Finding my “Calm.”

(Before I begin my post, congratulations to Merri Matalon, who won a copy of Laura Jensen Walker’s new book, Hope, Faith, and a Corpse!)

Due to the pandemic, I put off seeing my mother for over a year. She just turned 94 and I didn’t want to risk bringing so much as a cold home to her. Then she was rushed to the hospital in excruciating pain on 12/23. She spent a week there, where she was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, among other conditions. My youngest brother, who’s become her de facto caretaker during the pandemic, was exhausted and overwhelmed. Mom needed me. So on Thursday, January 7th, filled with worry for mom, horror at national events, and concern about the spreading virus, I boarded a cross-country flight.

The mask is attached to my shirt. How cool is that?

I helped Mom with her PT, worked on getting her to eat healthy, scheduled doctor’s appointments. I also had to make progress on writing the first book in a new series as well as kick promotion for my upcoming release, LONG ISLAND ICED TINA, into gear. All of this required comfort and concentration, which I was sorely lacking. And that made me very anxious.

There’s an app called Calm that’s supposed to help you meditate or something. In what I believe can be defined as irony, I’ve been meaning to download it but I’m always too busy. Instead I use the mantra Shirley MacLaine once gave me during an interview that was meant to counteract my fear of flying but works on so many other levels: “I am having a safe, uneventful journey.” But I found another source of ersatz meditation at Mom’s. Before I released my brother to get some R&R, we took a hike in a nearby trail called the Gorge, which is at the foot of the Croton Dam. The hike provided me with my own “Calm” sights and sounds.

A meandering river…

An old stone wall and a serene reservoir…

And a majestic, stunning dam…

Mom is still struggling with the pain. Challenges lie ahead. I will need a lot of “Calm” in the future. Given the world these days, I think we all do. I hope my photos have given you a few moments of it today. And feel free to borrow Ms. MacLaine’s gifted mantra.

Repeat after me… “I am having a safe, uneventful journey.”

Readers, how do you find your “Calm?” Do any of you use the actual app?

42 thoughts on “Finding my “Calm.”

    1. Those are fabulous photos, Ellen. I can’t imagine the stress you were under and I hope things have stabilized a bit.
      I used the Calm app (the free version) a few years ago to help me when I couldn’t get to sleep. It helped. I’m glad you found your own version of a Calm app!

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Very calming post and pictures. It shows there is a lot going on, but it is being handled. You got this just like I knew you would.
    Okay, that last one did not calm me! I have this irrational fear of being on a height thing, and being able to plunge to my death. I will take the reservoir myself.
    Or maybe just a nice street side view of the Eiffel Tower

    Liked by 4 people

    1. OMG, Hestia, I am so with you. I have a height thing too. What I realized years ago is that it’s not heights we’re afraid of. It’s falling. When we were house hunting and we’d see a house perched on the edge of an L.A. hill, I’d get faint looking out the window. Nope. Not for me

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Water sources help me find my calm. I was born on the Eastern Shore of MD, right on the Chesapeake Bay and a few hours from the ocean. But the sound of any restless water will do…a running brook or a waterfall.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Beautiful, Ellen. I’m a big fan of bridges. In fact, my daughter and I have a favorite one I always visit when I go to Portland. And I’m way overdue.

    While I was deep in revision recently, I blew off my daily yoga, which is so stupid … it’s when I need it the most. But as I was doing the 30-minute practice I chose this morning, I was kicking myself for screwing up and choosing a 60-minute class. Squinted one eye at my computer. Nope, just 20 minutes into the 30-min class. Ay caramba. Refocus. Relax. Recharge.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This is lovely, Ellen. I send best wishes for your poor mother’s back (I have the same one, but many years younger than she is) and for your continued serenity. Walks in the woods are such good medicine! Thanks for the calming photos. I can feel the peace through them.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Hi, Ellen — Thanks for the post here, and good luck to you and your mom and your family. I’m glad it sounds like things have stabilized some, though so sorry to hear about continued pain. Sending good wishes, good thoughts for those challenges still ahead.

