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Monday Motivator: Be Gracious



I’ve been thinking about some lines in Don Henley’s song, “The Heart of the Matter” recently:

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?

They could certainly speak of our own pandemic age. Like you, I’ve seen the news where store employees have been spat on and even shot for asking someone to wear a mask. That sort of behavior wears me down, and I think that maybe I’ll never leave my house again.

But, ironically, all I have to do is leave my house to be reminded there is a lot of graciousness in a ‘graceless age.’ Just last week, I was waiting to check out at the supermarket. Standing the requisite six feet behind the customer ahead of me, I still witnessed what happened.

The woman was masked and had bought her own shopping bag. She had used it instead of a basket, so she was unloading her items from it as she was being checked out.

Then she looked at the bagger and asked, “What makes you safer: using the bag I brought or the plastic bags here?”

Probably, from a scientific perspective, there wasn’t much difference between the two. But I bet it made those employees’ day, to have someone ask them about their comfort level.

And I made a promise to the universe to follow her example: even after this pandemic age is over.



Monday Motivator: The Jolly Librarian’s Thoughts for Graduates


At this time each year, I write the Jolly Librarian’s Thoughts for Graduates. The post is a little sad for me this year since we will not have a face-to-face ceremony due to the pandemic. To be honest, I only attended one of the graduation ceremonies for my various degrees. Still, I know it is meaningful for many students, especially for some of our nontraditional students. Also, as a faculty member and now a dean at our college, I find it especially touching as I see ‘my’ students go through the line.

Still, I want to share my graduation thoughts. I have three pieces of advice.

  • You may be disappointed that you will not participate in a live commencement, walk through the line, hug mentors, take pictures with classmates, and cry with families. It is perfectly okay to feel disappointed. It would be a little strange if you didn’t. So don’t feel bad about feeling bad.
  • BUT remember the ceremony is not the degree. The work has still been done. The lessons have still been learned. And the skills learned will still transfer to the next level of education and/or to a career. You did it!
  • We are living through a historic time. Scholars and scientists will study this period for generations. This is a time to document. Later scholars will want to know how we modified our lives, what we feared, what we dreamed, and how we coped. Leave a written record for your children and your grandchildren.
  • A comma is not a period. These past few months have felt strange to us all. It seems that normal time has stopped. We have had to adjust to new ways of doing things from going to class to walking into Costco. In some ways, because this virus is a new mutation and we don’t understand it yet, it can feel like this time will never end. But sometimes clichés are clichés because they hold true: The only thing constant in life is change. This too will pass.

The hardest part of this time for me professionally is that I did not get the chance to say goodbye to the graduating students who are library regulars.  And even though I didn’t get to say this year, I hope they know how proud I am of each and every one of them.


Monday Motivator: Set a New Goal

Last week, I entered the Virtual Race Across Tennessee. Starting in Memphis on May 1, we are to run the equivalent distance of crossing the state in three months.

This was not my best idea for several reasons:

  1. I am not a runner. The best I manage is a mile on the track at the Y in an environment that has no inclines and is climate controlled.
  2. Since the stay-at-home orders, I have not been to the Y since mid-March.
  3. In the past year, I have had several injuries: a bout with plantar fasciitis and a tumble on some downtown marble that left my knee a lovely shade of purple and in residual pain.
  4. I am old.

In short, I have no chance of completing this race. So why did I do it?

Because in the midst of this pandemic, I needed a new goal. I needed something new to achieve. And I needed some sort of external motivation to help me achieve it.

So I paid my money and went for long walks on both May 1 and 2. And I checked my progress on the runners’ list. Sadly, I seem to have gone backwards and now am in Arkansas.

But I don’t feel like a loser.  I am using the race to set a reasonable goal for myself:  to up my 10000 steps a day to 15000. If I can do that, I will be healthier, I think. So even if I don’t make it to virtual Virginia by the end of the summer, I will be a winner.

And in the meantime, I am enjoying the posts from the other participants as they run across their own states and counties. I appreciate being part of a community. And it has given me a little extra motivation that I badly needed in the sixth week of being at home.

Monday Motivator: Channel Your Inner Cat

I am going to be honest; I have forgotten what week it is. I know that I started working from home in March, and it is now the last week of April. So it’s either week 5 or week 6. And we’ll continue on for a few weeks more at least. The only thing that I know for sure is that my goal to maintain a strict work/home routine has fallen by the wayside.

