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March 17, 2020
Dear Compass Points reader,
I am writing to you as I would to my closest friend as we confront the economic and health threats of the pandemic known as Coronavirus Disease-2019 or “Covid-19” for short.
High-minded principles are worthless if they can’t be applied to the low points of our life as well as the high points, so this issue of Compass Points will shine a spotlight on Heartspoken values and tips to help us deal with this and other life challenges.
My focus on intangibles in no way diminishes my awareness of the very real threats to health, safety, and livelihood caused by the virus and by massive closures. In my own family and circle of friends, there are several who have lost jobs or had to cancel events essential to their business or mission. Do everything you can to resist fear and panic. Government can only do so much, so please focus on taking care of yourself and your family. We must all try to find ways we can look out for one another.
What’s going on at Riverwood?
Life in the Shenandoah Valley has become surreal. Schools and churches are closed, events are canceled, and grocery shelves are empty. Mom’s retirement community has restricted outside visitors. My calendar for the rest of the month is eerily empty.
Much as we hate to admit it, John and I are in the vulnerable age group, though thankfully we are healthy. We have the essentials to stay home for a couple of weeks if we have to, so we are choosing to self-isolate for our own protection as well as for others. Our biggest concern is for our children and their families, but they are smart, capable, and paying attention.
One way we’re embracing the unexpected time is to delve into long-postponed decluttering and cleaning projects. My downstairs coat closet is already transformed!
Whatever your circumstances, you’re not alone. If you’re feeling anxious or alone, email me HERE. I’d love to write and encourage you .
✧NORTH—Faith: Fear Not
Christian author Rick Warren says the phrase “Fear Not” is used 365 times in the Bible. That’s once for every day of the year, and if God’s word includes this directive so many times, I’m paying attention and using it as a mantra during these troubled times. Yes, there is much we could fear, but how does fear serve us beyond keeping us away from hot stoves and dangerous ledges?
So every time I feel a twinge of anxiety—from a plunge in the stock market, a report of an infected patient in my part of the state, or my inability to help faraway loved ones— I imagine an angel from God delivering that message to me: “Fear not.”
Then I reflect on my Stoic teachings and identify whether that fear concerns anything I have the power to change. If not, I try to let it pass like a dark cloud. I know the sun is shining somewhere on the other side.
My friend and Heartspoken reader Fred Hoerr sent me a wonderful email newsletter called The Montana Journal written by his own friend The Rev. Wells Warren. I was struck by Warren’s message to faithful readers during the last three weeks of Lent: “During this time…I call on everyone to focus your life and your energy on these things—Quietness, Simplicity, Health, Rest, Prayer, and Family.” These are Sabbath Disciplines, and they will help you in the Time of the Coronavirus.”
Amen to that.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.
~ 1 Timothy 1:7
✧SOUTH—Connection redefined during social distancing
Surgeon General Jerome Adams says this pandemic is best fought at the community level. That means we must embrace “social distancing” which calls for minimizing physical contact with others outside our immediate family: no meetings, no performances, no classes, no parties, no play dates, no coffee dates. For some, this sounds like a recipe for loneliness and depression.
Let’s use this opportunity to reframe our isolation by creating different kinds of connection:
- Pick up the phone and call loved ones or neighbors. Each call is a “hug by phone.”
- Embrace technology and online connection. Enjoy social media and video meeting solutions such as Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. Some churches are offering live services on YouTube and Facebook Live. Interest groups are finding all kinds of ways to connect online.
- Email friends and family and let them know you’re thinking of them.
- Write a real letter or note and mail it.
Resist fretting about your own circumstances and get things in perspective. Our parents and grandparents dealt with the hardships and scarcity of war. Surely we can buckle up and cheerfully embrace the current inconveniences.
✧East—Self-Awareness: What can you learn from this?
I’m learning some lessons from the challenges of Covid-19, and I urge you to do the same. If you keep a journal, write your insights down so you’ll remember them when life gets easy again. Here are a few I’ve claimed already:
- Don’t lose your sense of humor. Beloved nonprofit blogger John Haydon, in the terminal stages of cancer, quipped to a friend, “The most common cause of death is being born,” and isn’t it really true? Whatever we do, let’s not be so fearful of sickness and death that we fail to live fully in the present or be willing to laugh.
