Coping with COVID-19: Weekly(ish) Mental Health Tip: Let’s hear it for New York

“I believe in New Yorkers. Whether they’ve ever questioned the dream in which they live, I wouldn’t know, because I won’t ever dare ask that question.” – Dylan Thomas

If you haven’t already read Jerry Seinfeld’s article, which fights back against the notion that New York City is dead, it is definitely worth a read.  It is an ode to the city and a clarion call to New Yorkers to come back and rebuild as much as possible given the circumstances. 

It couldn’t have come at a more propitious time. This is the longest I have been away from NYC since I was a teenager (except for my time in India) and I am returning this week.

I know my city.  I know it’s resilience.  For me, September 11th does not conjure images of terrorism but love and resolve.  On the morning of September 12, 2001 I stood on the west side highway with my neighbors, dazed by the attacks but cheering the firetrucks and rescue vehicles streaming in from all over to help in the rescue efforts.

It was the spirit of togetherness and determination of a city to come back stronger than it was.  It will again. And I can’t wait to get back to it.

With warmth, love and anticipation,
Ben

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If you are looking for more New York-based media/stories, check out Fear City,  a three-part mini-series on Netflix about New York vs. the Mafia in the 1970s.  It’s amazing.  

Also, feel free to check out my favorite NYC movie of all time: The Taking of Pelham 123 (the original. NOT the Denzel/John Travolta travesty of 2009, which is unwatchable).

P.S. We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

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Coping with COVID-19: Weekly(ish) Mental Health Tip: Beauty is where you find it.

“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.” – John Green

If you are feeling dark or down today or tomorrow or the next day, look around.

In the darkness there is beauty.  To appreciate it you need to observe it. Notice it.

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to the city I love, which is going through a lot of changes during this time.  While taking a walk I saw a couple of sites that were signs of the times and when looking at them I saw beauty and I wanted to share it.

What beauty do you see?  Share it with me.

Warmly,
Ben

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What kinds of COVID-19 risk are you taking? Sometimes it’s hard to judge.  This chart from the Texas Medical Association can help

P.S. We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

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Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: Ending Groundhog Day

“In God we trust; all others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming 

Unfortunately, at this moment, the data about COVID-19 is not great.  In short, we are going to be in this for a while.

In order for us to keep moving forward, we all need to continue to be proactive by establishing new routines, developing flexible approaches to our lives, and making optimistic plans for the future.  Last week, I threw down an AUGUST CHALLENGE to do something different during the month of August.  A number of you responded to this challenge with alacrity and emailed me with challenges that you plan to take on. For those of you who are still considering joining in, here’s an example, just a little sample:

Joel will be doing planks every day in August.

Shannon will be doing one creative writing piece a day. (She will be using Suleika Jaouad‘s isolation journal prompts as starting points.)

Andrew will be supporting voter registration in swing states through letter writing and financial assistance. He has been using this website and offers it as a resource.

Dusty will be experimenting with intermittent fasting all through August. 

Denise, who had originally planned to be in Italy in August, will be brushing up on her Italian language skills.

Fariba will be improving her touch typing skills, adding 10 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes of yoga to her daily routine.   

For those of you who are still considering taking up the August Challenge, please let me know by writing to me here before August 1st.

For those of you who are looking to pick up a new book in August, here are some book suggestions from our community:

An Unquiet Mind  by Kay Redfield Jamison
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
The Heritage Road series by Judith Slawson King
And a personal favorite by a personal friend, which I am super into: Life is in the Transitions by Bruce Feiler.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Go get ’em!

Warmly,
Ben

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In addition to planking up a storm, Joel is focusing on voter registrations.  For anyone else who feels passionately about this (it’s important), The Registration Project does amazing data-based, impact-oriented registration of voters and then follows up to support them actually voting (vs. just registering).

What are you reading?  No, but like for realskis, What are you reading?  Our intermittent faster, Dusty, recommends checking on the reliability of your news sources via this article.

If you have any other suggestions that you’d like to pass on to the community, please let me know.

P.S. We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

P.S. #2: If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving these daily emails, feel free to add them  to the mailing list.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: Your August Challenge

…And we’re back!

