Welcome, June

All bridges up!

Wow. I can’t believe it. It’s the first day of June. The entire month of May was a blur as I, along with the rest of humanity, awaited for our worlds to open up with the shutdown from COVID-19. I’m still on furlough but I’m told that I might be back to work in a couple of weeks. Again, this has lasted so much longer than originally thought. There is hope in a couple of days, though, when the City of Chicago finds out what the next phase of reopening will be. Fingers crossed.

Not much has changed since I last wrote except for one thing. There are protests and lootings around the country as the result of the death of George Floyd, a black gentleman who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25th. The protests in Chicago only started a couple of days ago but there is much destruction all around. The stores and neighborhoods in and around Chicago were looted, cars were set on fire, and vandalism ensued. I can’t believe all this is happening. The pandemic is horrible enough but to add this to the stress of the world is just too much. Yesterday I couldn’t dare see what Michigan Avenue looked like in person because I saw the pictures in the news and social media. Many stores were broken into, looted, and graffiti sprayed across the buildings. Such a terrible sight. So I decided to walk toward the river instead. It was a beautiful day. Then I saw something that I had never seen before. All the bridges of every street were raised up so no car nor person could get through. When I got closer I heard the constant alarm from the raised bridges which was unnerving. It was only cool to see all the raised bridges because I had never seen it before, and seen against the gorgeous blue sky was a sight that I surely wanted to capture. I walked all along Wacker Drive and was more saddened to see workers boarding up the storefronts and restaurants to prevent further looting. After an hour and a half passed I started to head back home. It was getting chilly and I had a phone call scheduled.

Somehow this protest, vandalism, and looting seems worse than the pandemic itself. I’m sure it’s because we can physically see in all the media outlets the proof of people looting, cars being set on fire, and the vandalism whereas with the pandemic it’s an invisible virus. We only see statistics, facts, and figures. But when you see a video of a man being killed as well as the destruction of communities by mobs of people, it’s easy to lose faith in humanity. The economic downturn from COVID-19 will be rebounded in time, although a very long time. But losing faith in humanity is something that is far worse and not so easy to harness back. The world needs a healing as well as prayers. At this moment this is all I hope for…

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Hope!

The colors of Hope

As the news of reopening plans are starting to show, I feel such a strong sense of hope along with happiness. The weather in Chicago was beautiful yesterday, and today it’s going to be sunny AND sixty degrees! 😎 Oh, and there is even a full moon today called the Full Flower Moon so I look forward to seeing it right in front of my window tonight. How lucky I am! I have connected so much with nature during my entire isolation from COVID-19, and I feel so grateful. As strange as it may seem, I will miss all the time I had to myself when I get back to work and normal life. I’m thinking I might be back to work in about three weeks or so. Until then, I will enjoy all the time that I have left because everything is temporary.

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A little Hygieia, please!

Hygieia by Gustav Klimt

As I travel around the world, I collect notebooks from every museum I visit. I always have to have something to write on by my side at all times and writing on a travel notebook from another country always makes me feel happy. It truly brings me back to that specific place and all the beautiful memories of the trip. So today I grab a fresh new notebook that I got at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. Pictured above, it shows the work by Gustav Klimt. I visited the museum solely to see THE KISS, and when I got to the bookstore after seeing all the art that I could see in one day, I found the above notebook and wondered if I missed the actual art inside the Belvedere as I have never seen it before. When I asked the store clerk if I should go back inside to possibly see the work of art, he said that was impossible because it was actually destroyed in a fire. I immediately cringed and felt sad that I could never see this is person. It is believed that in 1945 the painting was inside a castle, and the castle was set on fire by the German SS forces to prevent it from being in the enemy’s hands. Well, so I thought I should buy two of the notebooks instead of my usual limit of buying only one memento.

