Figuring Out A System

Dear Friends,

That’s what we’re all doing now in the corona era, isn’t it?, figuring out a system. Trying to take care of ourselves while making sure our loved ones are taking care of themselves or being well taken care of, wherever they may be. Applying for a loan. Asking landlords for temporary rent reduction. Trying to stay sane and not buy out the store on toilet paper.

Here’s my update from the front.

We’re all on the front, so no matter where you are or where I am, we’re all engaging on the front in this war against an enemy we can’t even see. We’re all trying to figure out a system that works for us and our group, whatever that group, team, family, business, or community may be.

How are you doing on your front? Are you home? Alone? With kids? With dog (I hope!)? I’m still coming into my office, but “seeing” all my patients via phone, face time, or Zoom. Pretty soon I will stop coming into the office altogether and work entirely from home once we figure out a system for how to manage the logistics of scheduling, writing prescriptions, communicating with each other, billing, and making what-if-this-happens contingency plans.

How about this freakin’ contingency? Was the corona virus on anyone’s list of contingencies to plan for last Thanksgiving? It’s like the old joke, How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

Time to Give Thanks

But this is a time to thank God for lots of things, for the Internet, social media, the telephone, and television to name a few. As much as we complain about how these devices preoccupy our children and us, during this crisis they are true life-savers. One piece of advice though: do not over-dose on news. It can poison your system, not as badly as the virus, but it just is not good for you to O.D. on negative energy, which is what too much news does.

But we do need facts, hence some access to news is essential. Then, based on the news, we figure out a plan, a proverbial system.

Here are some tips on figuring out a plan:

  • Consult with others.
  • Be open to all suggestions.
  • Get creative.
  • Prioritize what matters most.

Financial Concerns

In terms of prioritizing, next to our health, the biggest worry most of us share is financial. Whatever out jobs might be, we’re all trying to figure this one out, not just for ourselves, but the people we care about as well as our businesses. My work as a writer can be done anywhere, thank goodness.

But my work as a doctor, and the work all the clinicians who work in my office do, depend upon contact with our patients. Fortunately, 90% of this contact can be gained off-site, remotely, so we’re “figuring out a system” for how to do that most efficiently, but also with the warmth we believe is so important in our work. Right now I am saying, Thank God for Zoom.

Always do what my mother and likely yours taught me and you and look for the blessings.

You are much more productive, useful, and energetic if you stoke up on positive energy. Yes, we are living in a crisis, facing potential disaster, the world temporarily falling into shambles. But we are not without power, resources, and wit. If we keep those wits about us, we will, every day, solve one problem after another and come up with, you got it, a system!

Your system will not appear instantly. It will evolve day by day, minute by minute. We’re forced to grope in the dark these days, bearing with the inner churning uncertainty creates, looking for whatever flashlights or matches we can find to light our way. But the lights are there, paltry though they may be, and every inch of progress we can make makes us feel better, more confident. And feeling more confident—whether the feeling matches up with reality or not—is a super-power these days.

Build Confidence and Maintain a Positive Attitude

Confidence—informed confidence, not ignorant bravado—works wonders in times of crisis and distress. Hand-wringing, moping, and foretelling doom is not only counterproductive, it is bad for you in myriad ways.

So, to build confidence and maintain a positive attitude in these ominous and upsetting times, try the following

  • reach for each other, from a distance;
  • stay in touch with your friends and people you love;
  • call people often, just to buck each other up and hopefully laugh;
  • bake a cake or cook up some goody you really like;
  • remember, we’re all in this together;
  • call whomever you call to get a loan or get food or inquire about a new
  • mortgage now that rates are so low;
  • find humor wherever you can; it’s impossible to worry and laugh at the same time
  • start a new project you can do at home, like start that novel or memoir you’ve been meaning to write or at long last straighten up the basement or attic or both!;
  • read entertaining books of all kinds;
  • don’t read or watch upsetting stuff;
  • watch your favorite movies on TV;
  • try popcorn; it’s a good, low-cal comfort anti-anxiety food
  • play with your dog if you’re lucky enough to have one; if you don’t, remember dogs you’ve known and loved, and if there aren’t any, get a box of Kleenex and read Old Yeller; or rent on Amazon to watch.
  • most people are going to be kinder these days, believe it or not; try to be one of those
  • lend a hand where you can; it is a proven fact that in giving we receive
  • stay in touch

I can promise you, better days await. But, and I can promise you this as well, we can find hidden treasures and make unexpected gains during this time, especially if we buck each other up.

