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Pandemic Pod Panic: Is Your Social Life Causing Angst?

Have you spent more time worrying about your–and your child’s–social life since the pandemic hit? If so, you could be suffering from Pandemic Pod Panic, aka “P3” (I just made this up). I read this interesting piece in the Boston Globe that detailed how many of us have been gripping about how we and our families are left out of social activities during this time of social distancing and isolation. Is this you? I have been guilty of it, I must admit.

First off, let me define a Pandemic Pod, for those of you not in-the-know. It’s essentially a small cohort of families who have stayed together and played together throughout the pandemic. The Pod subscribes to the same level of concern about COVID and, for the most part, interacts socially with an equal level of discretion and safety. Some pods may have more stringent policies when it comes to traveling by airplane, riding the school bus, or dining indoors. Others may be a little less rigid and feel those activities are okay. Typically, what one pod member believes, so does the other. This is why there is not much cross-pollination of pods! And there can be apparent judgment of pods that do not think–and most importantly ACT-alike. This is sounding like a cult..

Let me be clear: I am not judging anyone here. And no one’s beliefs are wrong. Unless they are not mine. Wait, joking! No, I mean, be safe, people. Obviously.

Anyway, back to the topic at-hand: Pandemic Pod Panic. I have noticed that I don’t see or talk to some of the friends that I used to since last March, the onset of COVID. This has caused me to wonder if it’s because of something I’ve done, or how I choose to live during Covid, or if it’s just something about them wanting to isolate. Some of it, too, is because we don’t run into each other at soccer, for example, or during school activities.

I don’t really know. I think we can only assume that it’s that, but who knows!? This reminds me of my recent blog post, Too Many Friends = Too Much Drama, and the feeling of being back in high school. And then, when you find out that friend you don’t see or talk to is actually hanging in her own pod? Then you panic: is it me? Why am I not in that pod? Are we no longer friends?

COVID is killing more than our spirits–it’s killing friendships! (insert scary music)…

Um, that’s a little drastic.

Now, aside from myself, I sometimes wonder about my kids. My son, for example, isn’t as social as my daughter. He basically has lived like a sand mole in the basement and on video games for a year now. Well, that’s not entirely in isolation, though, because he’s on a headset laughing his head off with friends. I’ve wondered if he should go outside and play with our neighbors, but he really has no interest, and I get concerned. Like, is he antisocial? Is he going to have friends when this is all over? We can’t really invite people over who he hasn’t seen or been “podding” with, and hence the P3 begins (Pandemic Pod Panic)

I have been fortunate to have a nice group of friends in my neighborhood, and we have been kind of like our own Pandemic Pod. Our children are the same ages and have played since the pandemic hit. Similarly, we adults have met around the firepit and had some wine and been able to socialize while social distancing. But I have heard others lament that they don’t have those opportunities and feel left out. This sense of isolation is magnified when they see it posted on social media–revelry around a firepit with friends. In the Boston Globe piece, they recommended not posting those types of photos to social media so others don’t feel left out.

Wait. But I only post so others feel less-than, right???? (Insert Mean Girls voice). Just joking.

Anyway, what are your thoughts and experiences with this? Have you felt left out, or judged, or worried about social nonsense during the pandemic? Maybe we are just bored! Perhaps this is self-manufactured stress.

🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🥴🥴

#relationships, Self-Help, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Too Many Friends = Too Much Drama

Have you ever noticed that the smaller your world becomes, the easier it is to manage emotionally? I feel that way these days, as I go to work and home, home and work, with very little in between. I see my children, my boyfriend, maybe a couple of friends here or there, and that’s it. I keep it tight. I have, as my sister used to say, “Circled the wagons.”

She told me that circling the wagons was the the best methodology to avoid drama. The more people you interact with, and have in your direct sphere, the more chances there are for drama. While I thought that seemed sort of grim and isolating at the time, I now realize she had a point. It’s a self-preservation thing.

I think back, for example, to when I was the most social I’ve ever been as a parent (we can’t go all the way back…even though, obvi, I wish I could and stay there #ihearthighschool). So it was when I had my first child, and he was 2. I was so busy out and about with girlfriends, meeting at the playground with moms, going to “Mommy and Me” at the library, and chatting for hours on the phone. I remember I even had to get a new data plan on my cell phone, because I was on it too much. Now, I sort of hate talking on the phone, unless it’s Facetime over wine. 🙂

Anyway, at that time, there were all these fights and paranoia and, “Don’t say anything but…,” or, “No offense, but…,” and “Oh, you weren’t invited?” etc.

It drove me INSANE.

Like, I was 40-years-old and legit cried to my partner about a girl fight! I was 40–and in eighth grade! I was so crazed, in fact, about this one fight, that I literally lost my geographical bearings and drove straight over the Bourne Bridge off of Cape Cod, where I live, headed towards Boston. I was, in short, deranged.

Um…now, circling back to my point of circling the wagons (double circle here), I never feel that anxiety anymore with my friends. I never feel that, “Oh my God, is she mad at me,” or that “Wait, what did I not get invited to” feeling. Ya’ know why? ‘Cause I do nothing! Yeah, that’s right. Naturally, the pandemic has something to do with it. But, even before that, I have found that keeping my social interactions to a minimum has made me feel more at peace. This seems counterintuitive, as I am super social and gregarious and I’m not good at being alone. But, keeping it tight and small, that’s the way to go…for me.

That’s the one issue I have with social media. It’s like the tight circle is inevitably larger, because you are seeing what everyone else is doing, which you are not a part of. Suddenly, your small circle is now 800-people wide (well, except the algorithms make is so I see the same 10 people). Sometimes, I’ll see two people I know socializing, and I’ll feel this sense of FOMO, like I’m missing out.