What I love about travel is the nostalgia that comes along with seeing the souvenirs. Yesterday I looked at my refrigerator magnet I got from Barcelona and my mind was brought back to the little shop across from the Park GΓΌell where my friend and I each bought the magnet. I can still feel the hot and humid temperatures of that August afternoon last year and wished it was just as warm today as the temperatures in Chicago is only 43 degrees! Anyway, I look at the back of the notebook from the Belvedere Museum and see that it’s titled HYGIEIA who was the Greek Goddess of health, cleanliness, and hygiene. What a timely remembrance of Hygieia during these current times of the pandemic! Why I wasn’t aware of Hygieia when I was an Art History major and loved Greek mythology is beyond me.

As the world starts a new month I pray and hope that we become healthier and cleaner with a Goddess like Hygieia protecting us. As each day brings us closer to the world opening up, I can’t imagine what the new world will look like, especially in terms of travel, and I can’t wait to find out.

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Welcome, May 😎

I guess April showers do bring May flowers…

I can’t believe it’s May! I woke up to sunny skies so I knew it would be a good day to go running, and I was happy about that. The tulips all over Chicago are always stunning as you can see from the picture above today. I took my time walking around after my run to just enjoy the sun and the rest of the flowers. When I walked into Eataly, I had no idea that masks were required but luckily, they had one for me. I ordered masks some time ago on Amazon but there was a three week delivery date. I had no idea that the masks were that hard to breathe with, and I felt more claustrophobic than ever, which I didn’t think was possible. I then had to go to Whole Foods which took much longer, and because the mask felt like I was suffocating I rushed out of there without fully completing my shopping.

These are such strange times, and just when I think that I can get through this isolation just fine, another barrier comes up. The mandate of wearing masks is a requirement for the entire month of May, and I just hope that the rules do not get worse by requiring people to wear it in outdoor spaces when just taking a walk or running. This makes me feel like I don’t even want to go outside.

Tomorrow is going to be 75 degrees and partly sunny so I can’t wait to see what happens while I go running without a mask. The month of May will be more challenging with warmer weather and people just getting so sick and tired of this virus. I pray that June will start to see the world open up, and as of now that seems like an eternity. Thirty more days to go… πŸ™

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Last Day of a Month of Gratitude

Gratitude…

Although my isolation from COVID-19 started in March, I cannot believe that today is the last day of April, 2020. The concept of time was unusual and challenging because although time seemed to pass by so, so slowly at times, looking back on the whole month it seemed to pass by as a blur. This doesn’t make sense to me, but then again, what about the COVID-19 makes any sense?

As my month-long project and commitment to express and appreciate gratitude comes to an end, I have experienced some good benefits. To start, I have learned to differentiate joy from happiness, which is a thought that I never contemplated before. Of course, happiness was difficult if not impossible to experience during this solitude from the COVID-19 so I was surprised to find joy. Happiness usually is triggered externally, say, from buying a new pair of shoes or enjoying a great meal at a restaurant. But these happy feelings seem to be very transitory. Joy, on the other hand, comes from within and, I have found, more spiritual in nature and therefore, lasting longer. Another thing I noticed while practicing gratitude was that small, mundane things made me happy, or was it joy? LOL. The experience of simply walking on the grass, hearing the sound of birds as well as the sound of children’s voices laughing, having the abundance of time (although a blessing and a curse), feeling true presence, and even appreciating a well cooked meal to enjoy alone without trying to please others all were simple joys that I didn’t expect. There were numerous other benefits of practicing gratitude like fully appreciating the time I had to mediate as well having the time to exercise every single day. As a matter of fact, the time for meditation and exercise were actually the two most important things that helped me get through these dark days of the isolation. Thank goodness I had the determination and fortitude to adopt these two very important life practices which ended up being my medicine.

As with each end a new one begins. The month of May is just one night’s sleep away, and none of us knows what to expect. With warmer temperatures as well as the wearing thin of the patience of the world, I pray that the world begins an emergence of a better, new normal. I am letting go of the month of April with gratitude of what it has taught me and allowed me to experience. May the new month ahead bring more joy and happiness along with a new enrichment of thoughts, experiences, and renewed Life for us all.

