You can imagine the empty nesters and soon to be empty nesters calling, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO about sending my kids to college?”
I believe universities, educators, physicians, are really trying to make it safe. STILL, this is your child’s life. I don’t mean to sound dramatic and you probably already know it. There is no guarantee in this decision.
I believe each family knows their child better than anyone. What is realistic, not fantasy, not denial, when it comes to expectations of young adults living on college campuses? Social distancing, mask, not sharing beer and food, no handholding, no hugging, well, you know all this and so do they.
Another challenge is the nighttime. What will there be to do on campus, and in their dorm, or apartment? Weekends after hours of classes and focusing, what is open and what is possible when dealing with a complex and unexpected Covid? What transportation is safe and available?
You know the images of how college life was and all it’s advantages. You just don’t know nor does anyone really know, life on college campuses today.
Parents are scared their children will take GAP YEAR, but never go to college. They fear their kids won’t get as good a job if no college degree or delays in getting that degree. Some parents are thinking graduate school is a good idea because jobs are limited. Kids couldn’t get internships this summer. They were so bored, lonely, and deeply frustrated. Anxiety and irritability showed up more than before and for good reason. This has been a really, really hard time.
You know all this. You know how to be there for your kids. I am wondering if you are making time to be there for YOU? This is not how you thought parenting would be.
I think it is a little bit helpful to know your kids and you are not alone in this deep uncertainty and financial crisis. During our group discussion, many times you heard,” OH ME TOO. I FEEL LIKE THAT EVERYDAY. I CAN’T GET CLARITY on this decision. I AM SO SO SAD about my kids not having the college life they dreamed of having and they worked so hard to get into these colleges. How can they fall in love in college like they hoped? They won’t be in sports or theater together? How will they really get to know each other if mostly they are isolated? Is it better online, then? I am so mad about this whole virus. It kills people. Gone. “Tears fell and the word, GRIEVING was unanimously said. We are all grieving for what can’t be and what is being lost.
I feel for your kids and you, the parents. When you love someone, you want his or her dreams to be lived. You would do anything. I am sure they know this about you.
I wish you all the best in this decision. I am here to listen and support you during this unexpected and uncertain journey. A reminder, it is ok to change your mind along the road of traveling uncertainty.
Take good care. This will not last forever,
With all the news, losses, and chaos of the unknown every day, we were talking about what is helping us day by day, during Covid.
Cooking, music, gardening, bird songs from the window, night sky, Face Time, reading, painting, hiking, swimming, sharing, webinars, long walks, golf, road trip, are some of the ideas, but what was missing was the NO MATTER WHAT I CAN FIND A PRACTICE TO RE-CENTER.
What practice you do may work one day, but NOT the next. This is natural. We rise and collapse or we just feel flat. We are not use to ORDINARY days for such a long time. We spin trying to plan ahead, and that gets exhausting because of cancelling or still not knowing what Fall and Winter will be. We are learning. We are frustrated. We are sick of it. Still, we are here. Thank goodness!
Bottom line, we need to build an inner world of relaxation, which has been one of my favorite things to do for decades. Even before I was critically ill when my healthy child was 18 months, I was on the journey of practicing a connection within myself, quieting the outer, dropping deeper and building inner sacred space. Thank goodness I did that work with the help of amazing teachers and friends. Still I have days I cannot settle myself, I am continually practicing, and over the years have added a visual place in my home that I change and that reminds me what truly matters or what I need now for support.
I am writing you today to suggest your finding a way to build SAFETY within yourself. You don’t need an hour. You don’t need pure quiet because the mind wonders, distracts, and you will come back to center. Like the ocean, you wave, in and out. Hopefully, you connect with feelings and allow them to communicate with you. Oh, how your mind will try and take you away. Return to center, breathing back to noticing feelings and how your body is doing. Then ask, “What do you want me to see and or what would you like to say to me right now?” You can ask 3 times pausing each time for a sensation, an image, words. Sometimes you will think nothing is happening here. Keep going. Try another time that day. Maybe try music playing. This is an exploration. Who doesn’t have wants? I want to hear something or see something, feel something, now. You can ask for it that way, too. Hopefully your inner critic doesn’t keep you away from building your inner sacred space that is just for you.
Practice. It is actually fun. I keep paper and pencil to doodle or note what I heard or felt. There are many practices from within. I am happy to share with you. This has been fun and frustrating for sure for over 30 years.
We want to belong. We want to have community. We want to have choices of how to get to peace, even for ten minutes. We long for a meaningful life, not just filling time, no matter what is happening in our world. Remember, it is natural that what worked one-day may not work the next. Begin!
Take good care,
She gave me permission during this Covid time to share, changing her name.
