This Curse is a Blessing

This pandemic has been a curse. Yet, it has also been a blessing. At this moment in my life, I’ve really been reading, listening, and talking about human behavior. Self-improvement. So, when school was shut down in march (I’m a teacher) I tried to view this plight in as much of a positive light as possible. To this pandemic as an opportunity for a little change. Just a few years ago I would’ve thrown my hands in the air with disgust. Resentment. Anger. Each day would’ve been a festival of complaints, a circus of actions. But I had to look at it as something that I could learn from. Something I could grow from. And besides, if I’m going to complain, be angry, be resentful, what kind of climate would that produce for those around me. For those still around me, my family. It would be completely counterproductive. To get into this mindset, a few things had to be recognized.

People speak about being grateful, or having gratitude as buzz words, a new fad or life hack. “Every morning I wake up, drink a liter of water, do some breathing exercises, meditate, then show gratitude for everything in my life.” I cannot tell you how many times I read this on Twitter alone. BUT… I must tell you; repetition is therapy. They’re right. If you don’t slow down to recognize how good you have it, how can you ever be grateful for this life you were given? And the beauty of all of this, it’s completely relative to how you view the importance of your life. Each day I try to come to an understanding with humility. That I am nothing. That I know nothing. That each day is a time for self-improvement. To always try and be better than I was the day before. Sounds simple. It’s not. The proof? Look at your life. How often are you grateful for what you have? How often do you play victim as opposed to saying to yourself “It could always be worse, I’m fortunate for what I have”? Some of you are reading this right now and saying that you DO say this. Maybe. But I’m willing to bet that for the majority of the time, you, like me, are a tragedy of your screenplay.

So, I took stock. I took stock of what I have and resisted the urge to think about what I don’t have. Or what I wanted. Once the dust settled around school affairs, I focused on what could be done about the situation at hand. The first thing I noticed is that I had time. What to do about time? Fill it. In the mornings I wasn’t under the gun to get myself and my kids ready for school and to school. So now I had an opportunity for a routine of my breathing exercises. Love meditation. I also got into the habit of subscribing to newsletters and reading as much as I could through the lens of someone else’s eyes. I also subscribed to a couple of news outlets so that I could keep up to date with what’s going on in the world. I also found time to get back into cardiovascular shape. I felt that this year I did an okay job of showing up for jiu-jitsu but I wasn’t doing an okay job of showing up every day to just get my heart rate up for an hour at a time on a daily basis. I rekindled my love affair with my rollers, power meter, Sufferfest videos, and my time trial bike. For 4 days a week I would spend mid-morning sweating and suffering in the basement staring at a television screen. On my off days I was out walking while my kids rode their bikes through the park for PE minutes. This exercise made me realize how much I missed the feeling of being healthier cardiovascularly. That constant flow of air coming in and out of my chest. Sweat dripping into my eyes. The minutes long burn in my legs.

With these feelings you want to try and be healthy with food choices as well. I’ll be honest here; in our house we’ve been a little bit over-the-top of being freakishly scared of the covid-19 endemic. At first, I felt like I was rationing my food to make sure my kids were getting as much food as they could during meals. I was very concerned that there would be a food shortage in the spring! Thank God the supply chains never failed in that food kept coming in, but it was a blessing on my weight until about the end of July. Then came the weight. No matter how much I pedaled, or hit the gym, the weight kept on coming. I just couldn’t seem to put the fork down. Now it was high time to get my weight under control before it became out of control. I found an app that could track macro nutrients along with calories. It’s been a real eye opener for me. I’m not on any fad diet. I truly believe that for 99% of us, there is no specific diet we need to be on. We just need to eat less. This app has allowed me to look at food a little differently. It restricts calories by allowing a certain amount of macro nutrients throughout the day. I picked a balanced diet option from the app, so I have my share of carbs, fat, and protein. What I am beginning to understand now is what I crave, what those foods are composed of, and how to time them throughout the day so that I do not overindulge on any one metric. It’s hard as hell and shows how poor my eating habits have become over a lifetime. It also has shown me that even though the overall goal of the app is to restrict calories, that I can still eat all day if I choose wisely. And all this eating satisfies my cravings from morning until night. I just must be careful of my fat intake. I’m always juggling that one!

