Pandemic: When the world is scary, bend and twist
By Sheri McGregor
Right now, with Coronavirus in the air and on the airwaves, I’m working on relocating. Not the best time to be moving hundreds of miles but life doesn’t always go as planned. Of course, if you’re familiar with estrangement, you already know that. Whether you’ve only just been rejected or are years or even decades into the cut-off, the uncertainty of the times can make life scary. Some of you may be wondering about your estranged adult children, hoping they’re doing okay, or that this crisis will bring about a change of heart. Maybe you even call and ask because as a parent, you feel the need, but then are miffed when there’s no response or a very lukewarm or self-centered one. Or, you may have called so many other times that now, even if you’re wondering about your estranged adult child(ren), you refrain from reaching out.
Let’s leave all of that aside for the moment. You can only control yourself…. And even then, amid this Covid-19 scare, it’s a good idea to remain calm and flexible. That’s what this post is about.
Daffodils and you
One thing I’m looking forward to after my move is the new climate where daffodils will thrive. Imagining their sunny faces on the gentle slopes of my new backyard has been a safe spot for me when the news of quarantines and stricter guidelines for social distancing has made me anxious. Thinking about planting daffodil bulbs had me doing some internet research. I learned that the flowers have a secret: daffodils can bend and twist. When storm winds blow, they’re flexible. They even dance!
The poet William Wordsworth knew this and wrote about daffodils just as I imagine they will be at my new home. You can read his talk of them in his poem: I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud . By the way, is his name a pseudonym? It’s too good to be true for a writer! Isn’t it?
Long ago, Wordsworth wrote about something today’s scientists study. Researchers at Duke University are fascinated by the daffodil’s ability to twist and flex. Turns out the blooms have another secret: they turn their backs to the wind. The researchers put the flowers in a wind tunnel to discover that the force is strongest when the flowers face the wind. No wonder daffodils turn away from the storm. It’s a little like the idea I recently shared in this article: going with the flow.
How can you bend?
Staying supple is more than just a mental exercise. If you’re isolating at home, this would be a good time to consider your physical flexibility as well. The body and the mind work together. Even if you already have a good exercise routine, consider trying Feldenkrais. You can read more about it in a guest post at my other website written by a friend: Learning to Move Freely.
As you try this gentle movement, you may also find your thoughts and activities getting organized (in this time of world chaos due to the Coronavirus, or anytime). With that thought in mind, let’s consider a few other ideas to stay calm right now.
- Consider what you can control rather than what you can’t. Your response to any crisis makes it tolerable or not.
- Focus on the precautions you can take rather than worrying about possibilities that prompt anxiety and stress. Living in fear creates stress in the body that can hurt you physically. Learn to soothe your anxiety with a few deep breaths, guided meditations (look on YouTube), or a cup of relaxing herbal tea. A couple that I find useful are Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer Tea and the Yogi Tea Relaxation Varieties.
- Come up with a few calming phrases (this too shall pass; we’re going to be okay; this is just a blip) and repeat them as needed. Or turn to a spiritual reference that gives you strength (Joshua 1:9, for instance).
- Limit yourself. A steady diet of news can make things scary. Tune in enough to see the latest guidelines or local information that can help, but don’t make the news a meal. Just as you consider what’s best to focus on in the wake of an adult child’s estrangement, prescribe yourself something helpful now.
- Keep calm and carry on. Be extra careful. In times of stress, becoming distracted is common–and may be dangerous.
- Use your time wisely. Many people and organizations are offering free services right now. Museums, lessons, even the opera. See the resources list below.
This too shall pass
Do take precautions. Wash your hands often, stay at home as much as you can, and practice social distancing. Stay abreast of news at reliable sources such as the CDC , NIH, Cleveland Clinic, or Mayo Clinic. Or maybe you know of a reliable local source to keep up to date on the Covid-19 pandemic in your own community (a good idea).
