Yes, I love lists. But I'm not "that person" who looks at a terrible situation determined to find the silver lining. Yet alone a list of items. Somehow that changed a few weeks ago when Black and I were working on a Book Bite about exercise. In the P.S. section, which explained why the excerpt's as relevant today as when it was written, we commented that the pandemic made me look at exercise as a way to help reduce my stress and that maybe we should write a separate post about positive changes we've made due to the pandemic. (Similar to the positive things that happened to me years ago when my husband got fired.) As often happens, I thought it was just another one of Black's countless ideas for posts that I'd file away – except it really did get me thinking. So, I decided to create this checklist, although I struggled to keep it to only five things:


  1. Exercise (Stomp?) Away Your Stress
    Yes, the pandemic really did make me look at exercise (again) with fresh eyes. I've always had a love-hate relationship with it, made worse by the fact that Black has always embraced it, keeping to an exercise routine for decades with nothing stopping her (when the pandemic hit, she turned her balcony into a mini-fitness center), which often makes me feel guilty. But like most people, I found my stress levels reaching a new high over the last nine months. One day I'd just had enough (the particulars aren't important) and had to get out of the house, so I literally stormed out the door. Well, the first trip around the block was more of a stomp than a walk, but by the second lap I was on a nice pace, breathing again like a normal person and the steam coming out of my ears had disappeared. By the time I turned the key to re-enter the house, I felt human again. Now I take a walk almost every day although sometimes it does start out as a stomp.
  2. Give Yourself Permission To Slowdown And Enjoy
    Before the coronavirus, I used to look forward to those rare days when I didn't have to leave the house. Between playing chauffeur for my daughter (even once she could drive, I found I still enjoyed taking her places as it gave us quiet time in the car together), seemingly endless errands, dinners with my mom, and plenty of Red & Black meetings, having a day where I could truly stay home was a novelty. Well, today, it's the norm. But a funny thing happened. Instead of things being less hectic, everything seemed more complicated and I found myself busier than ever. Some was self-inflicted as I decided to work on "home projects" that previously I never had the time to do or had previously neglected. Regardless, it has taken me much longer than I'd care to admit to realize that it's ok to "enjoy" doing nothing or doing something for the pure enjoyment of it.
  3. Turn Mountains (Of Paper) Into Molehills
    One of those "home projects" (working from home muddies the distinction between work and personal projects) was to finally start tackling those constantly growing piles of paper that have accumulated over many years. (Yes, years!) Although I sometimes feel like it's one step forward, two steps back, I can now look around me (literally) and realize that I've made huge progress. Black always told me that the piles represented unfinished work, and their mere presence caused stress. Now that the piles are shrinking (not as fast as I'd like but still moving in the right direction), combined with giving myself permission to take breaks, I'm staying motivated and feeling a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Never Ever Take Your Health For Granted
    I'm one of the very fortunate people who always assumed when I woke up in the morning that I'd go about my day and be able to physically do everything I needed to do. Yes, there might be a few aches and pains, or I might get a stomach ache, or catch a cold or even the flu. But I was basically healthy. The same for my daughters (ok, my older daughter's the type that overreacts to a hangnail while the younger one rarely lets anything slow her down). Pre-pandemic I never really thought about our health, except when I reviewed our health insurance. But the coronavirus made me realize that in the blink of an eye everything can change. It's made me realize how fragile life is and how it's so easy to take your health for granted – until it's gone.
  5. Focus On What You Have … Not What You Don't Have
    It's human nature to focus on what you don't have, what you want, what would make you happier. Rare is the person who's completely happy and satisfied with where they are, literally and figuratively. That's not to say that one shouldn't have goals, ambitions, desires, things you want to improve, things you want to accomplish. But there's a huge difference between wanting all of that at the expense of ignoring what you already have. I like to think that I've always appreciated the most important things in my life, which is first and foremost my daughters. But living during a pandemic made me realize that even when it came to them, I needed to focus less on what could be better and fully appreciate that they are happy and healthy. At the risk of oversimplifying things, it's appreciating that the glass is not only half full, but that it has any water in it at all.

Of course, I wanted to know what Black would have to say on the topic. Not only is she extremely pragmatic, but if there's anyone who tends to live in the moment, appreciating what's here, right now, it's my sister. On that she was consistent, but the pandemic did add an interesting twist …

I have always said that you have to live for today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. The pandemic has not changed that – but has made me realize that how we each live our lives today will have a ripple effect on the lives of so many others.
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


I know that we're living in stressful times, so I've been trying not to get worked up over things, especially as I know that it doesn't take much to "set me off" these days. We both know I'm a warm and fuzzy person, who prefers to avoid conflict, but it's becoming a struggle for me to be patient with people. I know I'm a "better" person when I can remain calm, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to actually do. Plus, if I can't stay calm, cool, and collected with myself, there's no hope of treating others that way. As much as I want to.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


Recognizing the situation is a major first step. Sometimes, you have to find a way to step back so you can reset. If that does not work, then just pretend to be calm. Think of it as style over substance. When I was in the corporate world, there were always people who tended to over-react. They thought of themselves as inspiring and passionate when, in reality, they were exhausting. Plus, they often came across as being overly emotional, and even having knee-jerk reactions, versus being professional and knowledgeable.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you react to someone who's calm and displaying decorum? How would you react to someone that's "screaming in your face" or agitated?
  • Our mother used to say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." What do you think she meant by that? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • If you were being interviewed for a job, how would you answer the question, "How well do you work under pressure?" Why do you think they'd ask that question? How might it apply to your personal life?
DON’T MISS A THING
For Red & Black Banter in your inbox ...
FOLLOW US ON
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


You'd think by now I'd have learned. I know that once upon a time, when my life was simpler, my "To Do" lists were easier to keep under control. Not to mention they were much "prettier". I had a basic system for keeping things organized, and although nothing when compared to your insanely organized lists, it used to fit my needs. After my "crisis" the lists seemed to multiple, especially as the girls got older and we got busier with Red & Black. And before you say anything, yes, you've definitely helped me a lot over the years, but my lists have gotten out-of-control and now I'm overwhelmed not only by the numbers of tasks but because everything seems to be high priority.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


Are you finished? First thing is to stop thinking you can have perfect "To Do" lists. Second, as I have told you countless times over the years, is you have the process backward … you are too focused on making lists versus deciding what you need to do and then creating lists. Imagine you are starting with a "clean slate" or blank piece of paper. Identify your overall goals or objectives, and then what tasks are required, listing the most important ones first. Make sure the tasks are specific and feasible. And, do not clutter the list with things that take only a few minutes or little effort. Do not overcomplicate this process. Especially as lists are supposed to help you – not overwhelm you.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Do "To Do" lists help you accomplish things or hurt your productivity?
  • Do you currently use "To Do" Lists? If not, why not?
  • If you use (or have used) "To Do" lists ... What has worked well? What has not worked well?
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!



Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


The new year has barely started but I feel like all the things I intended to "do better" last year really didn't change much, if at all, so don't know why I expect this year to be any different. This happens every year. Maybe I'm just expecting too much of myself.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


Maybe you are just being too critical of yourself. Sometimes our "inner critic" is louder than we should allow it to be. What if you looked at any given "issue" as if Natasha or Sawyer (or anyone you cared about) were experiencing it? How would you respond? I bet you would be encouraging and supportive rather than harsh and critical.
THE CONVERSATION STARTERS
  • Why do you think we treat ourselves differently than we treat people we care about?
  • How you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you would typically respond to a loved one or close friend?
  • Since this isn't how most people typically think, what are ways you could remind yourself to look at yourself differently?