I’m not a fan of the word “blessing” or any terms in relation to it. But in this case, I have to cave… because it deals with time spent with me. This pandemic, this predicament, situation, whatever, has been an absolute blessing for me as the time I’ve been able to dedicate them has been unprecedented. I’m also in a fortunate position where all of my kids have hit the golden years of being able to bathe themselves, feed themselves, toilet themselves, and put themselves to sleep! When your children reach these milestones it’s amazing how much time you can actually spend just being with them.  Being in the same room but not saying a word. Being with them on a bike ride. Being with them on a walk. Being with them in a car ride. Being. There are no worries about changing a diaper, putting them down for naps, wondering whether they will eat, bathing them, wiping them. All these efforts of the past have become gapes in time. Now these holes can be filled with conversation. Watching a movie. Family game night. Just plain and simple interaction. Not that the time prior to this stage was any better or worse, now it’s more meaningful to the kids. They understand the connections. They appreciate the presence. They now have more of a grasp of the effects of what family really means. Our investment in each other, in all capacities, is now beginning to be understood. The roots are taking hold of fertile ground. Our bonds being nourished with presence. And we have hit our peak window of opportunity to strengthen and reinforce these family ties. The pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time. The more I think about this time the happier I become. I cannot believe how lucky I am that I have children who don’t care about a cell phone, who don’t care about being in front of a screen all day, who understand what’s going on with the times, showing maturity in tolerance. They have navigated this challenge for months. The challenge of not being able to see friends and family as much as they’re used to. Of being disciplined enough to get their schoolwork done. They are kind and loving enough that for the most part, they treat each other with respect and can handle being in the same space for months on end. They’re tolerant of their parents who force them out on family walks and bike rides when they really didn’t want to go. Understanding, maybe reluctantly, that these moments are fun. They realize and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. Not once have they complained about having been stuck inside or not being able to go back to school or not being able to play a sport or not being able to see their friends. I’m humbled by their attitude and their fortitude.

I don’t deserve them. I’m not worthy of them as they simply tolerate me. They tolerate the situation at their end. I’ve come to love and respect that about my kids. That at any moment Free Will could poke up its head, defying everything we ask or want them to do that they don’t want to do. I take this for granted. I need to understand how lucky I am that their love for life and their attitude towards struggle is something that I can learn from. This extra time I’ve had to spend with them has allowed me to sit and think about what I can learn from them. I remind myself how happy I am to have them. I think, what can I do to make their time with me as important as I feel about their time, they’ve spent with me?

I have truly been surrounded by my best friends since day one of this pandemic. To be honest, I don’t know how much better life would be at this moment without the pandemic. Without this opportunity to sit and reflect. To know that the only thing I can control is my own attitude toward things. And I know that if I do have control of the right attitude it will positively affect those around me. That if I focus on gratitude and love and kindness towards life, that it is recognizable by anyone in your circles not through sight but through feel. I want to have gratitude and feel gratitude so that they thrive off of it.

I’ve also had the opportunity to read more. Not so much in books but I’ve gotten into blogs a little bit lately. I have found at least three or four sites that I get emails from with newsletters once a week with different ideas from different people. If you like in a different light and allow me to try and understand things from other points of view. I’m taking this time to try and broaden my horizons and how I view my own surroundings to the views of others. This also led me down another path of writing myself. I’m not looking to start a website or turn this into a full-time blogging job. I’ve been compelled to write. To simply put emotions, ideas, thoughts, and visualizations into analog form. I found the importance of recognizing what is beautiful and worthwhile in this life and how putting it into words solidifies it. Makes it real. Makes it unforgettable. Makes it findable. Makes me slow down to form coherent sentences and phrases that allows me to appreciate it and understand it more. We have thoughts every day that come in and out of our brains. Sometimes you remember them and sometimes we don’t. But I found through writing things down and talking things out, that they become solidified in the roadmap of my mind. It’s time for building another path in my brain towards understanding the short time we have here in physical life. Also allowed me to perceive struggle differently. Most of the time I would see struggle it’s a painful obstacle. As a negative. Through these times I’m trying to see struggle as a challenge. A challenge that will positively change me. A challenge that I look forward to currently in a competition. Because most challenges in life make you stronger, they make you smarter, they make you a more well-rounded person. If I can take away something from all this nonsense life is throwing at us, that challenges can be overcome. And that standing and facing that title wave as it comes closer to you, is still something the human mind can wrap around and work through. In this situation, in our challenged thirsty minds, we are in a situation where you can bend universal laws. Where you can control the outcome because you are in control of how you react. You are in control of how you act. Maybe things seem to be overwhelming to you at the moment, but by taking one step toward the challenge you can then tackle one thing at a time. And one tackled thing always leads to another.