Beyond that, make the most of your time. Laugh as much as you can and enjoy your life in the present moment. Right now, when the world can feel uncertain and cause added stress, think of daffodils—and maybe even dance! Daffodils do.
RESOURCES FOR TIME WELL-SPENT AT HOME
Metropolitan Opera streaming for free
Open Culture (free online classes, movies, books and more.
What will you do with your time at home? Let others know what you’re thinking about and doing during this time of social distancing by leaving a comment.
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I really needed to read your “plant some daffodils” message. I have been so down for the past week. I turned 70 a week ago. Not even a phone call from my son, daughter or three grandkids. I did get a card from my daughter but she signs the names of all her family, even though my grandkids are in their 20’s. No gift. I am going to stop the cards and monetary gifts to them. I have to send them to my daughter’s home address anyway because I’m not sure where the grandkids live. I just feel like an ATM machine. It has to stop. I journal about it and that helps somewhat. I do get together with my friends that live in my apartment complex as we all wear masks and social distance. I am embarrassed by my situation, especially when others talk about their adult kids and their grandkids. Plus, then I feel bad wishing I had something to say about mine. I need to focus on my life and new goals that I made when I did turn 70. For there are more years behind me than ahead of me. Yes, it is time to let go and stop all the wishing and hoping that things were different. That’s a waste of my time and just adds salt to the wound. Time for me to heal and not be so focused on my adult kids. They are 46 and 48 y/o now. I thought that when they got older things might change. I love reading your comments and look forward to these in my email. Good luck to all of you also going through such a hard time.
Thank you for all the reminders of “not required to define your sense of self only through your role as a parent.” I’ve not been here often but when I stumble on the comments, it seems to come at a time when I need it and always, with the holiday season already in stride and STILL not heard anything after 8 years, even during COVID, I start feeling quite despondent, ill at ease, anxious and the whole plethera of other unnamable emotions surrounding ‘family gatherings’ and who I am and and and….
I am new here and looking for some help. I’m hanging on by a string. Both my daughter and son won’t let me see my grandkids.
I’m in the same situation! I’ve had problems with son for years. He is now 49, and he has isolated me off/in for the past 5 years. I have felt like I was walking on eggshells when I do get to see him and his family.
This last winter (Dec 2020) he convinced my daughter of something. Now they are both are estranged and I haven’t seen my grandsons for 18 months. Why? What? Don’t know. Time to move on and take care of me.
Great ideas!! Thanks for sharing them Shari and Shar. We only get a few years and days and moments in life. I feel the need to be more productive. I am grateful that hubby and I are still able to take care of ourselves. Have to be glad for the good days. Enjoy the small things, like good meals, flowers, etc. And there is nothing wrong with writing our thoughts and dreams down in notebooks either…or spending some time writing others also locked down and maybe even alone.
Having been estranged from my adult son now for four years and having moved (literally and metaphorically) on with my life, the pandemic still made me pause. I wondered if I would hear from him. How would I handle it? And yet, I have not heard from him.
The only outreach overture I make is that I send out a simple e-card greeting (no note no money) every year on his birthday. That’s it. I don’t get anything back, nor do I expect it. Is he alive? More than likely. Someone is opening the ecards. Am I alive or dead or sick in the hospital? Other than the annual birthday card he wouldn’t know and he hasn’t reached out to find out. It is a very sad feeling indeed to think about this so I don’t.
As parents, so many of us pour ourselves into our children’s happiness way too much. Some of our children don’t value this generosity or us. It’s okay to let them go, send them love out into the universe and just let them be. If they are happier without you in their lives, then let them be happy. It’s important to find happiness outside of parenting. It’s essential. Value yourself. You and your own happiness matter. You are not required to define your sense of self only through your role as parent.
By all means, plant some daffodils, if that makes you happy. Paint, bake, watch TV, read, knit, sing. Whatever brings you joy. Let the pain go and send your kid or kids invisible messages of love. After several years it’s time to stop nursing the wound even if they ache a bit at times like this