But, then, I get over it.

And I feel okay and am grateful for the peace.

It’s kind of too bad it is that way, but, I mean, for me it was. How about you?

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Becoming Your Ideal Self to Avoid “Hell”

I just heard this quote about the definition of hell: “On your last day on earth, the person you could have become will meet the person you became.

I saw this on the HBO docuseries, The Vow, and that creepy cult leader, Keith Raniere, told one of his followers that. It did resonate (as I imagine all of his teachings may have resonated with me, since I’m a perfect cult victim). And it is seriously one of my biggest fears: to not become what I could be. I have FOMO on my ideal self.

Psychologists say that this disparity between your actual vs. your ideal self creates something called cognitive dissonance, which is at the root of depression and anxiety. Hm. No WONDER I am anxious! Good thing I just figured out all of my issues…

Um, no. BUT, I guess it’s good to reflect on this idea of the actual vs. ideal self maybe, like, once a month? Too much? Okay, let’s be a little easier on ourselves (it is 2021, after all), and let’s observe ourselves like every six months. We can ask: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? What do we have to do to get there?

We can make Inspiration Boards (I have tried that), and we can write down our goals. However, the real work comes with action and commitment: committing to those goals and that ideal self.

We CAN get there. But, it takes a lot of work and sacrifice–sacrificing the moment and immediate gratification.

I remember in college I went through a serious bout of depression. I had just broken up with my first real love, and I was a shell of a human. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, and I had irrational fears, like I may launch myself into the subway tracks (even though I would never want to do that). I know that’s crazy. Don’t judge! I’m being vulnerable here! I got over it, but a lot of my depression then was that I had lost myself and was not the person I wanted to be. The ideal me was very far from the actual me.

Now, I feel good about myself, but I’m a work in progress and not my ideal. We all are, I think. I do believe if I were to meet my ideal self, I might be a little jelly and want to be her. I have to figure out how to get there, but it’s going to take some work.

I hope I have it in me.

Going to write down what I want to achieve to me the ideal me…so I can avoid that definition of hell!

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Forgiveness: Why and What’s Forgivable? I Want to Know.

Everyone is talking about forgiveness and self-love today as we enter a new year. I hate when people say, “I heard this on NPR,” but I did, in fact, hear it on NPR– a conversation about forgiveness this morning. Essentially, two of the guests agreed that we have to forgive, even is no apology is made or elicited, to stop the stress cycle and allow us to heal and progress. There was a reference to looking forward and living with “forwardness.” I did always like that quote about if you live in the rearview mirror, you’ll soon be going that way. Don’t ask me who said it, because it was actually a fortune cookie message I received and have since pasted to my refrigerator to remind myself to live in the present.

I often have to remind myself of this. In fact, I wear this ring. See the inscription? “Live in the Here and Now.” My niece got it for me. I am terrible at doing this.

So back to forgiveness… By forgiving, you’re embracing peace, love and joy. You are helping your body to de-stress and stop producing cortisol (this was the scientific reasoning for forgiveness). And, you’re giving your mind a break, a chance to rest.

I do think I’m forgiving, but like what is not forgivable, I wonder? I mean, I think murder would be one. I couldn’t get over that. I could probs forgive cheating and lying, if it came with some level of contrition. What else? Um…I’d forgive stealing and hurting my feelings occasionally (not all the time). I’d be super bummed if you lit my house on fire.

I can’t really think of other things right now. Currently, I have forgiven most everyone I know for any wrongs I perceived or experienced. It feels good. Sometimes, I look backwards and feel those pangs of hurt and resentment, because, well, I’m human. And I get angry. And then swallow that anger, and it just manifests itself in heinous ways, like anxiety. YAY!

Forgiveness gives you your power back. Don’t be a victim. Try to empathize with the offender. When someone is mean to my children, I tell them, “Well, maybe feel sorry for him/her, because they are obviously hurting and sad inside to treat you this way.”

“Hurt people hurt people.”
That’s a good quote.

How do you know if someone is hurt when you meet them though? How many chances do you give them?

That’s a whole other question. What do you think?

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Happiness is…Not A Given Everyday! S’okay.

Life is hard. I hard that in a podcast yesterday, referencing the first sentence in Dr. M. Scott Peck’s bestselling book The Road Less Traveled. He said it’s important to reinforce that idea these days when we all think we need to be happy or we are doing this life thing all wrong.

That’s simply not true.

Whaaaat?

Sometimes, for maybe a day, or maybe a few years, we won’t be happy, because LIFE IS HARD, and things come up (a pandemic, a breakup, hating a job), but it doesn’t mean it won’t get better, or that you’re doing something wrong. It is just another piece to this big puzzle, and it is mercurial and evolving. Being happy is not somethings we can always maintain, despite our wishes for “a happy pill!”

I thought about that this morning when I went to let the dogs out early, and it was kind of rainy and damp, and I felt a sadness wash over me. I then thought back to yesterday, when I was at peace on a walk, and feeling so optimistic, because it was a beautiful and warm sunny day on the ocean (oh, and a vaccine may be coming and the election is over…sort of). It struck me how nothing had really changed since yesterday, so I thought I should shift my feeling to being happy. Ya know, ‘cuz it’s that easy!

Yesterday

But I did not. I decided to sit with my feelings and to accept them for what they were. Because life is hard, and we can’t expect so much! We may have to just let things be and ride the wave without impressing our own harsh judgments.

Easier said than done, I know. But something to consider, nonetheless. Remind yourself that the end game is to survive and enjoy MOST, but not all, of the ride. If we didn’t know sadness, we would not know joy!

Actual Joy Pictured