Small Ideas for Strange Times
Updated: Apr 3
I’m sure I learned a lot when I was in treatment, but it was thirty years ago and the details have gotten a bit fuzzy. One lesson, however, has stayed with me. In fact I’ve practiced it every day for the past three decades:
I make my bed as soon as I get out of it.
I was told to do this on the very first day of treatment, so I did. Several of the other women argued that it was stupid, pointless, and overly rigid, but I saw it as something I could actually do. Some tangible change I could make to my life. Something I could succeed at, instantly, without a whole lot of effort. So I did it. And I’ve continued to do it. And the positive effect of this one small thing has been immeasurable.
So that’s what I want to focus on in this series: small things we can do in spite of all the things that have been altered or curtailed or cancelled by this global pandemic. When life is unfamiliar and disordered and more than a little frightening, it can help greatly to focus on small, ordinary things. Things within our control. Things we can still do, or perhaps have the time to do for the first time in a long time. And actually doing them.
Like making my bed. Doing this within the first few seconds of a new day brings an immediate sense of order to my world. It sets a tone for what needs to happen next (brush teeth, make coffee, etc.), which in turn sets the tone for the bigger tasks I’ll face in the course of a day – tasks that require less auto-pilot and more thoughtful engagement.
Without a doubt, these are disorienting days. We have a lot on our minds – most of which we can’t figure out and definitely don’t have answers for – and it can be all too easy to slip into a kind of lethargic mayhem. Waking up whenever. Eating whatever. Watching anything. Wearing the same thing several days in a row. Questioning the purpose of deodorant. Scrolling endlessly. Staying up late or crawling into bed as soon as the sun sets.
Why not, one might ask. This ISN’T our normal life, so why pretend it is? Pushing back against the circumstances can feel like a necessary act of rebellion. A quiet (albeit messy) revolution against uncertainty and fear and captivity. We know we won’t live like this forever so let’s embrace squalor and body odor and food made of chemicals while we have the chance.
In my experience, even the worst of times are made better by small, intentional efforts to maintain (or establish) order and dignity and overall well-being. So read on and come back over the next few days for my take on what this might look like. And share your ideas and experiences on the Coaching for the Recovered Life facebook page, by email, or in a message to me. We're all learning as we go.
Stay home and stay well,
Small Idea #1: Establish a schedule and [mostly] stick to it.
Our regular routine has been upended, stranding us in the netherworld between that which no longer serves our current reality and anarchy. Time to establish a new rhythm, which means coming up with a plan for managing time and ordering activities. Also known as a schedule.
To begin, I recommend making a list of things that need to be done on a daily basis and classifying them must do, should do, and want to do. Use these three categories to build your schedule. Must do items might happen more frequently or take up more time than should or want to do, but all three belong so be sure to leave room.
Also, unless you live alone, you're going to need a communal schedule as well as a personal schedule. With respect to the communal schedule, be sure to collaborate with other household members in designing a plan that gives appropriate attention and balance to group-time and alone-time, as well as productivity and recreation.
For some of us, working from home will take a bite out of our schedule; supervising children will take another bite; for still others, both work and supervising children will need to be planned for. These belong in the must-do category. Same applies to self-care. If exercise has been a regular part of your life pre-pandemic, schedule it. Also spiritual practices and nutritious meals. This isn’t the time to stop doing the things that keep you healthy and grounded.
Take advantage of zero commuting time to tackle any household or personal projects that have been piling up (should-do).
What about naps? What about fun? What about the ukulele you’ve been gazing at longingly since Christmas? Make time for activities that will allow you to decompress without unleashing chaos (want to do).
What about remaining in contact with family, friends, and community connections? What was previously taken for granted has now become a necessity. A phone call or face-time or group gathering on Zoom can be life-giving at the moment, so schedule it in.
Check off items as you complete them and reference tasks not completed when evaluating your overall plan. An honest, non-judgmental appraisal of how we allow time to slip through our fingers can empower us to re-take control over that which is still squarely in our own [very clean] hands. Right now, we need this kind of power.
Remember, none of us have been here before. Ever. I recently asked my 89-year-old mother if she’d experienced anything like this before in her life. No, she said, and it’s kind of nice to know I can still be surprised. Nice or not, we’re all surprised. We’re all figuring things out. We’re all equally amazed by our global commitment to the common good and our ability to watch seven straight episodes of Tiger King without blinking. And we’re all struggling to live the best way we can in the unfamiliar sameness of today while knowing we won’t always be in this particular place.
Sounds like a lot to take on, but the remedy might just be in the small things, like creating a schedule and making the bed.
More to read:
Check out what my friend Carlene Hill Byron has to say about list-making and mental health in the age of Covid-19 here.
Here's a planning guide from the CDC that addresses several scenarios related to Covid-19.
And here are some planning and scheduling ideas for families.
What about you? What are your thoughts on scheduling under current conditions? How are you organizing your life in confinement? What’s working and what isn’t? Please take a moment to share on the Coaching for the Recovered Life facebook page, by email, or in a message to me.