New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

What it takes: Living one day at a time


March 30, 2020

When the day is done, Oakley's favorite way to enjoy the time is reading.

(with guest contributor Rachel Brazil)

It's been a crazy past couple of weeks. There was one point when I had been stuck in the house for three – maybe even five – days. I couldn't handle being around anyone, especially my brother. During a particularly tense moment, my mom decided it was time to take me for a drive.

We stocked up on snacks, filled up with fuel, and we were on our way. Wouldn't you know it? By the time we were in Sheyenne, things began to feel kind of normal.

But then things got weird, and Mom taught me a prayer, and it turned out to be pretty spot-on for the current situation. She called it the Serenity Prayer. The first part goes, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

It's hard to explain, but the words made sense. There is so much we can't control- especially right now. We cannot change the presence of the coronavirus, our temporary confinement, or the people we are confined with. Still, there is plenty we can do to manage our emotional well-being every day. That is our responsibility, nobody else's.

Since so many things are off-limits, it can be hard to know how to have fun anymore. That doesn't mean we have to spend all our days moping around and staring into a screen. Instead, we can challenge our minds.

Neuroscientists specialize in brain function and behavior, and they are learning that the human brain sets pathways based on the patterns of what we choose to do. In time, we can create a rut that is hard to get out of.

So how do we get our stubborn brains to open up to change? It is simple. I will quote the great Jedi Master Yoda, "Do or do not, there is no try."

Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. (I mean, we are already dealing with a crisis here.) By doing something you never thought you would do, you give yourself the opportunity to build confidence and adapt to other changes.

As my mom drove me back home that day, she asked me to come up with a list of activities that will keep my brain healthy and happy. That list has grown so much over the week, (probably since Mom keeps adding to it). So I will share with you, and hope there are potential activities for everyone. Don't be afraid to add your own brain-stimulating activities to the list!

Try something new!

NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising discovery they have made is the value of keeping a journal. However, very few of us keep a journal from day to day. This is a really good time to keep up on journaling. Not only will it offer a window into this historic time someday, but it also is a good way to keep track of the days.

Most people will say they don't have time to learn a new hobby, but this is the best time to learn something new, if there ever was one. Now is the time to practice origami, give that 1,000 piece puzzle a try, master the rubik's cube or make hats and airplanes out of newspaper. You could learn a card game like cribbage or pinochle, or practice your typing speed with an online game.

This is also a really great time to learn to cook. There are plenty of cooking shows out there, and a lot can be gained from reading cookbooks.

Already know how to cook? Try stepping up your game by curing some meat, making sausages, growing herbs, pickling eggs and veggies or try your hand at cake decorating.

Learn about the world!

Just because we are confined at home doesn't mean that we can't learn about the world. Explore maps and research places you'd like to go in the future or revisit places you have been. Places that made the list for my family include Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and Iceland.

Consider learning a new language. It's okay to start small. Rather than diving into one language head first, why not try learning to say "Hello," or counting to 10 in several languages. Try to pick a variety of languages with different backgrounds, such as Korean, French and Swahili.

The wonders of nature never cease. There are plenty of nature documentaries available on Netflix, Amazon and the local PBS station. However, as I look out the window, I can see the chickadees and nuthatches flitting among the branches of the trees. Soon, the robins and waxwings will return in great numbers and our skies will be thick with birdsong. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a good resource for learning to identify birds.

Travel through time!

There are nearly 100 years of live-action movies available and even more recorded music. The result is a century's worth of media to take us to another time and place. Even if you have a preference for modern cinema, you might be surprised at the influences that older movies and music have made.

When it comes to music, I think the classics are the best. I enjoy the Beatles and Queen, while my brother likes The Animals and The Rolling Stones. My mom likes Nancy Sinatra and Bo Diddley. Dad is more into Harry Chapin and Jim Croce. While you're listening to music, you might want to spend a little time with your own personal favorites from years gone by. Listen to your old favorite songs, or better yet learn the lyrics.

For the serious time-traveler, you can look through old family photos and learn about your ancestry. Whether or not anyone wants to listen, it's a good time to share stories about the past.

Stay active!

It's perfectly safe for us to go out while practicing social distancing, adding all sorts of activities to the list. The season is still early for gardening, but you can make your garden plan, start some seeds, and even take your yard a step further with a landscaping plan.

Get out and walk the dog. Work on training your dog. (But don't even think about training the cat.)

Whether you have a dancing partner or not, you can use this to learn to dance. Learn the Foxtrot, Waltz, Electric Slide, Macarena, Floss, whatever works for you. (Besides, nobody is watching!)

Get Creative!

Something happens when we create, and our brain starts feeling really good. It doesn't matter if the end product looks good or not. What matters is that we enjoy the process. Try crochet, knitting or macrame, or maybe painting, sculpting, woodworking or drawing.

One last suggestion is to start writing a book. You can start with a character and help him (or her) grow. Where does he live? What challenges does he face? What is his unwavering strength? How will he overcome and persevere? You might be surprised.

In an opinion piece in the "New York Times", NASA astronaut Scott Kelly wrote, "Living in space taught me a lot about the importance of trusting the advice of people who knew more than I did about their subjects, whether it was science, engineering, medicine, or the design of the incredibly complex space station that was keeping me alive."

It is now our responsibility to trust and listen to scientists. It is our job to stay in, for the health of the families and for the greater good. But once we are inside, our responsibility becomes taking care of ourselves, using the tools and resources we have.

If you are interested in keeping the Serenity Prayer close during this time, you might appreciate the second portion. It goes, "Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace."


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