Finding Delight in Sheltering at Home

On Wednesday, March 25, Governor Little ordered Idahoans to shelter in place in a effort to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus for 21 days. Our family currently at home consists of my husband, a physician who goes into the hospital daily and myself and our pets, two dogs and a cat. When my husband heads out early to do rounds, I am essentially sheltering alone. I have marked off my calendar with the days that the order holds. I’m treating it like an advent calendar. Assuming Idaho is able to bring the virus under control, we will be able to return to some sense of normalcy by April 14. I check off each day, another grand adventure at home. If we are successful at reducing the spread, the time in shelter will be worth it.

Pete and I on our 30th anniversary this summer in our backyard. We have a ski chair from Bogus Basin as a swing

At the moment I feel lucky because my son, Scott, lives in Seattle, a virus hot-spot and has been staying home since March 1 so almost a month longer than my husband and I. Since Seattle hasn’t managed to turn the curve yet, he may be staying home even longer. So far Scott who works for the Starbucks Corporate Office has been very fortunate to be able to continue his work from home. Every day we read about more layoffs. The ability to work from home is a true blessing. I am retired so my office floats around the house. I have a lot of electrical equipment to conduct my retired affairs including an I-Phone, I-Pad, portable computer, desk top etc. I am practically computer illiterate so I feel lucky every day I am able to write a coherent sentence on equipment that is smarter than me.

Here are my lists of delights since we have moved to sheltering:

1. Walking a couple miles a day around our neighborhood. We have a mansion going in up the street from us. I remain amazed at how many workers this project has entailed. The work has continued even with the shelter order. Maybe a home for a multi-millionaire is an essential project or at least keeping a large workforce going is essential. On the nature front, flowers are bursting from the ground and budding on the trees. We have gorgeous colors all around us, pink, red, yellow. We have no tulips because the deer snap off the tops as soon as they bloom. I have to assume to deer tulips are similar to aphrodisiacs to humans. Idaho has lots of newcomers. Someone posted on our neighborhood blog that her tulips had been stolen during the night and who could be so mean. Sometimes, our wild friends are not so accommodating.

2. Sitting on my front porch enjoying the sun. The weather this weekend was so warm we could all be outside playing but that was before the Governor’s order. Now we can exercise but we are suppose to keep close to our houses. We have a gorgeous front porch. The weather has turned a little cooler but I spent all morning yesterday outside wearing a parka and covered with a blanket sipping a mug of coffee and catching up on emails. Sun is good for the soul and should be sought out whenever possible.

We spend lots of time outdoors. Here my husband demonstrates his bug-a-salt to a neighbor. Our neighbors can’t join us right now but the porch still calls.

3. Meditation and prayer. Our minister has suggested as a lead up to Easter we pray five times a day (when we get up, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and when we go to bed). I also try to take time to close my eyes and chase away the whirling thoughts and focus on my breathing.

4. Playing with and enjoying my pets. I have an entourage where ever I move through the house. All the animals go with me. They like to be petted, chase balls and in general I find them amusing.

5. Keeping in touch with family and friends. I text my two children and my sister every morning so they know I’m still around. I try to call my sister who lives in Colorado daily. I chat with my kids weekly but send them many strange messages by text throughout the day. I have a friend in Wyoming who writes long esoteric essays on the meaning of life that I look forward to reading and responding to, and much to my amazement I have found Facebook to be a place of much humor and little politics.

My son, Scott, and daughter, Kayla. Scott lives in Seattle and Kayla lives with us but is attending Montana State University in Bozeman and isn’t home right now. She could be since all school is online. But her boyfriend and friends are in Bozeman.

6. Watching movies and reading. When I’m done with my contacts with the outside world, I turn to reading and watching movies. Much of my reading involves newspapers. We get three every day. I love old movies and with Netflix and Amazon Prime there seems to be an endless supply of things to watch.

In summary, I find my days in shelter to be generally delightful. I could view them differently as boring or a hardship. But I prefer to focus on the loveliness of the world in which we live and opportunity to experience something new each day. My blessing to you today is, may you stay healthy and find joy in the moment. And your home be a sanctuary in times of trouble.

Out our back door. Robins are gathering. Makes me smile.

Intuition-a gift, learned skill or both?

“The Intuitive Mind Is a Sacred Gift and the Rational Mind Is a Faithful Servant”  Einsteineinstein-intuition-540x254

Intuition is the art of knowing without rational facts. Implied in the definition is that what you know is correct despite the facts you have before you. For example, you meet someone and you immediately know that they are a good person you can trust.  Later over the years, you find out this assessment is true based on repeated interactions with this individual. Recent research, published in Live Science, May 2016 found that people do use intuition to make faster, more confident, and more accurate decisions.  In other words that feeling in your “gut” is worth listening to. Intuition is a perception that happens in the present, is very fast but this momentary perception can be swept away by cognitive analysis. Unfortunately, in our society based on technology and rational thought we often over-think our initial response

Women are attributed with having stronger intuition than men. Research has clearly shown that women are better at reading facial expressions than are men. Thus, women are more likely to pick up on the subtle emotional messages. Psychology Today suggests this skill is a direct outgrowth of women having lower social power than men. Women have had more opportunity to study their male supervisor’s response and learn to adapt in order to either stay in their positions or move ahead. Women’s special intuitive skills may in fact be a direct outgrowth of surviving in environments with “emotionally clueless men” (Riggio, 2011)

Einstein suggested that intuition is a gift. Some people have more intuitive talent than the rest of us.  We call them clairvoyant, psychic, or prophetic. Many times we are fascinated by these individuals’ ability to see more than one can know based on natural vision or rational reasoning.  At times in throughout history, this ability has frightened us. We have labeled women with special sight witches and burned them at the stake.  We have looked askance at fortunetellers in carnivals believing their skill was probably trickery.