Warm regards,

Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Coronavirus: Myth vs. Fact

How the Hallowell Centers Can Help You: We are all concerned about safety with COVID-19, which is why The Hallowell Centers are closely monitoring the current situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19.) We will remain open, but all sessions will be conducted remotely.

Fortunately, psychiatry does not usually require the professional and the client to meet in-person. To that end, we want you to know at our offices in Boston MetroWestNew York City and San Francisco, are geared up and ready to offer remote sessions to anyone who wants them. READ MORE HERE!

Need help managing your mental health during these uncertain times? Even if you are not a regular client or patient of ours and you’d simply like to have an appointment to check up on your mental health during these stressful times, our clinicians are here to help. Just reach out to the any of The Hallowell Centers  to set up an appointment.

Working From Home? If you don’t want the Coronavirus to Infect Your Productivity, then CoreCoaching is the antidote! Learn more HERE.

Looking for strategies on parenting your ADHD child? Learn how our NYC Parenting Coaches can help you HERE.

Dr. Hallowell Recommends:

During these trying, uncertain times, Dr. Hallowell’s book: Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition, is filled with practical solutions, anecdotes, and insightful guidance on how to manage worry.

Need help managing your stress during these tumultuous times? Then listen to Dr. Hallowell’s podcast on Reducing Anxiety.

Digital Summit

The Live Digital Summit is over. However, you can still get an all access pass to Dr. Hallowell’s session and some of the most recognized thought-leaders from around the globe in the field of ‘Technology and Parenting.’

The Digital Sanity Summit features in-depth interviews with 18+ leading global experts discussing classic issues such as:

  • parent controls
  • cyber-safety
  • using tech to cultivate social relationships
  • talking with kids about tech without conflict

LEARN MORE…

If you think the “right help” for ADHD begins and ends with medication about, read Dr. Hallowell’s blog post on Busting ADHD Myths on Medication!

When tragedies strike or bad news is at your doorstep, you may wonder how you get through this. In Dr. Hallowell’s blog on “How Do We Do It?”, he offers a solution.

Are you struggling with reading or poor attention? Looking for a non-medication treatment for ADHD, learn more about the Zing Performance Program.

Disclosure: I may be an affiliate for products recommended and may earn a commission if you purchase.

HALLOWELL CENTER SFO COVID-19 UPDATES

Dr. Hallowell's RulesDear Clients,

Our staff at The Hallowell Center SFO  are concerned, just as you likely are, about the possible spread of the Covid-19 virus. We continue to closely monitor the situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). We want to do all we can on our end to minimize and to slow the spread of the virus.

We are open to meet your needs, but all of the services will be provided remotely for the foreseeable future.

All of our clinicians are geared up to work with clients through virtual platforms, or even just the telephone, although having a visual does enhance the experience. Call our office to get instructions to set this up (it’s WAY simple if I can do it, believe me!) so we can remain connected and provide the hope and help we’re in the business of providing.

To reach our front desk for additional information or further assistance, please call 415-967-0061 or email  frontdesk@hallowellcenter.org.   If you wish to inquire about being a new patient, please see below.

New Patients

We are accepting new patients.  If you wish to inquire about being a new patient , please fill out the form below or email Carey at carey@hallowellcenter.org or call 415-967-0061.

We are here for you. Keep in touch.

Warm Regards,

Gabrielle Anderson, Ph.D.
Director of Psychology

and

Edward Hallowell, M.D., Founder
The Hallowell Center

SFO Patient Consult

  • Disclaimer: We do not sell or share your email with any other list. We promise not to SPAM you.

 
 

HALLOWELL Center Boston MetroWest COVID-19 UPDATES

Dr. Hallowell's RulesDear Clients,

Our staff at The Hallowell Center Boston MetroWest  are concerned, just as you likely are, about the possible spread of the Covid-19 virus. We are closely monitoring the current situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). We want to do all we can on our end to minimize and to slow the spread of the virus.

At this time, the Hallowell Center Boston MetroWest remains open to meet your needs. We are still doing TESTING in the office and following CDC safety guidelines to keep you safe. Now would be a good time to schedule Neuropsychological Testing for  your child.

A neuropsychological assessment can help you understand your child’s needs, how much progress he or she has made, and how best to help them learn and make progress over the next 4 months so they are ready for the new school year.

All other services will be provided remotely for the foreseeable future. All of our clinicians are geared up to work with clients through virtual platforms, or even just the telephone, although having a visual does enhance the experience.

