Road to Nowhere

“I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom.” –David Byrne

Could there *be* anything more Generation X than that quote? (she asked in her best Chandler Bing voice.)

I’ve been home for 42 days. The hustle and bustle of NYC is gone, replaced with birdsong and ambulance wails. There are days I feel positive and hopeful. There are days filled with anxiety and sadness.

“Get out of the way” is the best thing most of us can do to keep the medical professionals and essential workers safe and healthy. There is so much about this pandemic that is out of our control. I feel helpless on many fronts.

I’m sad for my nephew who is a senior in high school. I worry for my friends who are juggling working remotely with home schooling and caring for elderly parents. I’m anxious for our friends who work in hospitals. The serious symptoms of coronavirus scare me, especially “difficulty breathing.”

It’s selfish, I know, but I miss being out in the city. I miss our friends and family. I miss live theater. Will Broadway recover? I worry about our actor friends, who not only lost their show but their side gigs as waiters/bartenders. Will I lose my job too? I’ve only been at my job for 3 months. I understand the desperation to revive the economy, and that staying at home is critical to stop the spread. Nothing about the pandemic is clear or straightforward.

When will it be safe to visit my parents?

I’ve tried to make good use of this stillness by working on myself. Maybe it’ll have a positive ripple effect, the way I’ve been inspired by others. Maybe it’s all for nothing.

Can we beat COVID-19, or are we on a road to nowhere?

Pivoting My Mindset

Chapter 3 of The Pivot Principle, Pivot Your Mindset, is about the aftermath of the car accident. Alyssa takes us through the extent of her injuries and her depression during her long road of recovery. After playing with the hospital’s therapy dogs one afternoon, the pure joy they gave her made her realize it was up to her to reclaim her life in her “new normal.” She and Freddie decided to surround themselves with positive thoughts, words and actions. She credits this approach with being able to walk again in 3 months instead of 8, regaining close to 100% use of her injured eye, and running long distances again after 18 months of recovery.

Alyssa and Freddie certainly aren’t the first to tout the power of positivity. The Mayo Clinic, psychologists and scientists have proven that positive thinking reduces stress, build skills and improves your health. It’s nice to say you want to be more positive, but how do you gain, and keep, a positive mindset? Alyssa and Freddie built a strategy:

  1. Only use positive words when speaking, especially to yourself. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t,” say, “Of course I can!”
  2. Create your dream environment. Build your personal space with podcasts, music, articles and clips that have positive, uplifting messages.
  3. Gratitude. Every day, acknowledge three things you are thankful for.
  4. Visualize your life as if you’ve already achieved your dreams and goals. What does it look like? Use your imagination. What will it take to achieve those goals? Write it out, step by step, and see yourself conquering each one.

Does this seem hokey to you? Make you uncomfortable? As Alyssa said in Chapter 1, to reach new heights, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pivoting your mindset isn’t easy. You don’t just decide to be a positive person and BAM! you’re positive. If you’re like me, you’re undoing a lot of deeply embedded mental habits.

As for their strategy, I’ll say right off the bat that only using positive words when speaking is the hardest, especially when talking to myself. But, I’ve been practicing it for a few months and it makes a difference. I used to apologize for anything and everything – I’m not the only one – and I do it much, much less since I started speaking to myself with kindness.

The biggest shift I made to create my dream environment was to stop working for a news organization. This was incredibly difficult because I loved it there – my team, the work, and the mission: To Inform the World. But, being in an environment of relentless Breaking News took its toll on me last year. I was joyless, disillusioned, depressed. I felt myself slipping away. Yet the positive talk started to work even then. I was worth leaving News. I was worth waiting for the right opportunity. It took several months but I found it.

I have a gratitude journal. I write in it most mornings. I list three things I’m thankful for. When I started it, one goal was to be a successful enough writer so I could quit my day job. But now, I don’t resent having to have a day job at all. I pivoted my mindset. My day job is the patron of my art. Writing is a pleasure, a hobby. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want. I don’t depend on writing for a living. I’m thankful for my day job because it gives me the freedom to explore who I am as a writer. If someday I actually sell something, it’s a bonus.

Willing to give it a try? Or are you still skeptical? Leave me a comment, or get in touch!