You may have noticed that I haven’t written one of these in a while (or perhaps you hadn’t, in which case, please don’t spoil my illusion).

During first few months of this pandemic, I felt that one thing I could contribute is a sense of togetherness and positivity by writing daily emails and hosting frequent community calls. In mid-June I took some time off to practice self-care. But I’ve decided to fire up the laptop again in hopes of re-inspiring individual and community action.

And so, dear readers I am throwing down the AUGUST CHALLENGE. I’d like to challenge all of you to do something different during the month of August. Different can be anything: big, small or anywhere in between.  It can be building a new skill like learning how to type or picking up tennis for the first time (both of which I am doing) or committing to a new practice for the month: like walking, pull-ups (again, me) or foosball (I would, but I don’t have a table). Your August Challenge can be committing to contribute to a social movement, a political campaign (I have some ideas you if you need them) or learning a new language. Whatever you want to do to push yourself for the month, write to me here before August 1st.

I can’t wait to see what ya’ll are going to do.

Okay, get cracking!

Warmly,
Ben

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Is anyone out there reading any good books that they would recommend to the community? Please let me know.

P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving these daily emails, feel free to add them  to the mailing list.

P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: Movement, Turning Points and Resources

Things are happening.  There is motion, process and (hopefully) progress… 

As a friend of mine in Brooklyn described…..”you know it’s different when, whether you are intending to go to a protest that day or not and you are walking the streets, you are very likely to be swept up in a swell of people heading to that day’s meeting point.”

With all this motion and a potential turning point for our country, I put together a few resources that I have been digesting for you to check out.

Please share any resources that you are finding helpful with me as well.  

1. A remarkable interview with Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be An Antiracist) on Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us:

2. “Mixed-race people, who make up nearly a quarter of Hawaii’s population of 1.4 million, serve as a kind of jamming mechanism for people’s race radar” 
(thank you to Downing, who passed this along)
This remarkable sentence is found in this fascinating article:

3. Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho 

4. An article from Shannon O’Shea: Creating a New Social Contract for a Healthy, Just and Sustainable World 

Sincerely,
Ben

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P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: Challenge Results

Look what we did together!

Thanks to you, a total of at least $2000.00 will be going to Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens, which is doing the hard, frontline work of making thousands of meals every day for people who are in need of help during this epidemic. 

Thank you to Diego, Alyssa, Fariba, Allyson, Patty, Greg, Todd, Cindy, Melody, Glen, Kimberly, Carrie, Ben, Ken, Stephanie, & Jeff for completing the challenge. 

And an additional thank you to Anonymous, Alyssa, Donnaldson, Stephanie L & Stephanie M & Fariba for donating alongside of us!

Sincerely,
Ben

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P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: There is only Process

“The heartbeat of anti-racism is confession, is admission, is acknowledgement, is the willingness to be vulnerable, is the willingness to identify the times in which we are being racist.” – Ibram X. Kendi 

Learning through engagement.

My goal in writing the last email was to increase our collective empathy. I received several responses pointing out factual errors about what happened to George Floyd that were included in the message.  Thank you to those who took the time to engage.   I have since taken a couple of days to consider the implications of these errors in order to respond appropriately.  

In my last email, I attempted to get all of us to imagine being in Mr. Floyd’s situation and to consider times that we may have “bent the rules” and were not punished with force that ended our lives, as happened to Mr. Floyd.  

However, in truth, there is no evidence that Mr. Floyd intended to “bend the rules” by using a counterfeit bill, or that there even was a counterfeit $20 bill presented at Cup Foods.  We don’t know any of that.  The misstatements made in the prior email obscured the message I was intending to convey, and unintentionally dishonored the life and memory of Mr. Floyd.  For that I am genuinely sorry.

In my last email I stated that “the particular and overwhelming circumstances of this moment have created a potent opportunity and we must not let it pass.” That is the truth.

This is a moment for all of us to learn, to grow, and to be counted.  There is no such thing as perfection in nature and there is no such thing as a perfect response.  There is only process.  I believe that the best way to serve the process is to be honest and vulnerable and contrite when appropriate. 