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Day 29 of a Month of Gratitude

I woke up to a rainy, gloomy day with very dark skies again. The Chicago weather is so fickle, and I’m really, really over it. It was one of those mornings where I didn’t want to get out of bed as the heaviness of the entire world could be felt which seemed to reflect the ugly view outside my window. It’s day 46 of this prison from the COVID-19. Ugh. After managing somehow to get up I tried meditating after having my usual morning tea but I had trouble for the first time in I don’t know how long. I had to try again later, I thought, and started talking and texting friends. I felt better. But then I realized that I didn’t want to work out, either. I really wanted some air and wanted to run outside but it was raining ugly all day. I tried meditating again and felt satisfied that I accomplished it. There was no way that I would break my streak because it would mean that the damn COVID-19 is winning over me and I can’t and won’t have it. Somehow this thought made me push myself to start my yoga practice because again, there was no way in hell that I would allow this isolation and circumstances get the better of me. My anger made me perform better with the online yoga class, and afterwards I looked outside my window at the still raining dark skies and felt proud that I was disciplined enough to do things I didn’t want to do, including some hard decisions that I had to make.

Each new day brings us closer to the opening up of the world so although the days are hard, we must get through this. We must be grateful for each and every brand new day.

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Day 28 of a Month of Gratitude

Signs of Spring!

I woke up in a great mood completely unlike yesterday. Nothing dramatic happened between yesterday and this morning so I wonder why such a drastic mood change. Again, I will blame it on the COVID-19. It was sunny but rain was predicted in the afternoon, just like yesterday, so after I meditated I put some sunscreen on and ventured outside with short sleeves since it was 60 degrees. The minute I came out of my building I saw bright colorful tulips, and I immediately felt happier and much lighter in spirit than yesterday. When I got toward Millennium Park I saw a worker mowing the grass and the smell of it really made me smile inside. I thought of my dad growing up when he would mow the lawn so early on Saturday mornings that I would wake up and be kind of mad at him. I would love the treasure of that experience again as he is long gone.

After three miles I stopped although I wanted to run longer, and I wondered how I ran six miles ten days prior. But the sunshine was such a welcome pleasure to just slow down and walk on the grass. I am finding it odd these past few weeks of isolation that I’m taking pleasure in the sound of birds, walking on the grass, and noticing four leaf clovers. Who am I? I saw a patch of dandelions so bright and colorful that it seemed strange to me that they are considered weeds instead of pretty little flowers. I noticed a woman running and then stopping abuptly to command her dog to sit, and then I realized she took a picture of her dog against the numerous dandelions. Then I thought that if I had a dog while running I would have done the same thing, too, because the patches of bright yellows against the green grass under the sunlight could have been almost passed for a painting.

As I walked the rest of the way home in the warm sun I saw lots of tulips and daffodils with groundskeepers tending to the lawns around Chicago. The smell of fresh cut grass and even seeing a bee visiting a flower was joyful to witness. I heard children’s voices of enthusiasm, and for those moments while walking in the sunshine nothing seemed wrong at all with the world except when someone passed by with a mask on. Ah, yes, the reminder that the world is in crisis along with the future being unknown. Today is the 45th day of my isolation but with the company of Mother Nature I didn’t feel lonely at all. And thankfully, there were far too many reasons to be grateful today than I could count.

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Day 27 of a Month of Gratitude

There are just some days when you wake up and don’t feel that great, let alone grateful, and today was one of those days. Nothing was wrong, really, but I just woke up not feeling so well mentally. Maybe it’s because today was day 44 of my isolation from COVID-19 but who knows. I tried all day to feel better and look for the positive but although I knew I was supposed to be grateful, I just wasn’t feeling an ounce of it. To make matters worse, the weather started out nice this morning but by the time I went outside to go running, knowing it was starting to rain a little, I had to come back inside because the raindrops were the dense, pelting kind that made it too miserable to run although I did try. I ended up doing an online yoga class instead and that’s when I started to feel grateful. I felt grateful for the technology that we have today to be able to take a class online, video chat with friends and family, and have wireless internet.

