Last week, I wrote about my unexpected move to Massachusetts for the fall, how a ten-day stay unexpectedly turned into a two-to-three-month residence. In the beginning, I felt lost in every way. I had a hard time navigating the unfamiliar terrain and couldn’t find the food I needed to maintain my health.
Over time, I’ve adapted. I shared a few strategies that helped me last week. Here are a few more that have helped me settle. If you practice them in your daily life, they will serve you when chaos ensues — which it will, because it always does, eventually.
REPLACE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WITH USEFUL QUESTIONS
When it became clear that Shira would not choose residential treatment (they only take voluntary cases), and that I would have to move here if we were going to stay and participate in the day program, I was angry.
I did not enjoy living in a basement apartment, where I was certain there was mold, based on the water-damaged ceiling. Also, we couldn’t find a decent restaurant, meaning I would be responsible for most of our meals and would have to drive a long way to get organic foods.
With Steve at home, I’d be doing all the driving back and forth to the treatment center and responsible for all the hours Shira was home.
Between the mold and the stress, I was having a lot of autoimmune flareups — weakness, fatigue, pain in my tendons.
My recurring thought: I CAN’T DO THIS.
I tried to keep the negative thoughts to myself, but as you probably know, most kids are equipped with extra sharp radar. Shira picked up on my negative emotion and felt guilty about the burden her decision would place on me.
“It’s not your job to worry my worries,” I told her. “It’s my job to figure it out.”
Telling her that flipped a switch. It was the reframe I needed. Rather than complain about how hard it would be, why not ask a better question:
HOW CAN I MAKE THIS WORK?
I didn’t try to answer, but let the solutions come to me.
Over the next few days, I realized Shira would have to become more independent. She would up have to go to breakfast on her own. She would be responsible for getting herself out the door in the morning and to bed at night.
We would make the forty minute drive to Whole Foods into a weekend outing. Sunday morning drives down long country roads would turn out to be a lovely way to pass time together. It occurred to me later that I had been in the habit of going to Trader Joe’s every Sunday morning for years.
My weekly habit could be transferred across the country, as could my daily routines.
Which brings me to the next strategy.
RELY ON REGULAR PRACTICES AND ROUTINES
I knew from taking regular retreats, I needed a workstation. On the first day after Steve left, I set up all my papers, books, and office supplies on a counter facing the pond. The next day I was ready to work.
I knew exactly what to do. I had cultivated practices and routines that were portable. (More about routine here.)
- I knew to begin with meditation and writing practice.
- I knew that if I was too tired to sit up, I could do yoga nidra instead of zazen.
- I knew to work in twenty-five minute spurts, taking five-minute breaks in between.
- I knew to set reasonable goals and meet them.
- I knew that after ninety minutes or so, I was done
The result: Not only do I feel settled, but I’ve completed one hundred pages of manuscript revisions.
In the past week, I’ve become even more comfortable here. A few days ago, as I was driving home after dropping off Shira, it occurred to me that it will be hard to go home.
I’ve grown accustomed to having a pond at my back door, where I can walk and see wildlife–swans, Canadian geese, a great blue heron, and a black egret. A hawk has been regularly perched on the telephone wire outside our apartment. Also, It’s quiet here, which not only serves my writing, but keeps mind and body calm. A natural anti-inflammatory.
Most importantly, Shira is getting tremendous care, working with brilliant and compassionate professionals. Saying goodbye will be gut-wrenching, I’m sure.
Someone please remind me when I go back home, to take a look at these posts so I can remember more easily how to make the transition.
How can you turn your negative thoughts into useful questions? What practices and routines can you cultivate that will support you under changing circumstances?