Photo by V W on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed how a simple reimagining of the letters in a word can create a shift in its meaning? For example, the word nowhere. The definition as we know it is ‘not in, at, or to any place; not anywhere,’[i] and for weeks, many of us have felt its effects.

Nowhere to be. Nowhere to go. This forced nowhere has been stressful and inconvenient, but viewed differently, NoWhere can become an opportunity to be NowHere. Because although our choices of places to go and be are limited, we are all still somewhere and in fact, Here is where we are. Here is always where we are whether we are rushing around from place to place or stuck within the confines of our home.

But how many of us actually know how to exist in the realm of NowHere? When schedules get busy and calendars fill up, it’s easy for intention to get lost in the shuffle. We run on automatic, fueled by a drive to be, do, and have as much as possible until something out of the ordinary happens and snaps us out of our routine. An injury, an accident, a diagnosis, a pandemic.

It is in these instances of loss or change when we may wake up from our unconscious living, becoming fully aware of what and who is really important. But more often than not the effect is temporary, the altered perspective a mere bump in the road before we are off and running again.

The good news is we have the power. We can carry with us the wisdom gained from these experiences or we can slowly sink back into the monotony. We can grow and learn as a result or we can remain rooted in obstinacy. We can lament the NoWhere or we can celebrate the NowHere. What will you choose?

[i] Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd college ed., Simon and Schuster, New York 1982: 975.

Nowhere To Go

Photo by Nick Abrams on Unsplash

I’ve got nowhere to go and all day to get there.

I’ve heard my dad say these words many times in the years since his retirement—usually when I’m worried about inconveniencing him or taking up more of his time than I intended to—but never before have I actually related to them.

Although time itself is the same today as it was six weeks ago, it feels different somehow. Slower. Pre-pandemic this was a concept I couldn’t even grasp. I may not have had somewhere to go every day, but I always had plenty on my to-do list, along with a perpetually deficient number of hours in which to get it done. I was goal oriented, achievement focused, and if I’m being honest, completely exhausted.

Looking back, I can’t seem to pinpoint the purpose of all the busyness. I rushed and planned and hustled and called it progress. But what was I progressing toward? Prosperity? Success? Proof of my own worthiness? It all feels trivial in light of current events. Events that are so uncertain and uncomfortable that talk of returning to normal fills many people with anticipation, and understandably so. But if ‘back to normal’ means a reversion to the hectic and hurried, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to get there.

Sure, there’s a part of me that wants and needs some things to become ordinary once again—like seeing loved ones in person and attending church and frequenting other favorite places—but there’s another, possibly larger part that wants to keep one foot cemented in that slowed-down, nowhere to go pace.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe that perspective is one of the greatest benefits of this strange time. One that can endure and change us if we allow it to. One that reminds us that the freedom to do anything, go anywhere, have anything, doesn’t mean we necessarily should.

If the thought of getting back to normal fills you with a sense of urgency, along with a simultaneous feeling of hesitation, I encourage you to pause before jumping in with both feet. Realize that the nowhere to go and all day to get there mentality isn’t reserved only for retirement. And take some time to reflect on what really matters, what’s necessary, and how much of the past you want to haul into the future.

Today’s To-Do List: Give Gratitude

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

I’m a fan of to-do lists, of the sense of order and accomplishment they create. How simply jotting something down frees up memory space, along with the concern of forgetting to do it. My current planner is arranged nicely for this purpose, each day complete with two separate action lists: one for professional stuff and one for personal.

Just three short weeks ago that work list was extensive. It included things like daily gratitude (a practice that was, at the time, in its infancy), Facebook and Twitter post planning, brainstorming blog ideas and talking points for the next Write Way Wednesday video, and working on Book #2. More than all of that though, that list was alive with the promise of progress.

In my system, I use black checkmarks for completions, green dots for things I worked on but didn’t quite finish, and red dashes for the items I didn’t get to, those needing to be carried over to the next day. Looking at that Monday back in March I noticed there were more checkmarks than dots or dashes.

That day marked the start of the second week that my husband was working from home. The second week that we were encouraged to stay in as much as possible. As an introverted writer who already spends a great majority of her time at home, I was not prepared for how much this change would affect me.

I did not anticipate the roller-coastering emotions that would leave me weepy and lethargic and unproductive. I did not foresee the dwindling to-do list checkmarks or that some days my expectations for myself would be as low as my energy and the list would diminish to almost nothing.

