have to drag myself kicking and screaming (internally so as not to scare the neighbors) toward those goals. Bummer, but I’m in this spot more than I’d like to admit and I know I can push myself and accomplish any goal I set.  So, I jerked my bootstraps a bit tighter and set forth.

 But there was a problem. Really, problemS. Trickle, gush, slosh – everything changed! My list no longer mattered because there were immediate practical needs that superceded my well-laid plans. 

Before the leak, this was a periwinkle blue ceiling.

 My first thoughts in the moment were to mobilize and start a new plan.  My mind began to churn: I’ve had some recent unexpected expenses. How can I avoid going to a hotel?  I can shower at the office, except I have no clean towels. I have a key to my neighbor’s house while she’s gone, so I can borrow some water for tooth brushing and toilet flushing.  Of course, as soon as I have that thought, I get a text telling me to give the key to the dog sitter. 

 Finally, I stop pushing forward. I shift my focus. Breathe. Take a moment. Think about what’s really important.  Oddly, I notice that the moment I shift, I feel more grateful than annoyed.  Thank goodness I know how bad the leak is before I head off to work out of town for the day.  I even begin to smile as I recognize how quickly the importance of my weekend goals pale in comparison to figuring out how to manage the basic tasks of life (Where will I shower?  How can I brush my teeth?  How much water will I have to pour down the toilet for it to flush?  Do I have a clean dress for the wedding shower?). I notice I feel relieved by the chance to ditch my original list and start over.  

 Thank goodness for the occasional curve ball life throws us! When a sudden change gets our attention, and we stop planning the next moment and lean into this one, we may realize that our brains are headed down a totally different path than our hearts. 

 Okay, trickle, gush, slosh, I’m paying attention.  How can I best take care of myself through a weekend without water and still not break the bank?  What are my intentions and priorities? How will I feel if I don’t accomplish a single item on my original list?  Will I be able to sit still knowing a renovation is imminent? Can I avoid revving back up and pushing myself?

 Through the generosity of friends, I have the key to an apartment across town where I can shower and do laundry.  I hauled some water for today, so I’ve been able to make coffee, wash my hands, brush my teeth, and water the plants.  I’ve even gotten the toilet flushing figured out, although it took more water pouring than I remembered to make it work.

 The funny thing is, I keep feeling like everything is broken and I can’t do anything – watch TV, use the microwave, cook on the stove, dry clothes in the dryer, sweep the floor, wash the dishes.  That’s silly.  The gas and electricity work.  There’s no reason at all to stay at Heather’s to dry the clothes.  I can bring them home wet and use my dryer.  I can heat leftovers in the microwave, and if I heat some water on the stove, I can wash the dishes by hand.  Admittedly, it makes more sense to use paper plates, but I’m fascinated by the fact that I feel limited in other areas when only one thing has changed. 

 Yes, it’s one thing that affects many everyday tasks, but it’s only one thing. I feel like it’s EVERYTHING. I can’t seem to find a comfortable rhythm for the day. What felt like plenty of water yesterday seems like way too little today, although in reality I still have an adequate supply. Somewhere down there, I think I feel scared.  Of what? I don’t know. Just uneasy like if one thing shifted something else could too.

 I tell you this because I recognize that this may be how some of you feel when you find out you will be healthier without gluten.  One thing has changed, but it feels like EVERYTHING.  And that feels scary.

 As I explore how to best take care of myself on this off-kilter, scary day, perhaps you’ll find some inspiration for moving through your fear.  

 First, I’ll take inventory. Am I missing anything I need to eat, sleep, bathe, dress, work, or socialize comfortably? At this moment, I have enough water to drink and make coffee tomorrow plus some for tooth brushing, etc.  If I should need more, I have retrieved the keys to my neighbor’s house or I can go to the office.  There’s no real chance of running out.  I have precooked food on hand. I have paper plates. I have washed the dress I want to wear to the wedding shower.  I have purchased the cards and the gifts for the shower.  I have books, TV, and internet for entertainment, or I can go for a walk.  If I want to shower later, it’s a short drive to the apartment.  I have everything I need.

 Next, I will take the time to notice that I feel grateful for how little effort it has taken to procure what I need.  I will sit with that gratitude for a moment.  I may even get out a piece of paper and make a very specific and detailed list of things for which I feel grateful.

 If I feel too restless to be still, or like I’m speeding up into a frenzy, I will plant my feet firmly on the ground and look around.  I may grab a pillow and hold it while I do this. I will look at the colors or objects around me focusing on the tiniest details. Once I can be still, I will explore where in my body I feel the fear that is causing me to feel restless. When I feel the fear localize, I will allow myself to feel it for as long as I can at this moment.  I know that I can trust my body to support me and I know that the longer I can sit with this fear, the less likely it is to be triggered by a similar event in the future. I will exercise the courage to face my fear, but I will choose patience and kindness toward myself.  I will stop when I have reached my limit.  Then, if I need personal contact, I will call a friend.  If I need distraction, I will watch a comedy.  I will acknowledge how proud I am of myself for leaning into fear rather than running from it. If this process lasts for hours or for days, I will be patient with myself and know that eventually it will end. There is no reason to panic.

 If I pay attention, I will be presented with an opportunity to shift my point of view and move toward feeling good.  At that moment, if I choose to let go of fear, anticipation and excitement will replace it and I will be prepared to embrace joy.  Momentary happiness requires no preparation, but joy requires us to embrace our fear and let it go. I know this because sometimes I manage to do just that. I intend to practice this more often. This weekend is the perfect opportunity for me.

I am grateful for my increasing courage.  Are you prepared to join me?