I’m always the one in the room who raises my hand to help, to say I’m in. Well, since sheltering at home and living solo, I don’t want to raise my hand. People don’t get how much self-talk of cheerleading I do to make it through day and night and repeat for months, with no footsteps, no voices in the kitchen, no door opening to a hello, I’m home and no one to push me to go out for a walk. How long could they endure this journey being solo? Do they ask themselves that before they want me to count myself IN? Sure, they say they feel badly for me and wow how do I do it day after day. It ends there. No action plan.
I have been through hard times before, many. I never married, but I have had live in partners of love. I don’t have kids. I believe in giving back, opening my heart, rising up, kindness, and participation.
Who hasn’t had hard times, really? I get that. Sometimes getting that people have had it worse than me has put my hand in the air, over and over. This time, this hard, enduring time, this pain, has stopped me from joining IN. That is embarrassing to say out loud. I don’t think I am a selfish person. I’m not. The world needs a ME, a YOU, more than ever now, or that’s how it feels. I know this. I am gratefully well-educated and youthful in energy, but this is my but. I DON’T HAVE IT TO GIVE RIGHT NOW.
It is not because of this, that, or the other because that is limiting in thinking. It is not only a feeling. Feelings aren’t always true. This is a in my body knowing and a consistent knowing even when I have tried to get to a yes I can. Yes, you can count on me. Still. I DON’T HAVE IT TO GIVE RIGHT NOW.
Friends and families are mad at me for my NO. They judge me for sure. I hear it in their words and tone. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying I don’t wear a mask and social distance with conviction. I do 100%. I am talking about participating in causes, right causes that have risen loud during this COVID. I have a heart and it breaks for others. I am talking about ZOOM calls, Face Time that I don’t say YES to. I am talking about not getting in the best shape of my life because I have the time. I am talking about not cleaning out to someday donate. I am talking about not being on a committee right now to get out the vote, to help minorities have equal opportunities, for homeless to have shelter, for enough food for all, for jobs not to be lost, for children to be separated from their families, etc.
So why did I call you today for a session? I just want to say what is up for me. I want to know that I am connecting with someone who I believe will listen and remember what I am saying. BE A WITNESS OF ME.
Take good care,
During Covid-19, screen connections are joining us with new activities, work, friends, learning, and family. In our group, each of us discovered what we weren’t doing well. LISTENING.
We noticed we were taking for granted that we were actually good listeners. Then the conversation deepened. We come to the screen time with pre-conceived ideas of what will happen. This one talks LONGER than others on the call, that one says the same thing OVER and over, the other one always has to INTERRUPT, this is BORING now, and on and on. So we came up with a plan for our next meeting, or family or friends Zoom calls.
Listening. Our PRACTICE for the week was to notice how we are listening DIFFERENTLY. How is our body FEELING in situations? How is our breathing; HELD, shallow, deep? When were we BRAVE and when was it fine to not be brave? When did we LEAD and when did we wait, PAUSE, discover something we had no idea the person was thinking or feeling. Listening asked us to be aware this week for what IS listening all about?
You are welcome to join us in practicing listening and leave your thoughts in the comments.
Take good care,
We had this discussion during our group gathering. One thing everyone said and is true for me, as well, is, they DON’T do same same but they include the activities during the day and evening that usually are the same, just not as a routine. So, I thought I would list them for you. Each said there are days they don’t do much at all.
All of us have been de-cluttering. Researching a ROAD trip. Watching tv series. Donating to Black LIVES Matter and other organizations that need our support. Posting, Get Out The VOTE. Only a few are singing in the shower but now more will.
Each time we gather, we say our NAME even though everyone knows it. We are APPRECIATING that we are STILL here, resilient, and falling apart, sharing ideas with each other, and LISTENING. We all BELIEVE we will be fine and that our world will be changed for the BETTER, slowly.
PLEASE ADD what you do during your day and evening. Ask a question.
Take good care, Natalie
“I need to be cheered forward,” the phone session caller shared with me. Continuing she added, “I was raised to always do what has to be done. Get it done. I just can’t. I hate this coronavirus. Can you help me?”
I wanted to reach through the phone and hug her, sit her on my sofa, add a blanket, Kleenex, and tea. None of that is possible in Covid-19. Telling her I wanted to do that felt comforting.
These times bring up parts of us that we never met before. Vulnerability. Awkwardness. Loneliness. Defeat. No control. Actually, this is POSITIVE. We haven’t had support for the humanness we secretly feel. “Just get it done,” got too loud in our heads and there wasn’t the opportunity to feel the deeper pain that includes, “I just can’t do anything today.” Change happens all throughout our lives. We need each other to help us see blind corners, as well as, to cheer us on in the moments of ease. Weep and celebrate. Over the decades of loving my work, I have learned from people I work with that they forget to celebrate. It is as if they need permission to feel good for something that they made happen. It is not ego. It is happiness wanting to be acknowledged.
