Cyprus, 10 March 2020
I stared up to the ceiling for a long while this morning before rolling my sleep-deprived body out of bed. The night had been restless, tossing, turning and thinking about our friends in Italy and what the latest developments – including a countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus – could mean for the days and months to come. Naturally, I began thinking about our relatively-new home base in Lucca, missing our community there and hoping we can return as planned.
I had gotten out of bed around 3 a.m. not sure what to do with myself. I considered finishing the book I’m currently reading (a re-read of Carson McCurthers’ devastatingly beautiful novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) or making use of the time to work on my own book.
In the end, I simply stood in front of a window. The sight outside was mesmerizing and somehow comforting. A pale-yellow, gigantic, full moon beamed brightly above, casting silver sparks on the gently-moving Mediterranean waters.
Light illuminating the night’s ebb and flow, somehow this quieted my anxious heart.
I suspect many of us are dealing with our fair share of sleepless nights these days. It’s nearly impossible to make sense of news concerning the world around us. From tone deaf leaders to click-bait coverage, before we can fully process one bit of information, we are knocked in the head by three more stories of crisis.
If this global pandemic is teaching us anything it’s how quickly seas can shift and the world around us can change. Unknowns greet us at every turn. And, that’s the part that causes the most anxiety: the unknowns.
Unknowns of global nature:
Is total lockdown the right and necessary path for Italy or for any country? Will more such drastic measures follow? Where in the world is safe and where isn’t? Is ‘safe’ a reliable concept?
Unknowns of personal nature:
How can I keep my family and myself safe? Should I change or cancel my travel plans? Should I alter or change my daily routines in the place where I live? Will this crisis have long term ramifications on my livelihood?
All these unknowns can become overwhelming and lead to more than just sleep’s undoing. So, how are we to move forward?
I have decided to focus on knowns.
Where Italy is concerned, here’s what I do know:
The Italian healthcare system is one of the best in the world. The level of service and care, and whole-health approach, has impressed us with each of our own incidents (and, for better or worse, Matt and I have had more than a couple of incidents requiring medical attention during our years in Italy). Yet, that system is currently under massive strain.
Italy’s government has taken measures they believe necessary to keep the system from crumbling and to set the stage for the best chance of positive outcomes, particularly for the country’s large percentage of elderly and vulnerable of all ages.
This will pass and Italy will come through this stronger, that I must believe.
Where staying healthy is concerned, here’s what I do know:
I will take my cues and advice from science and medical professionals, not politicians and pundits.
With so much out of our control, there are simple things we can control: drinking plenty of water, eating fruits and veggies, engaging in some form of daily exercise (even if it’s merely standing up from the computer to stretch for 10-15 minutes between work tasks), being more patient and kind with everyone we encounter in our day – most are struggling in ways we may never know.
And, yes, cultivating routines for good sleep. For me, this endeavor means staying away from news headlines near bedtime – which is probably a smart practice, in general.
Having trouble falling asleep these days?
For what it’s worth, here is a technique I have used for as long as I can remember.
Every night when I get into bed – even if tired, disheartened (or, wobbly from a night out dancing. ;-)) – I run through a list in my mind of every single thing, person, event and outcome I am grateful for on that particular day. It can be as simple as the food I consumed or exercise my body allowed or as powerful as my relationship with my partner, texts with an old friend, interactions with a new friend. The act of cultivating a meaningful list, every single day, without getting distracted by worries or tomorrow’s to-do list, well…it requires discipline. Any negatives that come up must be swept aside by positives. All positives, All gratitude.
For me, this list-making becomes a meditation. And, while this ritual isn’t foolproof – clearly, from my sleepless night described above – more often than not, it does helps focus my mind on getting a good night’s sleep and waking with an open, grateful heart – ready for each new day.
Hope this helps you! And, I would love to hear any techniques and rituals that help you cultivate healthy sleep.
While Matt and I may not be in high-risk categories, our actions could impact someone who is, like an elderly neighbor or friend with comprised immune system, diabetes, health problems and/or high blood pressure. For the time being, this means changing habits and limiting outside exposure.
This morning, Matt smartly said, “Let’s behave as if we are infected.” A (some might say) neurotic cleaning spree followed, including disinfecting every surface in sight including heavy use items like yoga mat, ear buds, etc. At the slightest sign of symptoms, we will completely self-isolate – and, without hesitation or complaint, full stop (quite literally).
My handwashing and sanitizing obsessions may finally be considered cool and not obsessive compulsive. (Yay, for small victories)!
And, perhaps most importantly, I will do everything I can to set my stage for positive outcomes – body, mind and soul – and encourage those I love to do the same.
Now may be the time to (finally) download that yoga app and focus on at-home yoga practice instead of going to the gym.
Solitary pursuits like reading, writing and art-making could be in full blossom this spring.
Speaking of spring, maybe now’s the time to get hands dirty, in a good way, by planting a few flowers.
Netflix, hello, my new best friend.
And, finally, and most definitely, now is the time to fuel dreams of travel. Dreams that will one day come to fruition, when all is calm again – because all will be calm again – that I know for sure. For me, there’s no better way to fuel dreams of travel than through language study.
I am on a quest to learn Italian and continually try new tricks – from podcasts and movie subtitles to reading parallel texts – to keep the study moving forward.
Lately I begin each morning by studying and translating a poem in Italian. It’s a small task, but it keeps my little brain engaged, plus feeds my soul with much-much-needed poetry.
This morning’s text made me think of these times we find ourselves in now – and, of being lulled back to sleep by last night’s bright, light-radiating moon.
Proprio come il sole, la vita diffonde la propia luce in ogni direzione. – Il Manoscritto Ritrovato Ad Accra.
“Like the sun, life spreads its light in every direction.”
Let’s let our lives shine light in every direction, friends, and encourage those we love to do the same. Together, we can illuminate the darkness, while setting the stage for positive outcomes.
And, let’s all start planning those trips to Italy as soon as the green light shines…and, it will shine, ever brightly and, hopefully, very soon!
Love to you and yours.
Here are a two informative and good-common-sense reads about the situation now in Italy and a few ways we can all help.
Coronavirus in Italy: How to Help from Revealed Rome:
Coronavirus: A Letter from Florence and How to Help from Girl in Florence: