Connection

Social distancing is needed to manage an infectious disease like Covid 19. I agree with the stay at home orders, with the use of masks to mutually protect each other when possible, and cleaning off surfaces.

Not one of us is going to do it perfectly. Not one of us will ever be completely safe. If we are in a war with a virus as it has been stated, war by definition does not have rules for safety. It takes out men, women, children, young, old, disabled, and even pets. It’s awful. It’s not something that anyone wants.

The silver lining is that humanity could decide that in this war, instead of beating up other humans, we can just focus on hating the virus.

I think people need to be with their main people. I think some of you big extroverts should slow your roll at this time. Make some choices. Could you get your contact with people down to 10 people that really matter? Could you shop with a list and go out less?

I am lucky to live on a farm and I can have fires. My mom comes and joins me at the fire. Sometimes others fill the chairs at a safe distance. I am introverted so I can get by with a lot of time alone, but I need people too. I have talked to lots of friends and family through text and FaceTime, etc.

I am an essential worker and I have struggled to not resent customers that do not understand that I want to minimize my risk, too. I am working through this. This time of distancing and caution could go on for quite awhile. My mom has some health issues and I don’t want to bring back this virus. Even if I wasn’t an essential worker though, I have to shop sometimes. My mom is on of those extroverts that shops as a means of connection. I can’t protect her 100%. I never could. Life is dangerous.

You are on your own journey and you will figure out a balance that serves you. For me, I am going to do my best to be of service at my job, try to keep my customers, Co- workers, and myself as safe as possible without being unkind. I will do my best to be kind to my mom as she figures out how to adjust to this less people time. I also think it is time to meet face to face with my most important people and for mom to do the same. I think it is important to our well-being. This is the perfect time to be mindful of our most important connections. Who are your top 10 connections? How can you make sure you are nurturing those relationships during this time. How can you have face to face time with people that are truly essential to your well- being?

Also, I am going to hug my dog. I am breaking rules every day. I can’t social distance from the horses here either. There is a longer more detailed version of this documentary that I have shared before. The research in this video is foundational to my coaching business…named Promising Connections. Please consider taking some time to learn about stress and how to reduce it.

Take care. May your connections make this time of difficulty a little lighter. Peace to all of my readers. Be easy on yourself and others.

Tracy May, M. ed

Promising Connections, LLC

Cooped Up

I am an only child and one thing I have been good at is alone time. I had the luxury of it when I was a kid so I know how to do it. Some of you are feeling all cooped up. As an essential employee so far, I get to go to work and interact with the public. I think I would probably feel cooped up myself too if I had to stay home all day. I go to work. Then I come home. My mom is here so my “alone” spaces are limited to my room upstairs and outside. My mom does not like cooking so sometimes I claim the kitchen. There are a lot of people giving great advice about what you could do with the time. Exercise, eat well, sleep. Some people are working on organizing or home improvement. We need to be in the moment with our loved ones. Play with our children. Creatively reach out to those we can’t be with. Do some art. Learn something new. These are all great suggestions. What I can offer that is unique is a little advice on how to do nothing. It is okay to not be reading, taking in a movie, listening to music, or doing anything. It is helpful to sometimes do nothing. Do nothing but breathe. Listen to the birds outside. Stand in the grass barefoot. Hold a cup of tea and just enjoy the warmth on your hands. This is living, too. These little do nothing moments can recharge your batteries for what is next. Maybe we won’t see as much trouble as is predicted. I hope every reader out there will be safe from the sickness and sadness caused by the Corona Virus. This thing just snuck up on all of us and changed everything. If you are tired and you need to just do nothing for awhile, it’s okay.

Take Care,

Tracy May, Promising Connections, LLC

Giving Ourselves a Break During The Corona Virus Pandemic

The Corona Virus Pandemic is causing some level of trauma for all of us and with trauma comes a variety consequences.

“Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted affect. Most responses are normal in that they affect most survivors and are socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited. Indicators of more severe responses include continuous distress without periods of relative calm or rest, severe dissociation symptoms, and intense intrusive recollections that continue despite a return to safety. Delayed responses to trauma can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma, even remotely.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/)

Consider for a moment the following. We are not on the other side of this, so we are not yet safe. We are still being traumatized. We are like refugees in a war torn land, or parents that have missing children with no answers, or a victim of domestic violence who has not yet escaped. We are still fully in this experience. Many of my friends have expressed sadness, anxiety, and fatigue. I have felt that, too. I am trying to use the arts as I have before to help me cope. These tools are helpful, but while still in the experience of trauma, it is different. I am not able to just sit down and create like I usually can.

You may not be as productive as you were before this, and if nobody has told you this yet, that is normal. Trying to process all the changes in our routines and new worries about our health and the health of our loved ones is a big deal. I am going to sign off with a couple of questions for you to ponder.

How can you give yourself a break?

How can you encourage your friends and family to give themselves a break?

Once we get through this we can start returning back to some routines and being more disciplined, but in the meantime, when it is possible, let’s give ourselves a chance to catch our breath. It’s not a time to try to be perfect and push our limits. It’s a time for extreme self- care where there is an opportunity. Some of us have small windows to give ourselves a break. Use those times to refuel. This event is sad and devastating, but we will get through it. It will get better. Keep looking at all of the good that is being done, think about how you can reasonably help, and when there is a chance, give yourself a break. We will see better days again. Peace to you all and take care.

Pandemic- Perspective over Panic

The Corona Virus has infected all of us with a bit of fear. We know this is bigger than a flu. We know we can’t completely control it. It threatens our loved ones, our livelihood, our daily routines, our social lives, and our freedom to move about.

We may act mad at the media or politicians, but we know our real issue is that this is a big scary monster and we don’t know how much destruction it will do— and none of us knows how to control what happens. We can take precautions but there are no guarantees.

I have been trying to think of something that could help others while I honestly deal with my own fear of this monster. I have a mom with health issues at home. I work with the public all day. I have a daughter 10 hours away. I am trying to balance making a living, performing a needed service in the community, trying not to bring germs home, and trying to fight back the tears when I hear that there might be travel bands that soon make it not an option to go be with my daughter when I had hoped. There is so much with this Pandemic that is beyond my control.

The truth is, that even when we think we are in control, major life events can surprise us at anytime. In this unusual case, we are in this together. The whole world is in this together. We are for once on the same team.

The thing we can absolutely control in this is our perspective. It does not help to deny the monster. The Corona Virus is a monster. A real monster. Anger, denial, or paralyzing fear will not remove it. We can, however, change our perspective from focusing on the scary parts to focusing on how we will solve this together. We all are vested in a creative solution to not only the disease but to the secondary effects on our well- being and economy. Tonight musicians were posting music. My book club reached out to me virtually. Other visual artists and myself are sharing our best pictures. Our pub owners are making meals to go and checking on customers that might be isolated. The senior site is providing pick up meals for my mom and her friends who can no longer gather. Churches are posting videos of services. Teachers are delivering books to students. Store owners are helping people get things they need. People are sharing funny memes to get us laughing. Food shelves are stocking up. Politicians seem to be problem solving together. Birds are singing us into Spring. Parents are figuring out how to help educate their kids and provide enriching activities as the schools are closed. Medical professionals are giving their best recommendations as they are putting their own lives on the line to save us. How will you contribute to the creative healing solutions we will need moving forward? We need all of us. May you focus on how you can help your family, friends, and neighbors, and feel empowered. Be well. Stay hopeful. Take care.

Humble Reflections on Love

I married my first boyfriend. We divorced. I had one boyfriend a couple of years later. We broke up. Then I dated and married my third boyfriend. We are now divorced. I have always wanted to have a good partner in life and I gave my all to those relationships. I have since dated a lot.

I have been reading books on relationships for decades. My first degree was in ministry and I studied about relationships to help couples planning to get married. I later became a life coach and have held space for couples of all ages trying to come to new agreements on how to be together in a way that serves both. Due to my 100 percent failure rate in finding my soulmate thus far, you might not trust my advice, and that is fair. I hear you. I am going to share my humble thoughts anyway.