Call our office to get instructions to set this up (it’s WAY simple if I can do it, believe me!) so we can remain connected and provide the hope and help we’re in the business of providing.

To reach our front desk to schedule an appointment, change an appointment or other information please call us, 978-287-0810.

You may also email them at @ hallowellreferralssudbury@gmail.com.

Prescriptions

If you need a prescription or prior authorization, please contact your clinician.

New Patients

If you wish to inquire about being a new patient and we are accepting new patients you can email hallowellreferralssudbury@gmail.com

To help achieve the shared goal of not getting sick, let us offer the following suggestions: 

  • wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds each time you come into a new space (or use Purell);
  • notice when you touch your face, and wash your hands after doing so;
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow;
  • use tissues and throw them away right after using them; and
  • avoid shaking hands or having other unnecessary physical contact.

If you do get sick, please call your primary care doctor for instructions before going to their office or to an urgent care or ER. If there is a real risk that you have COVID-19, they will order that test and direct you to a specialized testing site. This will protect you and others from unnecessary exposure.

We are here for you. Keep in touch.

Warm Regards,

Edward Hallowell, M.D., Founder
The Hallowell Center

P.S. Remember my motto, “Never worry alone.”

LINKS TO MISCELLANEOUS RESOURCES

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

World Health Organization

COVID-19 MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN

Reducing AnxietyYour mental health is important during these uncertain times. In this week’s podcast, Dr. Hallowell checks-in regarding the Coronavirus pandemic, and reminds listeners of ways to deal with the stress and anxiety.

Listen NOW!

Working From Home? If you don’t want the Corona Virus to Infect Your Productivity, then CoreCoaching is the antidote! Learn more HERE.

Dr. Hallowell shares some basic facts about COVID-19 and practical advice on prevention and reducing anxiety in his podcast. LISTEN HERE!

Remember to stay safe, be careful and never worry alone!

How to talk to kids about the coronavirus, Hallowell Todaro blog post.

HALLOWELL Center NYC COVID-19 UPDATES

Come TogetherMarch 18, 2020

Dear Clients,

Yesterday, Ireland’s Prime Minster, Leo Varadkar, said, in his St. Patrick’s Day address, “Let us come together by staying apart.” Indeed.

To that end, during this crisis, we at the Hallowell Center NYC will remain open to meet your needs, but all of the services will be provided remotely for the foreseeable future.

All of our clinicians are geared up to work with clients through virtual platforms, or even just the telephone, although having a visual does enhance the experience. Call our office to get instructions to set this up (it’s WAY simple if I can do it, believe me!) so we can remain connected and provide the hope and help we’re in the business of providing.

To reach our front desk to schedule an appointment, change an appointment or other information please call us, 212-799-7777, and press “0.” Our front desk is monitoring voicemail during business hours.

You may also email them at frontdesk@hallowellcenter.org.

NOTE: During this time appointment confirmations will be exclusively by email.

Prescriptions

If you need a prescription or prior authorization you can press “6” or email Erica at pratt@hallowellcenter.org.

New Patients

If you wish to inquire about being a new patient and we are accepting new patients you can email Carey at carey@hallowellcenter.org.

We’re all in this together, so let’s indeed stay together, only off site.

And remember my motto, “Never worry alone.”

We are here for you. Keep in touch.

Warm Regards,

Edward Hallowell, M.D., Founder
Sue Hallowell, LICSW, Clinical Director
The Hallowell Center

LINKS TO MISCELLANEOUS RESOURCES

Your mental health is important during these uncertain times. In this week’s podcast, Dr. Hallowell checks-in regarding the Coronavirus pandemic, and reminds listeners of ways to deal with the stress and anxiety. Listen NOW!
Dr. Hallowell shares some basic facts about #COVID-19 and practical advice on prevention and reducing anxiety in his podcast. LISTEN HERE! here. Remember to stay safe, be careful and never worry alone!
How to talk to kids about the coronavirus, Hallowell Todaro blog post.

Managing These Uncertain Times

I want to take a moment in these uncertain times to tell you what we are doing in my centers in Sudbury, MA and in Manhattan to address the issues created by the threat of Covid-19, as well as what my wife, Sue, and I are doing at home.

First of all, we are following my first rule, “Never worry alone.”

We are all talking with each other, and listening to what our friends and various experts are reporting, day by day, even hour by hour.

Second, we are trying our best to get the facts.