This email is my attempt to engage with my own process of learning.  My hope is that what I take from this experience is real, actual growth to check my own assumptions in the future and to be a part of the change that needs to happen in this world.

With humility and sincerity,
Ben

P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving these daily emails, feel free to add them to the mailing list.

P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: $20 and Housekeeping

Twenty dollars. It all started over twenty dollars.

George Floyd wanted to buy something at a local deli and didn’t have the money for it. 

So he used a counterfeit $20 bill.

George Floyd was ultimately killed because of this.  He was a man who had travelled from Houston to Minneapolis to find work and recently lost his job because of COVID-19.  Mr. Floyd did not have enough money to meet his needs, so he bent the rules in an attempt to do so.

Wherever you sit on the political spectrum, I ask you to think about times that you have bent the rules when you needed to, and think about George Floyd. 

Our power as human beings derives from our capacity to love, listen and empathize with each other. The particular and overwhelming circumstances of this moment have created a potent opportunity and we must not let it pass.  Our government and thus, we, are failing our fellow citizens by not meeting their needs, whether those needs are for money, food, or dignity.  It is long past time for all of us to be counted and make changes to our country.  If we don’t, we risk more death, more destruction and more despair. 

Now, onto housekeeping:

Housekeeping Item #1: The May Fitness Challenge

It’s June!  Which means that our May Challenge is over.  I have already started to get emails from some of you who took up the Challenge.  Great job.  I’m so pleased that you used this opportunity to be active (and given me an excuse to give to charity).  Please send me proof that you did your steps or closed your rings for May and I will send a follow up email to all of you later this week. 

Housekeeping Item #2: Changing Up the Newsletter

As we have rolled into summer and many people are starting to re-start their lives it feels like a natural moment for me to make a change from daily to weekly newsletters. I can’t tell you what it has meant to me to be a daily part of this time with you. I have been buoyed both by supporting you and by feeling supported as a result of your warm responses. 

I will send another email later this week about the results from our May challenge and then starting next week I will begin sending out a weekly newsletter on Tuesday.

Sincerely,
Ben

P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving these daily emails, feel free to add them to the mailing list.

P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: There’s No Place Like Home

There’s no place like home. But where exactly is home? 

Very early this morning, while taking my daily walk, a car slowed down, then pulled up along side of me.  The window rolled down and the man inside asked me for directions.  What surprised me more than anything was that I was actually able to help him. A few minutes later, I espied the woman who I’ve seen a few times before, walking her Doberman.  We usually wave to each other, but this morning she decided she wanted to chat.  A little later, the thought dawned on me: ‘Am I a local?’

I have lived in New York City since I was a teenager.  It is my home.  I identify with it.  I connect to it.  I feel a part of it. 

And yet, for the last 12 weeks I have been living on the side of a mountain in rural Vermont.  It makes me wonder, what is home?

Many of the people reading this may be living in new locations, under surprising conditions, perhaps with roommates that they didn’t expect, or are traveling between multiple locations trying to settle down.  What do you consider to be ‘home’?

Is it where your people are? Is it a location? Is it where you have a sense of familiarity and comfort? Is it where you can feel your whole body take a big sigh of relief? Is it Kansas?! 

Whatever your home is, I hope it is providing you with a sense of genuine safety, comfort and peace.

Sincerely,
Ben

P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving these daily emails, feel free to add them to the mailing list.

P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.

Coping with COVID-19: Daily Mental Health Tip: Social Distancing Etiquette

We’re all just figuring it out.

As the guidance has gone from simple (i.e., stay home) to complex (i.e., proceed with caution), there is more confusion and division about social distancing and how to do it. 

While many people are being responsible citizens, and others are being brazenly foolish (this clip is worth watching. Listen to the audio), most of us are just trying to figure it all out.

I was recently interviewed by Linda Schmidt on Fox5NY about this topic and shared my thoughts on how to navigate this changing landscape (Spoiler Alert: Let empathy and understanding be your guide.)

Sincerely,
Ben

P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving these daily emails, feel free to add them to the mailing list.

P.S. #2 We are hosting regular virtual breakfasts.  Click here if you’d like to join us.