Verna Cavey, Elder
I remember a line from an Ian Caldwell novel about life teaching us to string nets beneath our hopes. During this Covid era we have been strong and — except maybe for the days when we were very tired — have stayed hopeful. Still, it might be wise to string some nets beneath our hopes — to have a few contingency plans in our back pocket.
Recently I sat down and had an honest conversation with myself about this winter and where I was emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially and intellectually after months in lockdown. Clearly I had moved into a new emotional stage after the initial shock and awe of the onslaught of Covid.
I realized that Colorado winters can be long and cold and that alerts for cold, flu and Covid for 2020-21 were already being sent out. I wanted a plan that put residents and team members in the driver’s seat during a time of uncertainty.
So, I asked, “What do I need both as necessities and simple pleasures?” First, my doctor and I agreed that having an extra month of medicine in my home would be a shrewd thing to do. Thinking very practically I began to make a list of things to stock up on this fall. Then it got a little crazy and I added the silly squirrel (see attached) and sent it to colleagues thinking they would have a good laugh. They didn’t laugh and so here I am writing to you about this checklist.
Question: What worked so well before for you and how can you up the ante for a long winter? Think bigger and bolder.
For me, nature worked but then it was a gorgeous spring. This winter the tree out my window will be bare. But then I learned about the science of “fractals,” the patterns in nature that soothe us. Snowflakes. Bare trees. Also, I’m bringing in a couple more plants. Aromatherapy: each month a new experiment, something to look forward to — cypress and lavender for comfort, peppermint for energy.
Friends and family — my laptop is my lifeline. If it crashes, how fast can I repair it? Not all residents have this tech. Can team members bring a laptop around so residents have accessible technology? What’s the plan?
Meaningful work — I can tell you from personal experience, it kept me sane. Psychologists tell us that we human beings have to have purpose in our lives and that caring for others keeps us healthy. Already aging communities are beginning to collect resources for at-home volunteerism. Knitting for the homeless; reading to children online. It takes time to compile and set up these resources for residents; so we need to start now.
Creating our future –– In my community, residents planned out a garden via e-mail, phone calls and notes while stuck inside. And, when they could go out, they created the most magnificent garden we have ever had. Every bit of space was overflowing with flowers. We had fresh, organic herbs for cooking. Our spirits were restored. All of it was planned during the dark days of Covid. And then, resurrection!
Brainstorming — Residents here so enjoyed the cherry picker story: A cherry picker lifted relatives up to assisted living residents, who were on their balcony; and family chatted with them while in mid-air. It was a joy and offered visitation, surprise, laughter and the resulting optimism for everyone after weeks in their apartments. We have these amazing brains. Set up brainstorming sessions. Have a contest. And then do some wild and crazy things!
Spiritual — I discovered morning meditation. Just a few minutes to set my intention for the day in a world of pandemic. Journaling. There are hidden poets and writers among us. Collect writing and art for a community portfolio. Give birth to it in spring with an exhibit. Go deeper. Difficult times can offer us artistic insights and delights.
Self-touch is healing. The cultural resources online are mind-boggling beautiful and can be shared with residents. Even pet massage can soothe both you and the pup. Challenge residents and incite them to challenge themselves.
Loss –– Missing people we love. Missing trips that cannot be taken. We can’t control that, can we? But we can plan fantastic, future travel. We can write old-fashioned letters to grandchildren, telling them the rich stories of their family’s history. Loss turned upside-down and made wonderful.
Backburner — During the first phase of Covid, I couldn’t believe what I found in my closet. I’m still sorting through old letters, papers and photos. Working with my sister, who is on the other side of the country, we are in Phase II of family genealogy. And what about the classics I’ve never read? Grandmother’s recipe? That idea to develop a winter exercise schedule to balance out all that baking?!
$ — Yes, it’s true, some of this costs money. But now we have answers when family ask, “What can I get you?” A pretty journal or a book on a new subject. A movie for laughter. Having thought through our needs, we ask for gifts that are truly wanted and which enrich our lives.
Our summer has ended. First: Affirm — loud and clear –– all that we have done since March. Resilience, innovation, loving support of each other. We did it! Celebrate!
Now. Inhale. Exhale. We are in a new phase. We begin afresh for the long haul. Designing a new plan offers energy and excitement for trying out fascinating things. What are our gifts that can be rediscovered? Together we brainstorm, probe and question. What do residents want to see come to fruition by spring? Listen and make the goals visible. Let’s put power back into our own hands.