Most of toxic worry is rooted in lack of information, wrong information, or both. As, as we worry together, we are pooling what we each judge to be the most reliable and pertinent facts, a pool that expands and changes not just hour to hour but minute to minute. Thank God for the Internet and television.

Coronavirus Myth vs Fact

Third, based on the facts that we share, we make a plan.

Toxic worry—and all the bad decisions it foments—subsides when you have a plan. Toxic worry results from a heightened feeling of vulnerability combined with a diminished feeling of power and control. When you have a plan you automatically feel less vulnerable and more in control. If the plan doesn’t work well—and all plans have flaws—you revise it. That’s what life is all about—revising plans. So we are constantly reviewing and considering revising our plan.

The Hallowell Centers Update

Hallowell CentersAs of now, 9:45 a.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020, the plan in both my MA and NY office is to remain open. We rarely have more than 15 people—clinicians and patients combined—in either office at any one time. And the offices are large enough that we can keep 4-6 feet between people, obeying the command to keep social distance.

We have hand sanitizers on the counters and good liquid soap in the rest rooms. We have signs summarizing best practices during this pandemic, and we ask all who enter the offices about fever, headache, respiratory distress, sniffles, and any other illness, as well as recent travel.

Offering Remote Appointments

Furthermore, we offer remote appointments, conducted via the HIPPA compliant platform VSee, for all our clients and patients. Since, with the exception of testing, all our work can be conducted remotely, this provides an excellent and totally safe option which many are taking us up on. However, for those who do want to see us in person, we remain open and available as of now.

Personal Update

Personally, Sue and I have semi-quarantined ourselves. We do go out to buy food, and we have resisted the temptation to buy out the store. While we do have enough food to last us 2 weeks if the absolute need arose, that is not the most tasty food—canned goods like canned beef stew, which Sue deems “nasty” and canned veggies, which no one much likes—and since there are only 2 of us we do not need nor do we have much toilet paper!

Our three children all live elsewhere. Our 30 year old daughter works for the National Football League, whose offices in Manhattan, where she works, have closed for the time being, so our daughter works from home. Our youngest, who is 24, also works in Manhattan for Inkhouse, a p.r. firm, who is requiring all employees to work from home. And our middle child, our 27 year old son, lives near us outside of Boston. He works as a carpenter, out of doors, but his projects are temporarily on hold. His dog, Max, is not a carrier, but does stay inside.

There you have it. We are all living in the midst of uncertainty, and like most uncertainty, this uncertainty feels ominous, dangerous, and possibly lethal. It already has proved itself to be all that, so we have good reason to worry.

But passive worrying soon becomes toxic. I outlined above the best way I know of to turn toxic worry into active problem solving. In the active mode, you are at your best and you reach the smartest decisions.

Remember, we are all in this together.

This virus knows no race, creed, color, or class. It does target older, weaker people over younger stronger people, and it does preferentially target people who choose ignorance and denial over gaining knowledge and acting upon it.

So, let’s band together.

#1Never worry alone.

#2 Get the facts.

#3 And make, and revise, plans.

Our most powerful allies are the positive connections between us, and knowledge. By using those tools, and replenishing them all the time, we will survive, and thrive. Yes, the danger is real and can be lethal, but the solutions are equally real, time-tested, and life-saving.

My heartfelt and most loving wishes go out to you all. Let this crisis bring us all closer together through cooperative action, and shared reflections.

Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.

P.S. If you’re feeling stressed, listen to my podcast on How to Feel Less Stressed.

One of the bright and shining lights in the current dismal viral fog is the beam of human altruism. Read more in my blog post, Altruism Lives.

Safety with COVID-19

We are all concerned about safety with COVID-19, which is why the Hallowell Centers are closely monitoring the current situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19.)

Since the health and safety of our clients and employees is of utmost importance to us, The Hallowell Centers will remain open to meet your needs, but during this crisis and for your safety, all of the services will be provided remotely for the foreseeable future.

Please note that all of our clinicians in Boston MetroWest, NYC, SFO, Palo Alto and Seattle are geared up to work with clients through virtual platforms, or even just the telephone, although having a visual does enhance the experience. Call your center to get instructions to set this up (it’s WAY simple if I can do it, believe me!) so we can remain connected and provide the hope and help we’re in the business of providing. Learn more about Therapy in the Age of Quarantine.

For the most up-to-date news that relates to the center you visit, click their link below:

BostonMetroWest

New York City

San Francisco

Hallowell Todaro – Palo Alto and Seattle

Our staff and all clients are highly encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) safety for Covid-19 guidelines (see below) to appropriately respond to the potential public health threat posed by the virus.

