The NEW Business As Usual

When I first started writing this post the world was on the fringes of falling apart. Were there signs of anxiety here on the East Coast of the US, sure, but the first cases of the coronavirus in the states were few, and although I was cautiously concerned, I was trying to live life business as usual.

That all changed suddenly when the first cases showed up in Pennsylvania, the state I live in, and quickly started popping up more and more across the country.

Then the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, and the daily dynamics changed, and so did the behavior of the general public.

Chicken Little came to cry, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Now I am certainly not trying to lessen the severity of the situation, but the behavior of a large portion of the human race was certainly one of histrionics.

And to be honest it caught me off guard.

Was I concerned about the situation?

For sure. How could I not be?

With the media pounding fearful data at you daily, it’s hard to act like everything is normal. It seems hourly there are new stats being thrown at us, or some high-ranking official is declaring a new rule to live by.

I did however try to function on a business as usual mentality with a realistic sense of cautionary behavior.

When I was told about the run on the grocery stores I was actually stunned. I miss one night of the news and this is what happens.

This started to trigger more of a panic in me, especially because my Son was away at college. The last thing I wanted was to see him stuck at school.

For me I was counting down the days till I could pick him up for Spring Break. Hoping nothing major happened before I could get him home.

Once he was home I could focus on figuring out how to attempt to behave “normally” when the world around me was going mad, if that was even possible.

Although I appeared calm on the outside, my insides were slowly tying themselves into knots.

After every trip out of the house I would Lysol wipe everything down that came into the house, including my shoes, coat, purse, wallet, even credit card if I had to use it, and wipe down my steering wheel, shift, dashboard and door handles in my car.

My Son thought I was nuts, but it was my way to help ease my anxiety. I felt if I did my due diligence as far as sterilizing I could help to prevent bringing the virus into the house.

After a grocery store run I even wiped down my re-useable grocery bags and packaging. Especially after I saw the virus can stay on cardboard for 24 hours.

With each passing day I limited my runs to anywhere other than work unless I had to, like for a prescription. I was fortunate to be able to work up until Governor Wolf put a stop to all non-life sustaining business, which went into effect 8AM Monday March 23rd.

The print shop I work for prints for medical practices, but the week leading up to this we saw orders dwindling because most practices were converting to tele-health. Except for serious cases where the patient needed to be seen everything was being done over the phone or via video chat.

A part of me was relieved because this meant I had to stay home. Up until then I was starting a new 14-day countdown every time I had been out in public, to include work.

My co-workers and I were diligent in our wiping down computers, keyboards, file cabinets, etc… and washing hands, but each of us in our own travels could have interacted with a carrier of the virus and never known it.

Every time I felt a little off I began to worry. Was it the virus, or just allergies?

Add to it, my anxiety was starting to cause me to have shortness of breath at times, and that freaked me out. I had no other symptoms, so I knew it was anxiety, but it was most certainly a catch 22 situation.

As my official “stay at home” started I knew I needed to take advantage of this “lockdown” time and use it for positive things, like my writing and house projects that never get finished because I don’t have the time.

The first thing I did was work on a schedule, allotting certain hours during the day for these things. If I kept structure in my day it would help keep me from letting my mind meander into dark areas of worry.

Beyond the virus, the worry of income lingered in the peripherals of my mind. Yes unemployment is there, but I work for a small business, and the owner is hoping the stimulus package will allow him to keep us on payroll instead of collecting unemployment.

So, while the senate argued amongst themselves, we all played the waiting game. Our saving grace was the shutdown came at the end of a pay period so we had a check coming the first week of our shutdown. If we didn’t have an answer that first week, anxiety would once again take a stronghold.

(By posting date the Senate has approved the bill, next up the House, then the President.)

I knew my focus needed to be on making a schedule that worked, so my time was filled constructively.

The more energy I put into the things that brought me joy the less likely I would be to worry.

At least I hoped so.

I found the longer I was in lockdown, the more relaxed I began to feel. Especially because I had stocked up on essentials, and knew once I was told my office was closed I had no intention of going anywhere except for a walk.

Knowing I didn’t have to be in public was the key to easing the anxiety.

I told my Son we’re making due with whatever we have in the house. I didn’t want to start another 14-day countdown.

With each day I was tweaking my proposed scheduled. I knew it was a fluid thing and as long as I gave a certain amount of time to creative pursuits, and the business side of my writing, I would feel like I had a successful day.

Allowing time to play was also a key thing. I’m not always that good about that. Sure I take walks and bike rides and after dinner watch a movie or TV show, but actually playing doesn’t always fit into my days.