- Maybe I was too busy before. I hate to admit this. My loved ones have been trying to tell me this for years, but I could never manage to take anything off my plate. I can’t deny the feeling of relief and rest from the last three days of having no deadlines and no obligations and nothing scheduled. John and I have taken naps and long walks. I want to remember how good this feels when community life returns to normal.
- There are silver linings in every crisis. It might be the insights from a change of circumstances. It might be a recognition of simple pleasures in the midst of turmoil. It might be learning how to deliver your product or service in a different way. It might be a call from someone with whom you’ve been estranged because life is too short for hard feelings when the world is in crisis. It might be the chance to take your business online. Be sure to look for your silver linings.
- Don’t take comfort and convenience for granted. Our grocery store shelves are bare where there used to be bread, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. But I eat too much bread anyway, I can use less toilet paper and channel my inner pioneer woman if necessary, and I can certainly wash my hands with plain ol’ soap.
- Don’t forget to practice gratitude. For everything scary, annoying, or inconvenient, there is something for which we should be very grateful. Right now, I’m extremely grateful for electricity, canned food and running water.
- Enjoy a project or activity you haven’t had time for. Start that painting. Edit that book. Clean that closet. Repot that plant. No more excuses.
✧West—Nature: Get outside!
From the Stoics to the Transcendentalists to current health experts, wise men and women through the ages have known and taught the importance of Nature for a well-balanced life.
Just because you can’t get together with friends doesn’t mean you can’t get outside. Fresh air and sunshine are enormously therapeutic. Our bodies are meant to be mobile, so make sure you move as you are able. Walks are the perfect way to improve your mental, spiritual, and physical health. If you encounter others, maintain the recommended six feet of distance while you smile and wave. Even just spending some time on a balcony or in a back yard is better than staying cooped up inside.
Heartspoken Notes & Letters
Mailing hygiene for pandemic protection
I hope you’ll use your time at home to write personal notes and letters to friends, loved ones, and clients. Here are some suggestions for protecting yourself and others from mail-borne germs:
- Please don’t lick your envelopes. If you’re not using peel-and-stick envelopes, moisten the glue with a sponge or damp towel.
- Use a letter-opening tool to open your mail and disinfect it with alcohol or Clorox solution after each use.
- Wash your hands after handling mail.
- The CDC has stated that the risk of infection through mail—letters or packages—is very low, partly because of the low concentration and partly because the virus does not last long (no more than three days) on surfaces. If you don’t want to quarantine your mail for three days before opening, wash your hands afterwards.
Recent posts at Heartspoken.com
“Three Tools You Need To Get Started Letter Writing” – by my guest blogger, Shannon Hood, a fellow evangelist of handwritten notes and letters.
“Have You Seen These Signs Of Spring? – Never have we needed more to be reminded of the lessons Nature teaches us: beyond the clouds, the sun still shines, and after Winter, there is always Spring.
“Compass Points Newsletter February 2020” – Faith, Connection, Self-Knowledge, and Nature—the four pillars of the Heartspoken Life.
In march winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us too. ~ Jean Hersey
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade. ~ Charles Dickens
March is the month God created to show people who don’t drink what a hangover is like. ~ Garrison Keillor
See you in April. Until then, stay safe, breathe deeply, love fiercely, and savor every moment. Know you are in my thoughts and prayers.Please share this newsletter! If someone sent it to you, why not get your own? Use the form below to get on the email list so you won’t miss any future issues. You can unsubscribe at any time.
P.S. I answer my emails! You can respond to any of these topics privately using my contact form or publicly by following me and commenting on any of the social media platforms below. Use the hashtag #HeartspokenLife or #HeartspokenNotes.
P.P.S. You’re invited to join my Facebook group, The Art of the Heartspoken Note, where we explore and share the joy and impact of personal notes and letters.