Steps to take:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash immediately.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

If you do get sick, please call your primary care doctor for instructions before going to their office or to an urgent care or ER. If there is a real risk that you have COVID-19, they will order that test and direct you to a specialized testing site. This will protect you and others from unnecessary exposure.

Here are are some useful links for the latest information and guidance in this still-evolving situation:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

World Health Organization

Dr. Hallowell's Coronavirus Advice

Dr. Hallowell shares some basic facts about COVID-19 and practical advice on prevention and reducing anxiety in his podcast.

LISTEN HERE! Remember to stay safe, be careful and never worry alone!

Dr. Hallowell takes a moment in these uncertain times to tell you what his centers in Boston MetroWest and NYC are doing to address the issues created by the threat of Covid-19, as well as what he and his wife, Sue, are doing at home in his blog post on Managing These Uncertain Times.

How to talk to kids about the coronavirus, Hallowell Todaro blog post.

Stuck at home? Activities to Keep Kids Busy

Entering Sadness

I left church today, bid my wife, Sue, farewell as she headed off to a brunch, while I headed to Whole Foods to buy flowers (we buy flowers for our hallway table every Sunday when we’re in town), and started walking to my car. It was a chilly but sunny day in Cambridge, MA. We’ve been going to Christ Church Cambridge, an Episcopal church, since our first child, Lucy, was born in 1989. The service almost always puts me in a reflective, positive mood. But not today. I could feel it the moment I said goodbye to Sue. A chill of sadness was gathering around me. This was not good news because, aside from the discomfort of feeling the sadness, I had a book to work on and the free hours of a Sunday afternoon were precious to me.

But first, I did the shopping. I picked out four bunches of 20 daffodils, 80 daffodils in all, because they were on sale for $4 a bunch, and because they looked so un-sad, so happy, so full of yellow promise. 80 daffodils may sound like a lot, but because at least half had not yet opened, it didn’t look like that many. I probably should have bought twice as many, because daffodils push a special button in me, reminding me of D.C. in spring when my sister was falling in love there with the man she married. But I settled for 80.

Then I pushed my cart down different aisles, picking out the ingredients with which I’d make my crock-pot dinner Tuesday; I make dinner Tuesdays because Sue works late that night. I picked out four cans of beans—red kidney; black; great northern; and pinto—along with a green pepper, a zucchini, two cans of diced tomatoes, one can of tomato paste, and a head of garlic, as well as a dozen eggs and a bag of coffee beans. The eggs and coffee were not for my recipe; we just needed them. And we had the rest of the ingredients for my vegetarian chili already at home. We’re not vegetarians, but we try to eat healthy, at least most of the time.

When I got home, I found my 27-year old son, Jack, working on repairing our front porch. He’s a carpenter, and I was most grateful to find him doing this, which we’d been hoping he’d do for some time. Jack and I greeted, in the usual minimalist male fashion, while I went inside to put the daffodils in vases and unpack the rest of the groceries.

Trying to Write

Once all that was completed, I tried to sit down and write. I said “tried” because I couldn’t. I’m a pretty disciplined writer, a more-or-less believer in what Samuel Johnson said: “Any person can write if he will set himself to it doggedly enough.” But I wasn’t able to be dogged enough. The words just wouldn’t come. Even though I’d had a few ideas in church and had jotted them down, I just could not bring myself to sit down at my laptop and write.

It was that sadness I’d felt after church rushing in. Or maybe I was entering into the sadness. Either way, we met, and entwined. Not the way lovers entwine, more the way you entwine with a spell or a fever. It comes over you and try as you might, you can’t get rid of it.

I had to lie down. We have a large, comfortable couch in our living room, the upholstery rather torn up by the dogs we’ve had over the years, but to my eyes that only makes it more inviting. So the couch took me in and gave me a place to lie with my sadness.

I don’t know why I was sad.

I can always find reasons—I should lose weight, spend less money, finish my book, complete this project or that, or deeper reasons, like what have I not done that I ought to have done or what have I done that I ought not to have done, or the obvious reasons that come with being human and getting older, the death of friends and loved ones, the feelings of my own aging now that I am 70—but today no one reason stood out. The sadness just took me over without tentacles of reason.

I closed my eyes and hoped to sleep. No such luck. I thought of calling my best friends, but I didn’t want to burden them (the exact opposite of what I urge my patients to do; call your friends, I say; never worry alone). I let my mind wander, and simply let the sadness have its way, as I had no choice.

It was not the excruciating sadness of depression or suicidal despair. But neither was it fun. It was keeping me from doing work I needed to do. It was causing me to look bad in my own eyes. I should be able to shake this, I said to myself, as I lay there, unable to shake it.

Feeling the Sadness Subside

By the time Sue got home, I was back at my laptop, giving writing another try. But once again, I couldn’t do it. Sue said, “Honey, you’re probably just tired. Why don’t you take a rest?” This is one of the many reasons I love Sue. Always armed with sympathy and an apt solution. I tried to nap but I couldn’t sleep. However, lying on my bed, I felt the sadness begin to subside, like a fever breaking. I began to have ideas again as to what to write. I still didn’t feel like I could do the writing, but the confidence started to return that the time would come, before too long, when I would be able to do it.

Such is sadness for me. I enter it, or it overcomes me, fairly often. I am never far from it. Even when I am at my happiest—and I am in general a positive, upbeat man—I am also aware that sadness is usually just around the bend. Most of the time it does not prevent me from doing my work, as it did this afternoon. But when I do get working, the sadness subsides.

It’s not depression. But it’s more than “ordinary sadness,” or at least I think it is, based upon others’ accounts of ordinary sadness as well as my own experience of such sadness.

I write about it here in case any of you experience the same thing. My advice is see this sadness for what it is: a passing state of mind, a temporary fever. And to take Sue’s advice. Don’t fight it. Take a rest. And don’t mistake it for a permanent state.

After all, this is still Sunday, and here I am writing this piece. The sadness subsided enough for me to be able to write now. It is in the nature of moods: like the weather, they change.

Resources:

If you’re sad, worried or not feeling quite right, remember to “Never Worry Alone” and read my blog post on “What To Do When You’re Not Having A Very Okay Day.”

If you feeling depressed, it’s important to remember that you are not alone! There is a tremendous community to support and help you.  Below are a few links to Mental Health Resources, depending upon your needs:

Dr. Hallowell on Attending A Teacher’s Service

How Do We Do It?

Since the last time I wrote to you all in this space, three events have dominated the news: Trump’s impeachment and trial; Kobe Bryant’s sudden death, along with his daughter and seven others; and the coronavirus outbreak. One question that trio of events brings to my mind is: how do we do it? How do we cope with life? How do we manage, when each day holds the possibility of more terrible news.

Imagine, first, the impeachment and trial of our President. That alone could bring us all to the edge, regardless of our political leanings. We’ve gotta wonder, what is happening to our country?

Then, one of the superstars in our sports world if not the world in general, a man millions of children and adults looked up to, admired, took hope from, and felt immense pride in having seen or cheered, suddenly dies in a helicopter accident along with his daughter and friends. That stunned us, as it hit the news on a Sunday afternoon. It came so totally out of nowhere, a Nowhere we all fear whenever we stop and think. After all, Nowhere could hit us any day.

Gathering momentum all the while was the news of a new deadly virus, which is dangerously easy to spread, coming to life in China and beginning its dissemination, infecting and possibly killing who knows how many, in how many ways, in how many countries, and for how long. Panicked, millions of people even in the United States bought masks, while greedy opportunists stockpiled them.

And these are just the stories we all know of, national and international news, enormously distressing events we try to piece together each in our own ways, but also as a national and international community. Add to them the private stories each of us lives with; or the local stories on:

  • family tragedies and miseries;
  • the house down the street where we know something terrible is amiss but we don’t know how to help or if even help would be welcomed;
  • or the people who are in the ambulance whose siren is screaming outside right now, or will be soon;
  • there’s a mother who lost her teenage son to an accidental overdose,
  • a wife who lost her beloved husband way too soon to a heart attack while he was out jogging,
  • and the homeless woman who’s just trying to find food while preserving some shred of dignity.

Samuel Johnson wrote, “We live in a world that is bursting with sin and sorrow.” He also wrote “Life is everywhere a state in which there is much to be endured and little to be enjoyed.

Enough. I know. Of course, I don’t mean to be a total downer. I know, I know. We all need to look on the bright side, because, for sure, there is a bright side if we look hard enough.

But I do wonder, how do we manage?

Life keeps going on, the regular radio shows talk to us while we commute, the regular TV shows entertain us after dinner, we have our routines that propel us from get-up to go-to-sleep, and we find a way not to slip into too dark of a place.

Still, how do we do it? Selective denial? Jack Daniels? The right diversion? Prayer, meditation, travel, and the gym?

Those of you who read this column know by now where I am headed. You know I tout one solution over all others. And it is a solution we need now more than ever.

The Solution We Need Now

It is the solution that’s found in one another. And the solution found in connection. It’s also the solution whose essence is love, but whose ordinary existence is “How’s by you?” It’s free, connection is; it’s infinite in supply; and yet you’d think it was rare as spun gold as seldom as people turn to it.

Now more than ever. Reach out. Try, try, try not to judge one another. Try, try, try to move past the angry thought and roost instead in a place of forgiveness, humility, forbearance, and joy.

And roost with others. Invite over a friend. Make a lunch date with that person you haven’t seen. Speak well of someone for no reason other than you like that person.

When the News Is Bad

When the news is bad—and every day has always had bad news; Samuel Johnson, after all, lived in the 1700’s and look how bad he saw things to be, so we’re no worse off than people have always been—remember that you—we—do have each other.

We do, we really do, have someone we can go out and rag on life with; someone we can grab a beer with or maybe go dancing; someone who makes us laugh, even when skies are gray.

And we have dogs. For heaven’s sake, get a dog. And every day, do what I do and make a little gratitude list, if you don’t think it’s too hokey. And don’t think it’s too hokey. Don’t be one of those people Samuel Johnson said were “too refined ever to be pleased.” (Yes, I do have a thing for Samuel Johnson. More on that if you’d like in another column; just let me know.)

So when hope seems hard to come by, and you can’t figure out the why’s of all the bad stuff that happens, let alone the how-to-deal-with-its, just remember you have me and I have you and together—yes, world, together—we can keep each other on this side of despair.

Better yet, we can pave brand new paths toward joy.

 

 

Dr. Hallowell on Attending A Teachers Service

On a sunny, unseasonably balmy Saturday in January I found myself sitting in a back pew of an Episcopal church in Exeter, New Hampshire. I had made the hour-or-so drive from my home outside Boston to Exeter to attend the memorial service of a man who had died a few weeks before at the age of 97. His name was David Coffin. I attended the school he taught at for decades, the Phillips Exeter Academy. He was the pre-eminent teacher of high-school level Classics in the entire country, or so said those in the know.

Mr. Coffin, “Mister” is how we addressed our teachers when I was at Exeter, never taught me. Although I did take Latin, I was never lucky enough to have the great Mr. Coffin looking over my shoulder as I attempted a translation.

Why then, you might ask, would I steal time from a precious Saturday afternoon to honor a man who never directly had me in his sway? I felt the answer to that question as I sat in the back pew listening to the organ prelude as the people filed in, filling up the church to capacity.

Feeling Immense Gratitude

I felt, sitting there, immense gratitude toward Mr. Coffin for all that he did for so many of us students, for devoting his prodigious talents to the development of young minds and young lives. When I knew him—I attended the Academy as it’s called—from 1964 to 1968 he was a swarthy, trim handsome man. He was a mountain climber and a tennis player, as well as a scholar of the first order. When I’d see Mr. Coffin walking the corridors of the Academy Building, I’d feel the combination of fear and awe such teachers—and Exeter had quite a few—inspire in young students like me.

Now 70 years old, I sat, listening to the organ, looking around at the people who’d come, including my 9th grade math teacher, Walter Burgin. He has as accomplished a mind as David Coffin, and made math as simple as pie. I would not have gone to medical school were it not for the confidence Mr. Burgin instilled in me by making math so accessible. That’s what these great teachers did; they drew us in without our even noticing how much they were getting us to prove to ourselves we could do.

I sat there, feeling gratitude to Mr. Coffin, now deceased, and to Mr. Burgin, very much alive, and to this great school that had so fortuitously come into my life, changing me forever. I went on to Harvard after Exeter, and while Harvard was a fine place to go to college, my years at Exeter shaped me more radically than any four years of my life ever have.

Sentimental Alums

I went back to honor all that, and for the minutes I sat in the church I basked in the feeling of gratitude and love. Fred Tremallo, my 12th. grade English teacher at Exeter, who changed my life more than any teacher before or since, told us never to become one of those sentimental alums who come back and sugar coat the years we spent at Exeter, forgetting the pain and angst all of us felt there some of the time.

But I’d grown so old that by the Saturday of Mr. Coffin’s service I even felt gratitude for the pain and angst. Also attending the service was another English teacher, David Weber, who’d helped me edit my last book, as well as a former Dean and history teacher, Jack Hearny, who’s still leading seminars, trips, and gatherings long after he’s retired. In fact, his favor that day was to transport to the memorial service the imperious but well-loved Jackie Thomas, wife of another deceased Latin teacher, David Thomas, who actually did teach me.