I have times during these days of Covid-19 where I just feel sad. Nothing happened. I just feel down, unnamed. The mind always wants answers. Sometimes I go on the hunt for what is this and why and other times, I just feel it and let it be what it is for now. I know myself well enough to know that in the big picture of life, I am fine, and in the moment, what is being asked of me is probably to have a good cry. Van Morrison or Andrea Bocelli can drop my tears when I am guarded. Thank you to them. What music engages your heart?
In this time of shelter at home or safely re-entering the world, losses get triggered. “I can’t believe I have no way of being with her. I can’t handle the ache of wanting to be with her. I just want to take a risk, pop on an airplane and get to her.” Those are the words I once said, years ago, when I wanted to be with my best friend who was in pain.
Many times, I have heard that longing from the brave people calling these past months. What can I do to help? Each time, I remember, add a safe place for them to talk and talk and let them feel they are not alone. I know this to be true for years and years, and at times, I still want to fix the pain fast and get them what they want instantly, which is to be with their loved one who is far away. So, I learn again, to hold opposites. I cannot fix the pain and I can be present and real with them, always sending love over the phone that I hope they feel without my saying it. Asking if they want some suggestions of how to be with this unbearable pain.
I want someone to be with me that way when I cannot get it done and my inner pusher says, “just do it.” I want me to be with me that way, listening and gentle, soothing, and offering some tools for coping. This is hard stuff we are living. I am more than hopeful we will learn, grow, grieve, over and over, and find a different way in the outer world. Isn’t it comforting that we aren’t alone on this broken bridge?
Take extra good care,
We had so much fun at dinner, yes sheltered at home, being playful with the words I NEED YOU.
The eldest daughter started the conversation sharing that this is for fun and also a bit uncomfortable. She offered to be the “facilitator “to keep things flowing and feeding back if needed. Here is a short list of what was shared:
I need you because you are my tech support.
I need you because you cook rice better than I do.
I need you because you make me think of other ways I can exercise.
I need you because you are pretty to look at. REALLY, that is why you need me. Ha ha.
I need you because you play the piano.
I need you because you always know where I left my wrist bandage.
I need you because you say sorry and say what it is that you did that really hurt me.
I need you because you just let things go so easily. I feel safe with you.
I need you because you light candles and make the table pretty.
I need you because you believe in me.
Other shares happened and then popsicles, wine, and cashews on the patio!
What do you need from someone if you are living solo? Sarah, living solo, said she needs her friend because she makes her laugh by texting those silly Covid-19 jokes. Kelly, also living solo, said that she needs her friend because she reminds her, often, that she will be re-hired because her skill set is awesome and she is not a failure. Mike shared that he needs his buddy who says to him, “it is not too late for you to find a partner. You always meet people easily.”
I need you. So please take good care of you because I don’t want to have to say goodbye.
Why do you need that particular person in your life?
Take extra care,
Natalie spoke with AARP about video calls, why they may be draining, and how you can cope.
Life coach and counselor Natalie Caine says that another way to keep calls enjoyable is to appoint a conversation leader in advance (someone who will, for example, ask everyone how they’re doing), and then structure the call on a certain topic, like sharing family recipes, rather than relying on small talk. (Similarly, Wright recommends using videoconferencing time to do a shared activity — like watch a movie, play a game, or cook — together.)
“It’s so much more meaningful and connected,” Caine says, “which is what people are longing for in isolation.”
We are all experiencing the enemy of this pandemic. That word, enemy, ignited a deep conversation during our women’s GROUP. How do I know if I have an ENEMY? These women gave me permission to share their stories:
A woman in her 60’s shared that she hasn’t thought about having an enemy in her circle since she got married to a man that another woman pined to catch. Forty years ago, that enemy gave her sleepless nights and binging. She added, “I still have nights of sleeplessness and binging but now it is from Covid-19. I need some daily practices for my ANXIETY and loneliness. This is the first time in years that I have been so slowed down due to Covid-19. I had no idea how much time I spend in my HEAD, and not feeling. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t pause to learn more about my needs. Now I am.”
Another woman said for sure she knows she has an enemy. A man, who wanted his way, didn’t get it, bad mouthed her to the one person whose respect she chased since age 9, her father. “Your daughter is not a candidate for hiring. She is unskilled.” My father believed HIM over me. The pain from that enemy, over time, and therapy, helped me let go of chasing my dad’s approval. Of course, I still want him to say that he is PROUD of me, but at least that want is not CRIPPLING my life.”
