The best self-care: giving to others.

A few years ago when I was visiting my parents, my dad came back from shopping with this. I said, “Dad, that will never be enough for me! And what are you and Mom going to use?”

Are you coronavirus-ed out? Have you had your fill of worry and fear and depressing news? Are you tired of suggestions about what to do as you shelter in place, and reminders to practice self-care?

Me too. It’s why I wasn’t going to write anything about pandemic life. What can I say that hasn’t been said ad naseum?

But here I am, so obviously I’ve reconsidered. I realized I didn’t want to be the writer who doesn’t write at a time when there’s so much to say.

My life these past two weeks isn’t much different than it’s been for the past three-and-a-half years. My gut disorders have kept me sheltered in place pretty much every day. I love my solitude, so isolated life is easy for me.

The biggest change was that my husband Michael worked at home last week. Good news–we didn’t strangle each other, as I feared! The only surreal thing was that a few times he’s run out at the crack of dawn when stores opened to hunt down toilet paper (which I use at a rate of about ten to fifteen times the average. No exaggeration.) Twice, he came back empty handed, but this morning he scored big–eight rolls! That should last me a good two days. (OK, that was an exaggeration. LOL.)

Did you every think, in this land of plenty, that we’d be hoarding toilet paper? And then discussing it on social media, no less?

Now that our TP shortage has been remedied, I’m OK.

But maybe you’re not OK. Many people are not at all OK. I feel their pain acutely, which makes me not OK. It’s a vicious cycle.

I get overwhelmed with wanting to save the world and feeling helpless that I can’t. I wish I had a few million dollars to spare so I could really make an impact.

But that thinking is a trap. I can’t save every person in need, but can I take the edge off this disaster for one person?

YES.

Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I’m going to identify what I can do. That will make me feel better. It’s a win-win.

I’ve decided that the best self-care I can give myself is to give to others.

I’ll share my plan, not to appear generous, because there are many, many others whose generosity makes mine look like the Grinch’s. I’m sharing to hold myself accountable, and hopefully to generate ideas of small things we can all do.

Here’s my plan:

I ordered disposable diapers online and had them mailed directly to a local food pantry. I saw a Facebook post from this particular agency that gave me the idea. There’s another food pantry I want to do this for. (I’ll call ahead to see if that will work for their limited hours, and I suggest you do the same.)

I’m going to donate blood tomorrow. I used to donate at least four times a year, but when I got sick, I had so much to manage with my gut symptoms, I gave myself a pass. But my blood is healthy and plentiful, so it’s time to share it.

If I get that check from the government–$1,200 last time I heard–I’m going to donate it. (I haven’t yet decided where.) Michael’s income won’t be affected by the pandemic and I didn’t have an income to lose, so, financially, we’ll be status quo. If we’re OK now without that money, we don’t need it. But someone else surely does.

I have other ideas, but I’m going to start with these because I’m more successful when I set manageable goals.

If you are hurting, know that people do care. You may feel invisible, but I know you’re there and I’m wishing the best for you.

What about you? Do you have small ways that you’re helping in these uncertain times?

An old introvert learns new tricks.

Two people discuss what it's like to be "peopled out."
Credit: Aaron Caycedo-Kimura. Used with permission.

Before my mom died, she and my dad regularly ate lunch in the dining room of their senior facility. Mom didn’t have the energy to make it down for breakfast and dinner, so they had those meals delivered to their apartment.

Mom, an extrovert, missed the socializing, but the schedule suited Dad, an introvert. I take after Dad, so when I visited, the limited “peopling” suited me, too.

For introverts, “peopling” is draining rather than energizing.

When our trio went down for lunch, I pulled out every reluctant extrovert cell in my body (and there are a few) for a song-and-dance-show. I turned on the charm. Since Mom wasn’t always her usual bubbly self and she so desperately wanted to make friends, I tried to be her girlfriend ambassador.