My Son and I always talk about playing board games or even putting a puzzle together, but that doesn’t happen much anymore now that he’s older. Some of that is because he’s an online gamer and spends a lot of his free time with his buddies online. This lockdown is nothing for them. They’re use to social distancing, to an extent.

Now the problem is getting my Son to leave his online buddies to do something with me. That could be more challenging than the lockdown.

Another thing in the play category is reading. I have books everywhere, but never seem to have the time to read. I have no excuse now.

As I settle into this new norm, I’m learning to accept and enjoy the freedom to create the day I want. This is a luxury not many have until they’re retired.

So although this situation was caused by something horrific, I’m trying my best to look at the positive side of this lockdown.

Being a full-time writer is my dream, and I am working at that as my retirement plan, so I’m looking at this time as my training ground for the future I want to create.

Considering I will be 59 the end of this month, retirement years are not that far off, so getting a head start on the training is a gift, even if it came wrapped in the worst possible way, a pandemic.

How are you handling the freedom to create your day? I’d love to know. Please share your story. That’s how we’ll all make it through this together.

ONE FINAL NOTE

I want to give a shout out to all those working in the medical community on the front line of this battle. I am eternally grateful for their sacrifices. I have family and friends who are part of this community and pray for their safety and health daily.

As a “non-essential” worker, staying at home, I think about all those other “non-essential” workers who are using their stay-at-home time to sew masks or make PPE’s with their 3D printers and feel bad that I don’t have the skill set to do something like that. To a point I feel guilty that I can’t contribute, but then I realized, just staying home is enough to help the cause.

Also, a great big thank you goes out to all the other “essential” workers who are also risking getting sick just to make sure those of us on lockdown have the supplies we need to stay at home.

Stay healthy, and stay safe everyone.

AND stay home, if you’re considered “non-essential.” Remember this category includes professional athletes and actors too! Who would have ever thought we’d see that day?

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Breaking News – ©123rf – Iryna Shatilova

Cleaning – ©123rf – Soratoki

Panic Attack – ©123rf – Druzhinina

Freedom to Choose – ©123rf

Photo from personal collection

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#NewBusinessAsUsual

#Coronavirus

An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

Back in May I took a retirement planning class. It was informative and overwhelming at the same time. Fortunately part of the price included two very detailed workbooks, which have come in handy as I unravel all the details taught. 

In addition, they offered two free consultations with the planner who taught the class. It was those consultations that turned out to be even more beneficial than the class.

WHY?

The planner was a wealth of information beyond retirement planning. He became the source of inspiration I needed to believe my dream of turning writing into my retirement plan was and is valid and possible.

To have someone who spends their days with their head in the world of investments and numbers believe that something creative was a tangible prospect for my future blew my mind. On the numbers side of things, he did have me write a business plan and included that in the retirement plan we discussed at my second appointment.

BUT, it was the wealth of resources he passed on beyond that that became the spark I needed to ignite my plan for the future.

Continue reading “An Unlikely Source of Inspiration”

Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

Continue reading “Signs of Growth”

Medical Catch 22

Aging is a process not for the faint of heart. 

In our teens and twenties we seem invincible. 

During our thirties we might start to see some grays and faint wrinkles, but overall we generally feel pretty good. 

Even our forties aren’t that bad. Might start to feel the start of some achy arthritic joints, and see more grays and wrinkles, but overall we’re still feeling pretty peppy.

Then the fifties hit and things really start to change, at least for me they did. Maybe not right away, but by my mid-fifties I could feel myself slowing down.

Part of the slowing down process is certainly tied to Hashimotos, an autoimmune disorder involving chronic inflammation of the thyroid. Over time, the ability of the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones often becomes impaired and leads to a gradual decline in function and eventually an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism).

I was diagnosed with Hashimotos in 2010 at the age of 49 after a bout with pneumonia that went sepsis and wrecked havoc with my entire body.

Medication was not and still is not an option because my thyroid levels remain within normal range. Even after having half my thyroid removed last fall because of a suspicious nodule.

The nodule was benign Thank God, so the threat of cancer was removed from the equation. Amen to that!

With meds out of the question, I knew I had to find other methods to combat the symptoms of hypothyroidism. The key symptoms being fatigue, weight gain and brain fog.

I discovered doctors were not very helpful when it came to advice in this area and found out quickly I was on my own.

Coincidently around the same time, I caught an interview with Gina Lee Nolin, of Baywatch fame, where she discussed her personal health struggles that went undiagnosed until she found Dr. Alan Christianson, a naturopathic medical doctor for Integrative Health in Scottsdale. His book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease” became my saving grace. 

https://www.facebook.com/thyroidsexy/

After reading Dr. Christianson’s book, I started to play with diet changes and adding supplements. In doing so, I was able to thwart off some of the fatigue, weight gain and some brain fog.