This extra time to pause has also let me think more deeply about training. The mindset that comes with it. Of how getting back in that saddle on my bike raises my game. Settling into the cockpit and snapping my cleats into the pedals is exhilarating. The anxiousness of traffic heightens your senses. The worry leading up to a long climb or a headwind pairs you for an effort that is something you don’t want to do but you know you must do to feel the benefits on the other side. The air cascading over your arms and legs and around your ears with the sound of a conch shell as if you’re out to sea. A bump here, a crack there, a pop of a stone from your rear tire hitting the guardrail. Your senses are heightened, and your awareness piqued. The same feelings are learned and felt on my hike/jogs on the trails that are basically in my backyard. I feel those pebbles between the treads of my shoes. The catching of a toe on a root. And the quiet and soothing comfort pressing into a pile of needles. The rhythmic breathing and the thumping pulse through your neck remind you that you’re still alive. That you will be full of life and energy to tackle the challenge of living a good life. A bead of sweat dripping down your temple on your cheek reminding you that your body is giving back its energy to the surrounding environment from which you came. The sunlight warming your back as you pass through shaded and unshaded areas. The flapping of a grouse’s feathers scaring the life out of you while also reminding you to be present in this very moment. Different formations below your feet are a constant reminder of the split-second changes you encounter throughout your day and throughout your life. How you must negotiate them by tackling them head on knowing in that last moment that you will figure out how to overcome and learn. And the quietness. Oh, the quietness! Even when you’re on your bike, although cars may be passing by, diesel trucks blowing black smoke and your face, the wind howling in your ears, it’s still a quiet space because you’re outside, overwhelmed by the Earth’s grandeur. Hiking and jogging in the woods are even more intimate. You become more in tune with yourself by being intimate with your surroundings. The overwhelmingness of the environment around you and how much power it has shrinks you. Yet, at the same time, it is very gentle. Undulations in the terrain, whether on the trail or the road remind us of the difficulties we face through life. Knowing that there might be a struggle going up the hills we can take pleasure in knowing that there’s always an ease up on the downhills. Knowing that before and after the storms, there will always be a calm. Of course, there are times it will be dark, but knowing that the light is soon to follow makes the slightest difference in our attitude and fortitude. These are the laws and lessons that nature has been able to afford me. And having this time to take advantage of it is such a blessing. I can’t think of any other word to describe it.