Come to think of it, I think it IS the damn COVID-19 that is taking its toll on my mental well being. Thank God I found something to be grateful for today. πŸ™

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Day 26 of a Month of Gratitude

Memories of Prague

Wow. I can’t believe I’m waking up to the start of the seventh week of my isolation from COVID-19. It’s Sunday, and I’m waking up to partly cloudy skies which is a great relief from the past several days of bleak, dark, and rainy weather. This alone makes me happy immediately. I turn on my Bose system and the Pandora station plays a song which makes me stop, and I truly listen. The guitar sounded so heavenly, and I found myself smiling back to the exact moment that the same artist’s music stopped me dead in my tracks to figure out where the music was coming from.

I was walking in the streets of Prague in the late afternoon. I was somewhere near the Charles Bridge, and it was right before the sun was beginning to set. I was happily lost and just wandering the streets to find a place for dinner, taking pictures in between, when I heard a magical guitar playing somewhere. I was hoping it was a live musician but found that it was coming from inside a store. It was a puppet shop and I walked in just to inquire about the music. I love all the vendors around the world when they ask, “Where are you from?” It starts such a great conversation about travel and the world. When I asked the guy about the music playing in the store, he yells for another guy to come out who spoke better English than he did. The second guy tells me that the music is by Armik, an artist I never heard of before. When I asked him more specific questions about the artist, he became a little flustered because he couldn’t express himself fully in English. So then he tells me to come back to the store the next day so he can make a copy of the CD for me. I smile so big as I asked him what time, and he said late afternoon at about the same time.

I come back next day and the guy who was supposed to make the CD for me looks a bit embarrassed. He tells me that he was too busy and that he didn’t have time. I completely understood, and he asked me to come back the next day again. However, I was flying back home. After hearing this the guy goes to the back of the store and comes out with two CD’s. He hands me the original CD’s, and the other guy standing there was aghast and even looked at his friend as if he was crazy. Then finally, the guy who handed me the CD’s just said with a smile to just enjoy the music as it was very special to him and very hard to get. Of course, I, too, just stood there flabbergasted. I tried to give him money but we both knew that it would have ruined the moment. An unexpected gift is both such a great treasure between the giver and the receiver, and besides, he didn’t want the money. I left the store, of course, with such gratitude, and I went to bed that night with a full heart, and I was so fully addicted to travel.

As I woke up this morning in Chicago a little bit anxious, wondering how I would fill up my day, I realized that it’s the moment by moment presence that helps me live fully. Just the sound of beautiful music took me on a past travel journey, and I think about all the kindness that exists in the world. So as I write down my to do list for the day one of my goals is to help someone meditate today. Then I decide right then that I will help someone, somehow, every day and make it a part of my to do list during the rest of my isolation and beyond. I feel so supported somehow all of a sudden with my decision to help others daily. The universe responds with like energy somehow. Just now, my former Italian instructor who is over 70 years old texts me and asks me if I need any essential supplies! 😭 Gratitude, oh, Gratitude…it looks like you are everywhere.

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Day 25 of a Month of Gratitude

I felt really happy today for no reason at all considering the weather was rainy, cold, and just ugly. I meditated and again experienced the golden light, and just before opening my eyes I saw Pablo Picasso’s face. Strange, I know! I felt joy and happiness all day so I was thinking that maybe the hedonic adaptation had set in? The term “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation” is a concept that people return back to their set level of happiness whether something good or bad happened. Whether a person had a bad car accident that left them paralyzed or if they won the lottery, people return back to their original set point of happiness. So maybe I’m used to this bleak state of the world that we’re in and that maybe I’m back to my natural, happy self? God, I hope so. Being happy for no reason at all, especially during this lockdown along with the terrible Chicago weather kinda makes me feel superhuman right now. So, so grateful…

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