Adding to the conversation, a woman around 49 said, “I am the enemy. My sister hates me. I can’t tell you how many conversations she and I have had and still a new path is not possible. Her perception of me, does not match mine. I know she talks about me back home with dark stories that for sure are untrue. I am done listening, explaining myself, saying sorry, writing her letters, sending gifts. I will probably stay the enemy. The PRICE to pay is too high to not be the enemy. Me, the enemy, discovered, I too wanted to be right. I wanted her to acknowledge what I put up with. More than all that, I just wanted her to let it go, see we have different PERCEPTIONS, and get to know me for who I am today.”
A mother’s share: I can’t seem to comprehend why my kids forget about me. Forget about me, meaning not thinking what I would like. Enemy, this sounds terrible, but the way they treat me I feel like they are the enemy. They cause me such sadness. I feel TRAPPED. I want them in my life. When I think about some choices I could have, I come back to it is not worth the sound of their ANGER on me when I do speak up. It is not worth them shutting the door on me forever. They have their partners and kids. The enemy, oh my, I just got it… is my fear of loss. Pause, long pause. She adds, the enemy is I don’t have a SHIELD to protect me from what they might say to me. I have never had a shield from deep disappointment. I shut down as a shield. Who wants to go shopping with me for a shield? Oh, we can’t shop. Shelter at home. Ok guys, there it is again. Even in my humor. I don’t know how to SHELTER myself.
Covid-19, the enemy, takes lives and leaves families and friends weeping, financially devastated, lonely, frightened, and grieving. Pleading for it not to be true, happens. Pain punches the heart, leaving bruises and longings for an OINTMENT that will speed the end of suffering. It is still INCOMPREHENSIBLE what people have lost and are still losing. My middle name is HOPE. I live that and lose it, even with this enemy of heartbreak.
Enemies. I don’t think I have any and yet, just as the other women and I chatted about, maybe we don’t know if someone can’t stand us, or feels hurt by us, or annoyed with us in unsolvable ways. How am I an ENEMY towards myself? Mostly from UNRELAISTIC expectations. That’s a conversation for our next time together. How am I an enemy towards myself? You could use that for a writing prompt today or for PONDERING on your walk.
Our time at home, sheltered, has given hallways of QUESTIONS never asked and now being paced with night-lights plugged in for fear of falling. May we each have COMFORT in knowing that no matter what, we are here for each other. You only need one or two people of LOYALTY to comfort you when the night-light breaks.
Be gentle with yourself,
“To the world you may be one person;
but to one person you may be the world.”
– Dr. Seuss
In appreciation of all mothers here and those who have passed.
Take care, Natalie
Our women’s Zoom support group has partnered and solo women. They gave me permission to use fake names and share some of what’s up for them. They wonder how other solo women are dealing with isolation.
Sadie is working from home. No pets. Her friends chat on face time. Her sorrow is she fears she missed her window to meet a partner. Online DATING never worked for her.
Linda has no job. Food industry is shut down. She is doing dancing online. Will she ever be able to be a MOM? She just wants this Sunday, Mother’s Day, to pass quickly. Her mother died 7 years ago.
All the sharing’s from these courageous women were about GRIEVING for what they thought would have arrived in their lives by now. What they wonder about is, “Maybe I shouldn’t have divorced him.” “What if I just kept dating online rather than the frustration whining?” “Solo is just not included in dinner parties, concerts, vacations.” “I feel judged by people, like I am a failure, because I am not married.” “All this time of sheltered in drives me crazy because I am OVER THINKING. I’m bored.” “I know I am a great person. I just haven’t been lucky in love.”
Living solo, for sure has challenges. You are the only one to motivate you to get out for a bike ride or to EXCERSIZE with online classes. You have to carry all the groceries in, clean, and put them away. You lose a creative moment and wish for someone on the SOFA to say,” hey what cha working on?” You miss sex. You miss a FOOT that crosses yours in bed. You want someone to make the coffee and bring it to you. You want someone who lives with you and is your person to have DEEPER conversations about what is life about now? I’m losing it from fear. Help me.” Yes, friends also have deep conversations with you and sometimes they are not available.
All the women talked about solo in a pandemic isn’t fair, even though they know life isn’t fair, they still feel that unfairness. It messes with their self-esteem at times and with their wellness practices. It is so natural for that to happen. We are all vulnerable and going it alone is beyond the badge of courage and resiliency. One woman said, “This might sound self-centered, but I do think it … we are also the HEROES of this time. Many would not survive the day and night of living solo.”
Being able to say what’s up for you right now and how you are feeling with a circle of TRUSTING, caring women, is valuable and fulfilling. It is a community, a belonging, and a healing. Sometimes you aren’t up for brainstorming another way, as all of you know, and gratefully having a safe place to share is more than ENOUGH.
Take extra good care,
We will not forget the tragedy of those who died from Covid-19 and the families and friends mourning their loss.
Natalie Caine, M.A. firstname.lastname@example.org