    I actually downloaded a couple of meditation apps in December—feeling at the end of my own fraying rope—and I ended up subscribing to Calm and haven’t missed a day since. It has helped, and walks with nature are part II of some daily routine in this direction.

    What’s funny about being too busy to download the app to help you slow down and find calm: I’ve been trying to help my own mom regain some balance in various areas, and while she does meditate and practice deep breathing, she often struggles to find traction on things she wants to do—and keeps lots of post-it notes and small scraps of paper around where she makes notes on plans. So I bought her a Panda Planner and worked her through ways to consolidate those notes, those plans, and also help build her daily routine better and practice daily gratitude and….

    And when I asked how it was going, she said, “Well, once I’m able to get some things done, I’ll try to work on that Panda Planner you gave me.”

    (Cue rimshot.)

    Anyway, sending some love your way.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Art, that’s so funny about your mom and planner! I can’t imagine the stress families like yours and Tara’s are under. Full-time jobs, schooling a child at home, staying safe. It’s such a goddawful time. We’re having enough trouble dealing with our college student. Sending love and calm to you all. xoxoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. First off, hugs to you, El. I’m glad you got to see your mom and help your brother out.

    Thank you for the calming pictures! I love hiking/walking close to water, especially waterfalls. I’ve never used the Calm app but have heard about it. For a while, we used a white noise sound app to relax.

    It’s also nice being relatively close to the beach and watching the waves. (Also got to see some dolphins the last time we were there!)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jen, that’s so cool! I wish I were closer to the beach. I’m only a half-hour away but it’s still not convenient, especially with traffic. Kind of defeats the calm purpose. I envy you those dolphins!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am a fan of the Calm app! They have a sweet picture (with sound, most importantly) of falling rain that you might like, El–and it comes with the “free” version. I may turn it on right now, since I just finished stressing out over the NH vaccine scheduling website that went live for my age group this morning. Very best for your mom’s continued health–and yours! (And everyone’s!)

    Liked by 4 people

  8. So sorry to hear about your mom, Ellen.

    I don’t use the app, but any nature sounds (especially birdsong and running water) are an instant soother for me.

    Oh, and staying away from the national news.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Liz, yes! National news not only harshes my mellow, it drives me to the wine bottle. Neither of which are remotely stress-reducing.

    I love the sounds of nature. It was windy on my hike yesterday and I loved the sound of it through the trees.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Sending much love to you and your dear mom, Ellen!
    I’ve never tried a meditation app, but there are some free channels on Roku and YouTube that show calming scenes and play relaxing music that I often watch before going to bed. One of my faves features an old library with a fire crackling in the fireplace!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Lovely! One of my kids made this construction paper phone holder that was a pretend chimney so I could place my cell in it, go to a YT channel, and pretend there was a cheery fire before me.


  11. Putting things in perspective has always helped me when I’m stressed. In my law firm office (where I suffered stress and anxiety on a daily basis, worried about my caseload and deadlines), I had pinned to the wall a National Geographic “map of the known universe.” I’d stare at that map of the cosmos and think about how so much more there was out there besides my puny little land subsidence case, let out a long stream of breath, and that always seemed to help.

    Thanks for this post, Ellen–much needed. And I love the rock wall!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Ellen, I knew you’d done your trip under such stressful circumstances. I hope your mom is improving and you’re finding a few minutes of calm (or Calm) for yourself every day. Your photos are wonderful. Walking by water does it for me and I’m grateful I live in a place I can do that every day. I’ve also found myself escaping to old black and white movies, ballet videos (NYCB), and replaying George Costanza’s “Serenity now!” clip from Seinfeld. It makes me laugh. xo Shari

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Ahhhh…I feel calmer already!

    That app has been suggested to me, but I’ve yet to give it a try. (Yes, for the same ironic reason.) Instead, I find my calm by walking nature trails near my house. The trees, the wind, the crunch of earth beneath my feet become a sensory mantra I can count on to help center me.

    Sending your mom hugs and love!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. The picture of the rushing water immediately served a calming function! That is my favorite thing–a rushing river, waves at the beach. Beautiful and soothing.

    Big hugs and much love for what your family has been going through. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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