Those ninety-minute lunches drained me, but it was OK since I had a whole day to recover.

In case you don’t know, one of the hallmarks of being an introvert is not that you dislike people and/or socializing, but that “peopling” is draining rather than energizing. And just like any drained battery, introverts need to recharge.

After Mom died two weeks ago, I thought Dad might wither away in his room, but he put on his big boy pants and started going down to all three meals. I’m visiting him now, still turning on the charm at lunch and sometimes dinner, this time on his behalf.

After one particular noisy lunch gathering, my charm quickly wore thin. “I can’t believe you do this every day,” I told Dad on our way back to his apartment.

Introverts need to recharge.

When I got back, I opened my email, found this article about introverts and the cartoon above by the talented Aaron Caycedo-Kimura. It nailed my exact feelings. When I showed it to Dad, he agreed, with a laugh.

For too many decades, I was so caught up in people-pleasing, in wanting to fit it with the extrovert world, I ignored my need for solitude. And although I often enjoyed “peopling,” I ignored my need for recovery.

Mom and I had often talked about our extrovert and introvert experiences, but Dad and I never bonded over our introvert inclinations. Until now.

At eighty-seven, newly widowed after sixty-three years of marriage, Dad is living proof that it’s never too late to learn and you’re never too old to grow.

At sixty, newly bonded with my dad, I’m learning and growing, too.

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Letting go of a dream.

My former blog.
My former blog. Don’t you love the name?

Two years ago, I started a blog called The Well Nested Life; this month, I’ll close that site down. I’ve moved all my blogs over to this current site, so I’ve retained my words, but I have to say goodbye to the dream.

Closing my blog feels like I’m losing an old friend.

With some brainstorming help from family members, I had arrived at the term well nested. It describes my life. Homebody. Introvert. Feeling most at home, at home. My plan was to blog about humorous and poignant and touching stories of my simple life. My hope was to gather followers—my flock—who would then someday buy my memoir, in progress.

That part of the dream—let’s call it Phase I— is intact. I’ve established my online presence as a writer, attracted loyal followers, and I’m closing in on the final chapter of my memoir.

In Phase II, my follower base would grow to scores of thousands. An editor at a “Big Five” publishing house would discover my writing and be impressed with my platform. She would pay me big bucks for the honor of publishing my book.

I’d be a best selling author!

(Please don’t think I’m delusional. Most writers share this dream.)

However, it’s Phase III where I got carried away (as I have been known to do). In this phase, I’d use my big bucks from my memoir to help others become well nested.

First, my husband and I would remodel our basement into an apartment to house immigrant families short term until they secured more permanent housing. 

Then, we’d buy and renovate houses in our community, and sell them at cost to families in need. Or maybe we’d partner with Habitat for Humanity, one of my favorite charities. 

Finally, I’d create a cooperative of gardeners to provide gardening and simple landscaping help to homeowners moving into and out of our community. This would help homeowners to become well nested, as well as maximize the curb appeal of their homes, increase their home values, and increase the tax base for the community.

Sigh. It was a lovely and honorable dream.

But here’s the reality: as a writer, if I really want to build my flock, if I really want to be found by an agent or editor, I need a website under my name. “The Well Nested Life” was a mouthful of a blog, and hard to remember. So now I write, and you read, at www.karendebonis.com.

I don’t have the time, energy, or money to maintain two websites, and not nearly enough of those resources to accomplish Phase III. Something had to give; The Well Nested Life blog had to go. I have no regrets; it connected me to new friends, taught me that I’m not a complete computer simpleton, and gave me joy that (mostly) outweighed the headaches. My heart is heavy, but full.

I’m glad you’re here to help me say goodbye, and to celebrate as I write the next chapter of this journey. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m letting go of the website, but keeping the domain. Www.thewellnestedlife.com is mine for as long as I want it. You never know when I’ll get big bucks for my memoir.

You never know when another dream will hatch.

I’m open to the possibility. You in?