No, Fred, I will not be one of those sentimental alums. But there is a ripeness to the fruit age which imparts, an advanced taste that surpasses sentiment and taps into the subtle juices youth simply lacks the palate to appreciate.

Savoring the moment

Sitting there, I got to savor those juices for a while. Also while sitting there I got to see my past, and sense my death one day, while celebrating the life of a man who just did die, amongst those who knew him well and loved him dearly.

Finally, sitting there I gave thanks to whatever force it was that allowed me to happen upon the notice of David Coffin’s death, the announcement of the memorial service, and to get into my car that balmy Saturday and drive back up to my old school.

How did I know that it would mean so much to me?

I didn’t. And that’s just the point. We do important things governed by tides and winds we don’t understand, and yet obey.

My hope for all of you is that such a tide or wind brings you to a place you find as enormously important and poignant as I found that service for Mr. Coffin to be.

Edward “Ned” Hallowell

Festivity

Today I was reminded of “festivity” when I received in the snail mail a Christmas card from a family I hadn’t heard from in ages. I don’t believe they’d sent me Christmas cards in a while, but, with my ADHD, they may well have, only I didn’t manage to take note of them. I knew them pretty well when I knew them. Well enough for them to take my sons and me skeet and pistol shooting, an exciting first for all three of us.

The family, which in addition to a mom and a dad, boasts no less than five of what were boys when I knew them, now all men. It—they—are one of the most wonderful families I’ve ever met. I lost touch with them in the way people inadvertently lose touch with people, by mistake. It was too much to keep up with, a relationship that receded, into memory as relationships not tended to, do.

What A Christmas Card Can Do

But the Christmas card brought it all back as if we’d just put away the pistols and were piling into the car, all together. On the card there was a resplendent photo from the wedding of one of the boys, now a man. Gathered all together in one brilliant and jubilant shot were 17 people: mom, dad, the five sons, and the bride, four additional women, be they wives of the men or girlfriends I couldn’t tell. But they’d been prolific, as five children also populated the photo, ranging from what appeared to be about five years old to what seemed five months.

They were all beautiful, in the best sense of that word, full of beauty, both inner as well as outer. I am not being polite when I say that mom and dad looked exactly as I remember them, not having aged a day. All their children and grandchildren and daughters-in-law, all their flowers, formal attire, and gorgeous gowns and dresses popped out of the card like an organ peal of love.

“Festivity”

When I looked at the card, the word that came to my mind was “festivity”. What a festive event that wedding must have been. What a festival of all-things-good that family has turned life into, not only for them, but for their friends, their businesses, their community, their schools, and just about everyone they touch.

I kicked myself for having lost touch with them, and as I noticed the return address on the card, I determined to write to them asap. Of course, I don’t know what’s been going on with them in the years since I knew them, what difficulties they may have faced, what losses endured, what sadness, what grief. But, knowing them, they have turned whatever hardship into connection, generosity, and growth.

“Silent Night”

As Christmas draws nigh, I thought of “Silent Night,” the venerable carol we all know and sing, at least those of us who celebrate Christmas, but I also thought of the literal silent night, the night that descends upon the people who have:

  • no family,
  • who have nary a friend,
  • who have no Christmas goose or plum pudding or
  • anything that matters much at all.

I thought of that silent night, what I could do to make it better for all of those people. I’m sure you who read this newsletter often have the same thought.  How can we include in our share those who have little.

What Can We Do To Make It Better For All People

Short of grand gestures—like practicing the radical philanthropy prophets like Jesus prescribed—we can do, well, we can do what we can do. I don’t know about you, but I always fall pitifully short of that bar. There is so much more that I could do. I don’t want to beat myself up for not doing it. Since I know that won’t help anyone. Although, I want to prod myself this year maybe into doing a bit more.

For some reason seeing that family I’d lost touch with, seeing them on that card in full festivity, so to speak, gave me a shot of love. Even more so it was a big hypodermic to get me off my butt and reaching out. Because that’s the least I can do, and when I do that, more follows, almost always.

My Wish For All Of You

My wish for all of you is that you find festivity in this season, that you reach out, that you all follow whatever spirit moves you to a place closer to love in the silent night that surrounds us all.

Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.

Read Dr. Hallowell’s January 1, 2020 message on New Year’s Hopes, Not Resolutions.

and his blog post on All I want for Christmas