Stranger Things

I must have the worst look on my face when doing the Couch-to-5K app thing (stuck in Week 4 – can’t run for 5 full minutes) because I get a lot of attention from strangers as I run/plod around Roosevelt Island. Over the last two weeks:

  1. I’m headed past the meditation steps towards the cherry blossom trees. A trim senior citizen in a magenta jumpsuit with matching sun visor power-walks towards me. We give each other a wide berth as we approach. She points at me with both hands and gives me two thumbs up as I pass.
  2. Since I go out around the same time each morning, I see others on the same schedule. Two women wearing cute outfits with coordinating masks walk together almost every day. One morning I nodded at them and got no response. The next time I see them, they squeal, “You got this! WOO!” and give me social-distance high fives as I pass.
  3. Yesterday a man walked his golden retriever by the lighthouse. He was on his phone paying me no mind but I made flirty-eyes at the dog as I passed – such a beauty! A little later, I see the man and dog walking towards me. As I trot up to the grassy part of the path (#socialdistancing), the man calls after me, “You’re doing great!”

I’ve had other fun moments with strangers this week. Mostly on twitter. Mostly with celebrities I admire, including my girl Alyssa!

The best was when I entered the Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community a couple of days ago. Charli Mills herself commented on my blog! Other writers left nice comments about my entry on the CRLC website. “Welcome to the Ranch!” Joanne the Geek posted. Made my heart swell!

Kindness from strangers has made a difference. I’m glad for this reminder to act in kindness. Not just for those you love, but for those you don’t even know. And for yourself! Because you never know who may depend on the kindness of strangers. (Streetcar!)

Shield and Taylor (a 99-word short story)

I need a face shield.

Certainly, Ma’am. Will it be used for hiding? Protection? Disguise? Fear? Shame?

Hiding and disguise.

One of our most popular combinations. This suburban-camouflage balaclava is a best seller. Blend into any background whenever you can’t listen to the children for one more second. It comes with a flask for “mommy juice.”

It fits like a dream, but do you have anything for summer?

Here is our latest line of contouring makeup. All the rage with Gen-Z. ‘Look Carved From Marble.’

I prefer something less artistic.

I have a vintage catcher’s mask in the back…

END

I entered the Flash Fiction Challenge by Carrot Ranch Literary Community. I haven’t entered a contest in years! It feels really, really good to do something I said I would do. “A” activity for sure! Thanks to Jo Hawk The Writer for posting her entry on her blog – I’d never have found Carrot Ranch otherwise.

How are you doing with your coronavirus bucket list? Leave me a comment below or get in touch!

Big Bites of Reality

“What is the defining song of Generation X?” I texted my musician friend Brad.

I pictured him taking a hefty drag on a cigarette as ellipses danced on my screen.

“That’s a tough one,” he texted. “What defines us? Anger? Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. Apathy? Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana. Manic-pixie-wistful? Lisa Loeb’s Stay. Sexuality? Prince. Madonna.”

“Disillusionment?” I texted back. “That song by Talking Heads. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife.”

“And you may ask yourself well? How did I get here?” Brad finished. “Yeah that’s pretty good.”

“Nothing by Weird Al?” (We love Al, so this was a legit question.)

“He’s brilliant but not ironic. Speaking of, Isn’t It Ironic by Alanis might be perfect. Generation X loves irony.”

“Even if we don’t know what it means?”

“When the outcome is the opposite of the intent. And funny. You’re welcome.”

“Anyway,” I texted, chagrined, “I remember back in the day Generation X loved nostalgia. The boomers were big on remembering how great their youth was compared to current.”

“Our parents taught us to worship the past,” Brad replied. “The Big Chill. The Wonder Years. The Monkees. Happy Days. All testaments to themselves. So we did it when we entered our 20s. And we do it now. The Goldbergs. Stranger Things.”

“Schoolhouse Rock was a musical back in the 90s.”

“The Banana Splits. HR Pufnstuf. The Muppet Show. All that crap got new life because we copied the boomers. Ironically of course.”

“Of course.”

That afternoon Brad sent me a link. “Interplanet Janet! Found your perfect Generation X song. You’re welcome.”

The definitive Generation X cover.