Here is what I believe is required to hold a couple together, not just to survive the relationship, but to thrive and grow all along the way.

1. Shared core values. In order to know you have these in common as a couple , it is best to figure out what yours are on your own first. What really matters to you? The right partner will have some of these in common. That will become the foundation of your shared mission in life.

2. Civil Communication. Make time for communication that is productive. Create safe space to discuss money, how to raise kids, how you really want to loved, what goals you hope to achieve, your joys, and your anxieties. When you fight, and good fights are needed, don’t call each other names or use, what one counselor called “gunpowder” words. These words are “never” and “always” to describe your partner. These words are too absolute and they shut down the opportunity for growth or change. Instead use language like, when this happened I felt…., and What I really want is…., and How do you feel about that? The best communication partners know how to also listen to each other. Listen to listen and not just to respond. Good communication is honest, vulnerable, and respectful. It propels a relationship forward and deeper.

3. Be buyers not renters. Commitment is hard but if there is no commitment there is really no reason to hold on and work on a relationship. The commitment makes the work worth it. Are you in or out? Yes or no? If yes you are in, be all in.

Be all in.

Have your partner’s back. Invest in your relationship with the same dedication you give to your job, raising kids, and managing money. Some people take better care of detailing their cars than they do to their marriages. Go to your partner first with your relationship issues. Seek professional help if needed. Be loyal. I have male and female friends, but when I am in a relationship, my male friends are no longer my confidants at the same level. Your partner should be your best friend. I am not saying you drop all of your friends, but it is easy for other people to move in on sacred spaces that should be for you and your partner. If you are going to leave, don’t just run to someone else on the rebound. Take some time to reflect on what went wrong. Get clear on what you really want so you can find it.

Those are my thoughts on relationships.

Now on to us single folks…

Some of us are working on ourselves to figure out what we are looking for.

Some of us kind of know what we want but have not found a person that lights our fire.

Some of us feel done.

If you are single, may you be blessed like me to have friends that are like family, people in your life that inspire you, people that make you laugh your ass off, people that will hold space for you in down times, and people that will cheer your successes. While single, invest in those relationships with friends and family. Maybe leave a little corner of your heart open to the possibility of a meaningful romantic adventure in the future. If you are dating, keep a good sense of humor. You might be kissing some frogs for a bit but you will live through this. It will be funny later.

I think the whole point of being here is love, so single or partnered, have a great Valentine’s Day. Love all the people that matter in your life. Love yourself and be a light.

Here is one of my favorite Ted Talks on love. Hope you will enjoy it, too.

Take Care,

Tracy May

What Health Means to Me

I am a person that enjoys all of the good things in life, yet I have been focused on my health for most of my adult life. When I was 18, I was in a car wreck that almost killed me. I broke my back and was put back together at Mayo Clinic. I had some of the finest doctors in the country and they were nervous about how things would turn out. My final prognosis after two years and two surgeries was that I would probably have pain throughout my life, not walk right, and should only engage in moderate exercise.

That made me mad. That made me fight for the life I wanted.

For about three years after the accident it was hard to enjoy being active but I tried to eat well and walked a lot. At the end of my college career, I was going to the gym and studying martial arts. I adopted a Dalmatian that needed a three hour walk every day just to be civil and hiked all around Minneapolis and in surrounding parks. I started to feel like me again.

There have been seasons in life when I was more focused on health than others but rather than strict diets and particular workouts these are some habits that help me.

1. Shop the outside of the grocery store first. Fruits, veggies, eggs dairy, meat. Limit intake of processed foods. An egg or oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter and an apple for lunch, and a yummy dinner was a habit for a long time. I try to have my default, don’t have to think about it, foods that are good for me on hand. I have my treats but if I am filling up on the good stuff first it is easier to resist the bad stuff.

2. Make exercise a hobby and make it fun. I keep learning new things about fitness. I have studied many dance formats. I have even taught a class. We need exercise that provides stretching, practicing balance, strength training, and cardio. For me dancing, hiking, lifting weights, and yoga have been my go- to’s. There are options on how you get all of these exercises but neglecting any one of them can lead to a faster decline of mobility and health. Exercising with friends and family, incorporating nature, and exercising with music have helped me make exercise a fun part of my day rather than a chore.