While our culture focuses on technical rational thinking, other cultures, such as India, embrace sensory experiences. Neither approach is right or wrong but by cultivating our intuitive side; we open up our creative mind.  Creativity requires being willing to move forward embracing uncertainty and doubt. Some of the greatest discoveries in science come from scientists being willing to follow their intuition about how to solve a problem.

An individual’s intuitive skill can be improved. I took a class on intuition this week.  The emphasis in the class was on opening yourself to listening to your intuitive sense.  This personal awareness requires the ability to be still, breath in and out in a settled position, and listen to the air.  The prophets in the Bible heard messages from God as whispers and in dreams.  We can’t become attuned to our inner-most thoughts if we are constantly in front of screens, have ear plugs on and spend our lives multi-tasking.

Take the time this week to take advantage of your sacred gift of inner knowing. Spend some time by yourself but with yourself.meditation

Depression, my experience with deep darkness

In 1988, “Gorillas in the Mist” was a big hit. I went with my boyfriend, now husband-Pete, and our friends, Teri and Jack. The movie is the true story of naturalist Dian Essey, protector of hunted gorillas. Blood is featured prominently throughout as gorillas are hunted for cash, gorgeous animals with huge hearts attacked for no reason, their hands sold as ash trays. Essey lived and died among these rare creatures.  The last scene is especially bloody. Essey’s throat is cut. Viewers see the knife slice and blood dripping from her neck. Her assailant is never identified.

As we stood up to leave the movie, I realized I could not speak. Unbeknownst to me, the movie had touched some hidden well-spring releasing a huge surge of darkness that engulfed my senses. The only two bright spots were: 1. I knew something was terribly wrong and 2. I was surrounded by supportive friends. By morning I was able to talk but dark shadows were still hovering like ghostly cobwebs in the corners of my mind. I would not wish that catatonic blackness on anyone. I understand some people can’t surface on their own towards the glimmering light of reality as I had. Trapped in that blackness for a significant period of time, I would find the experience unnerving, unbearable and ultimately unlivable.

While the initial depressive episode was almost 30 years ago, I was reminded of the experience this week while visiting Wyoming friends in Colorado and Arizona. While I was in Colorado, my friends Teri and Jack drove down from Cheyenne to see me. We laughed about our many shared good times, i.e. Like when their cat, Tiger, stole the pork roast, bigger than he off the table as we were sitting done to eat. We don’t talk about how I couldn’t get to their wedding in Jackson even though Pete was the best man because I was struggling to keep the darkness at bay and wouldn’t travel for an extended period of time. I had lunch in Phoenix with my dear friend, Holly. During my mental health struggles I would camp out on Holly’s couch for the night to make sure I wasn’t alone. Excellent counseling, medication, funds to pay for it, and  a strong support system of friends helped sweep my blackness away though I still watch for triggers, such as no depressing movies. I am always thankful for the light.

I have been planning a spring break trip to California for my daughter and her friends to tour universities the last couple of weeks. She wants to go because her brother and his friend made the trek with my sister and I six years ago. The  circumstances of that trip were very different than the one we are contemplating now. When I planned the trip in 2011, I didn’t know the challenges we would face. The week we were to leave I received a call from the friend’s father. He told me his wife had killed herself the night before while the family was in the house. I told him we would the cancel the trip but he insisted we go.

Right after the mom’s funeral in a Boise Episcopal church filled with Juniors in high school, we started out to California. We wound our way down the California coast, touring Stanford, UCLA, Santa Clara and finishing in San Diego. We turned home driving through Yosemite.  After the park, we drove straight home, a week away in La La land resulted in my son’s friend beginning to come to terms with his mother’s death.  Understandably, he wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I was so pleased this December when my son’s friend, a first generation college graduate crossed the stage at University of Idaho. After such a tragic beginning to his college career, his success gave all of us in our family a spurt of joy.

Over the years, mental health issues have grabbed more of the spotlight. The Affordable Care Act(ACA/ObamaCare) now about to be repealed requires that insurers pay for behavioral health treatment at the same level as other medical services (the technical term is parity and insurance payment for mental health is a recent development). I am an example of the success of having access to resources. Unfortunately, treatment still carries a stigma unlike cancer and too many people can’t access appropriate care either because it isn’t available or they are unwilling to admit they need help. Idaho has one of the worst community mental health systems in the nation. Our suicide rate is too high. We can strive to do better as a state. As individuals, we can all be  supportive friends to those in need. My friends kept me going when I was surrounded by darkness and despair. Thirty years later whenever I’m with them I bask in their light.