That’s not quite true. The other thing I know for sure is that this is a good time find role models to help us get through these days. Personally, I am looking  to cats for guidance:

  • Cats are experts at social distancing. You rarely see a cat in a crowd. They are solitary animals and are just as likely to greet a stranger by hiding under a bed as invading his personal space. My colleague Charles has a cat, and he swears he can go for days without a kitty sighting at all.
  • Cats know how to isolate without feeling isolated. A cat can perch on a windowsill and stare contentedly at the world outside. If it does get bored, a move from the windowsill to the cat tree fills the void.
  • Many cats know how to snack wisely. (This does not apply to all cats. My sister’s rescue cat will eat an entire day’s food before my sister leaves for work in the mornings.) They know how to eat a few bites out of the bowl and then leave some for later. That’s a wise habit to pick up now that we’re all home, and some of us have stuffed our cupboards full of snacks.
  • Cats know how to sneak in a workout. Sure, cats sleep around twenty hours a day. But they know that’s it good to get the heart pumping.  Maybe it looks like they’ve gone mad as they dash up and down stairs and chase invisible creatures, but they don’t care. (A good lesson for me when I’m doing a workout on Netflix and my neighbor walks by the front window.)

Cats are great role models for pandemics, but there are a few cat habits that should be avoided:

  • Don’t knock things off shelves.
  • Don’t try to jump on counters.
  • And, most important, don’t shred the toilet paper.


Monday Motivator: Think about What You’ll Miss

In our second month of self-isolating, people are getting a little weary, even among those of us who firmly believe this is the best way of flattening the curve. People want to be doing things. And it’s natural to be a little stir crazy.

But one of my neighbors on our community Facebook page asked a different question. Instead of wondering what we were looking forward to when all of this is over, she asked what will we miss about our time in quarantine.

The answers were enlightening:

More time with family.

Commute time cut in half.

Money saved.

The generosity of neighbors who donated toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and masks to those with medical issues and were afraid to get out.

Time for gardening, cooking, sewing, etc.

It took me longer to come up with my own list. For one thing, my family is in another state, and I worry about them. And most days, I chafe to get out and just run a simple errand. But I was able to come up with some things:

Seeing my neighbor’s toddler ignore the tiny bicycle and pick up rocks instead.

Expressing appreciation to the folks working at the grocery stores.

Wearing t-shirts every day.

Not wearing makeup.

Getting up five minutes before a morning meeting and no one noticing.

Having virtual writing group meetings.

I’m sure your list will be more inspiring than mine. Still it doesn’t matter what’s on it, as long as it cheers you up.


Monday Motivator: Take Joy in What Is

Probably few of us spent this weekend as we’d been planning a month or so ago. There were no community Easter egg hunts. Most of us didn’t buy a new dress or a new bonnet. And there were no giant family dinners. And most of us didn’t plan on spending the entire long weekend in our homes.

Times like these can make us depressed and feel lost and lonely as we are separated from friends and family. So it’s even more important to find the joy in what we have. This is not to belittle anyone’s fear or depression during these times. It would be strange if we didn’t feel anxious. But there are still things that can make us happy.

Some of you are planting gardens. Others are enjoying nature as much as you can while social distancing. Others are writing songs or stories. Some are baking.

One of the things that brings me joy each April is choosing the poems to share for poetry month. So this weekend, I sat with my books and reread my favorite poems.

No, it wasn’t what I’d planned, and yes, in a perfect world, I’d have spent the holiday with my mother and sister, but of the things that I could do in the moment, it wasn’t half bad.


Monday Motivator: Be One of the Helpers

The other day, someone on my neighborhood Facebook page asked if anyone had some cleaning wipes. Her husband has a compromised immune system, and she had not been able to get any delivered. Finally, there was a way I could help. Before the library closed, I’d been stocking on up on wipes any time Target had some in stock because we were planning to do some major disinfecting when students returned from spring break. But we went virtual, and I had some extra.

But as I scrolled down to answer, I found that several people had gotten there before me. It was a good feeling, especially considering the amount of stockpiling that’s been going on, leaving so many stores’ shelves empty.

It is easy in scary times like these to hunker down and protect ourselves and the people we love. And let other people take care of the people they love. But for many of us, that’s simply not a sustainable way to live. At least not for our hearts and our souls. Even in bad scary times, we need to find a way to give.

And I’m lucky to be in a community that is finding ways everyday. People are volunteering to grocery shop for the elderly, and the sick, and those who are afraid to leave their homes. Others are buying gift cards in hopes that they can keep restaurants and salons open until the stay-at-home orders pass. Those with sewing skills are making masks and donating them to nursing homes.

Mr. Rogers once said to look for the helpers. And I want to be one of those helpers. But it’s not from pure altruism. In these anxious times, helping someone else gives me a sense of purpose that lessens my anxiety. Maybe even more important, in the face of such overwhelming disturbing news, it gives me a sense of efficacy, that there is something I can do to make things a little better, even when the world seems upside down.

There’s a lot of fear out there right now. We can spread that fear. Or we can be one of the helpers.

I vote for being a helper.

Monday Motivator: Dealing with Our New Normal

This starts my second week of working from home. And before I write anything else, I need to stress how grateful I am that I have job that allows this. To be at home and to be paid are blessings that many people don’t have.