3. Find good friends. Spend the most time with people that help you be better. I have been making new friends in Indiana since I have moved back. I stay in touch with my friends in Minnesota as well. My close friends love good food, music, the arts, care deeply about their friends and family, and want to live a purpose driven life. I get encouragement and good energy just being in the presence of my closest friends. My relationships with quality people have added so much to my life. We kind of become like the people we hang with, so we have to take inventory of that from time to time. It is fun to look back at all of the great experiences I have had with art, music, dance, and nature with my best friends and family. Those experiences make life beautiful.

4. Have times to become spiritually grounded. I don’t go to church but I have to have some time every day to just wind down and focus on how I am doing at life. Am I living my values? Am I making time to do the important things? Am I honoring my body and my life? Am I connected to things that matter. Some people do this at church. I do it in alone time by a fire outside, a walk in the woods, or during blustery winter days, just in my cosy room. Quiet time has been an essential part of my sense of well-being. Without it, I feel out of balance pretty quickly.

I hope that by sharing how I go about living a healthy life you have thought about how you might work on taking care of yourself better. If you want to have assistance on creating a plan for yourself that is uniquely yours, I am a life coach and would enjoy coming along on your journey and helping you get clear on you values and goals, and provide accountability. Reach out if you have questions about that.

Take Care,

Tracy May

New Thinking For a New Year

We are in the first month of 2020.

Our thinking effects our thriving. To be very honest, I have struggled so much over the past three years to change my thinking so that I can thrive more. If you are reading my blog for the first time, you won’t know that my dad passed away three years ago and I moved from the life I built in Minnesota back to my small hometown in Indiana. Grieving sends us into tailspins. Some of us seek out extreme checking out and avoidance. Some get lost in work. Some find themselves on a self- destructive path. Some turn up the volume on health, wellness, and creativity. In my tailspin experience, I have done a little of all of these. I have felt that going into the Fall months that I needed to seek out a less stressful job than teaching and begin to work on me. I have taken some time alone to imagine how I could create a new normal, right where I am at, that would light me up. How can I not only survive this transition but thrive in it? This is my list, and I hope you might take a minute to consider what would be on your list.

1. I want make health my priority. Health is wealth and if I am taking care of my body I will be able to enjoy more of the things I love.

2. I want to invest in authentic friendships with people that help me be better. I am seeking out friends that are also on a track of self-care and living with purpose.

3. I want to transform my business ventures to meet my financial needs in a strategic way and serve a good purpose in my community. This might mean Promising Connections shifts it’s focus a bit.

4. I want use my time, resources, and money in a way that serves my core values to a higher degree.

5. I want to prioritize fun. I want schedule concerts and trips. I want to visit friends. I want to see state parks. I want to take time to write and paint and day dream.

6. I want to volunteer.

7. I don’t know if this is the season in my life when I will find a romantic partner, but if I do, I feel I won’t have to make it happen. I am good alone. I have spent almost two decades of my life with abusers and narcissists. The next serious relationship needs to add to my life not suffocate it. I would love to have someone to walk in the woods with, dance with, curl up on the couch with, enjoy adventures with…. but that is not something that happens for everyone and a soul mate is not something that can be forced. I am not at a place where I am willing to settle for less than wonderful in a relationship. The second half of life needs to be awesome. I simply want to be open to having a relationship, and welcome love to come in when it is right. No more pity dates and projects. No more being taken for granted, being controlled, or disrespected. No more trying to make something work that doesn’t feel right. In the meantime, I am going work on being my best self so I can also be a good catch if I ever decide to be caught again.

That’s my list. What’s on yours?

Don’t Miss the Bliss

Several years ago I taught a seminar to caregivers called “Don’t Miss the Bliss”. The CDC recognizes that being a caregiver comes with increased health risks documented in data.

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/caregiver-brief.html

I wanted to get the happiness, resilience, longevity, and flow information I had gathered as a life coach into the hands of these people that selflessly support others.

Previous posts shared some of that research.

Caregivers tend to naturally put their needs aside but in order to be around longer to take care of children, disabled loved ones, or aging loved ones, self-care should become routine.

The starting point is take an honest look at how you value yourself. Do you value yourself? Do you truly believe that you deserve to eat well, exercise, rest, enjoy entertainment and friendships as much as those you care for? Do you allow yourself any reasonable breaks?

When you value yourself, you will see that taking care of yourself is more than okay— it is how you thrive and continue to be a better caregiver.

Create space that is yours. Even if it is just one room, you need a place where you can relax and decompress.

Allow yourself to have hobbies/ activities that you can be immersed in.

Make time to spend with your best friends and most supportive family members. You need to have a support system, too. We all have to deal with toxic people but do not allow them to dominate your time.

Plan and enjoy good meals.

Allow yourself to sleep.

Finally, take a moment to think about the life you want to create in the next year, next five years, the next ten. There is room for you to dream and work on your goals while being a caregiver.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls. “ Joseph Campbell

Take Care,

Tracy May, M. Ed

Noticing Beauty

I just got up with my fur babies. I recently added a little black kitten to the family. Frida, my schnauzer was snoring in her bed next to mine as we were awakened by the the meows of Phoenix, our 3:00 am frolicker, and in all hours, a hungry beast kitten. I fed the kitten. I fed Frida. I took Frida out and paused to look up and see the Big Dipper and Little Dipper. It was very early in the morning and chilly but the sky was beautiful. I was happy to be exactly where I was. There are so many moments like this in a day. I love sunrises and sunsets. The sound of coffee being made. The smell of coffee. Good songs. Watching the squirrels outside get fatter fatter as winter approaches. I love seeing real friends talk and joke. I love familiar buildings. I love making homemade bread and sharing it. I love when people are honest about their feelings. I love when people are working on their goals. I love that my schnauzer just returned to her little bed to be by me even though trying to sleep again will likely be interrupted by a lively kitten playing hard next door. It’s nice to have a friend nearby.

Taking time to notice the beauty around us makes us more resilient. It is true that not all is well in the world. Focusing on negatives drains our energy. Taking time to pay attention to what is beautiful empowers us.

There was a movie called “Life is Beautiful” that told the story of a man that tried to help his family endure a concentration camp through joy and humor. It is still one of the most powerful and unforgettable stories to me. If you have not seen it, it is worth a watch.

There are different degrees of trouble in the world but focusing on beauty is is a tool accessible to us in all circumstances. There is beauty all around and if we notice it, and appreciate it, it will help us live well in spite of life’s obstacles.

As I get ready to sleep a little more, and close this blog, I am reminded of a friend from Liberia telling me that each night, even during civil war, her family and friends would gather around a fire, the drummers would drum, dancers would dance, the same stars I observed this early morning hung over them in the sky. For those moments they were engulfed in beauty and peace. They took a break from their trouble and celebrated life.

My hope for my readers is that you will find moments of beauty and know that moments like these can be found anytime and anywhere.

Take Care,

Tracy May

Random Acts of Kindness

Engaging in random acts of kindness can increase your happiness and resilience. We often get stuck in our own muck and forget to look around and see how we can assist others. Helping others is helping ourselves at the same time.

When I help someone it helps me live my personal mission of connecting with others and empowering others. Some of my readers actually do not need to hear this as they have overextended themselves volunteering to help others. For those who tend to avoid helping others, especially helping others you do not know, I would like to challenge you to venture outside of your comfort zone, and look for an opportunity to do this sometime this week and insert your help.

Here are some possibilities.

Provide company to someone that is lonely.

Help with a chore.

Help financially.

Provide a happy surprise— anonymously.

Make something for someone.

For this to be truly a random act of kindness, it needs to be given to a complete stranger for no other reason but to just be kind.

I would love to hear your stories of what you do and how it made you feel.

Here is an article on Random Acts of Kindness that you might also enjoy.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-well-being%3famp

Take care and be kind,

Tracy May