But even on the days when my motivation wanes and my productivity withers, one thing has remained at the top of that to-do list: gratitude. And now that I’m four weeks into what has become a habitual practice, I realize how important it has been. How much I have depended on that small, daily dose of thankfulness to give me perspective, to uplift my spirit, to fuel my hope.

So if your energy is lacking, your patience worn thin, and you feel as if you can give nothing else of yourself today, I encourage you to give thanks. Find just one thing for which you are grateful and write it down, hold it close to your heart, and embrace it.

This may seem an impossible task during these relentless days of sameness, but it is the slowed down nature of life right now that is affording us the opportunity to notice more, appreciate more, and be more present. Though there is so much unknown and so much that is out of our control, what we do hold is the power to open our eyes, lift up our hands, and offer to God our greatest prayers of thanksgiving.

What are you grateful for today?

Combatting Anxiety Amid Uncertainty

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Holy moly, can you say Anxiety with a capital A?! Raise your hand if you’re feeling some of that right now. Since I can’t actually see you, I will assume you have raised at least one hand. Believe me, both of mine are lifted straight in the air as though I’m waiting for the next big drop in this roller coaster ride.

As someone who leans pretty heavily toward anxiety when life is normal, I am struggling to let go of my need for control and to find a little bit of balance and structure amid the uncertainty and instability. And because no one knows how long we’ll be stuck in this turbulent state, I’ve come to the realization that I need to be proactive in pulling myself out of my own sinking mindset.

If the fear and doubt are also getting to you, here are a few things that I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Limit time watching/reading news and social media. There’s no question that staying informed is important, but constantly looking for updates is distracting and often does little to abate anxiety. Try checking in just once or twice a day and, if possible, avoid those first thing in the morning and last thing at night times.
  • Move your body. Exercise is a huge mood booster. Even if your gym is closed or you don’t have a regular workout regimen, there are all kinds of things you can do at home. Check out some YouTube videos, go for a walk, turn on some music and have a dance party with your kids. Get creative. Your body and your mental health will thank you.
  • Reach out to family and friends. We are fortunate to have so many avenues for staying connected when we aren’t able to meet in person, and now is the perfect time to take advantage of them. So call your parents, send a text to your siblings, set up a video chat with your best friend. By keeping in touch with loved ones and neighbors, we can offer support, as well as be supported when needed.
  • Be intentional with activities that promote tranquility. Whether that’s reading, creating, listening to music, praying, meditating, getting outside, etc. Whatever it is that shifts you into a calm and centered state of mind, make time for it as much as possible. Even a few minutes a day can lift your spirit.
  • Remain hopeful. We have been through trials and challenges of varying degrees before and although normal tends to look a little different on the other side, we do eventually return to an even keel. As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.” It has to. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

What’s helping you right now?

Do What You Can Do

Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

“Only do what you can do . . . if you only do what you can do, you never have to worry that someone else is doing it. It keeps you from competing. It keeps you looking inside for what’s true rather than outside for what’s popular.” – Delia Ephron

I read these words last week Monday afternoon, and after waking up that morning questioning my purpose as a writer in this age of media oversaturation (as I sometimes do), I needed to hear them.

Does that ever happen to you? When you’re plagued with self-doubt and then seemingly out of nowhere these magical words pop up—whether in a social media post, a line in a book or a song, or something a friend says—and it’s like you’ve been given an instant shot of perspective?

It’s possible that these instances are mere coincidence. A case of finding that which we have been already seeking out. Like positivity or negativity, a scientific study that backs up our beliefs, proof of our strengths or weaknesses. Whatever we are focused on is certainly easier to see.

But the funny thing is the book in which I read this quote—Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron—had been on my bookshelf, waiting to be read, for about a half a year. It sat there next to at least a hundred others vying for my time and attention and for some reason, on that day, I chose it. And thirteen pages in, there was the line.

It begs repeating and remembering. “Only do what you can do.” Of course. It’s so simple, yet how often do we complicate it? How much time do we spend comparing and competing? How much of ourselves do we lose trying to imitate and impress?

I’ve been telling myself this every day for a week now and I am convinced that this is one of the surest ways to be true to ourselves. So if you do nothing else today, do what you can do: Be you. Be the you-est you that you can be. And don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.