The key thing was going gluten and dairy free. Plus avoiding soy and fluoride, which can interfere with the function of the thyroid. I also added ginkgo biloba and ashwaghanda, but my endocrinologist recommended I stop the ashwaghanda because it can skew thyroid function blood tests.

Over the years I have faired pretty well with this issue, but honestly I think I was too busy raising my Son and helping to care for my aging Mom to completely feel the impact. Or, should I say take the time to notice. 

It’s only the past year or two, as I hit my late fifties and my Son is off at college that I’ve truly noticed how much I’m slowing down. My energy levels just aren’t what they used to be. Some of it’s age, but I know part of it is my thyroid. 

This however is the least of my concerns. 

Continue reading “Medical Catch 22”

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

My struggles leading up to my Son’s departure for college and during his Freshman year were well documented in multiple posts in “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years, aka his teens” and even on this site, so I won’t rehash them here.

If you haven’t already read them, I’ve included links below.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/loosening-the-tether/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/season-of-transition/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/home-for-dinner/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/08/31/but-really-what-are-you-feeling/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/adjusting-to-my-new-norm/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/12/30/every-new-beginning-comes-from-some-other-beginnings-end-seneca/

https://wakingthewoman.com/2019/04/28/confused-self-image/

I mention these struggles because it sets up my state of mind this month.

AND

How my thoughts meandered from facing my empty nest again, to where I am in my life, to what comes next, to my age, and the thought that my age, late fifties, has got to be some of the weirdest and toughest times to navigate, next to adolescence and teens of course.

I’m no longer middle-aged, but not quite yet considered a senior citizen, even if AARP is available at 55. Although, some days I do feel like I’m prehistoric, especially at the end of a long workday or week.

With my Son in college, my parenting demands are extremely diminished. As a matter of fact, while my Son is away at college they’re practically non-existent. Which is quite an adjustment after single parenting from day one.

AND

I’m not old enough to retire, but most certainly wish I could. 

BASICALLY

I’m somewhere “IN-BETWEEN” raising kids and retiring, and not quite sure where I fit in. It’s kind of a time of limbo.

A limbo that will take some adjusting too.

WHY?

My Son does still need me, at times, so my parenting duties are on again off again. This creates a push and pull scenario with me.

Just when I get in the rhythm of flying solo, my Son is home on break and it’s back to full-time Mom duty.

Particularly in the kitchen. Having to seriously plan dinners for a week after a long break takes some adjusting to.

Then there are the fantasies about retirement that sometimes make the workday seem longer.

Knowing I have a little over 8 years till I can officially retire and get full Social Security can challenge my psyche. It’s like the notion of retirement is taunting me. Closer than it was five years ago, but longer than I wish it was.

The thing with retirement though, it may be too early to start a countdown, but it’s never too early to start planning. This certainly helps push me through every workweek. Realizing there is light at the end of tunnel, even though faint, lightens the load.

I have friends who have retired, as have the majority of my siblings, yet the bulk of my co-workers are just starting families, raising young children or just starting the high school journey. To them the thought of college, empty nesting and retirement hasn’t even crossed their minds.

Not that I don’t have co-workers in a similar place as me. It’s just that we’re out-numbered by the young-ins.

Being somewhere between these worlds is kind of strange at times, and really does make me think about my age.

Something I never really did before. I guess because I was too busy raising my Son and helping with my Mom in her later life to even consider it.

BUT, with my Son turning twenty in December, it finally hit me.

I’m knocking at the door of 60. 

Not that 60 is old, my Mom was 94 when she passed, and up until 90 she was doing pretty good. She was very youthful in her thought process, and I feel all her children inherited that.

Age is just a number; it’s your state of mind that impacts how old you actually feel. 

That’s probably why I never gave my age a second thought, until now.

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” years makes my mind wander to the past, thinking about all the life I’ve already lived.

AND

Wonder about the future and the prospect of retirement and how to make it a reality.

I certainly have a real desire to slow down and take a little more time for me, but because I still have the sometime demands of parenting and the full-time demands of work, it’s hard

Then I look around my house at all the unfinished projects (that accumulated during my Son’s high school marching band days) that I thought I would tackle once my Son was away at school and get mad at myself because I barely tackled anything during his Freshman.

Not because I’m lazy, but because I’m tired during the week, having a thyroid disorder and doing overtime certainly doesn’t help.