Still, it’s not been an easy transition. I may be an introvert, but I like people. I like to chat with my colleagues. And while we are having Zoom meetings, it’s not the same as a quick spontaneous chat.

And the enforced isolation has triggered many anxieties, things I didn’t have a chance to think about when I was going to the office. Like many people, I have family and friends who are in the high-risk categories. And just being constantly alone has made me anxious as well.

But one thing that’s obvious is that a lot of people are feeling anxious as well. And despite the amount of crazy things you can find online, there is also good advice on navigating this period.

Here are the things that resonated with me. I hope they bring you some comfort as well:

  • Stick to a schedule as much as possible. Schedules provide structure. And believe me, a lot of unstructured time is not good for those of us with anxiety issues.
  • Be patient with people.  One thing that I was reminded of last week is that email communication is fraught with the possibility of misunderstanding. I would send one out, one that I thought was as clear as the stereotypical bell, and then I would get replies that made it just as clear that it wasn’t. My initial response was annoyance. “Why can’t people read carefully?” But then I realized doing this kind of work by email was new for us all. And everyone was anxious about getting it right, as well as being anxious about all the things going on in the world.
  • Budget social media and news. I am not one to say that ignorance is bliss when it comes to this virus. It is not. But there’s a lot of repetition and opinion out there. So you have to decide what’s helpful and what’s not. Yesterday, for example, a celebrity died from the virus, which was sad, of course. But later that day, I was overwhelmed with anxiety, and I realized that it was from reading the same information in various news outlets about the death. In my mind, the impact had multiplied every time I read the same news story.
  • Have something to look forward to. This comes from my colleague Emily’s husband, who is the editor of the Nashville Business Journal.  This is the time of year when people are planning many things: vacations, proms, graduations, etc. Those have been taken away. But we still need things to anticipate. Click here for the link to his article.
  • Take it day by day.  At first, all I saw was day after day of isolation. And that was overwhelming. But I managed to change the way I was thinking. Now I go from hour to hour. If I start feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or anxious, I ask myself what is one thing I can do for the next hour? Sometimes it’s cleaning out a closet. Or writing. Or exercising. At the end the hour, I often feel better. But if I don’t, I schedule the next hour. And I can get through the worst day that way.

Some of my colleagues have been too busy getting courses online and/or managing their own children’s education right now to feel lonely. But I think we all feel a little anxious. And if you have some tips that help you, let me know.

I need them.

Monday Motivator: In Anxious Times, Choose to Be Kind

Like many places, our college is going into safety mode in the face of the coronavirus. We’ve extended spring break, and the week after that, we will move into mainly online instruction.

It is sometimes hard to maintain composure during this time. People are panic buying, and I admit that, when I find empty shelves, even when those aren’t items I need, I feel anxiety. I walk the line between trying not to shut down completely and keep myself and others safe. I worry about my elderly relatives, my friends and colleagues with underlying health conditions, and honestly myself. And I worry about those who don’t believe in the seriousness of the situation and may be putting themselves and others at risk.

Still, there have been some bright moments during this week when it seemed that I was surrounded by fear and selfishness. There was the post on my neighborhood Facebook page; a woman volunteered to do the shopping for the elderly and sick in the community. There are fundraisers for those who don’t have days off and savings to make it through a two-week isolation.

And this kindness inspired me in a small way. Today, at the grocery store, I thanked the cashier for being at work and having such a good attitude in such a stressful time. At the Y, I thanked the woman at the desk for being open and that they would all stay safe. (In full disclosure, I went during the slowest time of day, ran on the track by myself, and didn’t touch any equipment.)

Fear can make us selfish and mean. So, in times like these, it’s even more important to think of ways to be kind and helpful. It not only helps others. It eases our own anxiety as well.

Monday Motivator: Let Something Go

In his book, Change Your Day, Not Your Life, Andy Core tells about playing with his toddler daughter one day. She grabbed a toy in one hand, and she was happy. She grabbed another toy in her other hand, and she was happy. Then she saw another toy. She didn’t have a third hand. But she didn’t want to let go of what she had. She was then very unhappy.

Sometimes we are like that toddler. There are so many good things in the world, and we want to experience all of them. So we keep getting a hand on each one, but we can’t hold on to any of them well. And we’re unhappy.

Someone once said that you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at one time. I don’t know about having it all, but I do know that we have to make choices about how we spend our time or money or our mental resources. And those decisions may be different depending on our age and our other responsibilities.

As I get older, I realize that there are fewer things I want to do, but those few things I want to do well. I’ve learned not to say yes just because it would make me look good or someone thinks I ought to or it would lead to a promotion that I might not even want. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to grab on to every opportunity that came my way. But once I did, I was more fully able to enjoy the ones I did say yes to.

So this week, let’s look at all the things, both literal and metaphorical, that we’ve grabbed onto and see if we can let just one thing go.