This pandemic is forcing the pressure in my veins to awaken my heart, my mind, and my eyes to see through all the physical things around me. To feel all the emotions they provide me. We need to refocus our time to make it last. When we are given time, we can compound it by focusing on the split moment of that time. We must be thankful for these moments that we’re given. These split seconds of life that add up to life. The sum of some lives is greater than others. Not because of genetics, money, or a job, but on how we utilize the split seconds of the time we’re given and how we utilize the split seconds of the bonus times like now. Appreciate all that you have. Because this is all you know. Don’t concern yourself with others. Whether it’s what you see on your phone, computer, or through your own eyes. Those things don’t matter. What matters is your life right now in this moment. Are you happy? Because everything is relative. We are all rich if we choose to be. And richness has nothing to do with money. It has to do with the amount of emotional and physical wealth that you have built up in the split-seconds of your life that have meaning to you in a spiritual sense. A meaning that you feel. Not that you can see and hold on to and give away to someone else for something that you think you need. But these are feelings that carry you through your day to make you feel like your position on this planet is worth the space it takes up. Stop. Listen. Do you hear it? You are surrounded by life. You’re surrounded by life that doesn’t worry about the bullshit that you worry about. You’re surrounded by life that has single purposes and multi-purposes. But it all has a purpose because it doesn’t worry about having a purpose. Water forms the shape of its container. It doesn’t choose. It doesn’t know. But water is the source of life. It has purpose yet it doesn’t know it. Vegetation sustains life, yet it doesn’t know it and it has another great purpose. Air in which you can’t see but you can feel and hear is another piece of the puzzle in which life can live. And again, it doesn’t know it. We get caught up in worrying about our purpose and how we will fulfill it. You must do and do simply. Do simply every day. Move. Eat well often but not much. Drink the blood of this life that is clear and clean. Serve those around you. Love yourself and that in which is around you. These are simple things! And things that will give you meaning and this meaning is extremely important to the positive contribution to this short life that you have. Embrace the challenges that are in front of you right now. Embrace the time that these challenges have given you to rethink a different path in your life. Move out of your comfort zone whether it’s forward sideways or even backwards, it’s still outside of your comfort zone! And that’s where the growth is. It’s so simple. Just slow down. Think about one movement at a time. If you’re sitting, think about the points of contact to the chair and the floor. If you’re standing think about the points of contact with your bare feet or through your socks or slippers or sneakers. If you’re walking think about the points of contact and how different each step is. As you breathe, think about the life that flows in and out of you that you can’t even see but just feel. Each breath is different. Right there, you have slowed time down and you have given yourself a simple meaning that lasts a lifetime. That brings goodness and

happiness. Enjoy these times knowing that if you’re productive in every moment of just thinking about these sensations that your life has no choice but to be productive in a great way. Be productive one moment and one step at a time in this life. Find the good in all the bad that’s around you right now. There is always good. There must be or else there wouldn’t be balance. And if there wasn’t balance, this life as you know it wouldn’t exist. Although it may feel that the weight has shifted against you and not in your favor, there’s still balance or else you would have been thrown off that seesaw long ago! Even the seesaw is stopped by Earth at the last moment to save you. The Earth is still here. You are still here. Love is still here to bounce you back into this life. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. Keep your head on a swivel and look all around you. Try to look forward as much as possible but don’t ever forget to occasionally look behind to see where you’ve come from, to see how much you’ve grown, from all that you’ve learned from the obstacles and challenges and the negativity in your way and how you conquered it. Take that feeling, that emotion, the power of that success and use it as a force to keep pushing you forward to do what has been good. To do what has brought you to this point. To do the things that you’ve learned from lessons that you lost. So, stop what you’re doing. Feel the invincibility of the invisibility of air filling your lungs. Giving life to the tissue at the cellular level. Close your eyes and listen to what’s around you and embrace it no matter how much you love it or don’t. It won’t last forever. Feel your points of contact right where you are whether you’re laying down sitting standing or moving. Feel everything from what’s under your feet to how it passes across your arms. Understand and know that it’s all good. Know that you are only in control of your thoughts and reactions to it and nothing else. Just be. Just be and understand that’s all you can do. Through that focus, that focus on the positiveness and happiness with yourself, you show others. You show them this aura, this vibrance. When they stop to look, listen, and feel, they will begin to sense and notice all their positive being. Let us take a note from mother nature. She manicures herself constantly. There is always slow change in her being. Because of this unimaginable power, everything here thrives because of it. She doesn’t take care of herself for us, she takes care of herself for herself. And that radiance is so powerful that it changes everything on top of her. We need to take note of the simplicity and the power of it. That if we manicure ourselves and take care of ourselves and do what we’re supposed to do, one simple thing at a time, that will radiate the same, that will be unflappable, that will be indestructible, that that spirit will always win in the end. We must believe that if we focus on this simplicity that we, like her, will always come out on top. Nothing can stop the simple, inevitable change towards good. The difference between her and us, she will always win. She will always win because of the goodness of her intentions. The intentions that she doesn’t know she has because she simply just does the right thing at each moment. Learn from the time she has given you. Embrace this blessing we have been given. Live this way.