Weekends then turn into to playing catch-up

BUT

As I discovered during my Son’s Freshman year, sometimes weekends turn into driving an hour one way to the college because of an issue with my Son. Whether it is moving him to a new dorm because of a rude roommate, or his computer is on the fritz, there goes any free time that could have been for projects at home.

Those “IN-BETWEEN” years rearing their ugly head.

I’m beginning to think though that maybe the “IN-BETWEEN” years are really more like a stepping-stone to retirement.

A time to not only plan financially, but mentally and emotional work on the adjustments needed to go from working full-time, to no-time, or should I say My Time.

Oh how glorious the sound of My Time is, but I know some people have a hard time adjusting when the daily routine of marching off to their job ends.

So it’s crucial to prepare for that change, and this “IN-BETWEEN” time is ideal.

And, I also have to start preparing for the day post college graduation when my Son heads off on his new career venture. This could be even harder than him leaving for college.

So, I guess, instead of being challenged by this “IN-BETWEEN” time, I need to embrace it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Images originally posted in “Waking the Walker” – purchased from 123rf.com

60 – 123rf.com – copyright – miceking

Finding Peace in Every Day

With my annual exodus to the beach to recharge my soul now behind me, I’m working hard at carrying the calm that comes from the sea air and surf with me as I face each day in the real world.

As I told a co-worker “I’m trying hard to hang onto my vacation shine.”

This is something I tell myself I’m going to do every year, but a month or two into the real world post vacation I’m working my way back into the “when is my next day off mind-set.”

I don’t mean the weekend; I mean an actual vacation day, a day with no real schedule, a day to play.

Like a day off is the cure all for the every day stresses we all endure. Granted it helps, but there has to be a way to find peace throughout every day, not just on a vacation day. Especially when they’re so few and far between.

Rumor has it, the key to finding this peace is to pause, breath deep and center your thoughts on something tranquil. This may be true, but the real trick is to prevent getting to this point

As I drove to work one morning since my beach trip, at a point in my travels where I crest a hill and the morning sun shines across the hills of the valley, my thoughts meandered to the calm I felt as I took in the beauty of nature. It was the same calm that happens when I’m free from schedules, deadlines and to do lists.

I may have been driving to work, but my mind and body were calm and free from the typical morning watch the clock en route to work mode.

It was at this point that I realized the key to carrying the calm the beach gives me is to find that calm from nature throughout every day, not just when I’m intentionally taking a break to do so, like a week at the beach or a walk or bike ride on the trail near my house.

I need to consciously pause daily to observe this beauty and soak in the calm.

Observing nature around me when I’m driving is the norm for me, but while in the office it’s a different story. Like most, my office is in a suburban area and I’m stuck in a cubicle. So observing nature takes more of an effort. Not that there aren’t windows in the building, but I have to leave my cubicle to access them which is certainly doable, but standing at the front door staring out may concern my Boss.

It’s a matter of being attentive to the smallest thing, even if just in passing.

A small bird building a nest above the front door, the wind lightly rustling the leaves on the branches of the tree in front of the building or the shadows the sun casts on the sidewalk as it dances through the leaves of the tree.

Allowing my attention to drift from my work to the beauty outside the window is essential to me fulfilling my desire to “hang onto my vacation shine.”

This might seem a bit spacey, but taking just 30 seconds to pause and focus on something other than the task at hand will allow me to clear the clutter of the day from my brain and allow my mind and body to calm itself.

At home I sometimes do this randomly, especially at sunrise and sunset. I’m a real sky watcher and the drama and colors that can explode at those times can stop me in my tracks, and often do.

SO, I do have this built into my make-up, it’s just a matter of consciously taking a moment during the busy work day to look out the window, soak up natures beauty and recharge, even if I’m not feeling stressed.

The idea of being pro-active when it comes to nipping stress in the bud before it strikes is nothing new. There are plenty of books, magazines and blogs with “how to” info, BUT, what works for one, may not work for another, so the trick is finding what calms you, and then figuring out a way to seek this during the flurry of every day.

For me that thing is obviously nature. It has a soothing effect on me. Using it as “therapy” during the workday is something I never thought of before, at least consciously.

Beyond the anti-stress benefits, I also find being in-tune with nature to be very beneficial to my spiritual growth which just so happens to also tie directly into my road of self-rediscovery.

Whether we want to admit it or not, all journeys of self-discovery or rediscovery involve some level of spiritual awakening or reawakening. After all, we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and our spirit is here to experience all the lessons this life has to offer.

So I see this “30 seconds of nature to stay calm epiphany” as a stepping-stone in my sojourn to rediscover myself. A stepping stone that can turn into a leap if I can truly live by my words.

The pressures of every day will be the real barometer of my success. I’ll keep you posted.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection